The Unexpected

You plan. You hope. You expect. And yet most races are just as unpredictable as if you had suddenly found yourself at the start line and the gun had gone off and you began running even though you weren’t ready.

I registered for this race, Spectrum Racing’s Sky Island 50k, very early because I ran the inaugural race last year, 2016, and even though it left me beat up and humbled, I had to do it again. Races are like that. The worse you feel at the end, the more you want a do-over! So when given the opportunity,  I  reserved a room a year in advance at the Indian Lodge. Well, as life would have it, the park where the race is held, Davis Mountains State Park, decided to renovate the Lodge. So I got an email advising me of this and saying I could use the money towards race registration or get a refund. I sat on it for awhile because some time had passed and I was no longer as eager to run this race again. The location alone is a bit daunting, over 500 miles from my house. Plus, the course is hilly and rocky, two features I don’t have nearby.  Finally I decided to register and also paid for a campsite, figuring I’d have time to iron out lodging details later if my  family decided to come with me.

After this race in September  2016, I ran the Wild Hare 50 miler, my first; Bandera 100k in freezing weather, and Rocky 50 miler in February 2017. Then the North Face Endurance Challenge 50k at Bear Mountain,NY in cold rain.  I was exhausted and a bit burned out. I had a good case of Adrenal Fatigue and wallet fatigue. I no longer had a part-time job to pay for races, so I decided to cut back for 2017. So, from May to September, the longest race I ran was Tejas Trails/Captn Karls Colorado Bend 30k night race in early August,  and the rocks beat me up pretty good.

It dawned on me close to the taper time for Sky Island that I had not had the same training this year. Yes, I had been running daily since I am a run streaker [Day 875 as of 9/21/17] and I had been running a lot of hills on the road in town, and doing some time on the Stairmaster. But I had not run multiple ultra distance races like last year. I started to get nervous that my training was not enough for the almost 5,000 ft of elevation gain on very rocky terrain of this race. Too late now, I thought !

The lodging plan also took a turn when I was invited to stay with a few people in a house in the nearby town of Fort Davis instead of camping and I gratefully accepted the offer. However, the week before the race, my friend had a death in the family and plans changed again. Now I was going to be picking up a guy in Austin that I had never met, and she only knew from a few group runs, and giving him a ride for 6+ hours to the race, and my friend was not coming at all. I wasn’t too nervous, but I was  hopeful that he would be a good traveling companion, be willing to listen to music we both liked, and not be too anal about me having to stop for bathroom breaks.

The week of the race I worked hard to get everything possible done at home so my family would not feel my absence too much, including cleaning, laundry, and grocery shopping , as well as my usual schedule of homeschooling, Bible Study class, and daily routine. I am more than willing to do this if it means I get a chance to go off and run in the mountains and/or woods with other ultra crazies!

Friday morning I loaded up my camping gear thinking that the weather was going to be nice so I was going to use the campsite that I had paid for in advance . I headed to Austin about 8:20 a.m. to pick up my soon-to-be new running friend, Gordon.  No traffic so I got there in less than two hours and Ms. G, my name for Google Maps, took me straight to Gordon’s house in the hip Travis Heights neighborhood. Picked him up , noting that he traveled much lighter than I , with only a few small bags, was very fit like a fast runner, and his yard could use a landscape crew.  😀 Knowing that he did not own a car, I considered the various reasons and being the nosy/curious person that I am , I asked him why. Answer, he preferred to ride his bicycle everywhere and basically bummed rides to other places and had not owned a car for 15 years !

The first hour or so was spent navigating through Austin and the surrounding small towns while getting to know each other a bit. Eventually we made it out a little further west and both of us began to relax. In fact, we relaxed so much that the first unexpected event happened: neither of us thought to BUY GAS! Yes, the LOW FUEL light came on when we were out in the middle of nowhere! This was indeed a LOW for me as I felt like an idiot for forgetting  and was pretty sure that we were going to run out of gas and need assistance , possibly causing us a long delay , and hitting me with an unplanned expense when I had been doing so well at being cheap. Long story short, God granted me mercy and a miracle and we made it, coasting down some steep hills and rolling in on fumes to the tiny town of Iraan, 14 miles off the interstate, 25 miles after the fuel light first came on. I have never been so thankful to see a gas station!

