Monday, November 23, 2015

Ragnar Hill Country

Back in August, I got a text from a friend asking if I’d join their team of eight in October to run the Ragnar Trail Relay. My first thought was that she had the wrong number because this team wasn’t just runners, they were fast runners. On a good day my pace is 10:00, and they run like 7:00 or something crazy like that. I replied by telling her that I was not that fast, but she said that pace doesn’t matter and they were looking for fun peeps to hang out with. Then I thought, hey, I am fun to be around, so with that I accepted and joined the team. 

I was both excited and scared. Not only was I running with new people, but Ragnar is a trail run and camping was involved—both of which I’ve never done. Here‘s a description of the run from the Ragnar website:

Teams of 8 or 4 will conquer a series of three loops while taking in the natural scenic beauty of the surrounding area. The runner friendly single-track winds through groves of Texas Live Oak, over classic Hill Country limestone shelves, around granite boulders, prickly pear cactus, and yucca plants on its way to the ridgelines that look back onto Ragnar Village and the rolling Hill Country. This is classic Hill Country and some of the best trail running you will find in the Lone Star State.

Our team, called Team Pearadise, went on a nighttime practice run at the Memorial Park trails. The run was great, and we discovered lots of critters, like roaches, spiders, an owl, and a snake. Oh my! I quickly learned that my regular running shoes were not going to cut it and I needed some trail running shoes. If you ever plan on doing a trail run, here are a few things you’ll need:

Trail running shoes
Hydration pack (like a Camelbak)
Gaiters, to keep debris from entering your shoes (like these:

When race weekend arrived in October, so did the weather. Hurricane Patricia was hitting Mexico, and we were getting the dirty side of the storm, meaning LOTS of rain for us. It rained the whole drive to Comfort, Texas. Luckily, we had time to stop by Starbucks for some coffee and Buccee's for some snacks.
Once we arrived and the rained stopped, we set up camp, checked in, and grabbed some lunch. There are three loops we were supposed to run. The green loop was 3 miles and was considered the easiest of the three. The yellow loop was 5 miles and the red loop was 7.7, and these were labeled as the hard ones. Here is what they looked like.
 I was running the fourth leg of our relay team, and my first loop was called Creekside Trail (the green one). The run was a bit hilly, but not too bad. I kept my pace slow since my ankle rolled a couple of times. I was also alone for some of the run, which made me nervous. They had clear markers to tell you where to go, but at one point I didn’t see anyone at all. Then I heard someone from behind and thought, great, I’m not lost. I turned around and saw this guy with full-on Viking makeup who scared the crap out of me! Turned out that Viking man was a cool dude from east Texas, and he ran with me for the rest of the trail. At the finish, our team’s next runner was waiting at transition. I gave her my bracelet and she took off.

My next run wasn’t scheduled until after midnight, so I had a lot of time to hang out at our home base and explore the campgrounds. It was nice taking a break and getting to hang with my team. 
As midnight came, it was time to prepare to run my second leg (7.7 miles) called Buckeye Canyon—the red leg and the hard one. But I was lucky that our team volunteer, who we called MacGyver Mike, agreed to run with me. Since we were running at night, we had to wear our headlamps. 
The Ragnar website didn’t lie when it said this trail was hard. Not only were we running in the dark, on hilly, mostly one-lane trails, but it also started to rain, which made it muddy and slippery. We did pretty well for the first 3 miles, but then after lots of ankle turns and slipping and sliding, we decided to make the rest of the run a walk. It took us 2:23 to complete the trail, but we made the best of it and more importantly we came out with nothing broken!

So I came back to our base camp thinking I was going to sleep, but that wasn’t happening. The rain and wind started coming down hard. It was blinding, and at one point we had to hold our canopy down. The temperature also was dropping, so we lowered our canopy, lit a lantern, broke out our emergency blankets, and hunkered down.   

The next morning, it was time for me to run my last leg of the race. The raid had slowed to a light mist, so I put on a poncho on and hit the trail. Note to self: NEVER run with a poncho! It was not only making me hot but also sloshing around and making it hard to hear runners who were trying to pass me. I eventually took it off and put it in my backpack. This trail was 5 miles, and it was called Pipeline Hill Trail. It was very hilly and slippery, but the nice thing was that I was able to enjoy the scenery. I even ran into some cows!

To sum up, even with the hurricane-like storm, we had a great time at the Ragnar Trail Run. The trails were clearly marked so you wouldn’t get lost. And even if you did, there’s an app for that—Ragnar has an app you can download that will alert your teammates if you get lost (thankfully, we didn’t have to use it). And speaking of teammates, remember how I mentioned earlier that I was nervous running with these guys? Well, I made some new friends on our awesome adventure. We were there to have fun, and fun is what we had.

Workout song of the week:  Somethin’ Bad, Miranda Lambert with Carrie Underwood

Inspiration quote of the week:  If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.—African Proverb

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Mammoth Lake Race Report — October 3, 2015

I had 5 major goals going into this triathlon.

SWIM:  Have a steady and strong swim, don’t stop at every buoy unless I have to pee, and if I panic, remind myself that it will pass and keep going.
BIKE:  Try not to go under 17 mph, and shift down to a low gear toward the end of the bike to save my legs for the run.
RUN:  Only stop at the water stations.
TRANSITIONS:  All business—no talking to volunteers and other athletes. Go in, get my crap, and get out. That’s it!
TIME:  Beat my time from my first Olympic at Kemah, which was 3:50:54.

