Monday, April 27, 2015

Brazos Bend 50 Race Report: 5 Lessons Learned from My First 50 Mile Race

I am now a 50 mile finisher! On April 25, I ran the Brazos Bend 50 Mile Race in Needville, Texas (near Houston). How many chances do you get to run with alligators? I counted 14. The gators stayed in the water so even when I was alone on the trail - it was just part of the fun to see them.

I saw my husband and our dog along the course, too. We stayed in our RV the night before the race, which meant I was only five minutes from the start. When I got to the start before the race, I ran a little and realized I had to rearrange my gear in my pockets so it didn't bob up and down and bug me. I'm glad I did!

Our RV That I Could See From the Race Course

Here are my 5 biggest race take-ways.

1. It's the little things that make me happy. 

  • Seeing my husband in the pouring rain who offered me a towel and a gel
  • Chit-chatting with other runners 
  • Volunteers always filled my water bottle quickly (I'm glad I carried one)
  • A real restroom (not a porta-potty) at mile 21 
  • Ice whenever I wanted it at the aid stations  
  • Knowing the exact mileage to the finish from the volunteers
  • The Trail Toes cream from my race packet - no blisters on my soaked feet!
  • Knowing toe nails grow back in when you know you will lose them
  • I didn't fall!
  • Not being struck by lightning
  • Not being hit by the cracking tree branch I heard during the storm
  • Zero mosquito bites (I sprayed myself pre-race, but does that stuff last 12 hours?!)
  • I didn't get lost! 
  • I quickly got back on the right trail after taking a wrong turn when I didn't follow the clearly marked trail. That was about a half mile from the finish. Brain fog!
  • I finished!
2. The heat is worse than mosquitoes, rain, thunder, lightning, mud, and puddles all put together.

It was easy to start out at an easy pace like I had wanted to because it was humid. Multiple heavy rain storms brought a short break from the heat, but then the trails were muddy, my shoes were soaked and the slippery mud caked onto my shoes. From 1:00 until I finished, it was a hot and humid 80-84F and that was worse than anything else.

Zoe with the Fake Gator

3. Having lots of food to choose from at the aid stations was great, but my stomach still hit some rough spots where it felt uncomfortable. No cramps, though!

I carried 20 gels and ate 15 (one every half hour until I tired of them, a variety of flavors was good including high sodium and caffeinated gels)

From the aid stations, I had:

  • ice, two 1/4 peanut butter sandwiches, oranges, 2 chocolate chip cookies, pineapple, 2 Ritz crackers, a date, pickles, pickle juice
  • I ate salty foods and gels, but somehow I forgot to try a salt pill, too.
At the mile 43 aid station, these foods turned my race from bad to good:

  • ginger ale (to settle my stomach), 2 Oreos, GU chews and Gatorade

Misc: To learn how I carried 15 gels or a little bit about my gear, check this post. Also, I don't really know if the mile 43 aid station was at mile 40 or 43, but I thought it was 43 and I'll leave it at that.

4. It was harder than I thought it would be. 

Oh, the drama! What time was it? Where's the next aid station? Where is everybody else? Would I make the 15 hour finishing cut-off? Would I even finish?

My Garmin 220 watch, phone (for music) and phone charger batteries all died somewhere before the mile 43 aid station. My lower back hurt so much that I held it with my hands while squeezing my fingers into my back and walked. Before getting to the mile 43 aid station, I sat down a couple of times, ate a salted gel and watched a butterfly land on my muddy legs.
6AM Start

5. An aid station can turn your race around.

At the mile 43 aid station, I sat down, learned how close I was to the finish, ate some new foods and listened to the other runners tell how they were suffering, too. It all helped! I came into that aid station not knowing if I could finish, but I left knowing that I would cross the finish line.

My First 50 Mile Finish

Even though there were only 95 finishers, the spectators cheered like it was the finish of a big city marathon. At the start, the race director gave us high-fives and at the muddy finish, he was still there to shake our hands. At the finish, I forgot to even look at the finishing clock - just finishing felt like winning!

The Numbers: 

  • I ran from 6AM-6:12PM.
  • 12:12 finishing time (14:38/mile average pace)
  • 58th out of 95 finishers
  • 13th out of 27 females
  • 5th out of 13 in the 40-49 female age group 
  • I'm 49 and was the only female aged 45-49

Post-Race Thoughts

Two days after the race, my legs feel better than they have after road marathons, but my back still hurts. I'll try some more core and back exercises when I feel better.

