I went for a run today at the state park closest to me. I kinda wanted to go to a different one but I got a late start and I didn’t really feel like using that much gas, so I settled for one near me that is not my favorite because 1)the trails are flat, 2) the trails are short, and 3) this park is not usually much of an adventure. But I ended up being blessed! Below are some photos I’ve taken on past visits.
It was cold and raining when I woke up but as I drove to the park, the outside temperature was literally rising before my eyes on the car thermometer. It was 50 degrees when I got to the park and I was very surprised to see a bunch of cars in the parking lot at the park entrance. I have a park pass which means I get in free, but I had to wait in line with the campers paying their fees. This park doesn’t have a lot to offer , in my opinion, as far as state parks go, other than nature walks in the forest, deer and other wildlife and pure camping experiences, no lake, no fishing, no climbing, no mountain views, no boating or swimming. What it does have is trails that tend to be flooded by the adjacent Brazos River or extremely humid conditions and mosquitoes. The whole park was under water twice in the past three years and I really thought they might just give up and close it but they didn’t. But city folks and RVers like it.
So anyway, I don’t come here that often but today I just wanted to get out of the house, and not into the gym, and go for a run in the forest. I had no real plan but as I was driving I remembered that I told myself that I wanted to run for two hours on one of my weekend days, so that became my vague plan. I wasn’t sure what to wear, remember it was 85 degrees here this week, so I was wearing a short sleeve tech shirt under a long sleeve tech shirt , Nike running tights, and gloves and a hat. I decided to shed the hat before I even started and the gloves went into my vest pocket after a few miles.
The first few minutes felt stiff and awkward, but I know the first mile is a liar so I tried not to let it freak me out. I forgot to mention that my back has been hurting this week and the last time I ran was Tuesday which means that I missed three days! By a half mile in I was feeling warmed up and then I started to see PEOPLE on my trail. A lot them. I say ‘my trail’ because I live so close ( around 20 miles away) and have run here many times, usually weekday mornings . There is hardly ever anyone here, but since I got started so late, around 11:00 AM, and it’s Saturday, the campers and hikers were stirring like ants. These people were walking on my trail, in fact they were standing on my trail talking, a group of hikers with a guide. The guide is a friend of mine and he told them to “Say Hi to Paula”, which I found very amusing! I politely said a few words to them and kept going knowing that I would see them again very soon because this trail was a dead end at the river overlook.
My run started feeling pretty good. I don’t usually listen to music on the trail and today was no different. I do a lot of thinking and praying and trying to stay focused on not tripping. I kept going, said hi to the hiking group again, and also passed a group of what looked like people from another country, maybe Chile or Brazil, some South American country , Spanish speakers, and they all had nice puffy jackets and their kids were walking pretty dogs on leashes. It was a big group and I had to get past them several times on my run. They were friendly and I tried to get past without bothering them. I heard one say something about ‘cansado’ which means tired. Not sure if they meant me or them.
The trail is a loop around the park and there are also some other trails called the lower trails that are currently closed due to flooded areas. It has been raining and raining and raining here in Texas. I went down a trail that leads to one of the closed trails and I just had to go past that little “Trail Closed” chain to see how the trail looked on the other side. Sorry, don’t yell at me, I know this park well. Happily, the trail was in really good shape except for that one little problem of the creek being over the trail in one spot. Running along through the tall trees on the quiet, leaf covered trail, I came upon some nice trail work that had been done on that section, two new boardwalks. I haven’t been in this part of the park in a few years due to the aforementioned flooding and it made me really happy to see some of my favorite giant trees. This park and I have a lot of history and it means a lot to me to see that the state has not given up on it. That history includes many runs with friends that I no longer run with, my first night run, volunteering for races, and watching people literally wade through waist and neck deep water in one famous race . I’ve learned to love and support all Texas State Parks because of this one.
So back to the run, I decided to keep run the loop and that out and back section, racking up as many miles as possible and then turn around and retrace my path back to my vehicle and then repeat, doing the math all along and figuring out how to get 10 miles in this tiny park. As I was running back I met up with two little boys, maybe 8-9 years old, walking on the trail alone. There were quite a few groups with kids out there that day, but these two were alone. Both of them looked right at me and started to talk so I stopped running and listened. They had seen me go by earlier and were interested in the fact that I was still running. I told them I was coming back around. Then they proceeded to give me instructions on where to go on the trail so I could be sure not to miss seeing the river. Thanking them with a smile I kept going, with new joy in my heart. What an uplifting moment! These two little boys gave me a real gift. It made me so happy that they were enjoying their hike so much and wanted to share it with a random stranger! This is what life is all about . God bless those boys and their parents! I got my 10 miles in, but these kids were the high point. Happy Running!
