Sunday, December 16, 2018

RoughTrail 50K Race Report

My only pic from the race once the food was out of the front pockets of my pack.

The Rough Trail 50k was a necessary for me. My 25k experience 2 years ago left much to be desired. I had a cold and Trump had just won the 2016 election. My world was turned upside down, by choice, since my family and I had just moved to the Kentucky. I signed up to do races as a way to channel the stress of relocating across the country. I knew it would give me a chance to the know the area, driving to these events, and get to know the running community.  

I survived the 25k. I was on my feet for more than 4 hours. As hard as this was, I knew I could run another marathon.  I was a little broken but I crossed the finish. I blogged about it and one of the women in the running group commented that it sounded like I did not have fun. She wasn’t wrong. The 25k course was fucking hard. The race itself was redeeming because despite my inner grouch, it was a perfect day for a race. The Gorge was magnificent to behold while it was kicking my ass.

I was afraid to sign up for this race but I was in search of a fall 50k. I needed to not be afraid of this course and redeem last year’s 50k. I got lost and ran 3 extra miles. I didn’t have the strength in my legs to make big descents the last 10 miles. I also lingered too long aid stations.  With my three extra miles, I was out on the course after the sun set. One of my goals for this race, maybe the only goal was to finish before the sun went down. 

I weight trained having learned all this. I had never really cross trained while training for a race before. I didn’t know how or maybe I didn’t have the fitness. I could only either run or weight train. Mostly I needed to be strong. I went back to the Uplift training plan, created by a fellow runner from my old running group. She is also a body builder. I wasn’t too worried about getting a certain number of miles in every day. Just like training for Grandma’s Marathon, I aimed for cumulative miles by Sunday.

I rode my bike all summer. It was hard to go back to running. I kept telling myself that if I kept at it, the glorious full body fatigue, serotonin high would come with running too. I Just had to get through the first 5 miles of pounding on my joints and the Kentucky heat. I was hoping muscle memory would kick in and it did. I remember texting a friend saying that I had reached a point in my training where I wanted to run every day.  I became efficient again and my brain was addicted to the serotonin.  

I am fortunate to be able to work from home. During my lunch breaks or in between teleconferences, I weight trained with my body weight. Each routine lasted about 20 minutes. On some weeks I did this with my running miles. I went from 20 m week to 30 m week to 30 plus miles at the peak of my training.

Earlier this year I had some blood work done with a yearly physical. I found out I had high cholesterol. My doctor advised me to stop eating fried foods and take a krill oil supplement. I switched to vegan cheese. I ate more beans and less meat. I lost 1 or 2 pounds, which I was grateful for since I wanted to weigh less overall for the race.

The longest run for a 50K is about 26 miles. Due to weather, scheduling and my general desire to not be gone from my family that long, I ran 5 miles on a treadmill Friday night, 22 miles on Saturday morning and 3 miles the following Sunday. I was ravenously hungry in the days that followed. This was 2 weeks before the race.

The weekend before the race I biked an easy 30 miles and ran 10 miles with friends on Siltstone. Biking was a mistake since my quads were very tight afterwards. I also felt fatigued during those 10 trail miles. My rationale for the bike miles was that my boys were away for the night and I had some “me” time. I also took it easy. I was attempting to not consume alcohol before the 50k. After my 10 trail miles, Kaitlyn and I heated up some sweet potatoes in the toaster oven and sat on the kitchen floor eating from the tray. They we each had a beer.  I think the alcohol helped loosen me up, especially the quads that had hardened after my bike ride.

The week before the race was all rest. My hubs was traveling for work most of the week. I spent my active days raking and bagging leaves. I made a playlist for the race and used a foam roller on my quads.

