A picture of the trail from the race's website
Guess what! I finally PR'd in the 50. I ran Rocky Raccoon in Huntsville State Park, Texas on Saturday. My time was 9:18. That's over a 3hr PR for me. Part of it I feel like I "bought" by traveling to Texas to run on a fast course, but there were a lot of other things I did differently that worked too.
Half the battle was just getting TO the race. It snowed in Texas and a lot of people didn't make it because flights were cancelled and roads were closed. Snow is pretty rare for Texas so when it happens, they shut 'er down! I was staying with my friend Bethany in Austin, which got about 2 inches. We had a hell of a time getting her son to his aunt and uncle's house before heading to the race. The highways were littered with cars in ditches. We almost joined them when we drove down a hill on the way out of the aunt and uncle's subdivision. We couldn't see what was at the bottom of that hill, but soon found out it was a ravine with a car in it. There were several firefighters standing around looking at it, and all the other cars that were stranded on the patch of ice we were now sitting on. But there was no one at the top of the hill to tell new drivers not to drive down. They just stood around, collecting us for proof of the storm of the century. We were yelled at to "GO HOME" but when we asked for suggestions, none of the authorities could give us any. Bethany suggested having a person, or maybe a sign at the top of the hill warning people to turn around, but that idea was shot down. Oh well, logic isn't always the answer. Anyway, we made the turn-around and got back up the hill safely. We went back to Bethany's house to nap until the sun melted all the ice and then we drove to Huntsville on clear, dry highways.
Here's a picture of the snow that shut Texas down. Haha! Ok this is an exaggeration, it was slightly worse in some spots.
Race morning was pretty cold. I think low-30s. When the race started, I got behind a group of chatty girls who seemed to know what they were doing. They were holding a really comfortable pace and I decided I would stay there for about an hour. The race was three 16.7 mile loops and we hit 5 aid stations in each of those loops. That is a lot of aid! I skipped through the first few because I had a pack with plenty of water and a bottle with Perpetuem. I took the first loop really easy.
There was one part of the course that had a little 3ish mile loop. I got confused the second time I hit the Dam Road aid station (coming out of the loop) and didn't realize it was the same aid station I had gone through in the other direction 3 miles ago. I asked a volunteer which way the 50 milers were supposed to go (the 100 mile course was slightly different) and he must have thought I was coming IN to the station and directed me to run back the way I had just come. I knew that didn't sound right but did it anyway. I soon realized I was stuck in that loop (on the far left of the map) and had added about 3 miles. Doh! So when I came through that aid station again, I asked a race official and he said to just cut it out on the next loop since I did it twice on this one. I was really grateful that he allowed me to do that. I was fully prepared to run 3 extra miles and felt that I deserved it for being so stupid. This is not the first time I have gotten myself stuck in a loop. Just ask my sister Teresa about our 5 hour Christmas Eve trail run at Clinton Lake in Lawrence. We call it the Groundhog Day run (like the movie).
My pace slowed a bit in the beginning of the second loop but I didn't need to walk. After about 30 miles I picked it back up. I started eating some of the food at the aid stations. Mostly oranges and pretzels. It really helped keep my energy up and gave me something to look forward to. I was still taking Hammer Gel and Perpetuem, but not as many gels as I normally take. The oranges tasted soooo good! I got to see Bethany at the end of each loop and she helped me change socks and shoes, get food and whatever else I needed but couldn't think of at the time. She was a great crew! At the end of the second loop I really didn't want to go back out for the third. I was super tired and my legs were really tight and achy, especially the quads. But Bethany said she would see me in just 3 miles at the Nature Center aid station so I decided to take this loop station by station to break it up mentally. I told myself to keep running until Dam Road, which would be about the 40 mile mark and then I could incorporate some walk breaks or do whatever I had to to make it to the finish. I had time to walk the last 10 miles and still make a significant PR.
I made it to Dam Road, running the whole way and started feeling good again. I took advantage of that and picked up the pace. Mentally, it really felt good to know that I was "allowed" to walk at this point, but I was still running... even faster than I had run the earlier part of that loop. I have NEVER felt that good at mile 40. I have always completely fallen apart by then and had to walk/shuffle to the finish. This time I felt like I was flying. I wasn't afraid of wasting energy because the finish was so close. I saw Bethany again at the Park Road aid station just 4.4 miles from the finish. I figured THIS would be the stretch where I would completely bonk since I hadn't yet. It had to happen sometime.
It was really hard leaving that aid station because 4.4 miles is close, but can also be reeaaally far! About 1 mile out of the aid station a blister I had been ignoring for 20 miles popped on my toe. It stung like nothing I have ever felt before! I took off my shoe thinking there was another one that needed to pop. I checked it out and couldn't tell what was going on. It was really sore and tender. I barely touched it and almost screamed because it stung so bad. I thought about running the rest without the shoe, but knew that would take forever and might not hurt any less. So I shoved the shoe back on and thought "It's only pain." That's what my dad says. Luckily the excruciating part only lasted a few minutes. The pain dulled down and I could run normally. I had 3 miles to go and this section was an overlap where the people coming out of the start/finish aid station were running the opposite direction. Most of them were 100 mile racers. I took my mind off the distance left by focusing on and greeting each runner that I crossed paths with. I thought about how many miles they had left and my ~3 miles didn't seem so bad. Once I made it to 48 miles I picked up the pace again. When I started to hear the sounds of the finish line I sprinted in. I was very happy with my race and my PR. I won't get another chance to run a course this fast for awhile and I feel like I did a good job taking advantage of it this time. Bethany was there to greet me and it was so good to see her! As I was leaving the race, the race director's wife called me over. Turns out I won my age group! I got this cool piece of pottery made by the Tarahumara tribe. Isn't that the coolest award? I love it! We drove back to Bethany's house and I got to shower and sleep. Sort of sleep.
My cool age-group award
Thanks Bethany for your hospitality and great crewing! Did I mention she's like 8 months pregnant? And was willing to drive my ass all over Texas in the snow and then wake up at 5:30 to crew me for an over 9 hour race! Now that's a good friend!
Official time 9:18:39
1st Age (18-29)
Here I am looking haggard but happy at the end of the race.