Looking at these photos what comes to your mind? Do you wonder why people run? Or why they’d pay to show up and run in the rain like this? Or why would they try to stay dry under a tent when they’re about to run in the rain? Or did you notice the couple with the stroller under the umbrella? The lady had a small baby. Or maybe you saw the portable toilets and thought , yuck, I’d never use those.
Or maybe you’re a runner and thought, let’s go, it’s just a little rain! Or you were checking out the starting line and other features of the race course.
I woke up at 4 am, checked my weather app because I knew the forecast, and saw a huge storm headed to where the race was being held, about 40 miles to the east of my house. Got ready to go and was about to get in the van when the sky opened up. Had a few second thoughts , but then I thought , well maybe it will move north. I took off down the highway and eventually drove out of the heavy rain into sprinkles. When I go to the race venue it started raining moderately. Oh well, I thought, I’m here, I’ll put on my rain jacket. I had to walk about a 1/4 mile to the packet pickup area from the parking lot, or at least it seemed like it. In line with the other die hard runners, I started to feel good about showing up. One of them, an older man and amazing runner that I know from trail running, had driven 1.5 hours in heavy rain, hydroplaning on the highway. I thought , if he can do this, I can! Then another lady mentioned that she might just go home. I was thinking, then why are you here? She didn’t leave , though.
We had to wait awhile after picking up our bibs and during that time it rained off and on. It started raining a bit harder right before 7AM so they held off a few minutes. Finally, we saluted the flag during the national anthem in the rain and headed to the starting line. I decided to keep my rain jacket on even though I knew eventually I’d get hot and have to take it off, which is what happened later.
I had registered for this race during a “super low price ,early bird” registration period , read ‘impulse buy’. I could have skipped it since I had run 22 miles the day before, but I wanted to challenge myself and see what I could do.
The title of this blog is really about what goes on in the mind of a runner, and probable other athletes and people who like to push themselves in whatever pursuit they enjoy.
In the car on the way there: Dear God , please get me there safely. Please help me run my race. Please watch over and bless my family while I’m gone from home. (Then I listened to Christian music and the end of an inspiring message from Ravi Zacharias on the radio.) Oh crap, watch the road. Do not look at your GPS while driving! Why are these people in such a hurry at this hour on a Saturday?
Arriving at the venue: Oh no! I thought this was where I am supposed to go but evidently not. I will follow those cars. I hope I’m not late! Whew, I guess this is the place. Well, here comes the rain. Hmm, I don’t want to walk back to the car with my t-shirt, so I will wear my pack under my jacket and bring everything I need . I can just stuff my shirt in my pack, or maybe the pocket of this jacket. I bet the shirt will be too small for me. I guess these people sitting in their cars went to packet pickup yesterday. The sky is lightening up, the sun is coming up soon. I should hide my wallet. I wonder if anyone breaks into cars in the rain. Okay, off I go into the rain with the other nuts.
Waiting to start, while standing under a tent: I hope I can run. I hope my legs and body can do this. Oh, that’s nice that this family is running together and look how enthusiastic and positive their kids are! What is wrong with my kids? I wish my family would run races . I’m cold. Uh-oh , it’s raining harder. Will there be lightning? Will the race go on? Oh no, people are getting bit by ants. I hate ants. ( I have a short chat with the man next to me about ants. We compare scars that we both have on our wrists from ant bites. We talk about the craziness of what we are about to do and how we like it.) Oh, yay, they are starting pre-race stuff. Almost time! Remember to take it nice and easy, don’t go out too fast.
