RACE. TRAIL. Yesterday was the HARDEST Race I’ve ever done and it felt Amazing.

Yesterday I raced a trail half marathon and although I have ran much longer distances up to 37 miles, this race was the most technical course I have ever done.  When I crossed that finish line, I felt absolutely amazing to have not only finished, but to have very thankfully finished unharmed, others sadly where not able to.  I think its safe to say that many of us underestimated the difficulty level of this course, I know I sure did.  I am so pleased that it gave me such a wonderful new experience and excellent training for the future so I can go on to do more technical adventures.  The course was 85-90% very technical in my opinion, it was the hardest by far I have ever been on.  I have limited experience running trail and never trail that had these huge roots, rocks, mud, narrow single track, tall grass, branches in face and everywhere, it was a mix of various terrain with only very limited breaks of relatively flat wider trails.  Also, I got off the race course twice due to both having never been there and not knowing the mountain and not sure if the course was marked as well as I would have liked because I know I definitely wasn’t going fast enough to have not seen a trail marker for the race course.  The fist time I got off course, I found myself completely off any type of trail, in a very wooded steep hilly section and my clue was that I went into spider webs.  I knew that couldn’t be good because there were runners far ahead of me that would have already ran into them if I was going the right way, but the course markings seemed to send me that way so I don’t know.

I quickly and thankfully got back on the trail shortly after that.  Then several miles later, when my legs were starting to seize up and didn’t want to lift up high anymore to run over all the technical roots and rocks, I tripped on a large root and quickly and thankfully did an air brake to stop myself from falling.  I could hear the root break a little as I tripped on it.  Then shortly after that my new friend passed me on a downhill, usually a strong point for me is the downhill, but yesterday within a few miles of the end of the race my legs did not want to work anymore and I slowly descended the hill.  That is when at the bottom of the hill, my new friend, Jessica, announced we were lost and neither of us knew how we could have missed a turn, so maybe a marking ribbon on a branch, that is how they marked the course, came off.  We did see several marking ribbons just lying on the ground in various spots along the course that had been broken off so we had no idea where they were to begin with and therefore are lucky we didn’t get lost more before that point.  Thankfully, my new friend that I had made while running the race, was local and knew how to get us back on the race course.  We ran many parts of it together, either I was in front of her or she was in front of me throughout many of the miles.  It was nice we had each other as there wasn’t too many people in the race to begin with and then after a while it was just us as people spread out in their various paces.

In the beginning of the race I had the honor and pleasure to run the first several miles with a friend of mine, Ken, who has been very inspirational to me.  He is amazing.  He just hiked bushwhacked for 3 days, ate berries, during that time had only 3 hours sleep, yet was here at this race only a day later to race the trail full marathon.  It was absolutely amazing to run with him.  I felt amazing.  I felt like a kid.  It was great.  I felt light on my feet.  I felt powerful.  I felt like this is the most fun and yet most dangerous thing I have ever done.  The first several miles may have been some of the most technical, therefore, I believe that may have been why we were able to run together at that time since he is much faster than I am.  Also, the trail in the beginning was very narrow and people could not pass, it was single file and very technical, I walked a lot of the very technical parts throughout the course, so it was not entirely a running event for me but believe me I earned it as my heart rate was high most of the race and I was heavy breathing many times during the race, not something I usually do nearly as much as I did yesterday.

It is also important to mention that I had my period yesterday and for me that means the loss of a lot of blood and with it a loss of lots of my strength and ability.  I knew my period was going to come to like clockwork like it always does.  Even though I’ll be 50 in less than 2 months, I still get my period every month like clockwork although many women my age have already started or even finished menopause, it hasn’t even started for me at all.   Even though I knew I would have a lot less strength for this race, I still signed up because according to the course description of being mostly flat, I thought it would be a good race for me in my condition at the time.  The race had approx. 1000 feet of elevation gain over the 13.11 miles my Garmin said that I ran.  The very technical nature of this course made my heart pump so high that it stayed mainly in the red almost the entire race.

