On Sat Mar 10, 2018, I ran my first 100km trail race and placed 5th for females and 10th overall, shattering my goal of breaking 15 hours with an official time of 13 hours, 48 minutes, and 34 seconds! It was in San Angelo, TX, hosted by Trail Racing Over Texas (TROT) at the San Angelo State Park. Being my first 100km and considering my first (and only so far) 50 mile race last year was such a huge challenge, I already knew the distance (62 miles) would be tough, but the 90 degree temperature high during the race proved to be even more difficult! If the calculator that I used online was correct, my official race time works out to 13 minute 20 second miles which includes 17 stops (14 aid station stops and 3 additional potty breaks not included with the aid stations). This pace was an extremely fast average for me for not only to hold for 62 miles, but also considering all of the 17 stops and crazy heat! And during the race, while I totally shattered the face of my Fitbit and lost an earring, I somehow managed to complete my first 100k without getting a single blister, falling down, or losing my mind (keep reading to hear my secrets about how I accomplished all of this)! My 4-ish months of training and preparation proved to be enough and I couldn’t be happier with my success! The race was comprised of three 21.7 mile loops supposedly. This equals 65.1 miles (105k), however I do not believe that’s what it actually was. My GPS (which is almost always off a bit) clocked the whole race at around 58 miles so perhaps the actual mileage was somewhere in the middle right around a 100k. I was impressed too that the women represented and took half of the top ten spots! While the course could be described as “mostly flat,” my Fitbit still registered 258 flights of stairs which (coincidentally) is like climbing the stairs at the Empire State Building exactly three times in a row!
I’m not an expert endurance athlete by any means and I’m also obviously not one of the elite runners – I’m just a simple stay at home mom who likes to run and has done around a dozen or more marathons and 7 ultras now all while on a low protein, plant based diet. Most recently, I’ve been 100% raw vegan fruitarian and I will definitely get into that and how it works. Of course I’ll tweak things here and there in the future but in general, all of my planning worked and went well. After this weekend I’ve really come to realize that sometimes you have to have really bad races to learn important lessons (hence my 50 miler last year). It can be hard to not be upset about the bad races, especially when we put in so much time preparing, but we need to do our best to learn and make changes so that we can have some great ones later on that will mean that much more to us! In this case, I have so much to share about this race and my preparation for it that I’m going to break it into sections so that you can skip the parts that don’t interest you and go straight to the ones that do.
Here are the sections in the order that I’ll present them in this post
1) Nutrition (Pre-Race, During Race, Post-Race)
2) Recovery (which will actually be covered in the Post-Race Nutrition section)
4) Foot/Body/Skin Care
5) Hot Weather Strategies
6) Race Strategies
10) The Race (broken into three parts: first, second and third loops)
Preface: When you read this blog post, I don’t want y’all to assume anything about me. I’m not “genetically blessed” with any special metabolism or super athleticism. Like I said, I’m just a simple stay at home Mom of three preschoolers who likes to run for exercise. In fact, there was a time in the not too distant past where I could not even run a single mile! I’m not exaggerating! I want you to remember this fact because there is absolutely nothing special about me that enabled me to successfully complete a 100km trail run other than the fact that I’m about as determined as they come and I never give up. Here are two photos of me at age 31 (no kids) after my father passed away. I was in survival mode at the time, and my health clearly suffered the affects of the Standard American Diet (there is no coincidence that this acronym is SAD). This was me, not even at my heaviest, when I literally couldn’t even run for 5 minutes straight without stopping. I ate meat, dairy, poultry, fast food, and processed food. Nowhere in my wildest dreams could I ever run a 100km trail race!!! On the right you’ll see a photo of me 7 years later, at age 37 (after birthing 3 separate children). During that time I discovered vegan and later raw vegan and I’m still transforming for the better. Someday I’ll write a book about my entire journey, I promise. My point in showing this is that anyone can achieve their goals with some hard work. Do you have a dream? Freaking make it happen! Create a plan and follow it! We are often our own biggest obstacles.