First loop of two 5 mile loops: Well this isn’t so bad. I feel pretty good! I’m not hot and I have energy and I’m passing a lot of people since I stared off in the middle-back section. Oh, she went out too fast, now she’s slowing down. Why is that man breathing so hard? He’s running too fast for his fitness level. I hope he’s okay. Wow, already 3 miles done! That went by fast. Look at all these awesome cops and volunteers standing in the rain for us! I love these volunteers! Wow, they have a lot of orange cones. Careful, don’t slip on the painted lines. Man, I feel so good. I can’t believe it. I wonder if that will change soon. I’ll just go with it and if I have to walk some I will. Oh wow, almost to the turnaround already! 5 miles done. Halfway. Oh , what?! There is the winner coming in! He has run 10 miles already! How do they do it???
Miles 6-10: Hmm, that lady keeps running by me and then walking. I am going to just try to maintain this steady pace as long as I can. Well, I am passing her again. We are yo-yoing. She can’t hold that pace. Why doesn’t she slow down? Maybe she likes the run/walk. She can run well, but she can’t hold it, she’s out of breath. I am slower , but we are averaging the same pace. This is interesting. I will just keep going. Where is she? Oh, I caught her again. I think I might be able to run the whole thing without walking. That is my new goal. So much for my plan to run/walk. Hmm, should I eat a Gu (gel)? I can’t believe I’ve run this far on just water! In the summer I need so much fuel! Mile 7 already! This is flying by! I think I will go ahead and eat a GU just to help me stay strong . But I’m not going to walk. How can I do this with this jacket in my hand? I’ll put it under my arm. Okay, here we go! Last mile, push it. I wish I could run faster . I wonder what my pace has been? (I forgot my watch and was using an app and had not looked at it during the race.) Oh, here I am catching up to that yo-yo lady, I will encourage her. “Almost there! You have a great pace! Go for it!” ( We finished within seconds of each other, but I didn’t get a chance to talk to her after the race, unfortunately.) Push it! Finish line ahead, go hard! I did it! I think I PRd this course! (no, but almost) Wow, that was awesome! Crap, my app won’t stop! My phone is too wet and my hands are cold and wet. (somehow I stopped it but it had a little extra time on it.) Oh, I like this medal.
After the race: I’m cold. I’m hungry. I want dry clothes. I want food. But I have to wait around so I can get the results. Did I place in my age group? Breakfast tacos ! I will eat the insides, no tortillas for me. (I’m gluten free.) Oh, soda, yes, I want one. What is going on ? Oh they are already giving out awards and the cash drawing. I hope I win $100! ( This race gives away 8 $100 bills and 5 $50 bills. ) Well that was pretty tasty, I love potatoes and eggs. I need to sit down and I need a paper towel. My hands are so cold! Oops that area is only for VIPs. Oh, there are some chairs. They are wet, but so am I. Oh it feels good to sit down! I can barely hear the announcer. I better pay close attention. He is calling the winning numbers with little warning. Oh bummer, one number off. Hey I see a lady I know, I want to say hi. She won Masters Female ! And her mom won her age group. Hey there is another trail friend. Good to see and chat with her . I’m so cold. Should I just leave? I will put on my wet jacket. That is actually warming me up. Well, I didn’t win any money or place in my age group. I can finally go get warm!
On the way home: Thank you, God! Thank for you making this a good day. Please get me home safely. Amen. Why are these people driving 80 in a construction zone? Idiots. Okay, out of that death zone. No, I’m not moving over. I’m doing 80. Sorry. Pass me if you want to. Go back to Austin.
So now you know a little bit of what is going on in my seemingly quiet little head.
Super happy to report that I had a great run today of TWENTY-TWO MILES! After many months of being stuck at 15-16 mile long runs, I was able to hang in there and run through the wall. For those who haven’t read my other posts, I’ve run longer than this but I’ve had a bad year and just couldn’t seem to get back on the horse (feet?). I hooked up with a few friends and we knocked out the miles on this beautiful day and I really enjoyed it. I was worried I was running too slow but my pace was better than I thought! 4:12 for 22 miles, including several stops for bathroom breaks and water. Way better than I expected.
The trail was a paved path through tall trees of all kinds along a creek/bayou. It was a very nice path, a little crowded as the morning got later , but not too bad. . I had to get up at 4AM and drive 80 miles to it, but it was worth it. Running with friends in a new place gave me the boost I needed to get it done. Plus it helped that the only way back to my car was to run back after we hit 11 miles. I’m a little short on time, but I am doing my best to get ready for the Brazos Bend marathon in early December and the Snowdrop Ultra 55 hour run at the end of December. This run really boosted my confidence. Thank you, Lord, for good friends and for this day. Amen.
