Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Rocky Raccoon 50 Miler

Shortly after Ironman Texas I was looking for my next challenge. This journey began with my love of trails 5 years ago, so I thought it was only fitting to return to the trails. I have aspirations to do a 100 mile race, so I thought it would be great to start with a local 50 miler. Rocky Raccoon was the perfect choice! So I signed up! And race day came.......

What to Pack:
I have to say knowing what I would need and packing drop bags gave me the most anxiety. I had no idea what I was doing. So I wanted to be sure I shared what I did pack in case it could serve to help someone else. Also I stuffed everything into ziploc bags because of the rain! But honestly I didn't need to do that because my Orange Mud drop bags did a great job keeping everything dry! But the good thing about the ziplocs is it was organized and easy to grab things I needed!
I didn't end up needing my heavier jacket because temps turned out to be moderate. But I did need my rain shell! It was a lifesaver! I used all four pairs of socks during the race! And at the halfway mark I got a fresh pair of socks and a new pair of shoes and that was heaven!!
I ended up using everything pictured above except the handwarmers!! The biofreeze and bandages were a lifesaver! I used the headlamp AND a flashlight! I liked being able to point at what I needed to see as well. And there was a long, lonely stretch I used the headphones to give me a beat to keep going to!!
I used the Orange Mud Adventure Pack and it was awesome! I was able to carry everything I needed, had my bladder filled with powerade, and everything stayed dry! And it was super comfy!
My hydration and nutrition went well. No tummy troubles. Though I think I should have consumed more. At aid stations I got water, pringles, grilled cheese, and COKE! I never drink caffeine or soda, but every aid station I had a shot or two of coke and looked forward to it each stop!

Packet Pick Up:
Never having done an ultra before I was having a little anxiety about the unknown. After check in there was a briefing and I felt so much better going into this race. I was so excited to just get to the start line!
I packed two drop bags - one for the start line/halfway point and one for Damnation. Out at Damnation my most precious items ended up being candy bars, socks, and Trail Toes. Oh and I lent someone duct tape.
It was wonderful seeing Megan and Meredith there! We all completed our first Ironman together and now we would be attempting our first 50 miler together! A familiar face is always reassuring! And here I had double the reassurance! 
The weather has been weighing heavy on my mind. We have been having some really cold spells and I do not do well with my RA in the cold. Fortunately temps were moderate. But then there was the rain! Overall the weather for the day wasn't so bad. There was rain in the morning, almost a constant drizzle, and rainshowers throughout the day. It actually felt pretty warm in the trees because the humidity was so high! By the evening the rain picked up a little and the temps dropped 20 degrees! The hardest part was all the mud from the rains. And the course was pretty mucky from the 100 mile race the weekend before. And oh the roots! It should be called Rooty Raccoon! Lol!
Race Morning:
I only slept about 3 hours. I got up, got ready, ate a protein bar, banana, and cheese stick. I left at 4am and the roads were a mess! When I got to Huntsville State Park, I stayed in the car until right before go time. I dropped off my drop bag and waited under a tent until gun time. No pics because it was so dark and pouring rain. I wasn't there long before we started.

Race Start:
We all started in a tight group. It was really dark, raining and slippery. I would say most stayed together until the sun came up. At mile 1 my left foot landed in a deep puddle and I was soaked. My right foot hit a root (they were hard to miss!) and my ankle rolled. It was the same one I broke a year ago. It hurt but I could keep going. It would just progressively get worse throughout the race. 

Damnation aid station was a little over 9 miles in. I stopped there and a volunteer helped me dress my blisters that were already formed and giving me trouble! Spirits were high and I was having a blast!
This is the only pic I have from the course. It was just too technical to have my phone out much and I didn't have time to spare to stop. So I tried to take video as I could, but that didn't last either. I didn't want to risk losing any more time! And there was no course photographer! Sad I have no race pics from such a big race!

 And seeing as I am a triathlete, I thought I would go for a swim on the course! Lol! Totally fell in one of the many mud pits!! Ended up busting my hip and knee and tearing my favorite pair of Under Armour tights! But ya'll I was still having a blast! It was just getting harder! I did end up earning the nickname Mud Butt! Ha!!!

At mile 25 you cross the finish line as your halfway point and the 50k runners are finishing. Here I ended up spending quite a bit of time in the medic tent. She redressed my blisters and did an amazing job! Cleaned them, put on ointment, covered with blister protection, and then covered with duct tape. She wrapped my big toe in KT tape bc it was raw. She even powdered my foot and toes before putting back on my socks. Then she taped up my ankle for me. This took so much time, but I am sure I could not have made it without all this help! A new pair of socks and shoes was a game changer! It felt amazing!
At 26.2 miles in I took my last video. After that is was all about survival and getting it done! I focused on getting from aid station to aid station by each cutoff. I was trying to run as much as I could but it was excrutiating. But there was no way I was giving up! And ya'll I swear as hard as it was I was having so much fun and I was so happy to be out there!
I walked/ran with a lady named Nancy for awhile. She is seriously the master of speed walking! I could not keep up with my "running". And then a guy named John and I ended up doing the last 10 plus miles together! And I am so grateful for that! Because it was only getting tougher out there! As people were passing us coming the other direction we would ask how far until the next aid station, and I swear for over two miles everyone we saw said a quarter of a mile. So this became quite the joke! And ya'll it's a whole other ball game out there when the sun goes down and you are alone out in the wilderness! It was cold, pitch black, and the creatures were so loud! I definitely learned and my biggest recommendation is to have a pacer for after dark! Plus fresh legs and a fresh spirit would do wonders! Well John and I had a good ole time out there! We were pushing so hard, felt like we really were moving and out pace would be just short of a 20 min pace! So while we thought we were speeding we were obviously just shuffling! But we were working so hard! Lol! We at least could laugh at ourselves! Seriously running in the dark after running all day is quite the challenge! But each aid station we celebrated as a victory until we were at last victorious!!

