Thursday, November 10, 2011

Rocky Raccoon 25k Race Report and some other junk…

Huntsville State Park, oh how I love this place! I think I would spend some time there every weekend if it were not a 100-mile drive from my home.

I woke up at 3am on November 5, 2011, made the coffee and put my race gear in the car. Thankfully, I had leftover scrambled eggs and deer sausage left over from dinner the night before, so I did not have to worry with that. I just warmed it up and headed the Honda in a northeasterly direction at about 4am!

I ate my breakfast promptly at 5am, as my race started at 7am. I planned to run as much as was humanly possible for me in order to finish the race in a respectable time (for me). Typically, I am not a runner, but a walker/racewalker. Everyone knows that racewalking is not possible on the heavily root covered trails at Huntsville, so I usually run a little when I race there. This day was going to be different because I have been waging an internal battle with myself: Do I want to be a competitive master’s racewalker, or am I really just doing the racing because it is fun?

Packet and chip pick up was very efficient and organized! East Texas Ultra Runners Paul Stone and his crew always put on a great event. Bib #181 seemed like a good one… I watched the start of the 50k at 6am, and then walked back to my car to get my race gear assembled.

It was still a little dark outside when the race started and a friend had forgotten to bring a light. I jogged slowly from the start so the friend could benefit from my flashlight. When the sun came up enough for all of us to see the trail without the light, I bid my friend farewell and began to tear up the trail. I say that with tongue in cheek, because an average 13:00 per mile pace is not necessarily tearing up the trail. However, for me, maintaining that pace for 25k would be a huge pr (personal record) for this distance on trails. I was feeling fine, the temperature was in the 40’s for the start and it was a beautiful day! I finally figured out what caused my electrolyte problem in the past (too many Endurolytes and not enough water) so I made that adjustment. My race fuel was Hammer espresso gel/chocolate gel mixed with 2T Now Egg White Protein powder and a little coconut oil. I had a handheld water bottle filled with Heed that I refilled at the aid stations. Sadly, I left my little flashlight at the first aid station. That flashlight served me well through Tejas Trails Kapt’n Karls 3 race series, so I guess I will have to go buy another one. It is very bright and easy to carry because it came with a wrist strap. I cannot imagine what made me walk off and leave it. 

Back to the trail… I was having fun and really pushing myself, passing back and forth with a couple of runners who were about my speed. There were a couple of moments where I began plodding along, not really feeling in to the race. I had to tell myself to pick up the pace because a friend, Erin Taylor-Talcott, has recently enlightened me. She got something from our conversations that I had not noticed. It is a mental thing that happens to me about 2/3 to 3/4 of the way into my races no matter the distance. I start to feel fatigued and disgusted with myself, and I always slow down only to pick up the pace after a mile or so of feeling bad. If it were a nutritional problem, it would be time based or even based on a specific distance. I think it is my mind telling my body I suck, and I will never get any better at this thing called racing. Every time I started to plod, I would tell myself “Run, Dammit! You can do better than this.” I would run until I HAD to walk again, uphill or downhill, it did not matter.

Finally, I arrived at the H-T Rex aid station, 2.8 miles from the finish. I had been drinking more water this race, so had to use the porta-can. I looked at my watch and saw I was only 2:52 into the race, so I mugged for a photo (thanks Mariela) and ran up the hill to cover the last section of the trail. A little history about my Rocky Raccoon 25k finishes: the first time I did this race in 2008 I walked the whole thing in 3:36; the second time I did it in 2010 I ran/walked it in 3:43 (the running slowed my overall finish time); this time I ran/walked it in 3:22. I am soooo proud of this! It is only a 14 minute pr for the distance on trails, but if you consider my run/walk improvement of 21 minutes, that is a substantial improvement!

Race photos can be found here for a while... Your Sporting Image and enter bib #181.

Now for the other junk:

I would not be where I am right now had I not changed my lifestyle from Standard American Diet to Paleo Diet. NO QUESTION. I effortlessly lost 35 pounds; I eat as much as my body wants to be fed, as long as there are no grains, legumes or processed foods, very little fruit, occasional full fat Greek yogurt, and plenty of coconut oil, good quality meats and lots of veggies. I maintain this weight loss without food logging which is a definite plus. I do not have to kill myself exercising, and still get pr’s. I can lift heavier things without worrying about straining my back. My total body composition is changing. I am no longer an apple shaped woman. My waistline continues to get smaller even though I am not losing any more weight.