I’m sitting on a country road in my friend’s Toyota Tundra which currently , and often , smells like stinky running shoes and sweaty clothes. We are around 60 miles into a 223 mile run from Austin to Corpus Christi. No, we aren’t a relay team. My friend is running all of it , just like he ran the entire 203 miles of the Texas Independence Relay.
The first time we did this everything seemed easier . This course is pretty hilly , we started at night in the rain, and there is way more traffic than I expected. We also have no other crew members to help us, unlike last time when we had quite a nice group of pacers and supporters. But also I’m just really struggling with not wanting to be here. I’ve been in a menopausal funk lately that has zapped me of all motivation. I’m still fulfilling my responsibilities at home . I just am content to do little else. This is not me ! I’m usually always on the go or cooking up plans. But I would never let my friend down and he doesn’t know I’d rather be at home doing nothing .
But this is dragging on so slowly! Thankfully the sun came out and it’s not so gloomy , but I hope it doesn’t warm up too much . We started the race at 10:30 last night . You can see the video on Facebook. I did enjoy the first hour or two of running through my old college town. It’s not the same, of course. Austin is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. New skyscrapers are going up everywhere, along with sky high rents. New toll roads and highways are full of cars. But the downtown night life brought back memories of my freshman year. We used to party on the famous 6th street after walking there from campus, then walk back to our dorm.
Okay those first two paragraphs were written yesterday afternoon. Now it’s the next night and I’m at home and the race/run is over. My friend did not finish this time. Things were just not going well and he decided that he didn’t want to run/walk for another 40 hours. The total was going to end up being more like 80 hours instead of the 68 he had planned. The finish line would have been taken down, no hoopla, and possibly no official recognition of his efforts, but we weren’t sure about that. But we did know we’d be finishing sometime after midnight Saturday night. It was just not his day.
I’m happy to report that I did start having more fun with my fellow crew member after I wrote the first paragraphs. But, boy oh boy, I am so glad to be out of the truck! I am so glad to be at home! I am so glad to be here with my husband, kids and dogs. I am so glad to be able to cook dinner and hang out. Last time we did this I was totally into the race, enjoying the journey through country roads and then all the way from one side of Houston to the other, a long way. We were having a good time even though it was difficult at times to keep my friend going and the run lasted about 62 hours. This time we were very much alone, not much to look at along the way, the road was not very good, and I just felt like we weren’t prepared for it all. But every run/race is a learning experience if you pay attention. This time I learned that it is very important to train for the specific conditions you will be running, that one’s diet matters very much, as in, don’t under eat before and during a race, and that you must have very good reasons to run long distances or it will suck. You can’t run to prove your worth to others or to beat others or to win approval. You must prove it to yourself, beat yourself, gain your own approval. And you must be able to dig deep from your own well of motivation, strength and peace because running for hours and hours alone is not for the weak. My friend is definitely not weak. He ran a 100 miler two weeks ago and got a personal best and won the race! But he was physically tired and not sure of his own reasons for doing this race. In the end, it just wasn’t worth it to him to continue to suffer. His knee, feet and back were hurting the whole time. He pulled the plug at 94 miles, got in the truck and went to sleep. When he woke up I asked him if he wanted to continue and finish at least 100 miles but his heart wasn’t in it. It’s okay. A DNF ( did not finish) is not the end of the world! It doesn’t define your value or status as a runner. I really hope my friend will not beat himself up over this. Running is supposed to be a positive force, not a negative one.
So I’m home. I ran 27 total miles with him and my legs are feeling it, but I am thankful for the experience. We had a good time running until it was no longer fun. I took a break while he kept going into the night. He got discouraged by the hills and got in the truck to sleep a bit. When he woke up, the sun was up and we ran some more . We talked and laughed and braved the dogs and traffic . Then he ran alone all through the night down gravel roads with fences on both sides under the full moon until it just got too hard, something like 32 hours. My brain is too tired to do math. We had adventures! I peed behind two campaign signs next to a school along a road with no trees after holding it for an hour waiting to find a hidden spot. We missed our turn once and had to backtrack half a mile. We saw deer, raccoons, cattle, horses and more dogs. Coyotes howled at the moon that was so bright you could see the road without any lights. We may not have finished the course, but we gave it our all, especially him. It was worth it.