There is nothing better than your hubby, four kids, and mom and dad screaming and cheering you in as you are the very last finisher on the course!!!! They were so proud! I was tackled in a hug and there were smiles and tears all around! I did it ya'll!!
I CAN do hard things! This became my mantra out there as I completed my first ultramarathon. 50 miles baby! It was one challenge after another from start to finish!! Between the rain, the ridiculous amount of mud, the tree roots, rocks, climbing (4500 ft - which is a lot for me!!), blisters, chafing, turned ankle that swelled up and caused me lots of trouble, a complete fall into a mud pit, busted knee and hip from the fall - those darn roots, running in pitch black, cold, dark, rain....oh my gosh the obstacles! Lol!!! Ultrarunners are a tough breed! I have so much respect for them!!
Oh wait I am one of them! I am an Ultrarunner!! Eek!!
Let me tell you despite all those obstacles it was so much fun! It's so beautiful out on the trails! And there is something about trail running that makes the miles fly by! Even 50 of them!!
I did it ya'll I CAN do hard things!!
I am the luckiest girl alive! I have got FIVE!! Five guys who love and support me in all I do! Five guys who are just as proud of me when I come in first as they are when I come in last!! Every medal I earn they have earned too! I am so very grateful for their sacrifices and for their support!! 
I don't have a pic that turned out of my mom and dad, but they were there too! From the beginning they have always been my cheerleaders!!
This guy!! He may not understand my crazy but he supports it anyway! He always worries about me and takes such good care of me!! Even on my darkest days with RA he never asks me to stop even though I am sure there are times he thinks it would be in my best interest. He just supports and encourages me to go for it!
Earning a medal motivates me! I know to some the actual medal is meaningless, but it really does drive me. I work hard to earn them, they serve as a reminder of all my hard work, and each one has a story! I feel such pride when it is hung around my neck and then on display in my workout room. I have won 1st in my age group and placed often when I was healthier, and I have been dead last in races as I battle Rheumatoid Arthritis. Both mean so very much to me! Both are a victory!
My first 50 miler and I was the very last finisher! It was close ya'll! Only 6 minutes left on the clock! I gave it all I had out there! And I did it! And I am so proud! I am a fighter and I fought for it!! I earned this medal!
Rocky Raccoon was everything I had hoped it would be and more! It challenged me in unexpected ways. It tested me. It chewed me up and spit me out over and over. And I loved every minute of it!
5 years ago I ran my very first race! It was a 10k trail race in Huntsville State Park! And 5 years later I returned there to run my first 50 mile race!
In that time I have raced 5k's, 10k's, an 11.5k, 10 mile races, the Under Armour Copper Mountain half marathon, the Houston Marathon, and the NYC Marathon!
I have raced super sprints, sprints, an Olympic distance, an Ironman 70.3, and an Ironman 140.6 in triathlon!
I am a Marathoner, an Ironman, and an Ultrarunner!!!!
I have placed 1st in my age group and I have been the last finisher in a race.
I have found a strength in myself I never knew existed.
I replaced insecurity with confidence.
I have faced adversity and persevered.
I have taught my four boys that it takes hard work and dedication to achieve your goals and to never give up.
I accomplished more in 5 years than I ever thought possible!! I DID it!! And so can YOU!!!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

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On a hiking adventure wearing the Halle pant
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Relaxing in my Deedra Sweater Tunic & Kara Jean
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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of PrAna . The opinions and text are all mine.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Under Armour Mountain Running Series - Copper Mountain 2017

This race was my first half marathon (except in a half Ironman), my first time to race on a mountain, and my first time to race with elevation and altitude. I live just north of Houston where elevation is sea level and my runs barely include a total gain of 100 feet. Ha! I quickly earned the nickname "Flatlander". But you know me - I love a challenge. And I have such a love for the mountains!
I got to meet Jenna McHugh! We had so much fun prerace! Probably a bit too much for a day before a race lol. But I love this girl!!
I got my flat runner ready! I wore Under Armour capri and top, OrangeMud  Endurance Hydration pack, Rudy Project sunglasses, Smartwool socks, HokaOneOne Stinson ATR 4 trail running shoes, Patagonia wind shell (Thank you to my friend Tara for making me run out and get one before the race! I needed it!), Garmin 935 watch, Road ID.
The start was a later morning start which I really loved. I met up with Jenna McHugh and Crystal Seaver before the race and Jesse Jamnik who took our pics like a champ!
This pic is in the beginning of the race where my smile depicts how happy I am to make it past the very steep ascent that begins the race. I wish I had a pic of that! Ha!
 The race climbs a total of 3,329 feet. And I felt everyone of them. It was a very tough climb for me.
By mile 1 my heart rate was beating out of my chest. By mile 2 I was feeling nauseous. It was around this time I was texting my hubby, my mom, and my bestie Jessica wondering if I should or even could go on!  At mile 3 my heart was pounding in my head. By mile 4 I was urinating blood.

