Sunday, November 10, 2013

Running Down the Moon - Palo Duro Canyon 20k

A few weeks ago Susan and I met some of our friends at Palo Duro Canyon for the 50 mile/ 50 k/ 20 k run. I would have loved to have ran the 50k again this year, but considering how many ups and downs I have had this year Tim and I decided the 20k might be my best option. Plus, we were really excited that we were getting to hang out and race with some of our other friends we haven't seen in a while.

Friday we weren't able to leave until after work, and this meant we didn't get to Canyon until later than we would have liked the night before a race. Thankfully, our friend Theresa and her girls, were able to pick our packets up and meet us back at the hotel. Then our other friends, the Overbo's, got to the hotel a little after us but in time for the fantastic pizza we ordered. So after a late meal, maybe a little wine, and letting the kids run off some energy we all planned to meet at 5:30am to head to the race.

Now the night before we knew it was going to be cold, but when Susan and I went out for a little warm up jog that morning it was damn cold. Like frost frozen on the grass can't feel your hands and feet type of cold! I had thought about just wearing shorts and a long sleeve shirt, but I quickly forgot that idea once I couldn't feel my hands after a few minutes.

We all got ready to caravan to the race site sans Ashley,  Mimi, and the herd of kids. A quick side note, when you are going to a cold race make sure you travel with a transplanted northerner, they get up real early to make sure the car is super toasty, thanks Trig! When we got to the race site it wasn't too packed yet, but it quickly got that way. I was on the look out for a couple of friends Rod and Cody who were running their first 50k, but the temps kept me from searching too diligently for them. We all decided to stay in the car until we absolutely had to get out for the race. One great thing that we all noticed was that we were not going to need any kind of head lamps, because it was one of the brightest full moons we had ever seen. When we finally got out to go to the start Trig and I lost Susan and Teresa between the cars and bathrooms, and we never were able to find them before the start.

Susan and Trig ready to race!


Now for those of you that have been reading this blog for the last year you know that I have been struggling with many issues this year, and I was going into this race with no plan except to just run how I felt and enjoy.  I feel I have had a hard time doing this year, because it seems like everyone I know is improving while I  have struggled to just survive. I don't want it to ever come across that I am complaining about being able to race, but instead it is more about really knowing what good feels like. If I was't trying to live a healthier lifestyle I wouldn't know what that good should feel like. Yes of course I want to improve and get faster, but it is more important for me to know that this is a lifestyle and not just about the good or bad moments right now.

I was stressing about not seeing Susan before the start and kissing her good luck. Before I knew it the race had started and I was pretty far at the back. So I wished Trig, who was nursing a hamstring injury, good luck and took of on the inside. I knew from last year that if I didn't get closer to the front before the trails narrowed down then I wasn't going to be in control of my pace. The first mile or so is usually in the dark, but that moon was so big that it lit up the entire area. Somewhere around the first or second mile I settled in behind a guy in a gray shirt, and I was sure I couldn't take him so I stayed right behind him. If he reads this I should apologize for probably driving him nuts by literally staying three steps behind him for nearly 4-5 miles. It would have driven me nuts, but the only saving grace is that he had in head phones and couldn't hear me. As the sun rose over the first few miles I kept looking up and noticed that the moon was still hanging around right above the top of the canyon. The thought that kept coming to me was that I needed to not worry about anyone else's pace, but just keep trying to run the moon down. I was worried that the point that I have hit in every race this year where my body just starts hurting was going to happen any second. As I kept hearing Carmin the Garmin ticking off the miles I never once looked, because I knew that it wasn't going to matter what my HR was or what pace I was running. I just made a deal with myself that if I could hang with "Gray Shirt Dude" until the water stop at mile 6 I would just try to go for it, and if I blew up well I blew up.

The funny thing was that I would stop for a fraction of second at water stops and then run like hell to get right behind "Gray Shirt Dude". It was so cold during this part of the race that it wasn't until a few miles into it that I could feel my hands at all. After the water stop at mile 6 I caught back up to him and then knew that I couldn't keep ignoring nature any longer. When I hopped back on the trail I just knew that I had lost him for good this time, and to add to it 2 more guys were in front of me now. I easily could have panicked or just given up, but right then I knew I realized that for the first time in a long time I felt real good. This part of the trail was getting to some good ups and downs and it was some fun  technical running. I was also really having fun pushing that edge of running where you are barely in control, but I knew that I couldn't and didn't want to let up. I finally was able to get past the two guys that had gotten in front of me, and for a while I was running completely by myself. Then when I rounded a corner I couldn't believe my eyes but there was "Gray Shirt Dude." As I caught back up to him we were in an area of good uphills, and I knew it was either now or never. So on the next one I just went for it and got around him, and really pushed my pace. I was going so hard I just knew I was going  to go off the trail, but if I did there was no doubt I was going down in a fiery blaze of glory. I wanted to look back so bad, but I knew I couldn't. The reality was that it was better for me to believe that he was right behind me for the rest of the race.

 I kept thinking that if I could keep this pace until the last water stop I would only have 3 miles to go. Right before getting to the last water stop I came up on a guy and a girl that were going pretty hard, and I thought that if I could get behind them I might be able to take them at the end. Even though I was finally starting to feel the effects of pushing the limits, but I also knew at this point that I had plenty of race still in me. During the next mile I was able to get in front of the guy, and started trying to reel in the girl. I knew that I was about done in, but I was just hoping that if I kept the pressure on her she would crack at the end. Finally,  in the last mile I felt like I was gaining on her, but there just wasn't enough real estate to get the job done. She never let her pace up and even with the last incline in the parking lot she kept the hammer down. I didn't notice how cold it really still was until I stopped and started to cool down. The best graphic reference to show how cold just after a few minutes from finishing my sweat turned to frost and ice on my running jacket.

Regardless, of how I finished it was so good to finally have a race that  I felt I knew what my body could do and it was able to do it. I did feel the fringes of the muscle pain that I have felt for most of the season, but it was nowhere near the debilitating issue that it has been. This race for many reasons helped me feel like my life/physical/spiritual balance is coming back. Not only is this one of the best supported races I have done, but for me it is one of the most spiritual races. You get to experience such a beautiful gift that God has given us, and you get to do it with a bunch of people that are having fun being healthy.

One of the best parts of the day was for Anna and me to go out on the course and cheer on Trig, Theresa, and Susan. With Susan we were even able to run in with her. Then I was able to see Rod and Cody come in before they went out for their last loop. Those guys were animals and did great! Everyone had a great race, and for me it was the best way to end a crazy tough season.

As I am writing this watching Texas Tech play Kansas State seeing all of the guys in jerseys to honor veterans saying "Never Quit." I wonder if one of the best ways to honor our veterans is by doing everything we can to put more good out in the world. Keep that mentality that we can "Never Quit" trying to be better, and do better in all parts of our lives.

Keep Fighting,
Keebler

The kids taking over Cody and Rod's Tent.

Trig, Susan, and Keebler