I started worrying about menopause years ago because I have always suffered in various and often severe ways when my hormones go UP and DOWN. What does the future hold, I worried! Will I go crazy? Will I get a divorce? Will I get fat and lose all my hair? I had those thoughts because I’ve seen women do all of the above. I know so many women who have become extremely intolerant of their husbands and gotten divorced, been put on anti-depressants after telling their doctors they had no energy and no motivation, gained a lot of weight even though they weren’t eating more and still exercising regularly, quit attending to their appearance because they quit caring what their husbands thought of them, stopped doing anything fun and just stay home ,and just generally changed in many negative ways. This all scared me !
Knowing of the risks and causes of these life changes, I have been fighting hard to maintain those areas of my life. It’s not easy! I’ve had some very bad weeks and months where I was very focused on everything negative in my life, especially little things that my husband does that annoy me. As a Christian, I prayed hard and asked God to protect me and my marriage, and change my thoughts. It wasn’t instant, but I do see how God has been at work! I believe he used the race training as one means to keep us from going downhill, which I appreciate. As for the other stuff, it’s a daily battle to keep from gaining even more weight. I’ve gained about 10 pounds in the past year. That is a lot for a short person, but I’m still wearing the same clothes, although they feel tight . I recently caved and bought some bigger clothes. It was depressing, but necessary. My husband loves my rounder, softer body, so I guess that’s something. My mood swings and other bodily changes, have been rough to say the least. I don’t have hot flashes but I have long periods. It’s not fun.
But I know this is part of life and I am trying to maintain my sense of self while accepting the inevitable changes. I attempted the Keto diet but I just didn’t feel good . My sister has done great on that diet, lost a lot of weight, has tons of energy. She is 7 years older than me and now weighs less than me. I was looking at some old photos of us hiking in Moab and she was chubby and I was skinny. The tables have turned! But she gives me hope that I can regain my body eventually. And my 77 year old mother is very petite, although I recall her going through a stage when she gained a few pounds when she had a hysterectomy. Now , my mom eats less than a bird, so that might be one reason she weighs 100 pounds. I know that all of this is vanity, worrying about my weight, but I worked hard to lose those 50 pounds in 2010 and I really don’t want them back! And I want to be healthy and strong enough to run and hike all day long, as well as take care of my family and whatever else needs doing.
So I guess I just want to encourage all you 40s to 50s women who are struggling like I am to stay young, vibrant, and beautiful. I can’t say that I am really embracing this age, but I will say I am trying to accept what I have to and work at the rest. I just started taking a Maca supplement after reading that it is good for menopause. I’ll let you know how it goes. We need to support each other and share information about what helps with these issues. One thing I see happening that really bothers me is women encouraging other women to leave their husbands. I’m talking about women who say they ‘just aren’t happy’ , but their husbands are not abusive or cheating or anything like that. I’d rather try to help her through her irritable times and get her to the other side of these changes, THEN let her make up her mind. Do not encourage selfish, short-sighted, impulsive behavior that may have serious consequences for them and their families. I know at least one couple who divorced when she got a hysterectomy and had instant menopause, then they remarried a few years later. Save yourself the money and trouble by staying together! One thing I do is go hiking or running or go read a book if my husband is on my last nerve. Remember, you are probably annoying at times as well. Men tend to be pretty forgiving of (or oblivious to) our grouchy moods, so let’s cut them some slack when they won’t stop talking about sports or politics or whatever their annoying habit is. Last of all, I am trying to remember that selfishness never leads to joy. Joy comes from showing love and kindness, serving, helping, honoring, and giving ourselves to others. Protect your heart and soul from the worldly ideas that are constantly shared in social media, and please don’t LIKE or Share them. We older women are setting examples for the younger ones whether we like it or not. I’m thankful for my mother’s example.
God bless you in your journey! He will keep you safe as you trust Him
10 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[a] 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.
Me: “Hey ,honey ?! Want to run Sky Island 25k? My husband: “What? Oh, sure, why not? Sign me up! ”
Way back in March of this year, I got the email for priority registration for previous runners of the Spectrum Trail Racing Sky Island trail race which took place September 22nd. Even though this race is one of the hardest race I’ve ever run,and last year didn’t go very well, I still keep going back for more. I like a challenge! I was on my computer signing up and I yelled into the other room to ask my husband if he wanted me to sign him up, too. He had a goal of running a half marathon this year and this race offers a 25k distance as well as a 50k, so I thought it might work. Sure, why not, he said, and I signed him up. Plenty of time to train!