Another important point to mention was that I became severely dehydrated even though I started out feeling fully hydrated and good, I believe it was because of the intense physical demands of the technical nature of the course that demanded so much more hydration for my muscles.  Even though I like carrying my own hydration pack and usually don’t use the aid stations, by mile 7ish I did drink lots of water at that aid station to the tune of 6 full cups of water! I then went back out on the trail to continue the race and as I tried to run I could feel more than anything, at first mile or so, was all the water sloshing around in my stomach.  I knew I was dehydrated because of some physical symptoms.  First, my Garmin watch, which I never have a problem with the fit or feel, it is great and feels like I am wearing nothing yet tells me so much helpful information, I love it, but yesterday it got really tight around my wrist and left a mark and I had to adjust the strap larger to fit my enlarged wrist.  My swollen wrist was a first clue of dehydration, but I could also tell I was dehydrated in other clues of my body, such as the way my muscles were not able to work as well as they should have as the miles went on, like they did the first several miles much more easily even though the terrain was tough, my muscles were handling it, only with a much higher heart rate but the muscles were hanging in there in the beginning miles.  I also lost the ability to pee at all, I felt like I needed to pee, found a spot in the woods, tried to pee but nothing came out at all.   It wasn’t until several hours after the race I was finally and thankfully able to pee.  Along the same lines, I sure am glad that I was able to go to the bathroom on the long drive up right before we made it to the park at a rest stop.  I never pooped so much in my life at that rest stop and so thankful I did not have to poop out on that trail, which has happened to me in other races, but nothing like this.  It would not have been good.  I don’t think I ever pooped so much in one occurrence in my life. 3 times the bowl filled up.  Another sign that my fitness is likely growing, as this has happened in the past but never to this extent. Mind you that I had already pooped twice at home that morning! Just mentioning these things as I know as a lifetime learner myself, I find it interesting and enlightening to learn all the different aspects sometimes esp. those less talked about are sometimes the most useful.  I now pack some wipes or tp with me ever since my first incident of trail racing duty calls a few months back.

Before the race was fun chatting with friends, Ken and Chris, who I always enjoy chatting with and seeing during races.  Then during the race I saw my friend Ian, with his great big smile greeting me as he ran towards me likely in his 2nd loop because he was racing further than me, he raced the 50k.  It is always the very best feeling to see and race with my friends and see their smiling faces and we cheer each other on saying looking good and they always do too.  Many people, the ones mentioned here, are more experienced than me and I love learning from them and find them to be very inspirational.  There is always something new to learn and yesterday I learned lots as usual thank God.

I definitely grew as an athlete yesterday in so many ways.  It sure is an amazing feeling to conquer new challenges.  Life is made to live.  Live as much as possible and try new experiences.  You will never regret it, but you may regret putting things off till someday because many times some day never comes.  Don’t wait to live your life, do what you can now.  I know I did my very best yesterday. I know others can do much more than me and that is inspiring to me.  There are others that I hope to inspire knowing that I wasn’t always able to do any of this and was not a runner, I was in fact a 100 pounds heavier couch potato.  Anyone can do what they put their mind to.  We all must remember that we are all on our own journey.  It takes different amount of time for each of us to do similar goals and that’s okay.  That’s the way it’s supposed to be, because there is no one in the world like you exactly and you need to enjoy your own journey.  Make sure you enjoy your own company.  Make sure you enjoy every little accomplishment and struggle because it makes you who you are  and you are amazing.  There is no one in the world exactly like you.

2nd Place Age Group at Satan’s Tar Race

I placed 2nd in my age group of women 40 to 49 years old at Satan’s Tar Race last week, and I did it against some definite obstacles.  I just had brain surgery almost exactly 1 year ago and it’s only been approximately 10 months since I am allowed to even start doing things.  I have worked very hard to get back in shape and am very thankful I was able to. I feel really good now and strong, thank God, even though I am not at my pre-surgery weight or strength yet. In spite of not being as strong or as thin and fit post surgery, I have already accomplished quite a bit in my running goals.  This year now in 2016, I have ran much longer distances and much higher yearly mileage to date than I have ever ran in my entire life.  I ran 37 miles of my very first 50 mile race attempt in April 2016, further than I have ever ran in my life, and I believe I would have been able to do the entire race if I had not gotten sick with food poisoning likely caused by one of my pre-packaged foods sadly, although I originally thought it may have been due to something else, I found out, quite a bit after the race, in an email from the company that sold me the pre-packaged fuel for the race, that even the one little tiny bite I had of this pre-packaged food sent many people quickly to the hospital with severe reactions as I experienced.  Also, my overall yearly mileage of running to date is more than double so far than I have ever ran in an entire year, and it is not even close to year end yet.  It’s all very exciting to me, and I feel so very thankful and blessed to be able to do what I do.