Let’s talk about my diet first as I believe it was the single most influential change that I’ve made. As many of you know, I moved towards a plant-based diet in the spring of 2013, and I’ve been calling myself an “aspiring raw vegan” for the last 2.5 years now. It’s been a difficult transition for me to make but I think I’m finally getting the hang of it! On Jan 1, 2018, I decided that enough was enough and I fully committed to do it for real. I think signing up for 3 ultra-marathons by mid-March also kind of lit a fire under me as well. So I switched to a 100% high carb low fat raw vegan fruitarian diet. The particular version of this diet that I follow is often referred to as 80/10/10 based on the book authored by Dr Douglas N Graham called The 80/10/10 Diet. So what does this mean exactly? Well basically this means that I eat raw produce. That’s it. Literally. As an added challenge, I’ve learned in the past that overt fat (nuts, seeds, avocado and coconut) are major triggers for me and I decided to cut them out completely and see what happened. Salt is also a trigger for me, so I quit using overt salt to season my food as well and have been relying on natural sodium in my foods (celery for example). As it works out, I eat fruit all day long which works out to about 90% of my daily food intake, then maybe about 5% is veggies, and the remaining approximate 5% is from greens (all plus/minus slightly of course, depending on the day). When you eat like this, coincidentally the macro nutrient breakdown is somewhere around 90% carbs, 5% protein, and 5% fat (otherwise, for folks still eating overt fats, they work to keep this same macro within 80% carbs, 10% protein, and 10% fat). I know all of this because I literally tracked all of my food intake from Jan 1 thru the race using an app called Cronometer. It’s a great one to use by the way, if you’re looking for something like this. My reason for tracking everything was not to restrict myself, but rather to ensure that I was eating enough total calories each day. It’s a very good exercise to do because you really begin to learn and get a sense for exactly how much produce you need each meal/day. Besides eating this way, I additionally decided to not drink alcohol until my 100k was over on March 10th and instead focused on drinking 1 gallon of filtered water (I love my Berkey water filter) each day in addition to all of the hydrating juicy fruits! I know this sounds very restrictive and already in your mind is probably a large list of food items running through your head that you think you would be unwilling or unable to give up! I will tell you one thing though. Once I removed the overt fat from my diet, my food cravings completely vanished for the first time in my life! Don’t get me wrong, the first few days were difficult, but once I got past them, I was shocked to discover how easy it was to make healthy choices when tacos, sweets, fried stuff, etc weren’t calling my name all the time! If you want to hear more about this, please check out an interview that I did with my fellow sister-in-raw, Rebecca Rosenberg (Texas Fruitarian) here. In the video, I review some of the benefits that I’ve experienced from eating this way, and also review 4 crucial mistakes that I made during my first 2 plus years attempting to transition (one of the mistakes that I discuss in depth is the fat/salt trigger and another is about under-eating fruit/calories, hence why I track in Cronometer).
During Race Diet:
With the guidance of my coach (yes, I had a coach, and that’s a separate section below), I tried several different nutrition strategies during my training and two shorter ultra races (a 50k in Jan and a 50k in Feb). Long story short, what I learned is that…
1. I don’t need nearly as many calories as I thought I would during training or a race.
2. Less is more when it comes to calories consumed during running, especially for long races/training runs (i.e. my body doesn’t like to digest very much while simultaneously performing athletically).
3. I only need to hydrate with the ultimate sports drink of all time: plain WATER.
4. Juicy, hydrating produce (mainly fruit) is the ideal racing food as it’s light, provides little deposits of calories via carbohydrates, our energy source, without weighing me down and/or tying up my digestion as fruit digests quickly and easily, all the while hydrating my system in the best way possible (through my food).
5. When you eat this way (80/10/10-90/5/5 raw vegan), no additional or overt salt is needed (even in a 14 hour 90 degree race as I evidenced this weekend) as raw vegans excrete less salt than athletes on a standard diet (this is regulated by a hormone called aldosterone). My coach taught me this and I must admit that I was skeptical at first. I fully trust him though and of course he proved to be correct as always!
So…What did I eat during the race? Well, I tried my best to keep notes as I ran/ate, and I’ll get to that in a bit, but first, let me review what all I packed and had accessible at my aid stations (I’ll call them AS’s from here on out). As I mentioned, there were the same 4 stops in each of the three 20ish mile loops and then a 5th stop at the completion of each loop. I was able to put out my own drop bags for all five locations and in these I had small ziplock baggies of grapes, pre-peeled sumo oranges (anything to make life easier), celery, cucumbers, apples, bananas, and then a few dates for emergencies. I measured the baggies as I made them and they held 5-6 oz of any one type of fruit per bag. As I ran, I thought about what sounded good, and went with my intuition. As it turns out, oranges were probably my most favorite, with grapes as a close second. Celery tasted so good in the beginning but just got too difficult to chew later into the race (does that say anything abt the fatigue level? lol). I saved for the bananas for when I had an actual hunger pang which only happened slightly a couple of times. To me, bananas are more calorically dense and satiating. I never ate any apples, cucumbers or dates during the race. Anyhow, I ate more in the front half of the race and then my intake tapered off during the hottest part of the race and resumed a little once it was dark (I think I had one bag of oranges at night but other than that I just waited until the finish to eat). Besides going with my gut (literally) as far as what I was feeling, I did have some strategy behind what I picked. Just like my regular meals, I believe eating a mono meal is always easiest on the gut. A mono meal is when you eat a meal of entirely one ingredient (for example, the 2 lb banana smoothie I drank this morning after my 5 mile run). This is because our stomachs have an easier time just digesting one thing and it all goes at the same rate. So sometimes I went with this strategy for my stops as well, but not always. I felt that oranges and grapes both combined fairly well being so juicy and hydrating. I tried to avoid oranges and bananas together as SOMETIMES citrus doesn’t mix well with bananas for some people. I figured my gut could be super sensitive while my body was being pushed to the max and I decided it best not to tempt fate during the race and avoided that combination.
