Rocky Raccoon 50 Mile

On February 12, I ran my first ever 50 mile race, Rocky 50. A lot of second-guessing crossed my mind in the weeks leading up to the race – like why was I so quick to sign up for this one! After I ran the Dallas Marathon in December, it took me about 3 weeks until I felt like myself again on runs. And in January, for the two longest runs leading up to the 50, I never felt great. But the goal was to finish, ahead of the cutoff times, so I tried to keep that goal front and center in my mind when my brain would go haywire.

My husband and I drove down the day before the race, and a friend who was running the half followed us down. It was a beautiful day! We had reserved a camping spot in the park so we would be close to the start/finish. After running Tyler last year, I didn’t know if parking would be an issue (it wasn’t), and my husband enjoys that sort of thing. But knowing what I know now about the layout of the park, parking, and distance to nearby hotels, I’d go the hotel route if there’s a next time.

The first thing I saw when we pulled in to our spot was our view of the lake, and this turtle on the tree. It was my sign – and I smiled a little. All the way back to my first half Ironman, my motto in tough race situations has been to “be the tortoise.”

I will admit I was nervous about staying this close to the water knowing there were alligators in the park. My husband assured me it was too cold, but my fears aren’t always rational. I could write a whole post on my fear of alligators…

Start Line View from Packet Pickup

We picked up our race packets (he was doing the half marathon) and killed some time until the pre-race briefing. This calmed my nerves a little, and I was able to eat a light dinner before getting all my gear set out for the long day ahead.

Race morning I was up super early for coffee and calories. I ate a Picky Bar and then had a Honey Stinger waffle closer to start time. This works for me before a marathon too. The temperature was in the 50s, so I decided on shorts and a short sleeve top. It was supposed to cool down throughout the day, so I added some clothes to my drop bag that I would leave near the start/finish area.

My Race Plan:

The 50 miler consisted of 3 laps of about 16.7 miles each. I had 15 hours to do it in. So my goal (to finish) meant I had to come in under 5 hrs on each lap. I would also have to start the final lap by 4:40 pm to continue the last lap. My start time was 6::30 am.

I was pretty nervous in the hour before start time. I don’t know why – it’s running and I love to run! But the fact is, it is a really, really long way to be on foot. I think my nerves were a combination of not knowing how my body would respond to the distance (especially past 50k), and being on the trail in the dark.

Go Time!

Lap 1:

The first lap was in the dark for almost an hour, but it helped that there were others around. I could feel some humidity, and I almost wished I had brought a tank top. But once the sun came up, I didn’t notice it anymore. I enjoyed the trail. This lap was about noticing the layout of the course, aid stations, and condition of the trail. I was pleased with how runnable the trail was all the way through this lap. The first aid station was a little over 5 miles in, but I didn’t stop because I wanted to limit the stops as much as possible. Cutoff times were looming in my brain.

“Fairly flat” course

The 2nd aid station is another 5ish miles from the first one, and about 5 1/2 miles back to the start/finish area. I refilled my bottles, grabbed some pringles, and kept going. It had been rained on and off throughout the morning, but nothing too hard, and it didn’t seem to have an effect on the trail. I was feeling good and headed out on the dam. The wind had picked up, but I wasn’t cold. After going across the dam, you wind back down around the lake and then into the finish chute. When I completed my first lap, I was excited that I was faster than I had expected. I was well ahead of the cutoffs, and feeling good.

I grabbed a few things from my bag, stopped to use the restroom, and then went out on lap 2. My husband was still on the course with the half marathon, and I wouldn’t see him until I finished my second lap.

Pinecones Everywhere

Lap 2:

I limited my time at the aid stations, refilling bottles and quickly picking what foods I could carry with me. The hot foods in foam cups had to be consumed in the aid station – and I didn’t feel like I had time. In mile 21, my phone rang. It was a pay phone call from Illinois, so I answered it because I figured it was my son. He had left for Navy boot camp on January 12th, and even though we had received some letters, he hadn’t called yet. You better believe I answered it, and that chat lifted my mood enough to get me to the next aid station.

I was starting to feel the miles in my calves, but was still run/walking the rest of the way through the second lap. The temperature had been dropping, the wind had picked up, and my legs and hands were turning pink from the cold. I would need to add some clothes for the next one.

I finished the second lap a little slower than the first, but two hours ahead of the 4:40 cutoff. My husband was there, having finished his first half marathon, and he helped my with my layers. My fingers were so cold. I added a lightweight pullover to cover my arms, and some cheap cotton gloves I could tuck away if I warmed up. I told him I was slowing down, walking more. He said, “that’s okay” and I was reminded of my goal – just finish.