But the real challenges that day were that I had never ran this kind of high elevation in that short of a distance before and to top it off,  I did it all while I unexpectedly had my period, it wasn’t due for another couple of days. I was flowing heavy, to the point that it really took all my strength, I had to change 3 times before the start of the race to give you an idea of how heavy the flow was.  I ran uphill for about 2000 feet elevation gain in only about 4 miles!  That was amazing to me!  When I got to the top of that hill, I had so many different emotions it was wonderful.  My body felt like it never felt before, if my butt could talk it would not be saying very nice things. But even so,  it was also a very good feeling that I had used every last drop of muscle strength to get to the top of that hill and it made me feel like a million bucks. I felt a great sense of accomplishment, pride and excitement for having been able to do it.  For me, this was a huge challenge and now that I have done it, I look forward to more challenges.  Life should be full of challenges that we give ourselves, because when we are able to overcome challenges, we get more in return than we could ever imagine.

After I ran up that long, steep hill, I had to run the downhill back to the finish, which was another thing I was not sure I would be able to do.  I did not know if I would have to stop and walk a bit on the extremely steep parts or possibly risk falling down as gravity took over.  I find that generally when I run downhill, gravity takes over and I love running fast downhill.  It makes me feel like a kid.  It cools me off after getting sweaty on the uphill and always seems to rejuvenate my energy likely because it feels much easier than the uphills generally.  That was not the case in this race, except parts of the downhill felt like that, but not all of it.  Generally, I seem to speed past many runners who seem to be putting the brakes on, maybe for fear of falling, but in this race I put the brakes on the downhill on part of it anyway, even though I did let myself enjoy falling with the gravity of the downhill for other parts.  The hills I have raced before are nothing compared to what I did in this race.

The race finish happened long before the finish line that day.  It happened going down that downhill to the finish.  The 1st pace age group winner passed me, about half of the way down the hill, although she was with me the whole time going up that hill and part way down that hill, I knew as she passed me that although I am not a good judge of age, she did seem to be in my age group.  All I knew at the time was that she was ahead of me, I and no idea at the time that either one of us would place in our age group.  It was a nice feeling that we were running together most of the race, we exchanged a few nice words at  different time times during the race, such as when we got to the top and said how much our butt’s hurt.  Runner’s are the best people.  I always enjoy chatting and racing with other runners.  But then on the downhill, about half of the way down, she passed me and that was it, I never saw her again until I crossed the finish line. It didn’t bother me that she passed me, it actually felt good and gave me more confidence to go a little faster, although I still ran cautiously on the downhill so as to both minimize my risk if falling and possibly injury from doing too much all at once.  I am really happy for her, she definitely earned it, it was a tough race.

I was definitely going as fast as I could that particular day, with the thought always in mind that I am running not only for that moment in time, but that I want to keep running for many more days.  I wanted to enjoy it too, even though it was a sufferfest on the way up, there was no reason I couldn’t enjoy the downhill, making it true to my Pearl Izumi code of endure and enjoy.  I enjoyed my run, even though it was a race, for me it was part of something so much bigger.  It was part of my fitness and health journey.

That day I accomplished so much more than I knew, for sure, that I could do.  I cried at the end, wrapping my arms in a giant, long hug of the race director, thanking him for making this race possible because without him I never would have done anything like this.  I started to cry in tears of absolute joy.  The feeling I got from finishing that race was absolutely amazing, but to then find out I placed 2nd in my age group was a wonderful surprise.

I won’t be 50 until October, so while I am still in this age group, I find that placing in my age group can sometimes be more challenging as I get closer to 50 when I am competing with much younger women.  I know everyone is different, and even though I didn’t start running until about 5 years ago, on and off due to several severe medical issues, but I find that anyone turning 50 is definitely not like a 40 year old no matter what.  No matter what you do to stay healthy and fit, it is a fact that no one escapes from the natural decline with age. This one age group, as compared to all the other age groups, I believe has the most changes physically that happen to all of us.  It is a medical fact that starting at age 50 for women, younger for men, we require a longer warm up and a longer cool down when exercising so as to not hurt our heart muscles.  This is just one example of the physical differences in this age group.

I did it!  It felt great, even though it was a small race, with not many people, there were still women in my age group who finished several minutes after me.  Placing 2nd in my age group felt even more amazing because of it because I know that all of these women were top athletes and very capable.  We all worked very hard for that race and all deserve recognition for a job very well done.  I always try to do my personal best.  That day I definitely did.  The amazing feeling lasts long after the race ends.  It puts a smile on my face from ear to ear any time I think about it.  Life experiences are priceless, and they are needed more than anything else in our lives.  Many times society focuses on material things, although now I am pleased to see society slowly shifting towards accumulating life experiences instead.  Collect life experiences to feel fit forever.

2nd place age group Satans Tar Race July 30th 2016