During the course of my 13:48:34 on the trail, I ate approximately what you see listed below (and I may have forgotten to write down a few bags so I ate least this much, possibly a little bit more):
5 bags oranges = 27.5oz, 366 calories
3 bags grapes = 16.5oz, 323 calories
2 bananas = 8oz, 200 calories
2 bags celery 2 = 11oz, 50 calories
Total, here’s the breakdown for the above: 941 calories (204 carbs, 15g protein, 3g fat). So I may have had even up to 1,100-1,200 total calories during the race depending on how foggy my memory was haha! Also, if you’re curious, the list above equates to 261mg sodium. As I mentioned, my Fitbit shattered somehow during the race and it stopped tracking calories burned at least 3 hours before the end of the race, maybe even earlier than that. It was at ~6,000 calories when it stopped counting so I imagine I burned several more thousand that didn’t register. Side note: it did track all of my steps though which was 121,000. I was disappointed to discover that 100,000, the Olympian Sandal badge (which I had gotten once before), is the highest Fitbit step badge and was bummed I didn’t earn 110,000 and 120,000 step badges (in case you ever wondered what the highest Fitbit step badge is).
I also lost complete track of how much water I drank during the race, although I can almost guarantee that it was over 3 gallons. Per my coach’s instructions, I managed to pee twice each loop. Apparently still being able to urinate is a good sign as far as hydration goes. It felt good to not worry about hydration or nutrition.
While I was at the AS’s, I was kindly offered all kinds of goodies from Pringles to Fig Newtons, to Oreos, Gummy Bears, pretzels, and the list goes on. I don’t know if it was the fact that I was running literally all day long and that it felt as hot as hell (again, literally), but all I could think about was how if I was to eat any of that, my body would have to pull water from my colon in order to digest it because all of that is such dry, dehydrated, processed food. I had hours upon hours to ponder this (which I did), and my brain kept circling around the fact that were I to eat any of those foods, it would feel so pointless and counter intuitive! Why do we as athletes, as runners, purposefully eat foods that will actually rob us of our precious hydration purely from ingesting it? Then, add on top of this that it’s all packaged, processed food full of sodium, which is also dehydrating for the body. So eating these foods while racing is actually a double whammy because of how it actively dehydrates our bodies! Take a moment to picture the foods that you ate during your last race and imagine what would happen if you ran them through a juicer. Would any water come out? For many of us, I imagine the answer is “no” or “not much.” All I could think about while I munched on fresh grapes, oranges and celery was how full of water my food choices were (as could be clearly evidenced if I juiced these foods). It’s a major mind shift though, I get it. Up until 2018, I was still eating those foods while racing despite my aspiring raw vegan status.
For my three ultras thus far in 2018, for the first time ever in my running career, I didn’t use the excuse of treating myself with some ridiculous, giant, unhealthy meal post-race (or post long training run) because I had “earned it.” So that said, as soon as I finished my 100km, I did what I had been doing after other races and long training runs, and I drank almost a half gallon of raw, fresh squeezed, unpasteurized orange juice. I then had a few bananas in the hotel room but that was it. Like I said, during training I did the same or sometimes would drink giant 3 lb banana smoothies or some other large mono meal within an hour upon the completion of my run. I feel that refueling this way helps speed my recovery up as quickly as possible, even for my 100km!! I was shocked when I woke up the next morning and my legs actually felt decent! I could squat to go potty and get back up without using my hands/arms. I was walking normal and could also do stairs! This is the day after, guys!!! I foam rolled and stretched with little discomfort! I was amazed! My longest training runs had only been two 50k’s (only half of race distance), so I was fully expecting to be hurting pretty bad and for a good week or so. By the Tuesday after (race was Saturday), I already felt totally normal and I ran 5 miles with ease at my regular pace on Wednesday morning! I even felt like I could have kept going much, much longer! I’m sorry, but I have no other way to explain this except that it’s the diet. I don’t know and I don’t care though. I’ve seen the light and I’m not turning back! Why would I?!
I know this lifestyle sounds crazy and insane and also difficult for many reasons (hence my very long transition), but you definitely are not qualified to criticize it if you haven’t tried it yourself (and done it properly, keeping in line with 80/10/10 for an extended amount of time). I am not the only one in the world experiencing tremendous results and success from this lifestyle. It obviously works wonders for athletes, but it’s not just for crazies like me! It works for everyone and can help you meet any health and wellness goal you may have for yourself! I have friends who are curing/have cured “incurable” diseases including but not limited to Multiple Sclerosis, Hashimoto Thyroiditis, Type 2 Diabetes, Candida, and other health issues such as high cholesterol, hypoglycemia, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and the list goes on! These are people who were loaded up with very serious lifelong prescription medications who with this diet and the supervision of their doctors, were able to eventually wean off 100% of their medications! But like with everything that’s worth doing, you gotta do it right for the best results of course and to be as healthy as possible. When I say “right,” I mean following 80/10/10 as prescribed by Dr Graham in his book. If you’re really interested in learning more or even trying it for yourself, here are a few steps that you can take to get started.
