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!

 

Advertisements

What’s Next?

We took my son to a Mavs game a couple of months ago, and had the world’s most obnoxious fan sitting behind us. At one point, she hollered at the ref (like he could hear her from our seats), “What are you? Stupid?” Then she yelled out “S-T-O-O-P-I-D.” My 13 year-old swung his head around and mouthed “she can’t even spell stupid.”

When I think about my next endeavor, that phrase runs through my brain.

Here’s how I got there:

Part of my post Houston race meltdown meant I needed to shift my focus. I’ve been chasing that BQ goal for several years, and I’m coming up short of where I want to be. My journey will continue though. Since my race schedule was wide open after Cowtown, I felt a little lost on what to do next. I made a list of what things I needed to work on, to continue to improve in the marathon specifically. But honestly, it’s easier for me to get out of bed to train when I have races on the calendar. I guess that’s why it seems like I’m always training for a race.

A friend of mine suggested the Danman Challenge. It’s close – maybe an hour’s drive from my home – and it’s free. That’s perfect for this frugal runner. It would also help take my focus off the numbers (paces) for a bit, while I could do keep doing what I love to do – run a lot. The drawback: the distance is a jump from the marathon to 50 miles. It is definitely a new challenge. No fanfare. No medals. Just testing my limits on going the distance – and that seems to be the point of Danman.

I’ve kept it kind of quiet on social media, without really putting out there what I’m planning. Admittedly, there’s a fear of falling short. I’ve never run more than a marathon, and here I’m going to attempt twice the distance – on a trail setting. I’ve been winging the training. Long runs on the roads on Saturdays, long runs on trails on Sundays. Lots and lots of miles. I treated Cowtown as a hard training week, and was running the week after. I don’t know if it’s enough, but I fit in what I could while keeping the household running.

One of my running friends recently asked me what I was training for next, and my answer was “I’m training for stupid.”

But on a serious note, I’m going into this challenge with the mindset that I’m going to complete 50 miles. If I don’t, I’ve already given myself permission to quit when it gets tough.

I’ll come out on the other side either all in for ultra distances, or I’ll be happy to step back to the marathon. I’m sure I’ll find out a lot about myself.

Here’s to being S-T-O-O-P-I-D. 😉

Summer Break and Loving the Run

Late in the spring every year, I start to look forward to the break from getting kids up and to school. I come up with ideas of all I will accomplish through the summer as I take a break from heavy mileage and marathon training. I imagine elaborate strength training sessions, new fitness activities, and sleeping more. Then before I know it, it’s time to start back to school shopping and I haven’t done half of what I planned!

Somewhere along the way, my mind and body ignored the memo to take a break from early morning workouts. With the decision to train for a triathlon, I needed to focus on my weakness and have been at the pool three mornings a week for lap swim – when they open – at 5:30 am. That means I am rolling out of bed no later than 5. Even on my run days, it’s the time of year where “you snooze, you lose” has a different meaning.

IMG_6107

Either skip an evening run, slow way down and suffer through the heat, or just suck it up and get up early.

I am enjoying the variety in my training right now though.

A friend and I have started a 5k beginner’s group, and we meet every Saturday morning to help them. Our goal is to complete the training for a local 5k on August 15th.

I have done some trail running. Under a canopy of trees, it’s almost like air conditioning. It also helps to have that natural slowdown due to the nature of the trail.

IMG_6087IMG_6085

I have combined workouts and done some “two a days.” Swim, then bike. Bike then run. Swim in the am, bike in the pm, etc…I can almost eat like I’m marathon training. Yay food!

I have built some upper body strength in a big way since I learned how to operate the weed eater.

But the biggest thing I have noticed about all this: I appreciate the run so much more now.

Also, I need real trail shoes.

IMG_6101 (1)

Do not attempt to run through sun baked hardened footprints (which were made in the mud).

This week I’m getting ready for my first triathlon on Sunday, and yes I’m nervous. It’s all the details I’m worried about, like being last out of the pool. Oh, and let’s just take a minute and celebrate the fact that I can finally make it from wall to wall (25 meters) without lifting my head out of the water. At least once. Sometimes I can do it twice in a row. It’s that whole breathing thing that makes it hard for me.

But I do want to just go out and have a good time. 300 meter swim, 13 mile bike, and a 5k run. Thank goodness I have the running part figured out. What a busy morning it will be!