What makes this running story extra special is that my husband has a surgically rebuilt leg. Not a prosthetic, his leg was saved from amputation and reconstructed from his own bones and muscle tissue. He has some pretty impressive scars all over his body. Riding his motorcycle home from work one day in 1989, through no fault of his own, he was run over and nearly died. Along with being unconscious for a couple of weeks, suffering severe pain, and having multiple surgeries, he spent a year lying in bed, then gradually using a wheelchair and then another four months learning to walk again . Surgeons did a good job of making his leg functional, but his hips are not level so it’s like having one leg longer than the other, which contributes to significant knee and hip pain when he runs. But my husband is a a determined man. I met him at a Halloween party when he was just getting back to being able to ride motorcycles and work again. We hit it off right away and were married in May.
Fast forward to when I first discovered the joy of running and racing back in 2011. Soon after, my husband decided he wanted to try it , too. Doctors had told him he would have limited mobility and would probably need a knee replacement someday after they rebuilt his leg, but he had already spent over 20 years walking, standing and working on his feet in a shop all day on that leg. Why not try running with it? We signed up for the same local 5k race that had been my first race, one year later. He pushed my daughter in her special needs jogging stroller and had my two youngest sons dragging along with him, so it wasn’t fast, but he had fun and it sparked his competitive spirit to try to do a faster race. After about two years of running 5k road races , he switched to trail races with me in 2015. Because of the way his leg looks, he gets some stares and curious looks which makes him feel a bit uncomfortable, but he doesn’t mind answering the question, What happened to your leg?!
Evidently I inspire him, because when I decided to start a run streak , he decided to try that as well. Even with his bad leg he was running at least one mile every single day for 115 days! He was doing well, feeling great about his accomplishment, and then one day a dog startled him in the dark and he made a sudden movement which caused a painful and lasting knee injury in the rebuilt leg. This was really unfortunate because running had greatly improved the depression that has plagued my husband off and on for the past 10 years. He had to end his streak and stop running for many months. Even walking was very painful and he went back to using a cane.
But eventually he noticed his leg was feeling almost normal and decided to try running again. His pace is slower now and he’s lost a lot of fitness and gained some weight back that he’d lost from his earlier running but he is very happy to have the ability to run again. . He is only running once a week now, sometimes twice, and that seems to be the magic key to preventing too much leg pain, which leads us back to the current race on the schedule.
I really didn’t know if my husband could run this particular race. The course is rocky, technical, has big climbs and no shade. I can barely handle it with two good legs and pretty good fitness! He’s had some blood pressure issues and even heart concerns in the past , but was in generally good health. But I didn’t want to push him too hard. I knew he’d have to train very specifically and consistently. Once we got started , he showed me that he was serious and put in the miles even when he didn’t feel like it or it hurt. He told me that he mentally turned it over to me as far as how he stayed motivated. He listened to my advice and heeded my warnings that this race was not going to be easy. We gradually increased his run distance until he ran his first ever unofficial half marathon, or 13.1 miles, on the road. This was a very special milestone! After doing that he felt sure that he could make it 15 miles. To prepare for the race, we ran a few times on some trails that had some good steep and rocky climbs and descents to get ready for the race. There were a couple moments where we both thought he might pass out on those climbs. We also ran some flat, easy dirt trail miles. Most of our training was in the usual, awful Texas summer high temperatures with high humidity, so we were looking forward to heading to the cooler temps of the high desert the first weekend of Fall.
After a fairly busy summer of running, training, and traveling, September finally rolled around which means I was back to work homeschooling my kids, plus my son had a birthday, so the first few weeks passed quickly. We didn’t run very much in those weeks which always makes a runner nervous. Finally race week arrived! The days flew by with me trying to get packed while still teaching school and making sure we had everything we needed for the trip. He was getting pretty nervous and told me he wasn’t sure he could do it. Maybe he would just be happy with 13.1 . Just taper madness, I reassured him. Oddly I was not nervous at all about the running even though I knew how tough the course is. I was more concerned about getting him to the finish line happy and uninjured. I knew this was going to be a big challenge for both of us, but that a successful race would be so rewarding.