1. Join our private Facebook group. We are not selling anything! That’s the beauty of this diet – there are no needed supplements or pills or powders or anything to buy except good old produce from the grocery store! If you choose to join our group, simply answer the questions that it prompts you and include me in your answer to one of them (you can also shoot me a message too that you want to join and I’ll give the admins a heads up to look for your request). Once you’re in, set aside some time to read the full, entire pinned post and then also make your way through all of the files. They are FULL of extremely useful and helpful information and answer most of everyone’s FAQ’s. If you still have remaining questions, feel free to post them in the group! If you’re wondering about something, chances are someone else is too (that’s how we create the files too actually)!
2. Follow me @TheRawOutlaw on Instagram and/or Facebook to see examples how I eat. I try to post as much of my food as time allows.
3. Read The 80/10/10 Diet, and if you’re an athlete, add Nutrition & Athletic Performance to the list and apparently Grain Damage is a good one too (that’s still on my list to read). All are authored by Dr Douglas N Graham.
4. Watch the video I mentioned above starring yours truly 🙂 and Texas Fruitarian
5. Check out www.TexasFruitarian.com and/or the Texas Fruitarian YouTube channel and peruse topics of interest to you.
6. And of course I’m always here as support too! Feel free to contact me anytime regarding the raw food 80/10/10 lifestyle!
7. Download the nutritional tracking app, Cronometer and start eating produce! 🙂 Track what you eat in your app to ensure that you’re eating enough calories and to monitor your caloric nutrient ratio (what percentages of carbs, protein and fat that you are eating).
Please see my notes regarding recovery not only after the 100k but for my training as well in the “Post-Race Nutrition“ section above.
By no means must one have a personal coach and/or trainer to complete a race like this. In fact, I’ve flown solo my whole running career…until now. As I mentioned in the nutrition portion above, I follow the teachings of Dr Douglas N Graham, author of The 80/10/10 Diet among several other books. When I read/listened to his books, they all just made perfect sense to me (FYI, you can find 80/10/10 and Nutrition & Athletic Performance on audiobooks and listen while you drive or train). I was a Physics major in college and I appreciate that his work is backed up with science and experience (both him as a 35+ year raw vegan personally and as an endurance athlete). He has also coached thousands of athletes (and non athletes alike) in his career which is a winning combination for me. While perusing his website one day, I realized that he was available for coaching for anyone, and I decided to give it a shot (www.foodnsport.com)! I figured in the long run that just saving myself another post race ER trip (like I had after my 50 miler last year) would be financially worth it, and of course I knew there was a lot I could learn from him! Long story short, we worked together via email for a few months and he helped me with all aspects of my training, nutrition, and hydration for my 100k in particular. And it all came together quite nicely for hands down, my best race ever which is very rewarding and exciting. Of course you don’t need a coach to run a 100km or any race for that matter, but it sure did make me feel a lot more comfortable and confident with my methods of preparation, training, my nutrition and hydration, and my strategies going into the race, especially since it was the first time for me to attempt it 100% raw.
4) Foot/Body/Skin Care
I went ahead and made this section because I wanted to share how I avoided blisters and only suffer very minor chafing during the race. After my 50 mile race last year, I was horrified upon taking off my shoes as I had blisters all over my feet and toes. I don’t even remember how many I had, but we are talking a LOT. My feet were killing me during the race but of course pretty much everything was so I hadn’t noticed until I got back to the hotel to take off my shoes. Dr. Graham had suggested painting a thin coating of superglue on my feet in the potential blister zones as a protective later. I started playing with it a few weeks before my race but the longest run I ever got to do it for was only 15 miles (which doesn’t give me blisters), so it was hard to tell if it would actually work. I noticed that it flaked off quite a bit after and I was a little skeptical whether or not it would work over extremely long distances. Graham assured me that I could reapply it with sock changes during the race which was my plan. However, as it turned out, I was running so well and was so focused on breaking my goal time that I didn’t end up changing socks or shoes the entire race and thus only had one layer of superglue coating my toes. Side note: I also was so afraid to stop and sit down because I didn’t think I’d be able to get back up LOL! It seemed like when I stopped running to grab food etc, I had such a difficult time getting going again and was too scared to risk sitting. Anyhow, I’ll be darned but that one little thin layer of superglue lasted ALL day and I’m happy to report that I ran 100 kilometers and got no blisters!!!! Now I will say the bottom of my feet hurt really bad by the end but I attribute this to the fact that I was wearing road shoes (as opposed to trail shoes). After around mile 45-50, the soles felt paper-thin, as if I was running barefoot and I could feel every sharp rock that I stepped on. I’ve never owned a pair of trail shoes in my life and honestly, to this point have never felt that I needed to. I’ve been able to run several ultras (some extremely technical too!) including a 50 miler and a 100k in road shoes and survived. I train exclusively on roads (due to lack of time and accessibility) and only have the luxury of a trail when I’m actually running a shorter ultra race as training for a longer ultra race, so I’ve never felt the need to shell out the cash for them. Moving forward I might consider it when running a 100k again just for more comfort…we will see. But back to the superglue, definitely give it a shot if you haven’t found a way to prevent blisters that works for you yet! It’s easy and inexpensive! This was the superglue that I used.