Well, now that Gordon and I had experienced this crisis together, I figured he was either going to blame me and it would be uncomfortable or we’d bond and laugh about it and thankfully it was the latter.  We still had a few more hours of driving to do and we continued our non-stop chatting about running related topics that would drive normal people crazy.  The hills got bigger and more scenic the closer we got to our turnoff.  Most people never drive far enough west to see this beautiful part of Texas, but it’s worth the gas. Finally we were almost to Fort Davis and it started to rain. It had also rained the night before  the race in 2016. We had a little trouble, but pretty quickly found our rental house and were the first arrivals in our group. Upon entering the house, I instantly felt a good vibe. Wood floors, comfy furniture, a fireplace, piano, and fantastic vintage oven/stove made me feel right at home. With lightning and thunder outside, I made the fairly easy decision to stay there instead of camping at the the state park. It wasn’t long until the other guests arrived, 4 women, two sisters and the daughters of one of them.  Two were running the race and two were visiting, and all were easy to like.  Any concerns I’d had about staying in a house with 5 people I’d never met evaporated. Gordon slept in the  casita outside, a small building with two twin beds and a bathroom. The other ladies took the two bedrooms since they had actually paid to stay there, and I slept on a couch in the living room.

Soon came the second unexpected  event,  a big storm with thunder, lightning, possibly hail, and wind which kept me awake most of the night. There were two skylights right over the couch that were very noisy when it was raining/hailing.  However , I don’t normally sleep much the night before a race , so it wasn’t that big of a deal. My big worry was whether the storm was going to stop in time for the race start at 6:30 am. Thankfully the house had WIFI and I was able to check the weather often. The storm appeared to be moving away from us and sure enough, it was gone just in time.

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Everyone woke up to their alarms, made their coffee, did their pre-race preparations and left the house to drive the 3.5 miles to the state park.  For me, I ate a banana and a Larabar and got my hydration pack and was ready.  Upon arrival we were directed to a distant parking place and then  headed to the check-in area. It was still dark and I immediately lost Gordon, but I found some other friends from Houston that were running the race. And then it was time to start ! The  25k runners went in the opposite direction across the same starting line.

The race course includes climbing and descending three different mountains and the first mountain you repeat again after finishing the first three. The first year , the temperatures were higher than expected so this year they moved the start time back a bit and this meant we climbed the first mountain in the dark.  If you are from any state other than Texas,  you might laugh at our use of the term mountain, but the first climb was over 400 ft which is way more, and steeper and rockier, than any hills I had available to train on near me. Doing this in the dark just made it seem more difficult.  Also I was wearing different shoes than last year and they were slipping on the rocks! I was not feeling confident during the first mile. But we slowly made it up and began to run a little.

After a short time I saw that I was going to be running with a group of other ladies,  and I was the leader. I was paying close attention to the reflective flags while also trying not to trip over the endless rocks. We made it to the first aid station which was at about mile 3, then climbed up a hill, passed through a small gate-like fence and into the Fort Davis Historic Site trail. From there we had to run through some huge boulders, down a steep rocky trail with steps, through the Fort, and back up a steep climb. We arrived at the top of that climb to a race sign pointing the opposite direction! We got very confused, tried to backtrack, wasted some time, and then two of of us went one way and two went the other. This caused me great consternation. I felt like since I had been talking so much that maybe somehow I had missed a sign but I was pretty sure I had run the same route as last year, so I was really confused. This really messed with my mind for the next few hours.

But I kept going. After awhile I left the other lady behind after she started to slow down , which I felt kinda bad about , although we had not made any previous plans to stay together.   I was just running my own race and trying to shake off the negative feelings. The last couple of miles were downhill back to the Start/Finish aid station where I shed my headlamp and handheld light and grabbed my hat and sunglasses and more water. I felt a bit dejected as I was pretty sure we were at the back of the pack and I was passing the fast 25k runners as they were heading to the finish line. The volunteers were encouraging me, but that just made me feel worse.  I had started to doubt that I could finish the race by the 10:00 cutoff time because the first mountain loop had taken so long and I knew I had to do that one again and wasn’t even sure which way to go. I had long accepted the fact that my road miles and lack of trail time had not prepared me for this difficult race.

