Bandera 50k…did I run!?!?

Yumm.  Vinte Triple Skinny Carmel Macchiato and very berry coffee cake. This is my breakfast as I sit in the San Antonio airport waiting for my flight back to Colorado today. I think I earned this treat!! (But lets be honest…I would likely have had this breakfast under any circumstance that put Starbucks within reach at breakfast!)

This weekend I came down to Texas to volunteer at my all time favorite ultra- Bandera 100k, 50k, 25k. When I booked my flight a few months back, I was heeling from a bone spot on my first metatarsal that I got as a result of several mistakes I made following ligament damage to the front of my left foot back in May. Basically, I have been unable to train since July and not running since August. I fully expected to be heeled much faster then I was. I thought I’d be able to train for at least 6weeks and run Bandera 100k, my VERY favorite race. But heeling didn’t happen!! By mid December I knew that running a 100k in January was out. The week after Christmas my sports doctor told me he felt very strongly that my foot was heeled, but I would need rehab before doing any long runs. My foot was still tender after running, and doing physical therapy, he said, would teach me to run in a way that took pressure of my first metatarsal. Keeping me from re-injuring my foot. When I asked about running the 50k at Bandera, he said, “Not a good idea.”

I had every intention of listening to my doctor. I wanted to run. SO BAD. I have missed running and racing more then I ever thought I would! But I didn’t want another injury to battle. Still, I had this deep down little voice telling me to just run. Just see how your foot does. So I ran 13miles Wednesday. My foot was ok. I didn’t get sore. I ran 7.5 Thursday then spent 30mins on a PreCore then lifted weights HARD. I thought if i showed up at Bandera a bit worn out, maybe it would curb my desire to race.

At the pre-race dinner, I sat with a few ultra running friends. The more we talked, the more I REALLY wanted to run! I ran my plan of running to the first aid-station and then dropping if my foot hurt by them. They said, “You won’t drop.” I said, “I will if my foot is hurting!!” When I ran my plan by Joe (my coach and the RD at Bandera), he said I should go ahead and sign up and decide in the morning. Then Joe brought over a 500k jacket. Any one familiar with Bandera knows what the 500k jacket is. Every year, your k’s accumulate and when you get to 500k you get a jacket. A soft fleece jacket that says Bandera 500k on it. Before Saturday, I had 350k. Meaning that if I ran 50k this year, I could get my jacket by completing the 100k next year. Not running this year meant no chance of a jacket next year.  I want that jacket! Joe showed us the new jacket, raved about how soft this new (brown!!) one is and rubbed it on my cheek. I signed up for the 50k.

That night I didn’t sleep much…2end night in a row of little sleep. But I still got up Saturday morning feeling great. I rented a Traverse and was using it to sleep in. The Traverse is big and kept me dry when the rain hit (Saturday night). Really, I like sleeping in the car, but next time I will be sure to bring my sleeping bag mat. A little cushion would have done wonders! I ate half a left over Ruben and headed into the Lodge for coffee. THANK YOU to the coffee angel who told me I was welcome to come have some Saturday morning. I don’t do well without morning coffee. A few folks asked if I was running. “As long as my foot is feeling OK, I’ll run,” I told them. “I’m not going to pay much attention to how the rest of me feels. But listen to my my foot.”  When I said this, I was expecting a repeat of Worlds, were my foot was in tons of pain and the rest of me was feeling ready to race. I expected to run 10 or 15mies at the most. Not the whole 31.

At 7:30 the races began. The 100k start is right in front of the lodge, while the 50k and 25k are a short walk down a back trail. I started off at a very comfy pace. Being I had run about 6 times in the past 3months, the most I could hope for was a finish. No thoughts of running hard or winning were allowed. I chatted with some buds over the first 10miles. When I hit the 1st aid station, I drunk as much water as I could, took 2 electrolyte tabs, grabbed a hand full of M&M’s and decided to keep on. Being I had not planed on running, I hadn’t even brought a water bottle. I knew I would likely be dehydrated by 1/2way, but my foot felt fine. So I ran on.

By mile 12, my legs started to feel tight. Boo to no water bottle. But the rest of me was still good. When I came into the next aid station, I took Mt. Dew, water, Hammer gel and another electrolyte. Shortly after leaving this station, I started to feel super duper bad. Never ever have  I felt so sure I was going to fall over puking in my life. Maybe it was lack of training. Maybe dehydration. Maybe a combination of things.  But other then the cramping in my feet, my foot felt good. So I ran on, hoping to stay upright. Also during this stretch, a large number of runners read the back of my Team jersey, “Running for a Reason” and asked, “Whats your reason?” Feeling worse then ever during a run, I wanted to ignore the question and just focus on moving forward. Instead I called back, “The Home Foundation.” To which 99% asked back, “Whats that?” Being passionate about the need for people to recognize and fight human trafficking,  I called back, “They fight human trafficking and free enslaved people.” Buy the time I yelled that, I was out of ear shot for more questions. Still, a large part of me was thinking I want a different racing jersey…

The next aid station in the race is Cross-Roads. As crappy as I felt, I LOVE LOVE LOVE the part of the course that leaves and comes back to Cross-Roads (the 3 Sisters!) and decided (easily!) to stick w/ the “follow the foot” plan. I drank lots of water, took more electrolytes, grabbed a giant handful of Jelly Bellies (my favorite!) and ran on. It felt like hardly any time passed before I was back at Cross-Roads and less then 5miles from the finish. Basically, Lucky stood between me and 400k of 500k at Bandera.

When I got to Lucky, I realized I was going to run under 5hrs. A little more math showed me having a solid chance at running under 4:54(course record). With the nausea gone (I will give the Jelly Bellies credit for that, and the 3 Sisters), my foot feeling OK, and the thrill of running, I started to push the pace. Of course my Garmin chose to die shortly after that. But I felt sure I was going to run under 4:54.

And I did!!! I finished in 4:51:17, feeling amazing!!!! Never have I run out there and felt so good. Such a shock. I figured I’d pay by Sunday, but here it is Monday morning and I am still feeling great. Wow! Not expected!!

I truly can’t be anything other then thrilled with this run. First off, I got to RUN! And I got to RACE!! Winning in a descent time shocked me and feels amazing. My competitive side is a bit bummed that I didn’t run the whole thing faster, being I finished feeling good. But the reality is I was in no position to try to run any faster then I did! And there was a long 6miles that I really felt crappy for in there. So I am happy!! My foot feels better today then it did Friday…crazy. I am only 100k away from my jacket. I am one happy runner. 🙂

None race: I got to be part of search and rescue! That was exciting. With a storm about to hit, 2 non-runners were reported lost a few hours earlier. They had no lights, dressed in shorts. It was now dark and cold, giant rain coming. Ages 13 and 21, I believe. I didn’t find them, but they were found safely. Still, I felt honored to be sent up and down Boyle’s in the dark w/ a storm coming to help look.