Race recap: Mesquite Canyon half marathon

So here’s the deal. Apparently we’re both nuts. When Jason and I planned a trip to visit friends in Arizona in March, he looked up races in the area and decided Mesquite Canyon would be perfect for his first half marathon.

For REAL

Yeah, I don’t even know.

Here is what I’ve learned about racing-you don’t have to be completely prepared for a race to finish it and have fun. You just need to have to be honest about what you aren’t going to be prepared for.

And what I couldn’t be prepared for is the elevation, the elevation gain and the (lack of) humidity.

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What I could be prepared for is the fact that I was going to be climbing up a big ass hill. So for the two months leading up to the race, I can probably count on one hand the number of runs that did not involve climbing in some capacity.

We ran Cedar Ridge, which is our hilliest local trail. I ran stairs. I cranked up the incline on the treadmill and ran up that and when I was done running, I cranked it even higher and power hiked.

I ran hills and hills and hills and by the time the race rolled around, the hills started to feel easier.

Photo credit Aravaipa Running

Photo credit Aravaipa Running

Even with that, I still gave myself a generous time goal to account for what I couldn’t take into account. I did my first half marathon, a very hilly and challenging course in it’s own right, in 3:09 so I set the goal for this race at 3:30.

Then the dehydration hit pretty much the minute I got off the plane and for two days, I couldn’t shake a terrible headache and low grade nausea. Ugh. And before you start on me, I did my best to prepare. I cut out soda the week before we left, upped the electrolytes and never went anywhere without a bottle of water with me.

Still. Because of my discomfort, my goal went from 3:30 to just finish.

The day of the race was beautiful and sunny and I discovered that one of the benefits of low humidity is that 70 or 80 degrees in AZ doesn’t feel as hot as 70 or 80 degrees in the swamp that is Texas and even with my concerns regarding my head and stomach, it was hard not to be in a good mood as I took in the scenery around me.

We started out about 8 am and ran through scrub and cactus for about 2 miles before we stared climbing.

Photo credit Aravaipa Running

Photo credit Aravaipa Running

And climbing and climbing.

About a quarter of the way up the hill

About a quarter of the way up the hill

Every once in a while I’d look up and get a glimpse of Jason ahead of me make his way up the switch backs. I would smile, happy that he seemed to be moving well and hoped he was having fun.

The area was bright and wide open, so different than the trails back home and I did my best to appreciate my surroundings when I wasn’t focused on my breathing or my screaming quads.

I didn’t have my watch with me but as I crested the summit of the hill and started my way down, I felt like I was doing pretty well despite my misgivings-still in the middle of the pack and moving steadily.

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starting the trek down

Then I discovered what else I wasn’t prepared for: DOWNHILLS. I was so looking forward to them too. But it turns out that when you trash your quads for an hour on the uphills, the downhills hurt. Holy crap.

Still, thanks to gravity, I made better time on the way down (well, except for a slight mishap where I rolled my ankle and hit the trail, almost going over the side of a fairly steep decline. It’s not like there were vultures circling above my head when I did it either. No big.) and soon-that being a relative term for me-found myself at the last aid station.

The last two miles were pretty bad, I’m not going to lie. My hips were yelling at me thanks to all that inclining and declining and we were back on flat ground in a valley and it was just hot and flat and I was tired and I hurt and I wanted to stop. I started to play a game I like to call Fun with Cactus: I’ll run from this cactus to that cactus. Then walk from that cactus to the next cactus. I’m so sick of looking at cactus. Stop looking at me like that, cactus.

As I approached the finish line, my only hope is that the clock hadn’t hit noon yet. We started at 8:15- as long as it was before noon that would mean I was still under 4 hours. While I felt I’d moved fairly well considering the conditions, the race had rung me dry and I honestly didn’t think I’d hit my goal. Imagine my surprise then when I rounded the last corner and the clock read 11:34.

3 hours, 19 minutes. Not only did I make it in under 4 hours, I beat my original time goal!

In case you are wondering what beating a time goal looks like:

Photo credit Aravaipa Running

Photo credit Aravaipa Running

Jason was waiting at the finish line for me, having finished about 10 minutes ahead of me, and we took a few minutes to talk and share our experiences and eat and drink ginger ale. As glad as I was to complete when I did, I was happier that he’s had a good time.

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A note on nutrition: I never stopped drinking during that race-taking small sips from my hydration pack every few minutes. I had gatorade and orange slices at every aid station (we had two aid station that we hit once on the way up and once on the way down for four stops). In between, I ate two packs of Gatorade chews (200 calories total).

When it was all said and done, I had approximately half and orange, about 8oz of Gatorade, 200 calories worth of chews and 2 liters of water. And yet, the minute I stopped moving and consuming fluids, the dehydration headache came back. That no humidity thing is crazy.

