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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Brazos Bend 100 From trying to race to trying to finish.

Last weekend I ran the Brazos Bend 100.  A longer version of the 50 on slightly different trails; but in the same gorgeous park and put on by the same fantastic race directors Rob and Rachel.  Given my success last spring, and my frustrating summer and fall that contained 2 DNFs and a handful of minor injuries, I was ready to have a good race.  In fact, I was determined to.  I was certain that a flat and fast course like Brazos was exactly what I needed.

I went in to the race excited, anxious and really feeling quite good about my fitness and ability.  I had some some very high goals for myself, and REALLY wanted to have a great race.  Right before the gun went off I found fellow TROT ambassador Matt Zmolek, he also had some pretty big race day goals, so I was happy to have someone to keep a good pace with and keep conversation light and fun for the first few hours of the day.

The early miles clicked off easy.  I remembered to eat, alternated with some protein, and generally felt great!  In fact that would be the case for the first loop.  Fast and fun.  As I rocked into the aid station at mile 25 I was apparently a little too worried about getting out quickly again and left my Epic bars in my drop bag.  When I discovered this about 3 miles later, I was a bit upset.  But at that point I was still moving good, the sun was coming out, and with it the alligators and wildlife that make Brazos so enjoyable were also coming out.  Somewhere on the back equestrian trails though around mile 42 I started to come unglued.  It was warm. I only had GU and Hammer gels that lap.  I swear I could feel my body cannibalizing my muscles, and I was alone.  Running alone is typical in an ultra race, and for me it's usually one of my strengths.  I'm very used to being in the gap between the leaders and the main pack.  But today, for whatever reason, I HATED it, I just wanted some company, and I wasn't having any fun.  But on I went.  Getting the occasional cheer from people going the opposite direction and staying on what had become my "run/walk" strategy for that loop as a means of conserving energy.  But my spirits were getting awfully low. Finally, a little under 9 hours in - I hit mile 50.  Somehow I was still on target.

My husband and fellow trail runner Jose as well as Rob were at the start finish and helped me get loaded up, get some extra calories in and get on my way for loop 3.  I started hiking with Jeff beside me for a couple minutes as I tried to eat a pizza and mashed potato sandwich as fast as possible. Yeah, I eat some weird things; but real food works WAY better than gels, especially with the weird mood swings I was having due to severe calorie depletion, and possibly having way too much sugar. I swore, I'd start running again after I finished; but somehow my motivation never returned for that lap. It took me an agonizing amount of time to hit the aid station at 61, and what seemed like eternity to make it to Jeremy Hanson's aid station at about 65 miles.  I wanted to quit.  I felt fine. But I wasn't having fun.  Thankfully, Jeremy was able to clearly see that I was fine, and was determined to make it difficult to quit.  After 20+ minutes of snacking, sulking, and brooding I received just the invitation I needed to keep going.  A guy from GBR who was running to honor his late best friend came through the aid station and encouraged me to leave the aid station with him.  This was fantastic. What was even better is that I felt pretty okay thanks to all the fueling and resting I had been doing and was able to actually keep him company for the next 5 or so miles, before I lost him on a stretch of poor footed horse trails.  But the good news was that I was 5 miles away from quitting, and 5 miles closer to finishing lap 3.

As I strolled in to finish lap 3 around 10:40pm, I wasn't really feeling like going out for loop 4.  Turns out I am not a big fan of heavily wooded areas at night by myself (I already knew this fact; but since I intended on being done by shortly after midnight I hadn't worried about securing a pacer - yeah I know, I'm a wuss, whatevs). I had already heard an entire pack of coyotes. And my lap 3rd 25mile lap was slower than 2 of my 50mile times.  Talk about feeling LOW!  Thankfully, I belong to the greatest trail running club in the universe the Houston Area Trail Runners, and fellow member Daniel Pachon offered to keep me company for the last lap.  YAY! This made me so SO happy. So I downed a redbull, used a real potty, and waited for Daniel to get his running garb on.  At 11PM exactly headed out for lap 4.
Daniel, myself, and RD / HATR president Rob Goyen.
Still managed to beat the sun! :)

The goal for this lap was to run where I could, walk where I couldn't and eventually get my damn BUCKLE!  Somewhere along the way the dull ache at the front of my leg turned into a throbbing pain.  I could feel a few welts on my flexor tendon that were persisting through my compression socks.  (After the race, I wouldn't even be able to flex my foot for a full day; but at the time, this really only seemed like a 'minor' annoyance, not worth quitting over, anyhow...)  So every couple of miles there was a quick stop to try to rub out some off the inflammation before trudging on down the trail.  Eventually, we made it back to Jeremy's aid station.  I don't think he expected to see me again. But I sure was happy to see him!  I took a short rest and propped up my foot for a few minutes while Daniel and Jeremy and the other aid station volunteer took care of me. Yeah, pretty much the best volunteers and pacer EVER!  Eventually we hobbled off into the moonlight and on down the last 11.5 miles of trail.  Slow as snails, but we were making progress.

Somewhere around 3am I found myself stumbling in a not so straight line, and was begging for a bench to lie down.  Eventually around mile 95 we came across the drop bag stop, and I was able to lie down on a tarp for a few minutes and take a little snooze.  Ten minutes and a full dream later, we were back on our way.  I felt semi- refreshed, and am glad that I laid down for a few minutes to both rest my leg, and close my eyes.  Finally, a little after 6 am, missing every goal I had set for myself except my goal to finish - Daniel got me across the finish line.  24:23, 101.8 miles, 1 buckle, and 1 Texas Two-Step award later I can say I am definitively happy I did not quit.

BUCKLE FEVER! No really, the fever is how I look so young in this picture.
I'm not sure why I had such a roller coaster day, aside from the fact that 100+ miles is a long ways to go.  But I think I maybe put too much pressure on myself to do well this race.  Which I know, from years and years of racing, never works out well for me.  I run my best when I enjoy the day and just run free without the pressure of hitting splits.  So for my next race, that is the only goal.  Enjoy the day.  After all, that is why we all do this crazy sport, isn't it?

Some notes on gear and fuel:
Shoes: Brooks Pure Grit 3 (miles 0-50) - great tread for all the mud; but perhaps a little minimal for 100 miles...
Altra Lone Peak 2 (miles 50-101.8) - Great shoe. Wish the tongue were a tad longer.
Pack: Nathan Hydration Intensity Pack - My go to for racing!
Fuel: Hammer Gels and GU, Epic Bars (Lamb is the real deal!), and Hammer Perpetuem (should have had more of this!!)
Compression: Zoot Ultra Compression socks (rocked! 1st time racing in them, they are amazing!)
2xu Half short - BEST distance short for warm weather I have found.
Top: Team TROT singlet by New Balance
Headlamp: Black Diamond the Spot - a very reliable light.

Thank you to Team TROT for believing in me even when I don't.  I look forward to an exciting year of racing with you all in 2015.  Starting with Bandera 100K in January!!

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