As far as chafing goes, I am obsessed with a product made by 2Toms called SportShield (link here), and you can also buy on Amazon. After the completion of loops 1 & 2, I continuously rolled it on anywhere and everywhere I’ve ever chaffed in my life while running. It successfully kept me chafe-free with the exception of a random spot on my calf where the bottom of my capri pant leg rubbed me (totally weird but not too painful). I had one other spot on my side from my shirt and/or hydration vest but that was it! I actually keep two of these in my drop bag, one labeled T for “Top” and one labeled B for “Bottom.” Basically the B one goes on and around the lady parts etc and the T goes everywhere else just to keep germs sort of in place. I totally made this up but it seems to work. Anyhow, I love this stuff because it works and it isn’t greasy and doesn’t ruin clothes. It’s an awesome product. They have a whole line that I’m curious to check out but haven’t yet. They are also a very nice company. Last year I gave a talk about running at NuStar Energy HQ here in San Antonio as a part of their Inspirational Speakers Series and I wrote to 2Toms asking for samples or products for door prizes. They were extremely accommodating and almost immediately sent me a huge box of products to give away. Anyhow, I’m a huge fan and highly recommend the SportShield to help against chafing. Also along the lines of chafing, I’ve made it a practice to carry emergency baby wipes for potty breaks if needed. If you’ve read my 50 mile race recap, you’ll understand why. They literally saved my @ss!!!
Because we were running literally from before sun up until after sun down, in a Texas desert on a 90 degree day no less, I knew that sunscreen was also going to be a crucial item for me. Of course I slathered my entire body upon getting dressed in the morning and again after loop 1 (about 10:15am). But once it really started heating up which was about half way through the second loop (for me), I started slathering it on willy nilly almost every time I thought about it. I had a large bottle at base camp (the start/finish), but had a smaller bottle in the front pocket of my hydration vest. My shoulders and upper arms seemed to be getting the brunt of the sun and every time I looked at them, it seemed like I was frying! My method for applying it almost constantly worked and once I got back to the hotel I realized I didn’t have a sunburn at all! The only thing I didn’t get was the backs of my calves but they weren’t too bad. My face had stayed pretty protected from my visor and sunglasses. I actually bought a new pair of shades at the packet pickup that seemed more comfortable than my old cycling Oakley’s, so I went ahead and wore them and loved them! I highly recommend them if you’re looking for a lightweight, non slip, UV protected lens that is extremely economical ($25!!!). Here’s the link to them online.
5) Strategies for Combating Extreme Heat
Let’s spend some time discussing the heat and the ways I attempted to fight it. Y’all, it was so damn hot. I mean 90 degrees is hot no matter how you look at it, but when you’re running in 90 degrees, it easilyfeelsover 100 degrees. I’m obviously not a doctor, but to me, I’d say that first and foremost, proper hydration is the number one thing to be concerned about when dealing with extreme heat. I knew the forecast ahead of time and felt good knowing that I’d been consuming over a gallon of water each day for about 40 days straight leading up to the race (along with all of the hydrating foods I was eating). In addition to my regular water and food routine, I also made sure to drink a half gallon or so of fresh squeezed OJ the day before the race as well – I mean, while carbing up, I might as well hydrate like crazy too (shout out to the famous raw vegan Mike Stone for the OJ tips!!) And of course during the race, I drank probably 4-6oz of water every few minutes. So I felt good about that and as I said earlier, I was regularly urinating about every half marathon or so, which was a good sign. That said, I do feel like I made one mistake with regard to the heat. I waited until I felt it affect me to start my heat prevention techniques. I guess I’ll never know, but I hypothesize that had I started combatting the heat before it became so oppressive, I may have gained another hour or so (maybe more??) before I felt it’s negative effects physically in my athletic performance. The ways I combatted the heat was to wear arm sleeves (you’ll see them in photos) and stuff them with ice at the AS’s. I also had special cooling towels that I wrapped around my neck/head/shoulders or where ever felt good and I was able to dunk them in ice water at the AS’s to re-wet them as they usually had dried out by the time I made it to the next stop. I also had a buff to go around my neck/head but I didn’t wear it. Next time I’ll have to try it.
