Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Setting the audacious goal

 So, when I was in Colorado for the Latinas Run Summit, I had my interview with Ultimate Direction and one of the questions was about my running goals.  I do have a ready answer for that: 50k.  My goal is to complete a 50k trail race.  But as I began to answer the question, I was struck with something that up to that point I hadn't realized: I'm comfortable with my current running routine: 3-4x per week at least 30 minutes, pace need not apply.  I have been struggling with really kicking my ass into gear because I have gotten into a comfortable routine with my running.

There is nothing wrong with being comfortable.  We all strive for comfort.  Comfort food, comfortable clothing, comfy place to sit; we are wired to seek comfort.  So why is comfort bad in this situation?  Well, I have a goal and I can't get there if all I do is what is comfortable.

If you read runners' stories, like world-class athletes, they usually mention getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.  I forgot exactly who said it but it was a female marathoner who had gotten her time to Olympic qualifying and she mentioned running so hard she would throw up.  She would run so hard until she threw up and then do it again until she stopped throwing up.  She got stronger but first, she got uncomfortable.  

So what does any of that have to do with me?  Well, I am a goal setter.  I work towards things.  After I finished my doctorate and got my dad through cancer treatment, I ran a marathon.  It took me 8 hrs.  Since then my tentative goal has been a 50k.  I set my mind and then something derails me.  Life happens.  So it is a nebulous goal.  Something that I know I can do.  The goal is to finish not break my back doing it so I have been laissez-faire about it.  

Again so what?  Well after listening to episode #38 of The Not Your Average Runner podcast with Jill Angie and guest Corinne Crabtree, I realized I was not growing as a runner because I was comfortable.  Comfortable with mostly walking.  Comfortable with pushing the 50k into the future.  Honestly, I wasn't just comfortable, I was scared to really commit to the goal deep in my soul.  I want to get faster as a runner.  Not just like nebulous faster but I want to cut my marathon time in half.  

Full stop: what did I just think? Say? Write?  I came home from that realization and immediately told my husband.  Y'all it is an audacious goal.  Right now, I mostly walk.  On a good day, I have a 16-18 min mile.  A 4-hour marathon means sub 10 min miles for 26.1 miles.  That is overwhelming as fuck to think about.  How in the world will I, this little chubby 250+ lbs runner/mostly walker, cut my pace by almost 10 mins?

Well first, I have to get my mind right.  Yes, it is audacious but it is doable even by me.  Second, I have to get SMART.  Here is the goal: Run a 4-hour marathon by my 50th birthday.  I have 8 years which might seem like a long time but honestly, it will fly so I have to get to work.  I have to go back to running instead of enjoying my walk/runs.  Yes, I can still do intervals but I have to do the fucking intervals even if it hurts.  If I puke, I puke.  Y'all I have to get way uncomfortable.

What exactly am I doing differently today than when I decided on my real goal 2 weeks ago?  I am doing speed runs.  Maybe my mile pace doesn't look different from my recovery pace but I am pushing.  I have changed up my cross-training to work on core strength and explosive power.  I have also dropped my distance.  I am maxing out at a 10k.  I cannot get the pace down and distance at the same time.  Maybe some of y'all can but I can't.  That was one of the realizations from The Not Your Average Runner episode, you can't really multitask.  Jill Angie says it all the time, you can become a runner and you can lose weight but you can't do 1 run for both.  If my focus is getting my mile time down to sub-10 minutes then that is my short-term goal.  My weight will do what it will.  I may not be able to do an unassisted pull-up but I will be consistent with my cross-training with the explicit goal of getting faster.

Once I get my pace where I need it then I can start increasing my distance again.  I know I can cover the distance.  I have done it before.  It took me 8 hrs but I did it.  I am a marathoner.  Now to go for the big goal, the goal that scares the shit out of me.  Why does it scare me?  Because I might not be able to do it.  Why does it scare me?  Because fuck, I might be able to do it.  What if I do this then who am I?  Then will I step fully into my badassery?  Make career moves that right now I am passing on because I'm comfortable?

What happens next?  Lots of speed work, I have done two speed drills so far and a few 5ks in the last couple of weeks and you know what?  My fastest mile time so far was 12:08!  Y'all, I honestly forgot I could do that.  I didn't even puke which means I could have run harder.  I can run harder!  I have so much work ahead of me and I am excited to do it.  

Girl, set the audacious goal for your fitness, your career, your education, your health, your marriage.  You are capable of getting anything you set your mind to do!  In the meanwhile, I'll be puking on the side of the road from exhaustion, maybe excitement, who knows but I have a strong feeling puke is in my future.