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The second mountain loop ,called the Primitive Loop, included running down the road a bit, going underneath a bridge that went over the same road, and then back over to the trails. We crossed a couple of shallow streams of refreshingly cold water. There was a lot of sand on these trails at the bottom of the mountain. Then the trail went up. After climbing about 400 feet there was an aid station before starting a loop around the top of this mountain. Alone on this easier, more runnable loop, I was feeling somewhat better and regaining hope that I might finish. Then I saw an animal. It was a javelina! I stopped and crouched behind a small scrubby tree and watched as it ran and hid under a tree with low branches. All the trees were desert trees, nothing tall.  Picking up two good sized rocks and took off running past the hiding javelina.  It did not pursue me. After a while I dropped the rocks.  This had helped my pace a little.  About ten minutes later, another runner, one of the ladies I was rooming with , came up behind me. She had also had the same experience with the javelina and had picked up two big rocks.  We both laughed at ourselves. She was cruising along well and so I told her to go on. That loop ended and I ran down the road to the mountain I had been nervously dreading, the Indian Lodge loop.

Indian Lodge loop includes a very steep climb on a tiny single track trail with a scary drop off on one side. I have a fear of falling so this was a big challenge for me, but since I had survived it last year, I knew I could do it. There were a few hikers on that section so it gave me a bit of comfort not being alone. I was so happy when I got to the top and away from the edges! I also had a cell signal up there so I called and checked with my husband to give him an update and get some encouragement. I had  many friends and family wondering how I was doing and praying for me. I had a difficult trail to descend off that loop but I made it. Then I had to run down the park road about 1/2 a mile or so. I was so tired, but there was  cutoff to make so I had to run it.

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I made the cutoff so I grabbed a cup of Red Bull then headed back out exhausted but determined to do the final loop, a repeat of loop one. There were a few people behind me I was told. I just had to move as fast as I could and I’d make the 10:00 with plenty of time. It was funny because the RD told me to take my time. He didn’t know how slow I was going to go! As soon as I started up the last climb my legs started to cramp up! This made running impossible. I had been taking salt but I took more. I also had to rub my legs and just wait for the cramps to pass until I could walk stiff legged again. I made it slowly back down into the Fort Davis area and then the steep climb back up , along the ridge, and finally back to the last aid station. I knew I would make it then. My cramps were better so I could do some slow running on the last 2 miles down to the finish. I was SO excited to finish, but not thrilled that my time was even worse than last year. I collapsed into a chair at the finish and was given my medal and a trucker hat by the RD. My friend Gordon had been hanging out and waiting on me all day and was there at the finish line. After gathering my strength, I got out of the chair, then went to chat with some fellow Houston runners before leaving.

The rest of the story is less exciting. I ate mashed potatoes and several other things I had brought with me. Neither Gordon nor I wanted to go out to eat. We sat around at the house , him drinking beer, and me , hard cider, until we got tired at our usual early runner bedtimes. The next day I got up and ran a mile through the town of Fort Davis for my streak mile, not too terribly painful. I knew the pain would be coming in the next few days, and it did, ouch! Quads were shredded. We drove home with no Low Fuel light or any other problems, stopping every couple hours to stretch . It was not the race I had hoped for in my mind, having wanted to improve my time,  but I have the satisfaction of knowing that I finished a race that for me is very difficult. I plan to try again next year and train better!

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Every race teaches you something

Spectrum Trail Race - Ft Davis - 151-(ZF-10099-30378-1-003)I have completed many races since I posted here last. The above photo was Sky Island 50k. In my last post I said that I was gong to only run trails in 2016 and I did just that! What a great year it was. The fun thing was that each race got progressively more challenging for me as I got braver and begin to choose races with more technical trails and longer distances. This year, 2017, I have cut back on racing in order to save money and have more time to train between races.  Here are a few things I wrote down as lessons from two of my races.