The question I have to answer now is this: Do I want to put the additional stress in my life that trying to be a competitive master’s racewalker will cause? I started doing marathons because I really enjoy them, and gave me a good reason to try to maintain my fitness level so that I will continue to enjoy them when I participate. Then I found ultra marathons and trail races. Those are my favorite, because even the elite athletes are welcoming to the whole crowd, even if it takes you twice as long to finish the race as it does them.

I am going to go back in time a little. My husband and I used to have a weekend drag racing car. He worked on it, and I raced it. That was so much fun, from the burnout, to staging the car at the Christmas tree! The adrenaline rush of taking off and speeding down the strip does not compare to anything I have ever done, or will ever do again. The problem with drag racing is you can be as fast as you can afford to be. I was really good with my reaction time. If .500 was perfect, I was usually in the range of .501 to .510. The other drivers all tried their best to goad me into going in for the dial-in and competing against them. Everyone pitches in some money, and you predict your finish time, the one closest to the “dial-in” wins the pot. It was not long after that, we sold the car and stopped going to the drag strip. When I thought about competing, the fun was all lost.

I would appreciate a little feedback… I have not written anything for the blog in a long time, mainly because I have been going over this compete vs. participate dilemma for a long time.  I may come back and add a photo and a couple of links later, but really needed to get this off my mind.


  1. Big high five for your just totally rock these events.
    My thoughts...for what they are worth.....if you do these events because you LOVE them and enjoy them for what they strive to beat you own times etc and have a blast in the process....then why change that. If by adding in the 'competitive' part changes how you feel....then dont.
    It is very hard to train the miles you need when you lose the love for what you do. It becomes a slog and a chore.
    There is a saying....why try to fix something if it aint broken!

    Dont get me wrong, as a Masters Racewalker myself I would love to say .... go for it, you can do it etc...and I know you can and would. But....would you still feel as passionate about it with the extra pressure of the competition side of it.

    No matter what your decision, I will still be following along from the sidelines and cheering for you just as hard!

  2. Nyle, Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply to my musings. I am still and will be for a long time "A work in progress..."

  3. race walkers are accepting. It might be a different challenge and if you don't like it: well, the trails will always be there.

  4. You are right about racewalkers, Harriet! I was mainly referring to the difference between road runners and trail runners... However, the trails are becoming more and more crowded every race!

  5. Maryann - I like what Harriet (aka Ollie) said. You have been doing a bit more RW lately I noticed, and if you like it, try a few races. If you don't, then like he said, there are always trails. You are still doing the 50K in Houston on Jan 7th right? I'll see you there :).

  6. Tammy, I will see you at the 50k, however, if I walk it will only be the 20k. If I don't walk, I will be there for walker support! Wouldn't miss it!

  7. Tried to respond earlier and it deleted my post, second try! You need to do what you love and what makes you happy. People have enough things in their lives that they "have" to do and that don't make them happy. This is not one of them! if competing takes the love and joy out of it then don't do it. I've always said I'll quit RWing when I'm not having fun at it anymore. I'm hoping that doesn't happen for a long, long time! But there are so many other things out there I'd love to do and love to try that if RWing becomes a chore and no longer fun, I'll find something else. But you have to know yourself. People do change and maybe when you were drag racing and it took the joy out, maybe now the competition won't take the joy out. (that sentence didn't really make sense, but hopefully you know what I mean...) I KNOW you have it in you to be a fantastic master's walker, but only if you believe it and WANT to do it. RWing should not be another area of stress for you, it should be a wonderful release. Ultimately only you know your body, your brain, your schedule, your motivations, your loves, your desires. If it were up to me I'd say go for it because I can see you accomplishing to many amazing things in RWing. But on the other hand you're already accomplishing amazing things in your trail runs/walks. but whatever it is you decide I'll be behind you 100% and will help you achieve whatever it is you'd like to achieve.

    Major congrats on the PR, it's HUGE! and totally awesome. keep up the great work :)

  8. Congrats on your PR & weight loss! Keep doing what you love doing. I recently started eating Primal (similar to Paleo) and I plan to keep on racing.

  9. Thanks, Andy! this has been an amazing journey... and my endurance has not suffered at all!