Thursday, August 12, 2021

Latinas Run Summit 2021

I had the privilege of attending the Latinas Run Summit 2021 in Estes Park Colorado the last weekend of July. It was a weekend full of firsts: 
  • first time in Colorado 
  • first time racing 2 races back to back 
  • first run summit 
  • first time at that elevation 
  • first road race with love for the back of the pack
  • first time meeting all of the women at the summit 
Needless to say this little introvert was nervous. Adding to the nerves was this was somewhat last minute. Several months ago a fellow trail runner posted about a contest for the “Run Your Own Trail” campaign by Ultimate Direction. As part of the campaign, you would win an all-expenses-paid trip to Latinas Run Summit, entry into the Vacation Races Elk Double, and a massive runners gear package. I filled it out and then forgot about it until I was contacted about being a finalist. This finalists round required a video. So I filmed myself at my desk, edited it down to the required time limit, and again forgot all about it. I honestly never thought that my run journey was something inspiring. I run/jog/walk/finish miles because it helps me cope with stress. I run on trails because it is peaceful. Anyways, in the middle of an already busy day, I get an alert for an email from Zoe at Ultimate Direction. Curious I opened it on my watch and then quickly grabbed my phone. I could not believe I had been chosen as a winner! 

Since I had forgotten I had entered, I had to quickly research what exactly I had won. So first I had to figure out when the summit would actually be happening: July 29-August 1. Well, that is going to be a problem. As a person in higher education, there are blackout dates, usually around the first day of class, exams, and graduation. Well, the first day of classes was August 2nd. So I had to contact my supervisor immediately to obtain special permission to take vacation days. Thankfully, he gave me permission immediately. He really is a great boss. With the days off taken care of came everything else, namely travel and training. 

Zoe made the process to get travel done as easy as possible. As an experienced traveler, I knew I need to fly out of IAH and I looked up the best flight options and Zoe did the rest. Training well that was a different story. How do you train for high altitude when you live at sea level? The answer is not well. 

My first issue was the races were actually road races not trail. It was honestly disappointing. I love trail so much and really try not to run road unless I have to so I knew I needed to get my head good with the road. Next how to get elevation when you live at sea level? Honestly outside of wearing a special mask, there really isn’t a way. I chose a path that I knew well that would give me hills and road surface and pushed myself to get in miles each Saturday. 3 weeks out, I had my longest run in the last few month of 10 miles and I felt so tired. 2 weeks out we had the Run For Justice, which I did virtually. Then 1 week out, I lost all my running mojo. I just couldn’t make myself get up and move. I was pretty worried about my ability to actually finish the half marathon. 

So I pack my bags and head out to the airport and this is where the fun begins, I flew out of a terminal usually reserved for international flights. I was really scared that I was headed to the wrong place but no, it was because I was flying on a huge plane, the biggest I had ever been on, 7 seats across. As we were approaching for landing, we hit some turbulence and some passengers got scared. Their flight companions were trying to calm them by praying and telling jokes. Since it wasn’t me, it was funny. It was bumpy but nothing horrible. 

It was my first time flying into Denver and not knowing the layout I was a bit worried about finding my shuttle ride to Estes Park. Luckily, I had an hour before needing to find my shuttle so I was able to get a bite to eat and relax before walking around in circles to figure the Eastside from the Westside. I did notice that as I walked around the security line was super long, which in turn made me nervous about the flight back but I’ll talk about that later down the post. 

I find my shuttle and 4 other ladies attending the Latinas Run summit were on board so I got to meet them before we got to Estes. I didn’t interact much with them as I was business looking at the scenery. Once in Estes, we made our way to the base camp cabin and checked in. I was handed 2 keys and quickly told the names of my cabin mates, which of course meant nothing to me as I didn’t know them. Off I went across the way to my cabin, claimed the smaller room on the second floor for myself, and then drank as much water as possible. The water, well staying hydrated, was the only piece of advice I got about adjusting to the altitude. As I sat down to read about the cabin and turn on the tv to relax, I had about 90 minutes before the first summit meeting, I read the second piece of advice: eat carbs so I immediately ordered a pizza. 

As I waited for my pizza, my cabin mates arrived. They were a true blessing. They knew each other, friends since high school, and were from Houston. We clicked immediately. I could not have asked for better ladies to share a cabin. 

I always pack light, 1 carry-on, and 1 personal item, usually a briefcase but in this case a beautiful new purse gifted to me by DH. As part of my commitment to packing light, I only brought my chapstick no makeup. Well, guess who forgot she was supposed to be filming her segment for Run Your Own Trail? I filmed my segment and hopefully, I’ll have that soon to share with you, with my naked face. I never wear makeup to run anyway so hopefully, I look natural and not sickly. You just never know how you will come across on film. 