I took a half day at work on Friday. I carpooled with friends to a cabin near the start/finish of the race. There were 9 of us in the cabin. All 9 of us brought beer for before and after the race. I had 2 beers with my dinner Friday night. I have never drank before a marathon or ultra marathon. Dinner was ultra-bland, boiled potatoes, boiled chicken and steamed broccoli

I Zentangle-ed in honor of Bob. I also wrote Gerry’s name on my hat. Maybe its superstitious but I talk to them when I run long distances. I hope that they watch over me out there. There’s always a risk in trail races. The terrain wouldn’t be easy. I would be running up mountains, down ravines and passing cliffs. I also knew I would be out there for hours. As much as Gerry and Bob were a part of my pre-race, I placed faith in myself. There was no room for doubt and negative thoughts. This mental component was the most critical. The body was a vessel for the indomitable mind. The mind only knows the progress forward towards the finish.

I set my alarm for 5am. The race started at 7am. I had 2 hard boiled eggs and 2 boiled potatoes for breakfast. I also had coffee. I had not driven my car since my family was going to meet me at the end of the race. We had planned on driving home together. I needed to eat my breakfast and pack everything in Chris and Amy’s car.

I wore an Ink burn tech shirt, arm warmers, a hooded rain jacket, my Brooks capris, compression socks, Altra Kings and gaiters. I had 2 buffs, gloves and a hat. In my hydration pack I had my inhaler, tissues, small first aid kit, 2 sunflower seed and jelly sandwiches, 1 chocolate Gu, 2 boiled potatoes, 4 or 5 Honey Stinger waffles, Sport Beans and an RX bar.

It was cold when we started. I started of slow until I warmed up. It had rained days leading up to the race so the course was muddy. The first aid station  (Auxier ridge) was at the 8-mile mark.

There was a 10 hour cut off for this race. I had anticipated chasing it because of the difficulty of the course and my Strava data from the Jackson 50/50, which was around 9 hours on my feet.  I had packed my headlamp hoping that I wouldn't have to use it.

I ran the beginning of that race without stopping. I did not take my phone out for pictures, I didn’t linger at aid stations and I didn’t stop to talk to the other runners. While I was feeling strong, I was not going to stop. I had planned on running when I could until the terrain made me walk.

I ran into MRTT friends Amy and Amber at around mile 15. I ran with them for about 10 miles. Maybe it was good to be with them since I had been by myself for a while. Amber called me "Jenny" a few times, which I normally dislike from anyone except my family but I loved it coming from Amber.

Some of the climbs were never ending (hard as fuck). I am happy to report that weight training helped. My legs were never totally exhausted. I was tired at 4 hours. I was also cold.  I did not account for the time I would be walking and climbing. I kept myself warm by telling myself not to stop moving. I took my inhaler twice in the time I was out there. I felt the cold most in my lungs, not sure if it was cold or fatigue. Maybe it was both. I was running alone near the end. Amy and Amber were about 5 minutes ahead of me and I wasn’t keeping up with them. I couldn’t.

At the Sky Bridge aid station, I was thrilled to see my friend Jeannette, who completed the 100 mile race earlier this year. Another MRTT friend Susan refilled my water bottles as I blabbered on about probably being dehydrated not having peed for several hours. I ate pbjs, cheese crackers, m&ms ad potato chips. It helped with the cold.

I have no recollection of any low points (mostly cold points) except maybe the end when I kept wishing to be at the finish line. I couldn’t wait to see my boys, be warm and drink the beer I had put in Chris’ cooler for after the race. I was tired of pbjs and race food.

I was thrilled to have crossed the finish not having to use my headlamp. It was around 9 and half hours. I had given that race everything I had. I look back on it as a successful race. I can’t remember if I ate anything afterwards. My son gave me a Twix mini and I did drink that beer.

We drove to Lexington and I had pizza and beer with my sisters in law. I also took a hot shower. My hubs was running the Louisville Marathon at the Parklands the next day so we needed to get home. I went to bed promptly.

The most amazing thing the next day was being up and about. I unpacked my things, washed the mud off my tights, shoes, socks and gaiters. I also made soup. Despite the way I felt during the race, I was happy I didn’t get a cold or some respiratory infection.