The race location, Davis Mountains State park, is 550 miles from home, in far West Texas, near the famous town of Marfa. Leaving behind our dogs, cats, older sons and my daughter who was being cared for by my sister, we hit the road Friday morning with the youngest kids, a cooler full of drinks, bags of snacks, and plenty of nervous excitement. Even with an 80 mph speed limit for much of the route, it still takes a long time to get there. There was rain in the forecast and sure enough, it started pouring down so hard that my husband could barely see the road and then something crazy happened. The rain was so heavy it was beginning to flood the highway and water started coming into the van under the door! That has never happened before. It kinda freaked us out and it got some of our stuff wet , but not too bad. We made it through the storm okay, but some of our friends who were a little behind us were not so lucky. There was a flash flood that covered the highway and traffic was blocked for a few hours.
After escaping the flash flood, we drove into better, COOL weather, and finally arrived at our destination right on time and got our room keys. We were among the lucky ones to get a room in the lodge which was the headquarters and start/finish line of the race. The historic Indian lodge was very nice and my kids and husband took a moment to relax in our comfy room and check out the cable TV, which we don’t have at home, while I went to explore. I found the starting area being set up and then just took a moment to look at the beautiful location. This is one of my favorite places in Texas. Later we went into the nearby town of Fort Davis for dinner at a favorite tourist spot, The Drug Store. Not my best pre-race meal ever, a small, lukewarm baked potato, but the service was very friendly. My husband and kids enjoyed their burgers and fries. We thought it was super funny that multiple employees kept coming by offering them soda refills. Seriously, you can only drink so much!
We didn’t sleep much the night before the race, but that’s not unusual. The bed was okay and it was nice and cold in the room, it was just race anxiety. Our phone alarms went off at 5:00 even though we only had a one minute walk to the start and our race started at 7:15. Gotta have plenty of time to eat a snack, drink coffee, get dressed, and poop! I almost forgot that we still needed to pick up our timing chips. It was chilly (for us) , mid 50s, and misting rain, but we figured it would warm up a bit, so we weren’t quite sure what clothes to wear. First I put on capris, but then I decided I might get hot, so I changed into shorts at the last minute. My husband wore shorts and we both grabbed our lightweight wind breakers which we ended up shedding and stuffing into our packs about two miles into the race, but they were nice while we needed them. We both wore hats, plus our hydration packs which I filled with GU Roctane hydration drink. I also packed a few gels and a couple of snacks. He chose to run in his Brooks Ghost 10 which aren’t trail shoes, and I wore New Balance MT910 trail shoes.
We found the crowd of nervous and excited runners staying warm and waiting for the pre-race briefing in the lodge living room , which they call the lobby. Then it was time to line up in the sprinkling rain outside! The sun was not quite up so we used our headlamps for the first mile, then we stashed them. The race started off with a run down the asphalt park road to the park entrance, then down the side of the highway in the grass, under a bridge and then back up the road to the trail head on the other side of the highway. This was a nice warm up. The first part of this trail was pretty flat, including two crossings of a dry, but rocky, creek bed which had had about 8 inches of water in it the previous two years, so we had a pretty decent pace for the first 3 miles. After that we slowed down a lot as we climbed the first mountain on a long and winding trail. We were both encouraged by how good we felt and by the wonderful cool,cloudy weather.
After we made it to the top of the approximately 550 foot gradual climb, reaching around 5400 feet elevation, where the aid station was located, we began a 6 mile loop around the top that included some small inclines, and tons of rocks and awesome views. We were feeling good and enjoying the awesome views from the mountain, talking and keeping a fast walk/jog pace. Sadly we did not have any wildlife sightings up there. Last year I saw a tarantula, frogs, and a Javelina . We started getting tired towards the end of the loop and slowing down. We got passed by one of the few people that were behind us when we had to stop to pee a few times and then to re-tie a shoe. The course was so rocky on that section near the end of the loop that we were mostly walking because both of us were starting to stumble. Our trekking poles had already saved us from falling several times. We were both feeling ready for that loop to end. Finally we heard the sound of cheering and a drum being played at the aid station by one of the volunteers and knew we were close. We stopped there and refilled my husband’s pack with water and he ate some peanut butter tortilla wraps that he said were delicious. Funny how good food can taste when you’re trailrunning!