IMG_6097

 

 

 

 

 

Volunteer for a Race

When I started this blog almost two years ago, I struggled to find a name for it that would encapsulate my view about running (at that time). Running was reaching me in a way nothing else had, and I wanted others to experience that. Still do.

My husband brought up the point that every person does not have the ability to run. I agreed with him, but “there’s a way to be involved in running whether you are running, walking, being supportive, encouraging, or volunteering.

Most of the time I take on the role of runner, but this past Saturday I became a volunteer for a trail race.

Trail running.

I’ve written a post or two about it, but I have been wanting to help give back to the sport. A member of the local running group is the race director for a trail race and solicited volunteers. There was an open time slot from 12-4, so I could still get my Saturday long run in. My 16 year old son loves to help out (and will do anything for a free t-shirt and food) so he went along with me. I planned on posting pictures of the trail, the aid station, and my son at the race, but there was no signal on my phone and the camera wouldn’t work. Boo.

The race was a 12k and 50k out on a hiking trail at Lake Texoma. It was about a 35 minute drive from our home. When we got there, all the 12k runners had finished. My runner friend was the first female finisher! I was so proud of her for that. My son and I were to be working the last aid station along the course. It was pouring rain when we got there. What a muddy mess! Six runners out of 32 had passed through already. My job was to check off the numbers on the list as they came through and keep the food stocked whick kind of made me nervous. The list is a big responsibility.

The variety of foods on the table was interesting. As a marathon runner, the most solid thing I’ve eaten while running was an orange slice. This table had peanut butter sandwiches, grapes, bananas, oranges, pickles, and Coke. There were also electrolyte tablets and salt. We actually ran out of Coke because most of the runners coming through wanted some.  The runners would stop and chat for a few minutes while eating, and then move along. Most of them were in good spirits, taking the weather for what it was. One needed the mileage, another time on her feet, and others were having a good time together pulling each other up the muddy slopes. They were all grateful for the aid station and appreciative. I was impressed with their spirit.

My son and I were happy to be there helping. He even showed some interest when the race director told him about a five mile race (along with other distances) in February. He used to run some with me at a local park with a trail. He enjoys the focus and challenge on the trail.

I was glad to be able to give back to the running community. I have never had such appreciation for volunteers as I did at my first marathon. In the cold. In the rain. It was nasty, and they were out there for me and others like me.

So even if you can’t physically run, don’t let that discourage you. You can still be a part of running. Runners need volunteers. They make races possible.

Memorial Day Run for Wounded Warrior Project

Last Monday – Memorial Day – I ran a different kind of race. I had originally intended to run a 10K that was about a 30 minute drive from where we live, but then I saw a post on the local running group’s Facebook page that interested me. Run any distance you want – 5K, 10K, 15K, half, marathon. Suggested donation of $20. All proceeds benefit Wounded Warrior Project. As a spouse of a Navy veteran, I appreciate efforts to take care of our vets and their families. So much is sacrificed for the military for our freedom, and I believe we should give back whenever we can.

It was worth passing up a PR in the 10K to be a part of this purposeful race.

The race was held at a local park on approximately a  1.5 mile loop. Over 600 small American flags lined the trail. Our starter, via Skype, was a service member deployed in Afghanistan and husband to one of the runners. There was an aid station at the start/finish with Powerade and water. When you finished your distance, you were to write your time and distance. There were  bags with medals, stickers, and bracelets for the finishers.

600+ flags lined the course

600+ flags lined the course

I chose to run a 10K since it was a trail. I’m not typically fond of trail races, but that’s because I tend to lose focus. I’m also not graceful or very coordinated. I decided not to look at my Garmin except to check the distance. Even though I’ve run on this trail before, I was surprised at how long one loop around felt. The effort in running on a trail is completely different from the road, but I was grateful for the shade that lined most of the course.     

The beauty of the trail

The beauty of the trail

I finished my four loops – 6.21 miles – in about 1:04:00. That’s over 10 minutes slower than my 10K road PR. This race wasn’t about time though.

 

Our group’s goal was $1000. Last I saw, there was more than $1100 raised for Wounded Warrior Project with about 40 runners participating. I’m honored to have been a part of it.

 

photo-7

What races have you done that were meaningful without being attached to a time goal?