Bandera 100k 2017

  1. Drink pickle juice before , during and after the race for cramping.
  2. Drink more water!
  3. Bring my own food because you can’t depend on aid stations to have your favorites or even anything a gluten free person can eat besides fruit.
  4. When the temperature drops below freezing, your water in your hydration pack tube will freeze.
  5. Make hotel reservations early!
  6. Buy new shoes way before race day.
  7. Extra clothes in a drop bag for cold races.
  8. Have a plan to help your pacer can arrive at race on time.
  9.  Buy trekking poles for this race.
  10. Bring plenty of extra headlamps and batteries.
  11. Practice jumping down from things.
  12. Be brave.
  13. Take more photos !

Rocky Raccoon 50 miler 2017

  1. Run your own race, don’t wait for slower friends, you’ll regret it later.
  2. Bring extra clothes if it’s hot.
  3. Push yourself in the last loop.
  4. Don’t plan to drive home right after a 50 miler.
  5. Check your tent bag to make sure all parts are in the bag.
  6. Get a hotel instead of camping, lol!
  7. Do more extra long runs in training. bandera2

And some general stuff I’ve learned since my last post.

  1. I don’t mind running and training alone.
  2. Podcasts are my friend.
  3. Hill training is worth it. Find the biggest hill!
  4. Stairmaster is good training for steep climbs.
  5. Don’t overeat after a long run.
  6. Treadmill hill workouts aren’t as boring as flat treadmill workouts.
  7. GOOD POSTURE is important to running form
  8. Never take your running for granted or over-train.
  9. Family must come first.
  10. Pacing is as much fun as racing!
  11. I like GU Rocktane Endurance drink,  but not Tailwind. I like GU gels AND Spring Energy.

Off-road adventures

Hello again. Guess I’m not much good at blogging. But I feel like writing, so here  goes. A  little over a year ago, I was depressed and defeated after an unexpectedly poor marathon in Chicago. I never blogged about it because it was just too much mentally. Long story short, dehydrated, major leg cramps, death march, 6:05. That was after a training period of much struggle with the Texas summer heat.

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I may be smiling here but I had just finished bawling on the phone to my husband. “It hurt so much!”, I cried. And it did. It was only because I had spent so much money to get to that race, it was my 50th birthday after all, and I was not going to be defeated, that I trudged through mile after mile with leg cramps, giving myself the option to quit at the next mile if necessary. But I kept going. I actually revived a bit and ran the last couple miles very slowly.

So, I was supposed to run two more marathons after Chicago. Bryan/College Station in December and Houston Chevron in January. I couldn’t do it. I cut back to the half. I felt pretty good at both of them and had fun. Then I ran a fun trail half marathon in February and another one in March. And so on and so on. I earned all these medals just in 2015! Some are actually Age Group awards. Turning 50 means it’s easier to place! Woohoo! I slowly healed and regained my confidence in my ability to run. I increased my strength training and worked on my health. I gained 5 lbs, some muscle, some fat.

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My training changed and my attitude toward racing changed. I’m still a little bit competitive, but I also just want to enjoy the experience. I know what I can do and I’m okay with it.  My training buddies also went through some changes so that meant more solo running for me for awhile. Then I started training with a slower friend who wanted me to help her get ready for a marathon ( She ran it yesterday!). I had to adjust to all these changes which is not easy for me. I get comfortable with a routine and don’t like for it to change without my control. I started sleeping later which was nice. I ran where I wanted to run. I began doing a lot of hilly runs which no one else liked doing and got stronger mentally and physically. Eventually I accepted that life is constantly changing.

My greatest take away from all these races is this: I prefer trail races. After running nearly 100 races, I’ve refined my race/run preferences. Not only do trails hurt my body less, they are just more fun, more scenic, more social and more intense. Road racing seems a bit dull after doing a technical, hilly, muddy, rocky, root-covered trail race. But not only that, the community of trail runners, even if you don’t know them, just seems more down to earth. I like the vibes, the energy, the beards and the colors. I’ve never seen so many tattoos in a road races. The features I once sought in a road race, like the medal and the after-party and extra swag and just any kind of gimmick, I no longer care that much about. Sure it’s fun to get those things, but I don’t choose the race based on that. Trail races are usually pretty simple, with less fanfare. In fact, I didn’t understand that at first. I’m good with it now.

