Friday, October 30, 2009


I just wanted to share the finish line photo from the Q50 USA 50k race. That's me and my new friend Shannon!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Q50 USA - Mandeville Louisiana

October 18, 2009

Now let’s begin the next blog entry. Here is the really funny thing about this race. I have been drinking Q50 coffee since I bought my first pound the day before my first 50k race, which was the final running of the Sunmart 50k/50 mile trail race on December 5, 2008. None of us knew it was the final race until months later. The girls who sold me the coffee assured me it was much better than any I had ever tasted. Well, they were right.

Q50 Coffee - Q50 Ultras… they direct ultra races all over the world. I would dearly love to travel to Nicaragua (the source of the wonderful coffee beans) or Patagonia or some exotic location to participate in one of the ultras they organize, but it just never seemed likely that I would be able to afford the travel. I was so excited when they informed me that they were planning to host a race near New Orleans. Wow, that is driving distance for me. It took a while for their plans to come together, and by the time the date for the race was announced (October 18), I had already signed up for Dave McGovern’s World Class Racewalking Clinic on October 9-11. So far, I have never signed up for a race or clinic that I did not show up for. I even did a marathon on the same weekend as my first racewalking clinic. Ok, so I am a little crazy. That fact has already been established.

I wavered back and forth many times, trying to decide whether or not to send in the registration for the Q50 50k. I finally wrote the check and mailed it on October 15, just 2 weeks before the race. Then I started thinking… and I even posted it on facebook: What makes me so arrogant that I sign up for a 50k trail race with an 8 hour time limit that I have not even trained specifically for??? My friends, racing friends that is, well, some of my racing friends encourage my madness and tell me, you can do it!!! Alejandra Bazzi from Uruguay, who works with Q50 coffee, is one special lady! I was so eager to meet her that I just never worried about the race again.

Friday night I got home from work late, packed the car and tried to get some sleep. My son, Jonny was going to go with me since I was headed out to camp at Fontainebleau State Park in Mandeville Louisiana, the location for the race. We started out a little too early because I wanted to stop at Luke’s Locker on West Gray near downtown Houston on the way to Louisiana, so we drove over to Katz’s Deli on Westheimer for a quick breakfast. The food was fantastic as always. Luke’s Locker did not have what I was looking for, so it was kind of a wasted trip.

Then we headed out for the long drive to Mandeville, on the north shore of Lake Ponchertrain. I won’t go into great detail about the drive except to say that the bridge over the Atchafalaya basin in daylight and on a clear day was awesome, and that once we arrived in Mandeville, my worries were over. It is a beautiful town! It had been raining all week, so I had no idea what to expect at the park. When we drove up to the park entrance, I was very surprised! The entrance was all brick and very upscale.

I had already made my camping reservations, so I entered the park office to check in. I told the park ranger that I was there for the race the next day and that my son would be watching out for the campsite while I was racing. The park ranger inquired as to my son’s age and seemed worried that I would be leaving him at the campsite alone until I told him my son is 30. The ranger says THIRTY??? That really cracked me up… I told the ranger yes, I am a lot older than you seem to think I am. Brownie points for Louisiana Park Rangers.

We drove over to Franco’s Athletic Club for the pre race dinner and informational meeting. As soon as I saw Alejandra, I knew that my decision to come to the race was a good one. She is one of the nicest, most encouraging people I have ever met! As a matter of fact, I have never run into anyone at a trail race that was not nice. Sometimes folks are having bad days, or are nervous about racing, but no one has EVER been rude to me at an ultra race of any kind. These things are nothing like road races. Alejandra introduced me to Cesar Torres, the owner of Q50 Coffee, and Amanda McIntosh from Hammer Nutrition.

The health club was very impressive, and the staff there welcomed us! We ate our pasta outdoors, and were supposed to have the runner’s meeting out by the pool also, but a cold front had blown in and we were freezing so they moved us indoors. And then they started talking about the wildlife in the area, especially the pit vipers. I asked someone today which kind of pit vipers there are in that area… and they told me Cotton Mouth, which I believe translates to Water Moccasin. Ok, the snakes are in the water, and the water on the trail cannot be avoided. We are going straight through it. I met a couple more nice people that I would see again on race day. Jonny and I went back to the park and I set up my tent in the dark. The air mattress provided just the comfort I needed and I slept great. I slept great until the raccoon opened the lid of my cooler and stole my bread at about 4:30 am. Jonny chose not to set up his tent and slept in the car. Not too comfortable, so when I woke up at 5:30, go dressed inside my tent and tried to wake him up a little later, he was not too cooperative. I made it to the starting line and we talked about snakes again. Amanda (from Hammer) is a wilderness first responder, and she tells us how serious a snake bite from a pit viper can be if you don’t follow instructions, so we should all really pay attention. If you get bitten, please just immobilize the limb and blow the whistle we were instructed was a mandatory piece of gear. Ok, NOW I know what the whistle is for: to summon help. She told us, look, I know you are all ultra runners and your first reaction to getting hurt of sick on the trail is just to make it to the next aid station. DO NOT proceed to the next aid station if you get bitten by a snake.