6) Race Strategies
As far as race strategies go, I had a few things that I kept in mind during the race. First and most obvious for almost all ultra runners (especially the non-elites), I planned to walk up all hills and I followed that for the most part. Additionally, I mentally thought about this race in three pieces to keep it manageable in my head. For example, it was three 20-ish mile loops so I thoughts about the loops as separate races. It actually worked out nicely that I ran the first loop with my friend David; we enjoyed great conversation the entire time and it flew by in the blink of an eye! Unfortunately, he suffered an injury and I ran the second loop alone, but luckily had a pacer (one of my crew member’s husband, Chris) join me in bringing it home on the third and final loop. At times during the hottest part of the day (which for me was the second half of the second loop and the first half of the third loop), mentally I had to break the loops into even smaller pieces. I had to go from AS to AS. That’s all my brain could handle at a time. They were generally about 4.5 miles apart so mentally that was much more manageable than a 21.7 mile loop or two looming ahead of me. One time I got confused and forgot an AS and was super upset when I showed up at Turkey instead of Strawberry as I had been expecting in my head haha (those were AS names)!
Besides the hills and breaking apart the race into smaller mental chunks, I also had a strategy for resting versus moving. My coach put it nicely when he said, “You want to be moving whenever you can be moving, yes. The goal is to reach the finish line. Stop to go potty, for sure. Those are your rest stops. Keep moving whenever you can otherwise, even if it is walking. You might have to stop to change socks, and you don’t EVER need to be in a rush. This is a long event. Seconds don’t matter, but moving towards the finish line does matter. When you can move, move. When you must stop, stop and be calm about that, then get going. You will find 65 miles goes by in a flash. :)” This was perfect advice and really resonated with me. I also kept thinking about my high school physics teacher Mr. Sload and how when I was at AS’s, insteading of standing there eating/drinking with “infinite slowness” (zero velocity), I could grab my food and at the very least walk with it while eating, continuing forward. This race had 14 aid station stops during its duration, so you can see how easily spending a lot of time not making forward progress while visiting them could quickly add an extra hour or more to one’s race time!
The only other strategy I had at times was to talk to myself. This mostly only happened when I was still feeling good and was outbound on my solo (middle) loop. I almost tripped a few times and I would attempt to self soothe out loud, coaching myself to relax and take it easy, reminding myself to pick up my feet. I think it might have been the first time I’ve ever spoken out loud to myself on purpose, but for some reason, it felt helpful.
This is the first race I’ve had an actual dedicated crew who was there not only at the start/finish (i.e. at the end of each loop), but also at almost all of the AS’s. The Crazy Desert Trail Run is organized such that 3 of the 4 AS’s are easily accessible by car. The 4th was a 2.5 mile hike in and again back out so not really worth it for the crew to hit that one. I must say that even though I considered not asking anyone to crew, I’m extremely glad that I did. Having them for a race of this distance, especially for someone so inexperienced at these longer distances as me, is almost imperative in my opinion. I definitely probably could have managed somehow without a crew, but they made my life a lot easier, much more pleasant, and probably most importantly, having them gave me confidence in terms of my safety and well being. When you know you are running a race where you will be pushed way beyond your limits physically and mentally, having that support there can be crucial. They were not only there to serve as reminders for things: refill hydration vest, reapply sunscreen, put ice in arm sleeves, etc, but they also could fetch needed items such as bandaids, lights, anti-chafe, sunglasses, etc. I also got in the habit of texting them a heads-up of what food I felt like so they could have it ready and waiting for me wether or was oranges and grapes or celery and bananas or whatnot. Since it was my first time to have a real crew, I didn’t really know what I was doing so I tried to picture ahead of time what I’d need and how I’d want to organize it for them. Antoinette mentioned it on her portion of the blog, but I did have a million labeled ziplock baggies of gear in a giant duffel bag at Base Camp (the start/finish area of the 3 loops). She didn’t mention that I also had a 7 page PDF of instructions that correlated to the baggies that I emailed them the week prior and also printed out to bring in a small binder with additional hand written notes that came up after the email went out. I’m glad I have this document now because I can easily tweak it for future races and be sure not to leave anything out. Anyhow the major categories that you may want to cover with crew are as follows:
1) Emergency Contact Info
2) Personal Medical Info – medications, pertinent medical history (I shared how hydrated I was going into this race and my diet so they could help medical personnel rule out different causes should I go down)
3) Hotel Info
4) Race Info
5) AS Mileage and Names
6) Race Pace Plan
7) Weekend Schedule
8) Gear: lights, skin/body/foot care, nutrition, hydration, extra clothes/socks/shoes, miscellaneous gear such as wipes, chairs, etc
Also, I have to tell you this this was also the first time I ever had anyone make me signs (Antoinette did), and they were super awesome (see pics)! It’s hard to choose a favorite, and while I love the raw vegan related ones, I love the cleverness of her pacer once (since my pacer was her husband lol)!