The aftermath was pretty hilarious, with both of us hobbling around and covered in salt but by the next day, as we left for home, we managed to move through the airport without looking too obviously broken.

But I’m so glad I got to share this experience with Jason and that he had a good experience. In many ways, this race and the training leading up to it gave me confidence in my running again-the ability to run without injury, to complete longer races and to do something challenging.

Totally worth the trashed quads.

Long run light

Sometimes I fantasize about packing up everything and moving to some trail running mecca-Colorado or Oregon or California. Some place with mountains and epic vistas and staggering forests.

But then I got out on the Northshore trail on Saturday, a place that is starting to become as comfortable and worn in as a well used pair of leather gloves, with new eyes and I though, Gosh it’s pretty here.

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Um…okay.

If you wish to know the divine, feel the wind on your face and the warm sun on your hand. ~Buddha

It was a perfect morning to be out in the woods. Warm enough that I didn’t need 12 layers of clothing but the warmth still had that tinge of coolness that you get before the stifling bitch of summer sits on your chest.

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The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful.  ~e.e. cummings

I found myself deep into a part of the trail that I hadn’t been before and it was lush and green and mossy. Beautiful. Instead of my usual MO of just getting through the run as quickly as possible, I stopped and did a little exploring.

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You will find something more in woods than in books.  Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters.  ~St. Bernard

I am reminded that mindset means so much in a run and was rewarded with the most enjoyable run I’ve had in a while.

 

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All this running around in the woods has inspired me to get back into jewelry making-creating pieces using natural elements that remind me of my exertions and the beauty of outdoors.

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I have also found that I like making these for my friends-using stones or crystals that I hope will inspire them or emphasize strengths maybe they don’t see in themselves (or just make them smile because they think it’s pretty). Like the smooth onyx and rough amethyst I used for the bracelets above.

Perhaps I am stronger than I think. -Thomas Merton

Onyx: Onyx is a balancing, grounding stone, particularly black onyx. It is thought to help stimulate the root chakra.

Your root chakra is your grounding energy center. Other colors of onyx stimulate different chakras in your body, and are associated with different meanings as a result.
Onyx helps to reduce the intensity of emotions, whether negative or positive, and balances conflicting energies and drives. It is associated with good fortune and judgment, and also with fidelity.
Onyx, like jade, is a great stone to wear if you are setting out on a new journey and require strength and commitment, whether that journey is a personal one, a business venture, or a relationship.
If you have difficulty sticking with tasks, decisions, or relationships, onyx may help you to remain grounded in your choices and see your decisions through. Those who have difficulty with commitment can benefit from wearing onyx or keeping it nearby. -source

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Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without. -Buddha

Amethyst: Amethyst is a meditative and calming stone which works in the emotional, spiritual, and physical planes to provide calm, balance, patience, and peace.

Amethyst is used as beneficial when dealing with legal problems and money issues, which can lead to prosperity and abundance, though it is not the best known prosperity stone.

In the psychic and spiritual realms, amethyst is an excellent all-purpose stone that can increase spirituality and enhance intuition and psychic powers of all kinds. It does this by making a clear connection between the earth plane and other planes and worlds. Amethyst is also excellent for meditation and lucid dreaming. It is used to open one’s channels to telepathy, past life regression, clairaudience, clairvoyance, and communication with angels. Amethyst also protects against psychic attacks, especially during spiritual work. -source

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Now, I don’t know if these stones really have special healing or energetic properties. It would be cool if they did. But even if they don’t, I like seeing the little token of attributes I want to focus on every time I see them. Strength or calm or connection-I can keep my intentions top of mind just by looking down at my wrist.

Plus they are fun. :)

Any favorite stones or crystals?

 

Race report: Possum Kingdom 20K (or: where I almost lose my shit)

*warning: if the title didn’t already give it away, some slightly crass language ahead. Sorry mom*

All photos credit Movin Pictures.

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I’m #112 and that’s Jason right next to me looking all hot in his running shorts.

The Possum Kingdom 20K put on by Endurance Buzz Adventures was all set to be the best race ever. The weather was perfect with highs in the upper 70′s, the scenery was gorgeous and the trail turned out to be my favorite trail to date: a perfect mix of hilly and flat, rocky and smooth, with amazing scenic overlooks of the lake, mostly shaded with some sunny patches.

Plus Dave from Endurance Buzz seems to put on a good show based on my previous experience so I was ready!

Well…um.

Here’s the thing. Dinner from the night before didn’t…uh…SIT WELL with me. By the time we hit the park, I was still feeling off, despite having spent some close personal time in the bathroom but I was still trying to stay positive, thinking I would shake it off once I started running.