The Final Lap:

The third lap was a doozy and kicked my tail all over the place. I was in unchartered territory. When I started the lap, I was already hitting new mileage, going farther than I ever had. My calves weren’t bothering me as much at this point, but my quads were getting a bit annoying. along with my big toe. I was still run/walking but at one point I realized I could power walk faster than I could run. “Well that’s embarrassing,” I thought.

It was getting harder to navigate the rooty sections, and anything that felt downhill had me wincing with the pain in my quads. At one point, my Garmin locked up and the screen showed a blue triangle. Oh great, I thought, now I won’t know how far I have to go. But after a little while, it reconnected and picked back up where it left off. Most of the people I saw on the course were moving at a faster pace, but my mood was okay, and I knew at this point that I would finish. It also helped that I was seeing messages of encouragement from so many of my friends.

When I pulled into the last aid station (about 5 miles from the finish), the volunteer behind the table asked, “What do you need?” My response with a smile: “better decision-making skills.”

I have to keep my sense of humor – even in the low spots. I can be a bit hard on myself (surprise, surprise), but if I don’t have my sense of humor, then it’s time to find something else.

The aid station had some hot foods, and the cheese quesadillas were just what I needed to tote along with me as I tried to make it across the dam before dark. I made it past the dam, and then turned on my headlamp when I couldn’t see the tree roots clearly. I had avoided falls this far in, and wasn’t too sure I could get back up if I went down. I prayed my headlamp battery would make it to the finish, because I had it on the brightest setting. I wasn’t too confident I could work my fingers to change batteries at this point in the day.

This was the toughest part of my entire race, and I’m not going to sugarcoat it. It was dark; I was cold, and I was moving at a snail’s pace. And still in the back of my mind, was worried about where the dang alligators go when it’s cold! Especially as I got closer to the water. I tried different things to occupy my mind, but this was hard. I talked out loud, gave myself little pep talks, and even cried a little. I run in the dark all the time, but this was my first time on a trail in the dark, and solo to boot. So there was fear, along with the pain in my legs. But the course was marked really well with reflectors, and the alphabet signs gave me some distraction.

I remembered a scene from the movie French Kiss (aging myself here) where Meg Ryan’s character is terrified of flying. As she’s on the plane about to take off, she starts singing. So I tried that, which didn’t do much for my fear, but trying to remember the lines of that song did pass some time.

I could see my breath in my headlamp light from the cold, and I wasn’t moving fast enough to stay warm. I should’ve picked up my jacket for the last lap. It was getting harder to take in calories too, because of nausea.

After over an hour of seeing absolutely no one, I heard some people come up behind me. I was so happy I wasn’t alone, even if it was just for a few minutes before they were out of sight. It was nice to hear voices other than my own!

Somehow in the last mile, I was able to pick my feet up and run (really slowly) toward the finish line. I heard cowbells and cheers as I came into the finish chute. I don’t know what emotion was on my face, but I’m guessing a combination of relief and disbelief. Someone handed me a medal, and then had me step over where there was a heater to warm up. I declined the chair offered because I was pretty sure I couldn’t get back up if I sat down, but standing by the heater was lovely. The race director got me a Dr. Pepper, and I took a cup of Ramen. I wasn’t hungry at all, but so grateful to be done!

Long Day

I didn’t stay in the finish area for more than a couple of minutes. I was ready to get my shoes off and warm up. It was around 8 p.m. and I had made the cutoff by an hour and a half.

Thankfully, my husband had moved the car close so I didn’t have to hobble too far. My first text after I plugged my phone in (it had died somewhere in the last hour) was to my friend who ran the half earlier that day. It said: NEVER AGAIN! And at that moment, I meant it.

And this is my face within 30 minutes of finishing. I’ve always promised to be real here, and this is it. Relief mixed with a side of goal accomplishment.

Am I glad I did it? Absolutely. It was one of the toughest events I’ve done, but I finished and learned a lot about myself through the pain and fear.

Will I do it again? Maybe. But I have another big goal to tackle first that’s going to require all my focus.

Would I go farther? Only time will tell.

If you made it this far reading my short novel, bless you. This is the longest post I’ve written, but fitting because it’s the longest race I’ve ever done.

Testing the Water

This has been a strange, quick summer of running. I have done a little more racing than I originally intended, but also have taken a few baby steps out of my comfort zone (more trail). To use a metaphor, I’ve been testing the deep end of the water with my toe, while safely maintaining my seat on dry land.