If you want me to crew for you and/or be a pacer for you, and we live near each other, I’m always available (just ask!) or if you want to fly me somewhere and cover my lodging, I’m happy to do that as well LOL!
Oh! And you may have already seen it before, but both of my crew members wrote their own account of the race in my previous blog post! You can check that out here.
I was extremely lucky this race to have a pacer. He was absolutely invaluable. I fully attribute my speed the second half of the third loop to him. I’ll share more about that in the next section where I detail the actual race. But I just want to go on record as saying that having a pacer is awesome for your morale and it boosts your confidence as you have a clear headed person with you to monitor your health/status. Additionally, it passes the time when you’re most likely at your lowest (the end of a tough race) and if you’re a weenie like me, having a pacer keeps you company in the wilderness after the sun sets and it’s dark LOL!
I wore some awesome hand lights before the sun came up and again after it set (thanks to my crew for recharging them in between). My mom got them for me for Christmas and I love them. In fact, I need to write a separate blog post on them but in the meantime, here’s the link to purchase them. I have foot lights as well and wrote about them here (also from her that I love), and a head lamp too but the hand lights are probably my favorite. I only had an hour of so in the morning and evening in the dark, but had I been running all night, I would have brought multiple methods of lights. I also wore my Nathan Sports hydration vest which of ALL of my running gear, is probably my favorite piece of gear that I couldn’t live without. I also carried and used two backup batteries to power my cell phone (I was running GPS continuously on it throughout the race). This pretty much covers the main gear that I needed and used.
10) The Actual Race
Ahhh, so the race. It was long! And hot! But oh so epic, amazing, beautiful, incredible, and meaningful on so many levels. Words can’t accurately describe the feeling of accomplishment that I had deep in my gut, in my soul, that night crossing the dark finish line. When you do something that challenges every single fiber of your being like this, the satisfaction that you feel in not only finishing, but in having what was the best possible outcome as well, is what makes this race a memory of a lifetime for me. But it sure wasn’t easy to get to the finish line that night.
Loop 1 (~4hr13min) – I mentioned earlier, I ran the first loop with my friend David, and it went great. We started at 6am, still in the dark, and the weather was incredible. It was cool and breezy and I even wore long sleeves to begin the race. I quickly shed my top layer though, probably around daylight and by the first aid station or so. David and I enjoyed each other’s company, chatting the whole way. We were careful to keep a tight grip on the reins so to speak, as we knew we had a very long day ahead of ourselves. At times it was hard to force ourselves to go slow and hold back, but I’m glad we did. I felt awesome after the first loop; things had started out perfectly.
Loop 2 (~4hr34min) – The second loop was the only part of the race where I ran solo. Unfortunately, David suffered an injury and I took off for the second loop alone. Thus, I had about 4 and a half hours to just think and sometimes I really enjoy that, just to be by myself out on the road or the trail, alone with my thoughts. To be honest, I spent a lot of time thinking about the raw vegan lifestyle and how well it was serving me. I thought a lot trying to figure out why the running community consumes so many dehydrating foods as fuel sources during races (I never figured it out other than because it’s just what “people do”). So all of this was during the first half of the second loop which had started out great. But about half way into this loop was when the real challenge began as the heat had finally taken its toll on me. As I mentioned in the Heat Strategies section of this post, I made the mistake of waiting until after the heat had already taken it’s toll on me before trying to combat it with ice, etc. It is my only regret the entire race but that’s ok – I definitely learned this lesson and will adjust accordingly in the future. The second half of the second loop was rough. The heat was excruciating and running (at any speed, even a slow one) felt next to impossible. Yet I kept on and ran as much as I could. Upon completion of the loop, I was pleased with my split! I was however, quite concerned with what was to come during the third and final loop, especially considering how hot and tired I was and how many hours of daylight we still had left (it was only 2:47pm when I finished the second loop). I guess that’s the curse of doing well, you get to run a larger percentage of your total race in the daylight because your race is shorter! I don’t mean to complain though: to me, shorter is better LOL! Oh! I forgot to mention, I saw the park’s famous longhorn herd quite a bit during the second loop. It’s pretty neat to run by them! The park also has bison, although they weren’t near the trail we were following.
Loop 3 (~5hr1min) – I just remember being so relieved to finish the second loop though because I knew I’d be picking up my pacer Chris and I NEEDED him, more than I’ve ever needed anyone in my life (don’t tell my husband or his wife haha!). I needed someone to babysit me and make sure I didn’t die. For reals. I needed someone to talk to me. I needed someone to distract me and make me forget how much pain I was in. I needed someone to tell stories. I needed someone who could still do math in their head. I needed someone to text my crew for me. I could no longer do any of this on my own and Chris was ALL of those things for me.