This race marked the passage of time for me in Kentucky. It had been the 2 years since the election of President Trump. A few weeks ago, I heard Julian Castro being interviewed on NPR. He had just released a book. He said it would need to talk to his wife about running for president. I like Mr. Castro very much. More than anything I felt hope unlike this time two years ago. Two years ago, I didn’t have running friends in Kentucky. On race day I was surrounded by people that knew my name, who I ran with leading up to the race and waited for me at the finish with big smiles and open arms.   This race proved I could circle back and evolve. It was a way for me to connect with Bob and Gerry and continue to heal from their passing. Lastly, that MRTT member who said did not have fun is now a close friend if not the best one I made since moving here. In writing this, I get to tell her that this race was so many things but most of all, so much fun.

faithful escort

every race has a song for me, this was the one i had in mind

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Grandma's Marathon - Race Report

We flew up to Minneapolis Minnesota for Grandma’s Marathon. From Minneapolis we drove 3 hours north to Duluth. My friend Marian recommended a bakery called Tobies for their caramel pecan rolls, something she had frequently as a child when driving from Minneapolis to Duluth. We arrived in MN around 3pm. By the time we got to Tobies, it was around dinner so we had dinner there. I had a Cajun seasoned chicken breast and a baked potato. JP had a flat meatball and spaghetti. AP had walleye and a baked potato. Afterwards AP and I had Caribou coffee and JP had a chocolate glazed donut. At this point I had abstained from alcohol and desserts, so even though it was my birthday I was still on my pre-race diet. JP saved me a bite of his donut, which was just the right amount.

We stayed at the Best Western on the Wisconsin side of the bay. Rooms for this race were impossible to find in February and March of this year. I was happy to find a room on the Wisconsin side. The hotel wanted me to book it for Friday and Saturday night. I used Expedia to book the room on Thursday and Friday night. We planned to stay in Minneapolis on Saturday night since our flight was leaving early on Sunday. It was cold and rainy when we arrived. We checked into our room and stayed there, tired from our day of traveling.

The next day we dressed in long sleeves and rain coats. We had breakfast at the hotel and headed out for our first adventure in the new state. We went across the bridge to the Duluth Coffee Company. I had my usual soy latte and AP had a pour over coffee in a giant espresso cup. Then we headed up the street to the Duluth Trading Company. We spent a while in that store. I looked at shoes, AP tried on pants and JP colored. We left with a tub of lavender scented cream. Then we drove over to the Convention Center  for the Race Expo so I could pick up my packet and also Kaitlyn’s.  As with big race expos there's always a ton of swag. We walked away with a free cowbell, several bags of potato chips, I bought a long sleeved shirt, sticker and an Arbonne sample of massage gel.

Then we set out on the scenic drive along Lake Superior. The drive along Scenic Highway 61 was pretty. It was the first time I had seen Lake Superior. Seeing it was beholding an ocean where there wasn’t one. I was awed, humbled and overjoyed to be in that little rental with my boys. We were headed to Split Rock Lighthouse and Gooseberry Falls

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Jackson 50/50 Race Report

Photo by Jaclyn

I finished the Jackson 50/50 50K last weekend. I am hobbling around the house this morning. Yesterday I asked my son to help me get my pants from downstairs so he could help dress me (practice for my old age). On race day I got up 2 hours before the start just fine. I put on my own pants and walked around all by myself. I stayed at the Pyoca lodge with Rachel to avoid delays getting to the race.

Rachel and I headed to Indiana the night before. I love the road trip part of a race. I got to know Rachel through in our interaction online. Talking with her during the drive was amazing. Imagine what a Latina and Pinay might have in common and the ride was just like that. 

It was about an hour from home. We got to the lodge at dark. The first thing we did was check into the race. Then we got our things from the car and headed to our cabin.

Our room had 4 bunk beds. The room was clean, simple and had its own bathroom. There may have been 8 rooms just like that in our cabin. At the end of the hall was a common area with a sink, coffee maker, dishwasher and fire place. We would see runners later that evening sitting around the fireplace drinking beer and bourbon. Observing them, one might think they just finished up skiing rather than getting ready for a race. This might be one of the reasons I love the ultra-running community. Rachel and I hung out with them after a few rounds of Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman Uno.