My original plan for summer was to drop some weight, gain some strength, and work on speed for a 5k. Here’s what has actually happened:

A couple of weeks after RNR San Diego, I ran a 15k trail race with two of my running friends. This was only my 2nd official trail race. A sharp contrast to the cool, low humidity weather in San Diego, the Frisco Trail Race was hot and sunny. There were a lot of open places on the trail, and the sun was draining my energy. I felt fine up until mile 8, then I was ready to be done. The deep ruts in some places on the trail were not good for my ankles, so I was happy to be finished. Lots of switchbacks too. The map and the drone footage from the race looked cool, but it wasn’t as fun to run the course, in my opinion. At least there were free pictures from it, and I did enjoy time with friends.

At the end of June, I went to run “Trails and Tacos” hosted by the McKinney Running Club with some other running friends. It was a free, 15k distance trail run at Erwin Park. The running club had breakfast tacos afterward. I enjoyed this trail more than the one in Frisco. More coverage, no deep ruts. There were still some places out in the open sun that made it tough, and so many mountain bikes! No time goals here either, so I just enjoyed my time on the trail.

In July, I ran the Too Hot to Handle half marathon in Dallas with a couple of my other friends. This was mostly for my friend who wanted a race to check her training progress. She likes to run in the heat. My goal was to finish without getting sick. I have set the bar high for summer racing. 😉 I am probably going to write a whole other post about responsibility on the road because of what I witnessed with the bikes and runners around White Rock Lake, but here I’m just going to focus on my race. I felt pretty good until about mile 9, then the heat got me so I ran/walked it in. My heart rate got a little too high and it’s not worth the risk. If I can’t keep my sense of humor or smile, then I don’t need to be out there. I want to be able to run for years, so I try to pay attention to my body. When it says slow down, I do.


I made sure to cool down after the race under the sprinkler with a popsicle and a cold towel on my skin.

This was pretty close to being one of my slowest half marathons and I am okay with that. I didn’t set out to run a time goal. I set out to complete a half marathon. I like being “half ready” year round. I’m back to the point where a 10 mile run feels normal, as it did several years ago. Everyone is different though. What’s good for me may not be what’s best for you! The nice thing about doing this race, is that I didn’t feel sore later or the next day. My recovery was good, it was just the heat that got me. That’s kind of an expectation of summer running.

A little over a week ago, we took some trail time out at Cross Timbers. The last time I ran there was in March. There were no monster horse flies then, or worries of snakes, or clearing spiderwebs. The flies are awful now! It didn’t matter how fast you ran in some places, you were still swatting and dodging the massive flies.

And Cross Timbers has a way of making you feel out of shape. We covered 4 miles that took well over an hour. There is some climbing! My quads were sore for two days after that run!

I’ve enjoyed my time on the trail these past months, but I can’t seem to make the jump to go farther yet. Officially.


As far as the rest of my summer goals:

On dropping weight, I’ve lost about .3 of a pound. I’ve had more trouble with this than anything. I don’t know how I can fit all my runs in but can’t turn down an ice cream cone. It’s about discipline, but my metabolism has slowed down which makes it hard. Oh, and I really really like peanut butter.

On building strength, I’ve started going to the gym with one of my friends on Sundays to lift. It’s not something I’ve ever done consistently or made a priority. So this is our fight against age and slow metabolisms. We’ve gone two weeks in a row, and it’s much easier to agree to meet a friend than go on my own. I also did some RIPPED classes at the gym earlier this summer with my daughter who was home from college. It’s good to change things up once in a while.

I’m winding down a bit this week to get ready for the 5k this weekend. I’ve been doing track workouts just about every week to get my speed back, because I need the speed in the shorter distances to get faster for the longer ones. Track work the past two months consisted of variations of 5k goal pace. 400s, 600s, 800s. Last week was 5 x 1000m. It was tough, and I hit the paces on all but the last one. These workouts have given me a specific focus for the majority of summer.

Saturday’s 5k will be my last race in my current age group. After this, it’s time to move to the longer, marathon focused work.

So there’s my summer running in a nutshell. Band has started for my high school junior, and football for my youngest. This is my gauge that summer is basically over in our house. Routines and schedules are back in place, and my running will be more structured.

It’s going to be a busy fall, but I really don’t know how to do it any other way.





DanMan Challenge

I never know what I’m capable of if I don’t try.

That was my motto going into DanMan. My goal was 50 miles, and even though it was a stretch, I knew I needed the mindset that I would complete 50. Otherwise, I was giving myself a way out the first time it got hard.

