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!!!


  1. Nice race and a nice report. Right now, you'd leave me in the dust but if/when I get in shape again, you and I would have an interesting, equally matched 50K race. :-)

  2. Ollie, you know the day is coming when you and I will meet at a race again. I so wish that group who hosted the ultra weekend in Houston would return...



  4. wow, your endurance leaves me to shame. GO you!!! I am sitting here trying to figure out how I will cope with a half marathon and here you are looking at a 50km and then a week or so later a full marathon. Wow is just not enough.

  5. the big difference between you and I, Nyle, is that you will racewalk it legally and I am simply slogging along, having fun!

    Ale, you just look for me in that crowd... LOL do you plan to stay for the concert after the race? I am not a huge fan of Los Lonely Boys, but one of the other bands... Del Castillo are amazing! I have been to see them perform live and the two brothers who play the guitars... THEY ARE FANTASTIC!!!

  6. congrats on your PR :) & nice race report. way to go!

  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.