Our bunk mates were doing the 50 miler. I was a little apprehensive about bunking with people I didn't know. Rachel and I even signed up for the upgraded room with less occupants for 10 extra dollars. Our bunk mates were awesome. I recognized Brenda when we checked in. She told us she was from Indiana and that she didn’t get into ultra-running until she was 40. She told Rachel and I that we were at the perfect age in the sport. Our other bunk mate, Sarah told us she was from Ohio. She said she started doing 50 miles after she started doing 50Ks. I think Rachel and I had stars in our eyes thinking these women were phenoms for taking on such a distance. They thought we were the same for being there. We talked like old friends.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Reaper 30K - Race Report

A few weekends ago I did the Reaper 30K at Salt Lick, KY. The course is part of Daniel Boone National Forrest. I signed up for this race last year not ready to make the leap from 25K to 50K. It was also really cheap. I liked the description of “part road and part trail”. I did all this before I decided to take on a marathon this past spring in hopes that I would have the mental stamina for a 50K. The 30K became part of my training plan for my upcoming 50K.

I decided to stay in Lexington with my sister in law at the last minute. When I went to bed I kept waking up thinking it was time to get up. When I finally fell asleep, my alarm went off. I was tired from getting ready to wake up. I meant to wake at 5am and got up at 5:50. I ate 2 hardboiled eggs and had an espresso. I made it out the. door at 6:30. The GPS said I would make it to the campground at 8:07am. As a runner, I prioritized a bowel movement at home rather than uncomfortable insides for the duration of the race.  I had to go through lots of traffic lights downtown Lexington before I got to I-64. I was driving towards a spectacular sunrise. I told myself I would be running soon enough. I focused on the drive as it was part of the race journey.

When I got to the campground the runners were off. I had to stop and wait for them to pass. The last minute change in the emails said it would be a “beach start”. I made a wrong turn following signs for the “beach”. I was glad to see where they started so I could find the starting line. While I waited for them to pass, I shed my fleece and hat, which was one small thing I could do to get ready. I saw my MRTT friends Amy and Tammy run by. I also saw Bob, a friend I made during the Horse Capital marathon, run by, which is always a good sign for me.

It wasn’t a very big race so I found parking easily. I put on my compression socks and shoes. I went with my Brooks Cascadia anticipating climbs similar to the Rough Trail.  I strapped on my hydration pack and headed to the start. Since I was late, they didn’t want to give me my bib without first consulting with someone. They gave me my bib and agreed to give me my shirt afterwards. She was kind enough to put my keys in my hydration pack. Her only instruction was that I start through the chute so my time is official, even though it was 12 minutes later than everyone else. Then I was off. I started on the road that I saw all the other runners just a few minutes prior. I stopped on the side of the road to pee. After an hour and a half in the car and that espresso, I couldn’t wait until I got on the trail.

The trailhead was inconspicuous and could be missed had it not been marked with pink flags. On the trail, being late was a distant memory. I was on a mission to catch Tammy and Amy, if that was even possible. The thought of running a 30K without them was lonely. Those first few miles were up a mountain. There were many switch backs on a dirt before I caught up to the sweepers. They asked me if I was the last racer. Then asked me to go ahead of them. I ran a little while longer until I caught a set of walkers who also asked me to go ahead of them. They commented that I was actually breathing hard. I was heartened that I wouldn’t finish last.

There were many downed trees on this trail, I had to go through, over and under a lot of logs. There were signs with the reaper that read “you didn’t think this would be easy did you lol” and it wasn’t. But it was early in the race and I thought, not today man in the mask devoid of color. I pressed on until I came upon a road and found more people walking. At that point I decided since I had trained mostly on road that this road and any flat would be runnable despite my legs being in shock from that ascent/descent. I told myself if I jogged these, I could walk the steeper sections.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Derby City Trifecta - Race Report

Transition Area

Big Four Bridge at Sunrise

I completed the Derby City Trifecta Olympic Distance triathlon. I prepared for this race with a plan developed by my friend and coach Jeanette.