Apparently, weather in/near the Rockies can be unpredictable. They had been calling for rain but then the forecast would change so preparing for the Friday night 5K, we knew we needed to plan for the possibility of running in the rain. Again my amazing cabin mates were lifesavers. They had actually rented a car so we drove over to the race. The race was actually within walking distance but between weather and thinking about dinner afterward, we decided to drive over. As soon as we pulled out of the parking lot, it began to pour. It rained so hard that it started flooding parts of Estes Park and flooded the tunnel we were supposed to take to get under the road between the start and the staging area. 

Vacation Races did a great job of communicating with the runners. They had a broadcast on the radio. Because of lighting, not really the rain, we were delayed over an hour. It was chilly and wet but the path was clear with minimal puddles considering how much and how quickly the rain had come down. There was about a mile walk between the car, staging area, and the start. My watch measured 5 miles altogether. The first challenge was just getting to the other side of the road to the start line. Since the tunnel was flooded, they had to stop traffic and we had to climb down the side of the hill. Then the long walk to the start and we could see the huge hill looming ahead. That hill was horrible! I was worn out from the start! I did actually enjoy the 5k. The view of the lake was great and I even achieved my goal of staying under an hour! Race 1 down but due to the late start and difficulty, I knew the half was going to be a bigger challenge than I originally thought. Less time to recover and if the 1 hill had kicked my ass what would the huge hills on the half mean? 

The half was hard.  There was a 3-mile ascent from mile 2 to about 5.  It was continuous but not super steep.  I went from about 7600 ft to 8200 ft.  It was tough but as long as I kept moving, I was good.  Slow and steady, which is my race policy at all times. 

I forgot the mention the start of the half!  This was the first race I have run with pacers.  You find your anticipated pace and run with that group.  I found the back of the pack, which for this race was 3:30-4:00 hrs.  As soon as I found the group I saw 2 women with the pacer and I said, "I have found my people!"  And they just took me in.  I stayed with them, well one person dropped off, the whole race.  It was this first race friend that kept me going!

Seriously, after mile 5 I thought the worse was over, I was wrong!  This race taught me that steepness matters.  Between mile 9 and 10, I struggled.  Like to the point that I was considering quitting the race.  The hill was killing me.  It was steep, very steep.  I was tired, very tired.  I stopped to catch my breath and as I did, I turned my head and saw a Virgin of Guadalupe.  For half a second, I thought I was hallucinating.  But along with the hallucination, I felt like my grandmother was with me, like she was giving me a blessing.  That was enough to steady my focus on finishing.  I gave up on finishing in under 4 hrs.  I had to stop 2 more times on this hill but I climbed it.  Oh and at my next stop, a few yards ahead, I saw that indeed we were right next to a Catholic Church so it was not a hallucination!

My race friend was pushing me the whole way.  As we climbed, we passed about 5 people.  Not to say that we were better than the folx we passed, we were just moving in a steady beat.  Once we hit the last 2 miles, which was a bit more flat and was the same as the last 2 miles of the 5k from the night before.  We walked it all.  It was hard not because of the course but because I did not plan my nutrition well.  I had my piece of pizza, which is what I use on long runs, but I just didn't eat it.  Had I eaten, I think I could have pushed in the last 2 miles and finish in under 4 hrs, barely.  Well, we finished at 4 hrs and 8 minutes.  We finished!

The finish line was crazy!  The Latinas Run group was waiting for me!  Then 1 more Latinas Run runner finished and it was like we erupted.  There was so much joy and love at that finish line.  This was unusual for a road race.  The only time I have gotten that kind of love was at TROT races.  So I love my Latinas Run group.  Honestly, I felt so good that I didn't really care I was exhausted or gross from running.  I was joyous.

After the race, I enjoyed a nap and pizza.  I was by myself, my cabinmates headed out for burgers with a larger group from the Latinas Run Summit.  It was amazing. I ate pizza and watched 80s movies.  Best recovery ever!

Okay, let me wrap this up.  Trip home:  on the drive, I was complaining that I never got to see any goats.  I saw Elk but no goats.  Then as we were rounding down the mountain, we came upon a large group stopped on the side of the road.  I was thinking it was a driver in distress but no, it was a family of goats!  It was amazing!

The airport looked super crazy.  We get there and I have 1 hr until I'm supposed to be flying out.  The security line was wrapped back over itself and looked crazy long.  It moved very quickly.  It looked worse than it actually was.  In the middle, the line turns into a huge space so that 2 people can walk side-by-side so the drug dog can walk around you.  So you have been warned, Denver airport looks scary but moves quite quickly.