After the first mile, I had to do some serious re-evaluating of my race strategy. The first sip of water I took from my hydration pack let me know that my stomach had most definitely NOT shaken anything off and was threatening a revolt. I began to get concerned that I wasn’t going to make it through to the end and started thinking of ways I could counter act the way my body was feeling.

Slower. Yes, I could do that. Don’t even try for any gels or chews. Fine with me, I wasn’t up for anything remotely food-like anyway. What about water? Crap. 12 miles with no water? Okay fine, I’ll take tiny little sips of water and tiny little sips of HEED, which will give me some calories and hope for the best.

By mile 2 there was no more hoping for the best. I was down to a walk and even that hurt. My stomach up-ended with each sip I allowed myself and I had very legitimate concerns about having a blow out (EW) in the middle of the woods with runners passing by me. My muscles were cramping and sore (probably little from dehydration but also probably just from stomach issues as well).

I had never been that miserable in a run or a race and I quickly came on the realization that I was going to have to drop.

So there I was at about mile 4 and my inner dialogue can be summed up as follows:

‘I am going to die.’

‘DNF, DNF, DNF.’ (Did Not Finish-the term used when a runner has to drop from a race).

‘Where the hell is the aid station so I can drop this stupid race.’

‘I hate runners.’ (as yet another runner passes me)

‘I might seriously have to go in the bushes over there OMG. I AM GOING TO DIE.’

‘Seriously, where the FUCK is the GODDAMNED aid station????’

And then…

‘Oh goodie, a photographer. Isn’t that just peachy.’

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I happened to stumble on the photog at pretty much my lowest point in the race and I think it shows in the photo. I couldn’t even muster the energy to run for a few feet for the photos. Hell, I couldn’t muster the energy to lift my head. I was tired and sick and sore and still had way too long to go and the reason I’m showing you this is because I think many of us want to present ourselves in the best possible light on the internet. We want the photos where our thighs look the slimmest and we’re smiling and our skin looks the smoothest.

This is very obviously not the case in this photo but it is honest. It shows that sometimes things are hard but you don’t have a choice but to keep forging ahead. And I would hope that anyone else that has a bad race or a bad run and maybe are down on themselves would see this and know they are not alone.

Because there is good news in this race report! So I finally get to the aid station and am all ready to tell the nice volunteer that I’m dropping but for some reason instead, I ask, ‘how far are we in?’.

‘Six and half miles.’

I was halfway done. Crap. I’d made it halfway, I couldn’t back out now right?

‘Are you okay?’ she asked.

I mumbled something and walked to the side of the aid station table and just…stood. Well first I used the facilities (which were an actual bathroom in a building! With toilet paper! And a sink!) and then I stood for a moment and watched the other runners come in and head back out.

I don’t know how I did it-I certainly wasn’t feeling any better-but I started off down the trail too. I figured I could at least try to finish and if things went downhill, I would hit that aid station the way back and could drop then.

But then something happened-I looked at my watch. I hadn’t looked at it before this moment because things were going so slowly and poorly I didn’t want to see how badly I was behind my usual pace but after doing a double take, I realized that if I could just pick up the pace a little bit, I could beat my previous 20K time.

And that did it, you guys.

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I moved as fast as I dared and drank as much as I dared and soon I found myself catching up to and then passing people that had passed me a few miles back. Turns out that when you spend 4 of the first 6 miles walking, your legs still have some steam in them.

The course took us on about a 4.5 mile loop before spitting us back out at that aid station and I was a different person by the time I passed it again. I stopped quickly for more HEED and then hopped back on the trail. I look at my watch and realized I’d done those 4.5 miles in about 40 minutes.

Ya’ll, that’s my road pace. I NEVER hit that on the trails.

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But with about 2.4 miles to go, I wasn’t stopping. Run, run, climb. Pass a runner. Power hike a hill. Pass another runner. Forget about your stupid stomach. Run, run, run.

I read somewhere that there is actually something to a runner being able to ‘smell the finish line.’ I know that with each race I’ve done, I’ve felt myself pick up the pace even before I could see it and this was definitely the case here.

I was even able to sprint the last few hundred meters or so. Two hours, 47 minutes. Six minutes faster than my previous time.

Jason had come in about 10 minutes ahead of me and was there to greet me and offer me food (uh…NO).

I debated how much I wanted to share this race because frankly, bathroom talk is just super embarrassing but I want to pass on my experience to share this: Just because something is hard, doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. Keep going, it might just turn around for you.

 I’d also like to take a second to thank Dave at Endurance Buzz Adventures for putting on yet another terrific race, for the kind and enthusiast volunteers who asked if I was okay and rushed to get my bottle filled and for every runner I encountered who offered words of encouragement and support. You guys rock.

Oh happy day

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I know there are a bunch of bad ass ultra runners out there that can race for 100 milers and then go for a shake out run the next day.

I ran 12 miles yesterday and I think I would cry if I had to go for a run today. But after heavy storms this morning, we had a beautiful afternoon so I thought I’d wander around my neighborhood and take some photos now that spring seems to be upon us and hopefully work out some of the soreness in my quads.

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Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems. ~Rainer Maria Rilke

Our neighborhood is overrun with trees and flowers so walking the dogs this time of year is a treat. Sometimes when I’m out with them I bring my phone to try to capture so shots of the flowers but whenever I try to capture something, that’s usually the time Shilo sees a squirrel and tries to rip my arm off to get to it.

It’s easier to head out by myself when I can bring the big girl camera and get some shots.

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Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. ~Albert Einstein

I’ve decided I need to do this more often. Get out just to wander around with the camera and see what I spy. As much as I love running out in the woods, sometimes you have to go a little slower so you can find and savor the smaller things.

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We’re in for more storms tonight supposedly so I’m glad I got out when I did. And also glad to be back on the couch. ;) Hope you all had a great weekend and had nice enough weather to get out and enjoy it.

 

Inspiration friday: gratitude

So I’ve started doing this thing with a few of my friends where about once a week I pick a topic and send them whatever inspirations words/photos/quotes/links that I find on that topic.

I think of it as a nice little positive pick-me-up for the day and I like doing it so much that I’ve decided to extend it to the blog. I think to keep looking at life as an adventure, we have to keep learning and I find that as I hunt around for fun and inspirational things, I learn a little more about them-what causes happiness or faith, how I can have more of it, news ways of thinking and acting. It’s been pretty fun.

This week’s topic: GRATITUDE. I hope you enjoy!

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source

Grace isn’t a little prayer you chant before receiving a meal. It’s a way to live. ~Attributed to Jacqueline Winspear

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Christine Kane

Gratitude is a relationship strengthening emotion:

“In the second part of gratitude, he explains, “we recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves. … We acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.”

Emmons and other researchers see the social dimension as being especially important to gratitude. “I see it as a relationship-strengthening emotion,“ writes Emmons, “because it requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people.””

source

Gratitude HD: Moving ART “It could lead you to more beautifuller things” (OMG this video)

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Cherie Roe Dirksen

 

Palo Duro

Palo Duro was so awesome, guys. Jason surprised me with a trip there for my birthday (yes, he’s that awesome) and we went there over a long weekend in late February.

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The Canyon is 120 miles long, as much as 20 miles wide, and has a maximum depth of more than 800 feet. Its elevation at the rim is 3,500 feet above sea level. It is often claimed that Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon in the United States. The largest, the Grand Canyon, is 277 miles long, 18 miles wide, and 6,000 ft. deep.

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Humans have resided in the canyon for approximately 12,000 years. Early settlers were nomadic tribes that hunted mammoth, giant bison, and other large game animals. Later, Apache Indians lived in the canyon, but were soon replaced by Comanche and Kiowa tribes who resided in the area until 1874. At that time, Col. Ranald Mackenzie was sent into the area to transport the Native Americans to Oklahoma. Col. Mackenzie and the 4th Cavalry were able to capture more than 1,400 horses belonging to the tribe. After keeping some of the best horses for themselves, the remainder were taken to nearby Tule Canyon and destroyed. Cut off from their only means of transportation, the Native Americans soon surrendered.
In 1876, Charles Goodnight entered the canyon and opened the JA Ranch. At its peak, the ranch supported more than 100,000 head of cattle. Goodnight operated the ranch until 1890. Although only a fraction of its original size, the JA Ranch remains a working ranch today. Source

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Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. ~Kahlil Gibran

We spent our visit exploring around the cabin we stayed in, reading and going for a run on the Lighthouse Point trail (the third photo above was taken on the trail).

I think it was during that trip that I really started to think about getting creative again. I’ve played with several different art forms-jewelry and painting and drawing and writing-and it was looking at the red rocks against that bright blue sky that I started thinking about jewelry inspired by the areas we get to visit.

I came home with lot of ideas and started playing around with different stones, leather, metal. It’s been fun getting reacquainted with beads and pliers and a few friends have gotten a few of my creations as gifts (you’ll see more soon!)

I’m realizing that nature and being outdoors and creativity are very closely linked for me.

I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars. ~Walt Whitman

Whatever your thoughts on who or how our world was created, you have to admit that the complexity and simplicity, the beauty, the rhythm-it’s all a pretty amazing artistic masterpiece and I’m constantly inspired just walking in my neighborhood.

Being out in a place like Palo Duro, that inspiration can’t help but flow even deeper and wider.

Time to start turning that inspiration into creation.

BTW, the weather was in the mid 70s for the first two days of our trip. On the third day, the day were going home, it was 16 degrees. We were inspired to put on ALL OF THE CLOTHES and get packed and headed home as quickly as possible.