See one colorful runner here. http://fitandfeminist.com/2011/10/18/the-girl-crush-chronicles-ultrarunner-catra-corbett/

My longest trail race so far has been Wild Hare 50K three weeks ago. It was somewhat a spur of the moment idea. The race course had some super muddy/wet areas but I really enjoyed it. Yesterday I ran a trail marathon (26.2 miles) at Brazos Bend State Park. I had a blast despite horrible humidity and warm December temps. I even placed 2nd Masters Female. This is what I like to  do now. For 2016, I’m planning to run mostly trails. Planning to run another 50K in February.  Still have one more road marathon I’ve already paid for in January 2016 and a 10K. But for now, I gotta let my toes and blisters heal. Oh yeah, I’ve also become a run streaker. I run a mile or more EVERY SINGLE DAY. I’m on Day 227.

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Chicago Marathon only 7 more weeks!

Yikes and yippee! Summer is almost over and I have one thing on my mind. Well, two things. One, we start back to home school next week. And two, the final HARD weeks of marathon training. I’m glad I’m in a Facebook group so I have some support for these runs. I don’t have a local group running this far during August in Texas. Well they are out there but they are crazy fast runners. And I have a problem with my sacroiliac that is causing me great pain when I have to drive more than 15 minutes, soooo, that means running close to home, not in the city with lots of other runners. I live in a rural area on a short street connected to a fairly busy road. So I can only do some many miles on my own street.

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I do have a nice town nearby, so I drive there and run in mostly shady neighborhoods. It takes a lot of loops to get in 15 or more miles! Here is a pic from the cemetery that I run through sometimes. I didn’t run through it when it was still this dark. Creepy!

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Today was a bonus mail day!! I’ve been excited to try a new fuel called Tailwind. And I also have been trying to get some new Asics, but I keep having to send them back for various reasons. Hopefully this pair is the right one! First I got these light colored ones that I never would have ordered on purpose, it was a mistake. Roadrunner Sports has been good about sending me new pairs.

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Today I got these awesome pink ones!

Iphone 876Tomorrow I will be running 16 miles. It has been SUPER hot and humidity here and I have wondered if I can survive it. But I made it 15 miles last weekend, so I can do it !

I just realized I haven’t blogged since May. My, how time flies when you’re having fun! I have ran a couple of races since then but I’ve mostly been training and also had a nice vacation with the family at the beach.  I was slightly injured but I still got in a few miles of running and biking. This is a pic on the ferry boat.

summervacation2014 051Please click the link below to see a fundraiser I started to try to raise money for a wheelchair van. My daughter is in a wheelchair full-time. Thanks!

http://www.gofundme.com/gracesvan

 

Future thoughts

End of life issues. That is probably something most of us don’t think about very often unless we are in that stage of life either caring for an elderly parent or maybe being the elderly individual. For me, I am in what feels like my second childhood or maybe second teenagerhood. I’m living la vida muy bueno! Having more free time now that my children are getting older, discovered the fantastic joys of running, my body looks and feels better than ever, what more can I ask for? Well, for these days to last as long as possible for one thing! I will be 50 this year and I know that with age often comes health problems, life changes, grief at loss of family and friends even older than us, children leaving the nest and maybe not turning out the way you want, etc. As a Christian  who trusts that my life is in God’s hands and a person who generally doesn’t look too far into the future, I really have no 5 year or 10 year or 20 year plan. We have no IRA, no savings, truly no plan!! Our plan is that we hope at least one of our five sons will make enough money to take us in if we can no longer survive.

This is on my mind because why?,  you ask. Well, I’ve been visiting my 89 yr old father in law in the nursing home where he was moved a few months ago. I can tell he is not very happy there, but he does get pretty good care overall. He’s just bored , lonely, can’t see well enough to watch TV anymore, has lost his memory for the most part, can’t get out of bed, has a catheter and bag, wears diapers, you get the picture. He can talk but he doesn’t seem to want to chat much. I wish I knew how to bring him some sunshine and joy. I brought him cookies today and he actually said “these are good’. That’s a long sentence for him these days. I love him and it’s so hard to see him like this.