In my adult life as an athlete, I have never had a coach. I enlisted her help to prepare for the 50k in December. In addition to following a plan, I wanted to be able to check in with someone with how closely I was following the plan. I wanted help in the areas that needed to be modified. For instance, I did not do well during a three week taper given my disposition. I felt sluggish. I also felt like my middle of winter self despite the marathon being in May. I was sleeping during the day and sometimes in front of my happy light. I might have done better with 2 weeks. I also liked the tempo runs during triathlon training, which I would like to incorporate into my 50k training.  Lastly, given Jeanette’s disposition and experience as in Ironman finisher, ultra-finisher and cancer survivor, I wanted to be able to check in with someone like her. She is on a journey of her own as a personal trainer. I asked for J’s help as a coach a couple of months ago. She was kind enough to prepare a triathlon training plan that incorporated my husband’s work schedule and a few “for fun” races I had on my calendar.

A lot of the plans I had found online were too detailed with bike drills, swim drills and running drills. I have experience in a previous life doing triathlons so I just needed a plan with the distances. I could dial the intensity up or down as my schedule allowed. I was approaching this race with an older body but more knowledge accumulated through running marathons and the collective experience of MRTT. Unlike that previous life, I wasn't working through any emotional crisis. This race was for fun and a break from running. I started cycling and swimming again. It was partly to acclimate to the onset of a hot and humid Kentucky summer. My asthma bothered me and swimming and cycling were more forgiving.

J uploaded an Excel document doc on Google docs. The document had my workout and also a log so I could write out my actual activities. I also wrote notes on my mood, how I felt during the workout if it was a good training session or not. I wrote about adding or decreasing intensity, duration or distance. I viewed the document as the least I had to accomplish every workout. J checked in with me once a week through Facebook Messenger. It was an ideal arrangement.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Book Review - Diary of a Reluctant Dreamer, Undocumented Vignettes from a Pre-American Life by Alberto Ledesma

Dr. Ledesma’s graphic novel was an easy read yet cut to the core of my pre American life. It was also timely. I recently removed “the undocumented American experience” from the title of my blog. The reason is that my work, running, family and writing selves were starting to merge in the online space. I changed the title so that this part of my life would be slightly obscured. After all these years, I am still afraid.

This book is a reminder that our stories about having lived an undocumented life need to be told.  
I identified with the author’s undocumented beginnings, being told that they were going on vacation and never leaving.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Book Review - Land Of Open Graves by Jason De Leόn

Photo from The Undocumented Migration Project website

I finished The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail.  It was a gift from my friend Carolina, creator of My (un)Documented Life blog.  It was written by Jason De Leόn, an anthropologist of Mexican descent, who spent 5 years in the field, in his journey to complete this project.  At its heart, his work depicts the violence faced by border crossers “as they attempt to enter the US without authorization by walking across the vast Sonoran desert of Arizona”. Its focus is on the Prevention through Deterrence (PTD) policy enacted in 1993.

The author explained that when the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was passed in 1994, the U.S. promised economic prosperity for Mexico if it would open up its ports of entry for inexpensive goods. Shortly thereafter, Mexico was abundant with U.S. subsidized corn that put millions of Mexican farmers out of work

Google gave me some background on NAFTA. Its purpose was to expand the flow of goods between Canada, US and Mexico. It eliminated import tariffs and eliminated or reduced non-tariff trade barriers like import quotas, licensing schemes and technical barriers to change. Lastly, it created protections for intellectual property.

I harken back to my reading of In our Image by Stanley Karnow.  In the late 1800s, William Taft advocated for lower tariffs for Philippine sugar, hemp, tobacco and coconut oil. In exchange, duties were imposed on non US products going into the Philippines, so they were more expensive than US products. These decisions during the long term relationship between the US and the Philippines, created the economic landscape. I understood my family’s migration. I appreciated how Mr. De Leόn created the backdrop between US and Mexico.  I am reminded that people wouldn’t risk such a journey if there were other economic options.