I don't know if I'll ever have the opportunity or want to run such a long race again. If I do, I want to run more and longer back to back training runs and wear a watch that won't die. It was even harder than I thought it would be to finish this race, but I'm so glad I did!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

50 Mile Race - Gear List

My first 50 mile race, the longest race I've ever run, is coming up on April 25. I'm a mixture of excitement and nerves! To calm my nerves a little, I've made a list of what I'll carry during the race and what I'll eat on race morning.

shirt with pocket
Skirt Sports Adventure Skirt with 5 pockets
buff to pour cold water on to cool my neck (I'm expecting a warm day.)
comfy socks and shoes

Banana Boat Sport sunscreen
Ivy X pre-contact poison ivy spray (Just in case I run into some poison ivy again!)
Gold Bond Friction Defense (like Body-glide, but sold at my local grocery store)

Fuel for the Run
Nathan Handheld Quickdraw Water Bottle
20 GU gels (taken every 30 minutes, about the same as my fuel plan for my last marathon and 50K race)
may supplement with aid station fuel: Hammer gels and Heed drink

Also Carry
Garmin Forerunner 220 GPS watch
phone charger (It'll be a long race!)
ear buds
ankle timing chip and race bib
Happy thoughts!

Pre-run Meal 
instant oatmeal, a banana and coffee (Coffee may reduce perceived exertion. Need that!)

Is there anything you'd add to my list? 

Friday, April 10, 2015

15 Mile Run: Problem Solving

Always look for the good - like lessons learned from tough runs and wild flowers in the woods.

It's humid here in Texas. I wanted to run 8 miles today, but I barely made it through 7. Maybe it's because I still hadn't recovered from yesterday when I had a hard time running 15 miles in the humidity. It's all part of my training for the 50 Mile Brazos Bend Trail Race on April 25.

Besides the humidity, I had three problems yesterday.
  1. There was the 55 oz. hydration pack that started a new annoying thing where it kept swinging off my shoulder. After 4 miles, I ran home and exchanged it for my handheld bottle. That felt so much better that I think I'll be carrying a 20 oz. handheld water bottle in the race. Fortunately, the race aid stations are only about 4 miles apart.
  2. After pushing into the constant wind for miles, I was hungry earlier than planned so I started eating early. I had 4 dates, a mini PBJ burrito and a fruit twist. Because it was a shorter long run, I didn't plan as well as usual and I could have used more carbs and electrolytes. I plan on carrying gels in the race and hope to supplement with the aid station gels if I don't have enough. 
  3. I was tired and even after a good taper, I will be tired during the race because it's so long. I'll need to work through that and to keep running until I finish, reminding myself just to run to the next aid station where I can stop to get more water. Hopefully, knowing I'm finishing my first 50 mile race will keep me moving forward.
Have you run a race that you weren't sure that you would be able to finish? How did it go? 

Friday, April 3, 2015

25 Mile Training Run For My 1st 50 Mile Race

I finally decided on registering for the 50 mile race! I'm leaning towards using my 4 bottle Nathan belt for the race and I used it today without any problems except for two tender spots on my back afterwards. Having 4 bottles will mean that I can have water and a drink like Heed or Gatorade that should be offered along the race course. Thanks for commenting on what you like to use in my last post!

I ran for 4 hours and 37 minutes today - 25 miles! My 11:06/mile pace was faster than it was for my other recent long training runs. I'm not sure why because it was warm (75-80) and somewhat humid. I did drink more than usual, though, and maybe that fueled me better. During the first half, I drank 20 ounces of liquid an hour and after that, I drank 30 ounces of liquid an hour.

Pre-run (1 hour before)
pancakes with honey, 1/2 banana (frozen pieces), coffee with creamer

During 25 Mile Run
2 PB&J sandwiches, 32 oz Gatorade, 1 flat can of Coke, 1 scoop Hammer Perpetuem (disliked taste, but I felt strong during my usual tired 21-23 mile mark, maybe it was the protein in this powder), 1/2 Nuun tablet, Gu & Powerbar gel, Sweethearts candy (it was the best treat during my run!), water from fountains

Later for dessert, I finished off a no-bake peanut butter bar made with 5 ingredients: peanut butter, powdered sugar, graham crackers, butter and chocolate chips and so good. If you make them before a long run, they'll be chilled and ready to eat when you're finished running!

I hope you have a happy Easter!
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