So on the morning of April 6th, my husband and I loaded up the car and headed north. He brought his mountain bike just in case. Good call.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, or how my body would react. My longest trail run leading up to DanMan was 13 miles a few weeks earlier, and the most time I had ever spent on my feet was a 5 hour road marathon in 2012. I did feel like I still had my marathon fitness from January and February though. The layout of the course, and the fact that it was free, kept me from freaking out too much. My main concern for that day was the weather and the threat of thunderstorms.

I met up with some of the guys I’ve run with on the trails/met through Strava who were also signed up for the 50 miler. That made it less scary knowing others there.

My kind of people! Donuts and Coke before the run.

Everyone ran the first loop, which was 10k. I was running with the guys, and we settled into a run/walk the hills rhythm. As we came back around to the start/ranch house, my husband had his bike ready to go out. I changed my hat (because it was starting to rain) to one that would cover my head better. We headed out together on the second loop, which was for half, marathon, and 50 milers. The course was mainly dirt roads around the ranch, so he biked on one side while I ran/walked on the other.

We made the turn off for the 50 mile loop, and that’s when the weather took a turn. Rain started coming down harder, and there was lightning and thunder. I got a refresher course on where to go/what to do if you’re out on the trail or road when there’s lightning. We counted seconds between lightning strikes and thunder. 6 miles away, then 8, then 10. The lightning was moving off, but it was pouring. Rain was dripping off my hat, and I was trying to just get through the muddy sections and stay upright.  We finished the loop and came back onto the main loop, and we even got to run with Dan (the Danman) for a bit. Then we made our way back to the ranch house/start.

Those hills though…

At this point I was close to 17 miles in 4 hours. My quads were aching from the hills and my inner thighs were sore. Most of my miles were averaging 13 minute pace.

My husband took a break while I headed back out on the first 10k loop. This time it was very different. I was slipping and sliding, and even fell back on my rear from sliding in the mud. It wasn’t much of a fall, more of a slip and sit move. I told the guys to go on without me. I knew the layout of the course by then. I started getting frustrated with the amount of time it was taking to cover the distance. Miles were ranging from 15-20 minutes. The long uphill back to the ranch house took forever. My shoes were heavy with mud. I kept trying to scrape them off, but it didn’t make much of a difference. The cars that passed me on their way out of the ranch would slow and wave, shout out encouragement or cheer, and that lifted my spirits. When I finished the loop, I found my husband by the car. “I need to change my shoes.” It was mile 23. I changed my hat again too, to a dry visor.

By this time, the rain had stopped and the sun was trying to come out. It was a little humid, but I wasn’t running much so it didn’t bother me as bad as it usually does. My husband headed back out with me on his bike. By this time I was expecting to make it to around 33 miles with the next two loops. But it was still so muddy.

I was hurting from my legs sliding side to side – I’m not used to that movement you know. I was walking a lot more. My quads were aching. I was covering miles in 20 minutes. I had an alert on my Garmin set for every 45 minutes to remind me to fuel. Thank goodness for that. I would’ve missed a lot of calories. I remember saying, “Didn’t I just take a gel a few minutes ago?” Time was moving fast, but my legs were moving oh so slow.

And the low points. I cried – more than once. I said, “I knew it would be hard. I just didn’t know it would be this hard this early.” I hadn’t even made it to the marathon distance.

But then I did.

My husband took my phone and posted pictures to Facebook for my friends following along. Before we reached the turn off loop for the 50 milers again, I told him I wanted to skip it. I just wanted to be done. He agreed.

For all the low points, I had just as many smiles of celebration. I cheered each mile over 26 as a new distance. Yes, I finished another mile. Yes, that was a 17 minute mile instead of 20. Little victories helped get me back to the ranch house – where all I wanted to do was stop moving.

When I came up to the ranch house from the mud and reached the aid station table, I stopped my Garmin. I was done.

By that point, I didn’t care that I didn’t make it to 50k, and for sure 50 miles. The mud had done me in and my legs were through.

I looked at the table full of food that I had passed three times throughout the day. Pretzels, Nutella, trail mix, m&ms, pb&j, pickles, chips, crackers… So much food, but nothing sounded good. I wasn’t nauseous, and I knew I needed some calories. The man taking care of the table handed me a cup of Ramen with saltine crackers on top. It’s exactly what I needed.

After cleaning up and changing clothes, we headed into the ranch house where we could sit down and eat, and talk about the day. My legs were pretty mad at me and my feet were a mess, but I had a feeling of accomplishment that I haven’t had in a while. It was humbling for sure, but I don’t think my time on the trails, or with ultras, is through.

On a final note, I will say that trail race food is so much better than road race food.

Brisket, coleslaw, potato salad, pie. YUM!