Race morning cold and uneventful. I arrived early and had my transition set up an hour before the start. This was great because it allowed me time to talk to other athletes, take pictures, drink my prerace beverage, and go to the restroom. 

My wave was set to start at 7:15 with a time-trial start, where the athletes jump in the water at 2-3 second intervals. This is nice because you’re not jumping in the water with a big group of people all at the same time. As I made my way over to the swim start, I began to get nervous. I did have time to take a picture right before I went down the dock.

As I walked up to the timing mat, I saw the athletes before me diving in. I wish I knew how to dive. I started thinking, Should I dive in even though I don’t know how? What happens if I belly flop? By the time I knew it, I was up. I heard “1,2,3, go” and I jumped in feet first. Boring, I know. Note to self: learn how to dive!

The water was warm, and even clean and clear. I could see my hands under the surface! So I started swimming and felt good. I saw the first buoy and realized that I’m not panicking, so I keep going. We were swimming toward the sun, so it was hard to sight. As I nearing the swim finish, BOOM, I got kicked hard in the chest by a lady doing the breast stroke. I started to dog-paddle for a bit to catch my breath and then I finished the swim. I got out of the water and looked down at my Garmin to check my time. I never turned it on! Crap, crap, crap!!! Here’s a picture of what it looks like when you realize you forgot to turn on your Garmin.
Swim Time: 47:08

As I ran into T1, I saw my friends, gave them high-fives, and kept going. Remember, my transitions were all business for this race. I hydrate, dried off, and put on my shoes, helmet, and sunglasses. Then I decided to stuff a whole bar in mouth, thinking it was the right thing to do before my long ride. Big mistake. I’ll tell you why later.
T1 Time: 4:06

The bike is my favorite part of the tri, so I’m always excited to start pedaling. The bike route was 2 loops out and back with a 50-foot bridge that we had to cross 4 times. My ride was great overall, and I felt strong with my pace where I wanted it to be. But after I finished the first loop, my stomach started acting funky. Then I remembered that damn bar I stuffed in my face during T.  It was just sitting in my stomach and causing a burning sensation. I started to drink water hoping that it would pass, but it didn’t. So my plan was to push through, and hopefully when I was off the bike and upright I’d feel better.  As I was coming toward the end of the route, I lowered my gears to loosen my legs for the run, just like I planned.
Bike Time: 1:26:45

I got off my bike, rolled it into transition, and racked it. My stomach was not doing well.  I made a mental note to put some Rolaids in my tri bag. I removed my glasses, helmet, and shoes and put on my running gear. I drank some more water and left T2. Again, all business.
T2 Time: 1:57

You know that feeling when you have to pass gas but you can’t? That’s how I felt for the entire run. At that point, my goal of only stopping at the water stations was not going to happen. So I started with 4:1 intervals and kept going. I stopped at a porta potty to try to take care of business but had no luck. Since my Garmin wasn’t working I didn’t know what my time was, and at that point I just wanted to finish. 

One of the nice things about the whole race was that, even though I wasn’t feeling great, I was grateful to still be racing. As I ran along I saw lots of my friends who’d already finished cheering me on. I also made some new friends who were struggling like me. I don’t remember their names, but they made those last 3 miles not seem so bad. As I neared the end I saw my family, and my son Gus and good friend Melanie ran with me across the finish line.
Run Time: 1:14

Overall this was an awesome race and a great way to end my 2015 tri season. I’ve made significant improvements in all my times, and I’m happy with that. 
Total Time: 3:34:42

Next tri up: Ironman 70.3 Texas in Galveston in April!

Workout song of the week:  Till I Collapse, Eminem

Inspirational quote of the week:  "Sometimes we're tested.  Not to show our weakness, but to discover our strengths."--Unknown

Thursday, August 27, 2015


Last week was my 4-year sleeve-iversary! It seems like yesterday when I found out that I needed to have gallbladder surgery and thought why don’t I just remove some of my stomach too. I’m happy to say that I’ve successfully maintained my weight. I’m holding steady at 140 and I like that.

During these 4 years, I’ve realized that I’ve gained much more than I’ve lost. One of the most significant gains is time with my family. Gone are the days when I couldn’t race up 3 flights of stairs with the kids to visit daddy at work. Or when I couldn’t go to a baseball game or the zoo without taking breaks because mommy just couldn’t walk anymore. It’s much easier for me to keep up now, and that makes me happy.

Speaking of being able to keep up with my kids, we just came back from our summer vacation at Walt Disney World. What made this trip so exciting was that this was our first BIG family vacation. For the kids, it was their first trip out of state and their first time on a plane. The last time I went to Disney I was 14 years old, and I forgot how much fun that place can be. We all had a blast and are ready to go back!

Since Disney, I’m finding it hard to get back into my routine. It also doesn’t help that school has started back up again. On Monday after we returned from our vacation, I set my alarm for 4:15 a.m. and headed to Crossfit. It was just what I needed to get me out of my rut. That evening I ran 5 miles, and the next day I did my brick workout. I felt good, like I was getting back in the swing of things—then BAM, I slipped and fell on my ass (coccyx is the technical term). 

The good news is that I didn't break anything; the bad news is that I need to take it easy for the week. Not something you want to hear when you have an Olympic distance triathlon in 5 weeks. Right now, running is the only activity I can do that doesn's hurt my bu, or coccyx :). So that's all I've been doing.

Workout song of the week: Work B**ch, Britney Spears

Inspirational quote of the week: "Its kind of fun to do the impossible,"--Walt Disney