The start of the third loop was brutal. Chris was as fresh as a daisy and I was like a chewed up, spit out, stomped on daisy! We both agreed that we probably walked 45-50% of the first half of the third loop. The heat seemed to be at its peak and I was 45-50 miles into the race. The struggle was real!
Once I hit the worst heat of the day, I started to seriously question whether it was worth it to walk versus run. My run was so slow that I didn’t know how it stacked up against my walking speed. And walking still felt almost as physically demanding as running so it was confusing! And I still don’t really know the answer but I want to share a story from the race. I spent some of my time on the trail with a woman named Mo. She was clearly a very experienced trail runner and this was definitely not her first 100km. She was having very serious blister issues on the soles of her feet, but kept on moving forward and I was just in awe of her. At one point I asked her about running versus walking. She told me that running is always worth it. I didn’t have the energy to ask why or any follow up questions but her words stuck with me and kept repeating over and over in my head and so I kept trying to run whenever I could muster the strength to do so. Just writing this, even days later, makes me choke up remembering how much her words positively impacted me. We kept taking turns passing each other during the second half of the second loop and the first half of the third loop and would always exchange pleasantries and check in with each other. Right when we parted ways for the final time which was right about when the sun set, half way through the last loop, she said something in response to my expression of utter exhaustion and slight doubt that had been creeping in and it also stuck with me. In addition to having Chris as my pacer, her words are what got me through those last 10-13 miles. Any of you reading this that know Monica Soileau from El Paso, please pass along at least this portion of my blog post to her. Mo, I don’t know if you even remember this, but when I told you that I didn’t know if I had it in me to run anymore (we probably had about a half marathon left in the race in the dark), you told me, “Yes you do.” And I again I repeated my concern, “But I just don’t know, I just don’t think I have it in me to run anymore,” and very matter of factly, you repeated yourself again, “Yes, you do.” And a third time I shared my lack of confidence, and a third time you confidently stated, “Yes, yes you do.” You were so crystal clear and direct and absolutely sure about this one thing that I just had to believe you. In my brain fog and utter exhaustion, your words spoke loud and clear to me and echoed in my mind continuously the rest of the race, driving me forward with each and every step. With the help of my pacer, we ran that entire second half of the third loop, only walking up the significant hills (we even ran up the super slight ones!). Your words fueled that last second wind to just keep running. I will never forget you and what you taught me. Thank you so much.
Along those lines, my pacer Chris was equally as instrumental. Mo may have gotten me running again with her wisdom, but Chris got me going as fast as my body could possibly go (which sadly at this point was probably anywhere between 13-14 minutes per mile). It kind of cracks me up how a 13 minute mile felt like an all out sprint, but I guess that’s to be expected 60 miles into a race that was done with a 90 degree high! In all seriousness though, Chris carried me (figuratively lol), and his presence inspired me to dig deep and access any and all energy that I had left. I let him take the lead on the trail and I just did my best to try to hang with him. I had to push myself to keep up and that’s exactly what I needed. We made a great team. Chris, will you be my pacer forever? 🙂 Pretty pleeeeease?! 🙂
I was so exhausted upon finishing that for the first time in my running career, I forgot to take a finisher picture with my medal at the end!! But I did get this one of me in the car and it’s my favorite! Like I said at the beginning of this section, crossing that dark finish-line was meaningful on so many levels. I live to set and achieve goals, and this was my biggest one to date! It was the result of the culmination of months of laser-like focus and commitment to my diet and my training. It felt so good and I still can’t believe how damn awesome it went! And I love that I’ll have this story to share with my kids as needed as they grow up. It’s the perfect example about how when you set your mind to something, and work hard enough, you can achieve whatever you believe!
This incredible outcome came as a result of a whole host of people who were there supporting me, leading up to and during the race. To my regular running buddies Lynda and Vinessa: thank you for always waking up at 4am to run with me! Having friends to run with makes it that much more enjoyable and having you girls as company sure has made training a breeze! A huge shout out to all of my family and friends who prayed for me in this race, sent their good vibes, and messaged me even though most of the time I was unable to respond to express my appreciation, it did not go unnoticed! Thank you also to my incredible coach, Dr. Graham for sharing his expertise and knowledge with me in such a relatable and helpful way. He has a gift for working with people and the world is lucky to have him here guiding many of us. Thank you to my crew, Antoinette and Mike, and pacer Chris for selflessly donating an entire weekend to my race. My crew waited on me hand and foot all weekend long, including pre and post-race. Chris stuck by my side during literally the toughest, darkest hours of this race, and watched out for me the entire third loop. And thank you again, to Mo for the inspiration and motivation when I desperately needed it. It feels so good to have had this overwhelming amount of support and it is a large part of my success. Of course I couldn’t have done it without the good Lord himself. It brings new meaning to the famous verse, Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Indeed, I’m one very blessed gal and I look forward being able to draw strength from this experience for the rest of my life.