Would I do it again?  Yes!
Will I do it again?  I'm saving my pennies!

Thursday, May 27, 2021

It is simple but not easy - A review of Possums Revenge

 Today is May 26th and my 42nd birthday.  For my birthday I requested a trip to Possum Kingdom Lake in Graford, Tx.  I wanted to run the 17 miler held by TROT.  I wanted to run Possums Revenge!

Even now 4 days post-race, I'm still hurting and reflecting on the race.  This race was different for me from races I have done in the past.  First it was my race farthest to the West.  It was terrain I had never seen before.  You should have seen me as we drove in.  I was just in awe of the whole scene.  "This is what people think of when I say I'm from Texas and here I am 41, almost 42, seeing it for the first time."  

I knew I hadn't been running enough long distances going into this race.  I had been maxing out at a 5K since February.  It was like I lost all motivation to move.  Now I had been working on the "None to Run" program for my virtual run club that I have here at my work.  My work run partner and I figured working a program would be more valuable than just opening a Zoom room and running in a circle.  But running on the pavement has been hard on my body so my weekend long runs became 5kers.  Not a bad distance but not exactly 17 miles either.  Anyways, with that in mind, I had my plan to walk the 17 miles.

I started at the back of the pack.  I don't even bother with standing near the front.  I let the elite runners go on ahead and I move at my pace but Saturday I met a few walkers.  There were about 5 of us who all planned to walk but of course walking still comes in varying paces.  I started off much slower than I had planned.  I can usually walk about an 18-min mile and after seeing the terrain, I thought 3 miles per hour was a good target.  My first 6 miles took almost 4 hours!  But it was for a good reason, a couple of the back of the packers were super interesting and the views at the top of the first 4-mile loop were breathtaking.  If I had been worrying about my pace rather than getting to know those folks, I would have missed the best part of the race, the views!

Once I realized just how slow we were moving and that the threat of rain was very real, I started to haul ass, relative to my previous pace.  Partly I wanted to run this race after a horrendous week at work because long distances make for a good time to think so I really needed to find myself some space to just move and think.  Once I was moving alone, the terrain really started to hurt.  So many rocks and climbs, it was a hard race.  

Now twice while I was on the trail, I had 2 different "Trail Jesus" moments.  Let me explain.  As I was giving up on myself and ready to just call it quits, at 2 of those moments probably my lowest points, 2 different men encouraged me to go forward.  I call them "Trail Jesus" because honestly, I was questioning if they ever existed in real life or if it was just my brain making up a man to encourage me.  They came upon me, spread some encouragement, and then just seemed to disappear.  

The 1st guy gave me the quote that is the title to this post.  He told me to just "keep putting one foot in front of the other.  It is that simple but not easy."  He also told me to walk if I'm hurt, run if I feel good, and jog if I feel in between.  He was running so the talk wasn't long and had he not seen me closer towards the end of the race, he was going back for another loop as I was about 2 miles from the end, I would have doubted that he existed.  He even remembered me.  Like I said I was pretty convinced he didn't really exist so I wasn't looking for him but as soon as he saw me, "See, I told you it was simple." 

The 2nd man came upon me as I was in the home stretch with about a 5k left.  "If you quit now, you'll regret giving up on yourself.  You can do it.  God bless you."  He was absolutely right.  I would have regretted getting that close and not finishing.  I had set my mind to finish but it was a good reminder that while quitting is always an option when you are so close and you have done the worse part, why not bet on you?  I'm not totally convinced that he was real.  Like he completely disappeared, I looked down at the rocks and then he was gone.  Mind you, the course was winding and rolling so he could have just crested a hill and disappear.  At this point 4 days later, I don't exactly remember where on the course we were.  More than likely he was real but maybe not.

These "Trail Jesus"s helped me finish as did all of the wonderful folx that are part of TROT.  I cannot stress the love and encouragement I recieve on these trail races.  Not just from the back of the pack folx but everyone.  The elite runners who remind me to use the back of my legs for power.  The "hobby" runners who pass me all day and say "Good Job."  The hugs and high 5s from the other TROT Tribe ambassadors.  Of course the friends that first took me to the trails and that I love seeing as I cross Texas finding peace of mind as I slide down rocks, look out for snakes, and curse the life choices I have made that put me on the trails in the first place.

All in all: 5 out of 5 stars.  I 100% recommend running at Possum Kingdom, especially if you can run a TROT race.  If you are just in it for the views then I highly recommend doing the 4 miler.  You get the best views with lots of sand, elevation, and rocks but without those other 12 miles.

If you want or need more information on TROT, please feel free to drop me an email: martha (at) wheatlessmama (dot) com or you can go straight to the source: