Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Running in firefighting gear, and sending kids to school

I guess it's time that I put down into a post exactly what's going on.  The news article should be up on the internet today, and in print tomorrow.  You can also find me on facebook and twitter as 26point2forEDU.

Basically, I'm running a marathon in firefighting gear.  No, I'm not crazy.

What I am, however, is determined.  I was once asked by a hiring board to sum myself up in one word.  I chose the word "tenacious."  The hiring board asked me what the difference was between that and bullheaded.  At the time, I didn't have an answer, but more than a decade later I can tell you the difference.  It's the difference between a strong will and a strong won't.

So, on February 19th, I'm going to run the Austin Marathon in firefighting gear.  I'm doing this to raise money for a scholarship in the name of a dear friend, Leonard Reed.  He was an amazing man, and inspired quite a few amazing things.  You can read about him here.

What the scholarship aims to do is to send kids to fire school and police academies after high school.  Support Behind the Badge is the group that formed the scholarship, and I'm running to support them.

There are several community resources and corporate sponsors that have gotten involved.

Infinit Nutrition has been amazing.  In order to do something like this, I have to have the right nutrition - customized and with Infinit's support and ability to work with me has made it possible. If you order from them, they'll give you a discount, and 10% of the sale goes back to the scholarship.   See my previous posts on nutrition for more information.  Use the code "firegirl" at checkout to get the discount.

The scholarship has been set up with Dell Cares.  If you work for Dell, you can donate, and Dell will match your donation.

Inspire Fitness has provided some wonderful people to support me along the way.  They're going to make sure that I have someone with me at all times during the marathon so I have everything I need.  I can't say enough wonderful things about the group of ladies that's running with me.  They're the Gems and you can find their running group here.

Jeff Hayes at Plasmafire Graphics did the logo for us.  He really did a great job!

Johnny at Hill Country News has been awesome enough to help us get the word out.  Thanks, Johnny!   Here's the link to the story.

Did I forget something?  Post below and I'll add it!  And don't forget to follow me on facebook and twitter!

Donation Link  Want to donate to help our future generation of firefighter and police officers?  This is a secure donation link.

A little about me:
I'm a career firefighter going on 13 years.  I'm married to a police officer and we have two great kids.  Hopefully they'll go to college and be doctors or astronauts, but for the time being, I want to show them that you can do anything that you decide you can do.  I'm not new to running, or to endurance sports.  I've been a runner for years, and started in triathlon last year.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Bandera 50k, off the beaten path...

Two days ago I completed the Tejas Trails Bandera 50k.  WOW.  What. An. Experience.

I drove out on Friday night and got in just before 10pm.  I was planning to camp so I'd get the "full" ultramarathon trail race experience.  The Lodge still had a light on, so I found my way in and found some of the crew chilling out before a big day.  They were welcoming and friendly, and flat out awesome!  I got to meet the race director, Joe, and several of the guys he works with.  Great guys.

My "tent"
Pretty soon, I headed off to bed.  I'd decided to camp in the back of my suv, so I had less to worry about on race day.

I wound down by reading some from "Hunger Games" and fell asleep about midnight. I should mention that cell service was nonexistent for most of us.

The next morning was chilly, but the day wound up being perfect for the race.  I got up, got dressed, got my cherry pop tarts, and went to packet pickup, about 100 yards from where I was camped (very cool!).  Packet pickup went fast, and pretty soon, I was back at my car getting last minute things ready for the race.  70 oz of water in a nathan back pack,  3 hr flask of Infinit on my shoulder, with a 3 hr baggie and a 1 hr baggie ready to mix at the aid stations when/if I needed them.  Baby wipes, ID card, camera, race number, hat.  And I'm off to the starting line.
We stand around in a pack until the horn blows.  And here I have to give you a visual.  Have you ever seen the movie "Hidalgo?"  Watch for 1:30.

As soon as all 200 of us hit that first narrow/downhill/treacherous footing area, we slow down and it becomes a nice stroll through the Hill Country.  As soon as we get around that corner, I can start getting around other athletes, and I'm off again.  The first 9 miles are rough.  I don't mean a bad day on the pavement.  I mean up, down, twisting, climbing, hands, feet, knees, cactus, poop of all kinds, rocks, trees, brush, etc.

Sunrise from the course
So the course is rocky, filled with a kind of mini-agave cactus plant called sotol, and there's very little truly flat running area.  You might as well have already offered your shoes to the gods of trail dust and horse poop, because you're going to step in it at some point.  And if you don't, you're going to hurt yourself avoiding it.  Either way, it's a crappy situation.  The area has beautiful vistas, but keep your eyes on the trail while you're running-it would be easy to twist an ankle, run into a cactus or a tree, or off a cliff.  So, please.  When you decide to do this race, plan to add an extra few minutes to your time to see how beautiful the course is.

At one point I heard two guys griping and I chuckled...  "What," I asked, "Didn't you read the brochure?  They said everything cuts, stings or bites."  They laughed.  Of course, the athlete guide also boasted names of hills like "Sky Island," "Ice Cream Hill," or "Lucky Peak."  Nice names that don't give you any idea of what you're really in for.  Ice Cream Hill became the subject of many jokes.  Mostly intended to keep our minds off how bad we're hurting.

"There should be ice cream at the top!"

"I know why it's call Ice Cream Hill...  Cause you eat it going up, and you eat it going back down!!!"

"Oh, I thought it was because  'I scream!"

This kind of dialogue went on the whole race.  Turns out trail runners tend to be a funny bunch. 

I want to mention the sotol.  As I said before, it's kind of a miniature agave, only not as pleasant.  You can't get tequila from it (thanks to a reader that I wish I could credit, I found out this is wrong-see the comments!).  I got warned about it.  Specifically about a small patch of it, so I wore some running pants that would protect my legs.  Well, it's all over the place.  Not just one small field, but all over the place.  And it's taller than me in some places!  Really though, it isn't that bad.

The course is well set up and well supported.  About every 5-6 miles you see human beings with food and water.  They are angels bearing manna from heaven.  The volunteers were amazing.  They knew that there were a bunch of type A athletes who were specific about nutritional needs and made the aid stations about the athletes' needs.  All the aid stations were super mellow but way on the ball, and the volunteers made the effort to be sure that everyone had exactly what they needed, when they needed it.  Essentially, the volunteers and crew made the race.  All you had to think about was forward motion.

For me, the day was a mixed bag of emotions.  I rocketed between wanting to give up or deciding that I was too tough to not finish.  Every time I wanted to stop and walk, a small but pushy voice decided that I could walk for a few yards, but I needed to start running again after that.  As a primarily pavement runner and triathlete, I came closer to my first dnf than I've ever been before.  I found that my fifteen minutes between nutrition breaks went fast, making for a fast six plus hours. At Chapas I stopped and had help refilling my nutrition flask.  For something that could have been really complicated with the help of a volunteer, it was really simple and went smoothly.  I scrounged some baby wipes just in case, and I was off again.  Just before my second pass at Crossroads (26ish miles?), I came around a bend in a tree and there was a camera.  Really, guys?  Really?  I smiled the best I could.  Grimaced, maybe.  But something happened that really made me feel great.  After the first initial rush of people, people stopped passing me.  I started passing people, and from mile 10 until I finished, I kept passing people.  What did this mean for me?  Only one thing-I paced myself just right.  I finished with very little left in the tank, but I had some.  Meaning-this race went just right for me.

And, because Infinit Nutrition has been very generous in sponsoring me for the upcoming marathon, I want to give a shout out.  You know that runner's stomach you get when you've been going too hard for too long and your nutrition doesn't agree with you?  It never happened.  Partway through (20ish miles in), I realized I needed to hunt down a bathroom.  And the cedar trees just weren't going to cut it.  Finally, after 26 miles, I found a bathroom.  And found out that the problems I'd had in my nutrition before weren't happening again. My stomach was fine and my energy level was more than okay.  My limiters in this run came down to training, never once did it come down to nutrition.  So, thanks Laurie, and Infinit.  Once again, I've put you to the test and you didn't let me down.

So, truthfully, I don't know if I'll do a trail race again. Probably, but I'm a pavement runner.  So the jury's still out on that one.  But I do know that if I do a race, it will be with Tejas Trails.  And as far as trail races go, this was an amazing one and has just about everything you could ask for in the perfect trail race. Tejas Trails put together a great experience.  I enjoyed every minute and every mile of this race, as my friend Dave put it. (Thanks, Dave!)  If (more likely when) I decide to do another ultramarathon trail race, I'll pick this one, or Cactus Rose, also put on by Tejas Trails.

I learned a lot this race:
I learned that I can put six scoops of Infinit in nine ounces of water for a three hour bottle.  HOORRAAYY INFINIT!
I learned that trail running is harder than road running if you aren't trained for it.

And I learned that I'm tougher than I thought I was.

So I'm going to end with a saying that I stole and rewrote for my purposes today (yes, I know I'm being cheesy).  I didn't write it, I only read it somewhere.

At 20k I thought I was dead...
At 30k I knew I was dead...
At 40k I wished I was dead...
At 50k I realized I was too tough to kill.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Confession: I train 15 minutes at a time

Well, that's kind of true.  Anything over an hour, I take in nutrition.  And I start taking in nutrition early.  Recent research has led me to adapt what I'm doing, and I'll be changing my methods a bit.  USAT had a good article on nutrition myths this month that is worth a read-emphasizing the importance of individual nutrition.  Meaning-don't take the cookie cutter approach to your race/training nutrition.  What nutrition works for one athlete is not guaranteed to work for you.  But this blog is less about the nutrition, and more about what happens between the nutrition...

Read on:

For a triathlon, I'll take in a half serving of my Infinit marathon formula about 15 minutes before the triathlon starts, then I'll start with my cycling formula right out of T1 and every 15 minutes after that until I hit T2, then I switch to my marathon formula.
For a running race, it depends on the distance.  I'll take in nutrition starting 15 minutes before the race starts, and nothing else unless the race is more than an hour.  If it is, I'll take in my marathon mix every 15 minutes.

But back to my point.  I train 15 minutes at a time.  I break down my 60 minute, 90 minute, 120 minute (OH MY GOSH THIS WORKOUT IS NEVER GOING TO END) into smaller, more bearable portions, broken up by my nutrition needs.  How does this translate to race day?  I swim/bike/run from transition to aid station, or from aid station to aid station.  And that's it.  I focus on each portion as one manageable bit at a time

And the best part?  Each 15 minute segment is different.  The scenery changes, the people change, my train of thoughts change, etc. It's like my system reboots every time I take a nutrition break and I'm ready to start again.

During a half/marathon I usually run aid station to aid station and I walk through the aid station so I don't unintentionally wear my water.  The 15 minute rule gets a little more flexible, but the concept is the same, and the nutrition still happens on the 15 minute mark.

"Why 15 minutes?" a person might ask.  I've set up my nutrition to take in about 18-20 oz of water per hour as recommended and trained for, and the Infinit as directed and trained with.  If I take it in every 15 minutes, I tend not to get "sloshy" or bloated.  So the answer is "personal choice."

Truthfully, switching to Infinit has helped substantially.  No more "What was next? Gel? Drink mix? Ugh, NO MOAR," and abandoning my plan to switch to on-course offerings. I know my stomach won't revolt.  It's simple and doesn't take any extra thought.

But the race or training session is manageable.  It's not one huge event, but several smaller ones that don't overwhelm me with the thought of completing it.  Beyond that, I take one day at a time.  Ironman training for IM Texas in May? Nah.  I entered each day from the Beginner Triathlete basic Ironman plan into my calendar, and I'm looking a few days ahead at a time.  Not weeks, not even to the race.  Just to the next day or so to make sure I have time to complete the training sessions, and switch around what I need to. I did the same for the Marathon in February, and the Ultramarathon on Saturday.

The lesson is the same whether you're training or racing.  Small, manageable parts.  I've chosen to break mine up by nutrition breaks (and sleeping at night!).

How do you break your training sessions up?

To my readers:  Infinit Nutrition has ended their amazing yearly sale, but you can still save some money.  Use the code "firegirl" at checkout to save 10% and help to fund the scholarship that I'll be running a marathon for in firefighting gear!