Then the race started. We headed away from the lake and into a really nice wide grassy trail through the park. It is really flat in that area, with no tree roots to speak of, so I was almost able to racewalk the trails. Nice! One of the race volunteers even commented: “Look at that, a 50k racewalker” as I exited one section of the woods to change trails. Awesome! I think the first muddy water hole I had to go through was about 4 or 5 miles into the race. I really thought most of the mud and water were towards the end of each loop (two loops for 50k), but obviously I was wrong. Oh well, I just forged through it. I didn’t see any snakes, thank goodness. The course exited the woods and crossed through a baseball complex and back onto trails on the other side of the complex. We then went through a trail that had some hardwoods so there were lots of tree roots to reach up and grab a foot to trip you. Luckily, I stayed upright. When we exited the woods onto the Tammany Trace, I was a little disappointed that this section of the race was all asphalt. Though we went through a very nice part of Mandeville and out onto the lake front, I was wearing trail shoes and paved surfaces require a little more flexible shoe than that to be easy on the feet. It was an out and back section that totaled a little over 4.5 miles. My feet were hurting a little and then luckily, we went back onto the trails, immediately encountering some of that nice cool muddy water. It was a welcome relief to my feet! The last puddle was more like a pond and was almost knee deep in places. Then we were back at the end of the first loop where I had dry shoes and socks to change into. I had worn my fuel belt for the first loop because I was planning to try Hammer Heed, but if it did not agree with my stomach; I had Gatorade in the fuel belt bottles. Luckily, nothing makes me sick, so I was able to ditch the fuel belt and just carry the hand held water bottle and drink Heed at the aid stations. I ate the home made fig cookies my wonderful mother makes for me during the race, drank Hammer gel from my flask, took a few Endurolyte tablets, and ate bananas and oranges at the aid stations. I saw that Amanda had some Hammer Gel for taste testing and I asked her if I could top off my flask with some espresso gel, then I wondered where I would put the flask since I was leaving my fuel belt behind. Aha, I just stuffed it down inside my sports bra. It actually warmed the gel and made it come out of the flask easier. It was cold and the gel stayed thick while I was carrying it in the fuel belt pouch.

Starting out on the second loop, I knew where I was going as it was a repeat of the first. I was still feeling great and never really had any problems out there except for the paved sections where I was using some racewalking technique in order to have a better finish time than my last 50k. This race was also my chance at moving up a level to silver in Marathon Maniacs (I am Maniac #1780), and take a lot of pressure off of me for the Rocky Raccoon 100 mile race I am signed up for in February. All I had to do was finish Q50 in less than 8 hours. It seemed doable, and it was. The only time I was really worried about my finish time was after the Garmin crapped out in the second loop of the race. I really wish those things had a longer battery life. Once it quit tracking pace for me, I just turned it on once in a while to see that my HR was not too high. I did not want to push myself too hard and crap out personally like the Garmin had earlier.

So, here I was with a new friend who was finishing her first 50k, approaching the finish line. I was so excited to finish within the time limit that I forgot to look at the race clock. It took a couple of days to find out that my finish time was 7:41:46 for a 7min 33sec pr at this distance!

I milled around at the finish line for a little while, had my picture taken with Alejandra and talked to Andy from MO, Andrew from FL and Shannon from LA. Then I went to use the park facilities for a shower. By the time I was done with my shower, I was really hungry because all I had eaten all day was a Clif bar and the assorted stuff during the race. Jonny and I had talked about going across the causeway bridge to New Orleans and said we were NOT going to do it, and if we did, we were NOT going to the French Quarter. So, we found ourselves on the causeway bridge headed to New Orleans and I called Cesar from Q50 Coffee on the phone to ask him where I could get the best cheeseburger in New Orleans. There was no way in hell we were going to some silly chain restaurant like Chili’s after what I had accomplished… Cesar’s friend Scott told me we should go to Port of Call on Esplanade. Yes, the restaurant was in the French Quarter, 1 block from Bourbon Street. We were lucky to find a place to park. There were four police cars with lights flashing out front, but we went inside anyway. It was about a 45 minute wait for a table, but well worth it. The cheeseburger was all meat, on a tiny little bun and the beef was delicious! They serve baked potatoes instead of French fries and that was fine with me! The potato was just what my internal doctor had ordered!