My friend and ultra runner Heather Scott was texting me and told me to load up on sugar and carbs. I did and that made a huge difference in how I felt. Her advice throughout the race was so helpful in getting me to the finish line.

My friend and trail runner Janice was texting me words of encouragement throughout and this was just what I needed!

 At mile 6 the cold rain began. 
At mile 7 we reached the top! This race had the best aid stations! The volunteers were amazing and there was always a buffet of treats for us!
It was cold and pouring rain at the top of the mountain! You can't tell in this pic but it was coming down hard. We began our descent. At mile 8 it began to hail. And at mile 9 we stopped at a lodge in the thunder, hail, and crazy wind. I needed to urinate but was having difficulty. Shortly after, a truck came by to ask if we wanted a ride in, but we refused and kept on pushing down the mountain. By mile 11 the sun started to come out. We experienced such crazy extreme weather changes out there it was unbelievable!
The last mile in seemed like we would never reach that finish line. But there it was!! I'm not sure I have ever been so happy to see a finish line!
 And I was so grateful to have Jenna by my side!

The mountain challenges you in ways you can't completely understand until you are up there. It breaks you down and it builds you up. It chews you up and it makes you whole at the same time. I was filled with doubt and hope simultaneously. I left blood, sweat, and tears on that mountain. Literally.
Like every finish line I was overcome with emotions. This finish line was one I wasn't sure I would see. And I have never had that much doubt in a race before. This race will always be a special one for me.

After the tears came so much joy and happiness!

I am so thankful these three were on the mountain with me! Crystal was such a source of encouragement, Jesse would make me laugh, and Jenna never stopped believing in me! The mountain bonds you in such an inexplicable way. And each of them will hold a special place in my heart.

After the race I passed a very large clot and several smaller ones, and I was able to urinate but it did not look good! I have a renal biopsy the day after I get back. I NEED some answers!
Post race Jenna and I went out for a really large meal to refuel and celebrate our victory!!
Yep you read that right - 99th place! I came in dead last! My previous trail race, just two months ago, I was 1st in my age group and 3rd overall woman to cross the finish line. But you know what?  I couldn't be more proud of this finish! I met a lot of obstacles out on that course. There were physical, medical, topographical, and weather challenges that were beyond my control! And I finished despite them all!!

The Under Armour Mountain Racing Series is made up of three races featuring 7 distances. There is Cascade Volcano in Mt. Bachelor, Oregon; Appalachians in Killington, Vermont; and Rocky Mountains in Copper Mountain, Colorado. I really hope I have the opportunity to do more of these! It was an experience I will never forget!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Copper Mountain Resort

I was invited to Copper Mountain Resort for the Under Armour Mountain Running Series. I got in Thursday afternoon, the race was on Saturday, and I left Sunday afternoon. The resort was gorgeous!! This is the view from my balcony!
And I spent every minute I could on the mountain!

Day 1 - I got in late afternoon after a long day of travel and headed straight to the mountain for a hike! It was heaven!!

Day 2 - Back to the mountain!!
I learned a lot on this mountain and I realized I have so much more to learn!
Cannot beat the views!
FORMIDABLE: The mountain or me?!? I'm going to have to say the mountain this time! Ha! I made it 10,456 feet elevation and climbed 1,257 feet! But I'm not going to lie it was the descent that got me! I ended up caught in a rainstorm and as I was heading down I took a wrong turn. I found myself on a black diamond and thought this will be fun! You know how I love a challenge! I had trekking poles in my bag, so I got them out and headed down (I thought I was done lol) and I was so proud of myself. Then I quickly realized the hardest part was ahead of me. Needless to say I fell hard twice and ended up scooting down that mountain on my butt! I always love a good challenge, but I tend to bite off a little more than I can chew sometimes. But in the end I can say I had a blast and I am proud of myself for making it down that mountain!

Let me just say that my Under Armour tights and top help up like a champ out there! I sloshed thru streams. I ran in cold rain. I got wet and they kept me dry and warm. But most of all I slid down a rocky mountain on my butt in white tights and not a stain or a snag or a tear! Pretty incredible!

And that wasn't enough for me! Ha! I met up with Jenna and I decided after tackling the mountain I needed to tackle an obstacle course! This is out of my comfort zone but I gave it a go! It was fun! Jenna was a total champ!!

I realize in hindsight this may not have been the best way to spend the day before a race! Ha! But you know what?!? I had a great time!

See my next post for race details.....