We were excited to go back down the trail we had came up on, but it was not easy going. The fast runners from the 50k race began to pass us going down and the slower 50k runners were coming up the narrow trail which meant that we stopped frequently and stepped to the side. I was having trouble with my left foot, stumbling a lot, which was making me anxious, and my husband had a painful blister on his toe, so we were both not in the best mood at that time. Then we passed an injured woman who was waiting for the medics to come carry her off the mountain and we realized that things could be worse! A few minutes later, the medic team went by. We were both relieved to reach the bottom of the trail. My husband stopped to check his blister and discovered he had more than one and the one on his toe had already popped. There was nothing to do but keep going. Meanwhile I went to pee in some bushes. During that short break another back of the pack guy almost passed us. We hurried up and got moving again, went under the bridge and back up the road into the park and then onto the next trail.
My husband’s only real goal for the race was to finish, but he also said that he’d be very happy if he could finish in under 5 hours. Both of us have a competitive streak and neither wanted to come in last! He has a history of go-kart racing, drag racing, and motorcycle racing and enjoys giving a race a good effort. Since the 50k had taken me over 9 hours both times I’d run it, I knew this 25k would take us a long time, but I was trying to get him there in under 5. We still had about 2.5 miles to go and that included a very steep climb and rocky descent. I had been nervous about this trail ever since we signed up and waiting for it all day! It was on this trail that my husband reached his longest distance ever run, when he passed the 13.1 mark. After that point the thought crossed his mind that maybe he would just stop there because he was having a low point and had blisters! But thankfully, he kept trudging along. I gave him a pure Maple syrup packet and that really perked him up once it got into his blood. But the climb was very steep and his heart was racing and he was even feeling dizzy, so we took it slow until we made it to the top. I was praying hard the whole time. Faster runners were passing us but even those speedsters were slowed a little by the technical trail. This trail that had terrified me the first year was not even hard for me this time, I was so focused on my husband. I would move forward a little, then stop and give him time to get almost to me, then move again. There was not much talking going on other than me telling him to take his time and catch his breath and watch his step.
With great relief , I watched him make it up and over the top edge of the mountain. We knew after that we only had about a mile or so to go! No turning back now. The trail along the top of this small mountain was still fairly technical and we were not going fast. I wanted to push him a little because I knew we had a chance to make sub 5 hours, but I didn’t want to cause him to fall, so I just kept moving and pulling him along. You could see and hear the finish line way before you could get to it, and that motivated us to move as fast as we safely could, while allowing the faster runners to pass. As we got closer to the bottom, we met a woman who was going even slower than us on the steep, rocky, uneven trail. She was afraid of falling, so we gave her encouragement, then passed her and kept going down. By this point we were both excited and eager to be done. The trail ended and we ran a short way across a parking lot then down a small hill to a drive way and through the finish line holding hands ! Official time 5:01. We had done it!
Our finisher awards were Sky Island logo trucker hats that were handed to us as soon as we crossed the line. We were both a bit overwhelmed at the cheering crowd and feeling like, now what do we do? The race had been a very intense experience emotionally and physically. After speaking to a few people who were very happy for us, we decided to head over to our lodge room, which was so convenient, take a few moments to process what just happened, take a shower and rest a bit. First I took a quick photo of my husband.
Later we had a delicious lunch at the lodge restaurant of Angus beef patties with grilled onions, bacon , and fried eggs on top. Plus french fries. Then my husband rested in the room with the kids, who had been watching TV the whole time we were running, and I went and hung out with some friends by the pool and had a celebratory beer. It was a great day all around! The following day I was able to take my sons on a hike on the Indian Lodge trail, which made me very happy. They aren’t really into hiking, but I just had to show it to them! Then we went for a lovely scenic drive through the mountains and to visit the unique town of Marfa. We also had plenty of time to talk about and relive the highs and lows of the race.
I want to give God all the glory for bringing us across the finish line happily and successfully, as well as getting us safely to the race and having a wonderful 4 day vacation in the Davis Mountains. I believe that He answered prayer after prayer during the months of training and the race itself. Everything could not have gone better, except for the blisters. 🙂 We have talked about different races we might want to run in the future, but for now we are just enjoying the good memories.