I was exhausted, but don’t sleep well when someone else is driving my car… we finally made it home at around 2:30 am and I had to go to work at noon. But that’s ok; because another adventure is complete. Now, on to the next round: Rocky Raccoon 50k in Huntsville Texas on November 7 followed by the San Antonio Rock and Roll Marathon on November 15.

Crazy does not even begin to describe it. BTW - MALVS2WALK!!!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Dave’s World Class Race Walking Clinic

October 9-11, 2009
The drive to Dallas proved to be very interesting. There was a cold front on the way, and I was not sure when or where I would drive into the leading edge, where cool air meets warm and humid air. Turned out, I met the storm while driving on a two lane Farm to Market road with no shoulders. Texas Farm to Market roads usually have a speed limit of 70 mph even where there are no shoulders. I drive a 2dr Honda Accord Coupe, and cars like this usually don’t do so well in severe weather. I had to pull over to the shoulder once in the recent past during a severe thunderstorm with high winds. So, back to the trip… I was headed north from Roans Prairie (taking the back road) to connect with I45 in Madisonville. That’s where the wind started gusting and the rain was coming at me in sheets. Some lovely person in a large SUV was right on my tail, I guess expecting me to drive 70mph. That was not going to happen. When I hit standing water on the highway in this car, I am usually pulled all over the road. 50mph was really pushing the envelope of safety, so that @$$4073 behind me was just going to have to wait. Then random trees started breaking apart on either side of the road. The tree damaging winds were short lived, but that scared the hell out of me. Finally made it to Madisonville and was able to get out of the car for a few minutes. I got back on the road, I45 this time, and drove in intermittent heavy rain all the way to Dallas. Funny, though, the rain stopped when I was about 10 miles south of Linda’s house.

Linda is a wonderful new friend. She invited Kim (my friend from Arkansas) and I to stay at her lovely home for the weekend! Linda has a beautiful water garden and lovely well placed plants and walking paths in her back yard that seemed to emanate peace and tranquility!

I helped Linda, who was co-hosting the racewalking clinic together with Jerry Kerr, get a few things ready around the house, then Kim arrived. I was really happy to see her again. The last time we met, it was very brief. We both did the Bass Pro race in 2008. Kim did the half marathon and I did the full. She was really speedy and her husband missed her at the finish line. They were so kind to stick around and wait for me to finish the full! I was very surprised to see Kim and David with my Mom and my Aunt Fran. Anyway, we certainly got to spend a lot more time together during the racewalking clinic, and we had a blast.

Kim and I had planned to go to the Oak Lawn Luke's Locker when she arrived, so we headed out. It is always a challenge to get the right pair of shoes for racewalking. Salespeople hear 'walk' and they always bring out some huge, heavy, clunky pair of shoes. Well, then you have to go into a discussion of what racewalking is. I finally gave up letting the salesperson decide. I just go in and ask for racing flats... Running racing flats. Apparently, we found the right salesman and he brought out several pair of shoes for Kim to try, I was initially worried about them having any to choose from because Kim has really small feet and most racing flats are unisex sizing (men's sizes). Anyway, she ended up with a great pair of shoes.

I also made a fantastic purchase. I have been talking about trying CW-X compression tights for a long time. I just could not find a store anywhere where I could try on the men's small in either the pro or expert model of the tights. I buy men's running shoes because my feet are wide, and I buy men's tights because I have a wide waist. Men's shorts are also a usual choice for me because they are not so darn short like women's running shorts usually are. Anyway, the tights were expensive, but they fit like a glove. I am happy to have them!

We stopped to eat lunch, and then headed back to Linda's house to help her prepare the dinner for everyone who was participating in the racewalking clinic. We had baked ziti, one vegetarian and one with organic fresh ground beef that Kim had brought from her farm. My mom made home made french bread for us and all we had to do was heat that up, make a salad, and bake some brownies for dessert.

Jerry picked Dave McGovern up at the airport and brought him to Linda's house. Patty and Jean-Maria, friends of mine from the Dallas area, and lots of others showed up for the dinner and informational meeting that followed. Everyone just loved mom's home made bread! Especially the beer, jalapeno and cheese loaf! They all asked for the recipe! I still have to get that from mom and pass it along!

Saturday morning was cold and damp, but thankfully the rain held off, or simply stayed south of us. We went over to the track for our first workout, and Dave was going to try and film us individually, but he was having a problem with his camera. It was filming, but did not have a view finder and the lcd screen was black. I really should have been wearing tights because it was rather cold and I may have done too much standing around and then sprinting and pulled a calf muscle. We all finished our workouts, and then it was time for lunch and a trip to the Lukes Locker on Legacy in Plano. We descended on that running store like ants. Dave found the location manager and we all learned a lot more about shoes for racewalking.