My own mother is mid 70s and still works full time and goes to casinos and is in amazing health. But we all know that life can change on a dime. I pray that she stays well until the Lord takes her in her sleep, many years from now. My health is good, but my husband has had some minor issues already. I can’t help but start to think of the future and the possibility of various scenarios. He is the only one working. I don’t even qualify for Social Security since I have been a stay home mom for 23 years and only worked part-time before that. With the current changes in our government and economy, if I think about the future too much, I might have a panic attack!  Guess I’ll go back to my happy place and keep trusting God.

God bless Grandpa

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Confusing and, for many, annoying

http://fatburningman.com/dr-joel-fuhrman-on-being-a-nutritarian

Abel James’ latest podcast bashing Paleo has many upset with him for not standing up for what he says he believes and lives by. I must agree that I felt confused and a bit irritated that he did not ask the guest more questions or point out how Paleo and gluten free diets have worked well for many people and even healed some of various conditions. I will continue to eat the way that makes me feel good. For now, this is gluten free, grain free, dairy free and with plenty of good fats and protein.

Something’s happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear

I’ve been wanting to blog something, but my thoughts have been too jumbled. I’ve had some great experiences over the past few weeks, mainly race experiences. I wrote about one of them, Hell’s Hills 25K trail race. I didn’t write about the next 25k, Brazos Bend,  because although I enjoyed it  and did well overall, it left me injured and pretty discouraged. Actually, I probably had no business running it in the first place because my right leg wasn’t right. It’s so colicky! Always with the IT band and tight hamstrings! What the?? Long story short, I have a slight curvature of the spine that affects my pelvis that affects my leg when I run. But back to the race. My husband and friend decided to join the fun. Hubby did so well at his first ever 10K and first ever trail race and had such a good time that it helped me get through the extremely painful, unable to walk, get me some ice!  post-race period. You can’t tell in this picture how bad I was hurting but I was limping for two days.  My friend did her first ever trail 25K in 2:12, not too shabby! She’s awesome like that. Oh, by the way, that’s not a boo-boo on my hubby’s right leg, its a huge scar from many surgeries. So I think it’s extra special that he is out there running. 

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My buddy found me some ice and here I am smiling through the pain. I have to say this race left the three of us with mostly good memories and we all talked about it for a week! We will do it again next year, maybe a longer distance. This park, Brazos Bend State Park was very nice and also full of wildlife and birds. Alligators everywhere! Weather was nice, overcast and not too hot. My biggest complaint was a long section of trail that had been used by horses and was difficult to navigate due to the hoof prints.

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So , anyway, everyone said, okay the race is over, now rest and recover. I was attempting to do that when I hurt my back swinging a light kettlebell which is evidently a common way to injure your lower back. Never again! This threw me for a loop emotionally. First my leg, now my back?! I have three marathons to run in the Fall and Winter!  It hurt bad enough to scare me into not running. I lasted about 5 days. It started to feel less painful, so I just had to try it and I was able to run! Thank you God! This was awesome. My life was not over. I would not have to resort to other means to stay sane.

But during those 5 days without running, I did a lot of thinking. Not the happy kind. I pondered whether running is too important to me. I asked myself if it was an idol in my life competing with God for my worship. Did I spend too much time running and not enough with my family? Answers were not clear but that’s a good thing sometimes. I didn’t get a resounding, yes, running is your idol! But I did see that I was spending more time with my kids since I wasn’t running. This week alone I have taken my sons for three casual nature walks! I’ve also spent more time on homeschooling and housework and catching up around the house on tasks in the past couple weeks of rest and recovery. So maybe God knocked me down so I could realign my priorities? Running is still a priority but I have enjoyed the extra time. My family probably would like it if I was more focused on them.  This will be a light training month anyway because I will start training for my October marathon in June. Today I was able to run 3 road miles at 8:50 average pace. I feel good about that since I have only run a few times in the past couple of weeks. I have ridden my bike several times and I plan to keep that up as cross-training is good for me and I like it!

Next race will be a 5k road race. Hoping for a PR if I can get enough running in by then. My current PR is 27:40. I am pretty sure I can beat that at least by a few seconds or maybe even more…as long as nothing else happens!

Happy Running, God bless you and Yall come back now, ya hear!

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