The next stop was a quick bite for lunch. Rose, Dave and I stopped at a little pizza by the slice place across the street from Luke’s. The pizza was very tasty, and the slices were huge. Our next mission was to find Best Buy so Dave could try and replace his video camera. He had no luck at the Best Buy we were closest to and decided to try another location where we might actually find someone who knew a little about what they were selling. Back at Linda’s house we all sat down and watched the video that Dave was able to tape while we were working out on the track. We watched video of Olympic class athletes and then compared what we are doing to what they are doing. Of course, we have lots of miles of practice ahead of us. While we were watching film, I worked on the calf… found the irritated spot, and dug in. Whatever was going on there… I was able to work it out.

Now, it has been almost 2 whole weeks since the clinic, so forgive me when I ramble around a little. I think we went back to the track to work with the ladders for quick step drills, did some skipping, etc. Dave said I was a dainty skipper. I think it was due to the fact I was wearing a running skirt. One thing I have never been accused of is being dainty. We also learned several drills to help us with flexibility and then Dave showed us some very effective stretches, etc.

Dinner time… we went to a place called Uncle Julio’s and the food was very good. The big joke of the evening was that my reading glasses were left at Linda’s house, so I was planning to pretend I was illiterate. Maybe not so funny, so I just made fun of my old age eyesight and asked the bartender to stand across the bar and hold the menu for me so I could read it. I ordered a mixed platter of shrimp, beef and chicken fajitas. After dinner, we stopped off at another Best Buy for Dave to purchase a new video camera. I think he finally got what he was after and I, of course, bought another CD… Anvil.

Kim and Dave have both traveled much more than I have, so the after dinner conversation at Linda’s house was very interesting.

Sunday morning, it was cold again, and I decided to wear my tights and that was a good thing. We did our lactate threshold test after warming up, doing the drills and stretching well. The test consists of 3 - 8 minute intervals of walking as fast as possible with good technique and taking the HR every two minutes, our partner gave the Hr info to Dave. There is a two minute rest between the intervals where we check out recovery HR. I was in the first group and was able to get my HR up to 177 at the end of the last repeat. So, I was the apparent winner of the HR test… My max HR is 193 and if you subscribe to the 220 -age =BS formula, I am 27! WOO HOO!!! When the next group did their test, there was a soccer game on the football field; so, I had to do lots of running in order to be able to get some good photos of the folks on the track while reporting my partner’s HR to Dave for her test. More stretching before leaving the track to eat lunch and then wrap up the clinic with a lecture on training schedules for specific distance races, and more discussion on HR based training. Dave commented that my recovery HR was still kind of high… He did suggest that I refrain from drinking 4 cups of coffee right before an interval workout. Typically, I wait until after my workouts to drink coffee, or I do my workouts late in the evening, after the coffee has worn off… LOL

So, the workshop was wrapping up, and everyone was saying their goodbyes. Jerry and I helped Linda put some things back in place, and I packed up my things to return home. I bought one of the Chrons and Colitis Foundation Team in Training shirts from Dave… “The Best Craps in Vegas”, said my goodbyes and headed south. I was about 5 miles south of Linda’s and the rain started. What should have taken 4 hours at most to drive, took me almost 6 hours, including one stop for restroom and to gas up the car. I got a message from Dave… “It never rains at a World Class Racewalking Clinic… that is until after the last guest leaves”. I told him that my only consolation was that he was getting wet, too. Dave was leaving for a workout when I was driving away. LOL

The drive home was not as treacherous as the drive to Dallas, with the exception of the people who choose to drive 80+ mph, no matter how hard it is raining. A funny thing happened to me when I stopped for restroom and gas in Madisonville Texas. I went in to use the restroom before pumping my gas because I had been on the road for a while. There were 4 or 5 women just standing around in the restroom, so I kind of bent down to see if anyone was in the stalls. They were empty and as I started to enter one, some woman says: “Hey, did you just pick up two dollars off the floor?” I go, “WHAT???”, because I was kind of hypnotized from the long drive in bad weather. So, she asks me again and if I had been on the ball, I would have asked her if I really looked like I needed her two dollars. Anyway, I just told her I was merely looking under the stall door to see if it was occupied. TWO DOLLARS… would I be driving a rocket ship if I was in serious need of two dollars?

Anyway, I made it home safely and had a great weekend. The major thing I learned about myself:
I may not actually be cut out for racewalking because of my physical limitations which include degenerative disc disease in my lower back and a left hip that is perpetually out of place.