Coyote Trail Run 25K

I typically do not like days that I wake up an hour before my alarm goes off. Today was different though. It’s trail racing day! It also happens to be my birthday. I am not a fan of turning older each year but when I found out that there was a trail race on my birthday I knew that was definitey something I could get excited about so I registered for the Coyote Trail Run 25K.

I found a parking spot at the Cleburne State Park, put on my trusty Brooks running shoes and laced them up. The temperature was in the 40’s when I arrived at the park and I had some decisions to make on what I would wear. I knew from previous experience that I tend to warm up pretty fast on the trail and too many layers were not a good thing for me. I grabbed a thin pullover and put a hoodie on. The sky was cloudy but I decided to take my sunglasses anyways because sometimes they help block the wind from my eyes as well.

I walked over to the line of runners waiting their turn to get shuttled over to the starting line. One of the vehicles taking us over was a van that packed as many people into it a time as they could and the other was a pickup truck. I ended up being the last person to fit in the bed of the pick up truck and I was instantly thankful I brought my hoodie as we headed off to the starting line. It was a cold trip but it was fun though, I love being around other runners. I did have a moment when we took off in the truck that I thought maybe I should take my shades off of the top of my hat and hold on to them but I decided against it. Then a few minutes later I saw a pair of shades flying trough the air behind the truck and I couldn’t help but be impressed at how well they flew. The lady across from me asked if they were mine.  I replied yes. She asked if they were expensive. I said no, just 30 bucks, but I had a feeling inside that I would be missing them at some point in the race.

We arrived at the start line, exited the truck, did our temperature checks and got our racing bibs. I checked in at the starting line and took off on my sixteen mile trail race adventure. I had zero idea what was ahead of me and I prefer it that way. The trail had a rocks, wildflowers, elevation gain, trees, more elevation, a river jump, and then some really big elevation climbs. This race for me was an 8 mile loop with 1250’ elevation climb that I would complete two times.

The first part of the race was pretty normal just dodging rocks and making mental notes of things I might need to be aware of for my second loop around. I did not take any water with me on this race because I felt like I would be able to maintain hydration at the aid stations along the way. I arrived at the first aid station and I drank a cup of water, and then another of Gatorade as quick as I could and got back on the trail. The second half of the loop was much more technical. I got to jump over a river crossing, ran through fields of wildflowers, and met some climbs that slowed me to a walking pace. 

Trail running is a lot like riding a motorcycle. When you ride long enough you are going to wreck at some point. When you run trails long enough you are going to wreck as well. I wrecked 4 times at the Cleburne State Park. My first fall was epic. It was one of those moments where you are going downhill much faster than your legs want to move and then finally the law of gravity does what it does. I think if in high school my basketball coaches would have had me running down hill while dodging rocks I would have learned to move my feet much quicker and been much better at playing defense. I landed really hard on the right side of my body. My right knee and my right hip took most of the impact. I popped right up though and kept on going. Up until this point trail running I had not wiped out like that before.

I have been very lucky to be able to run after having 3 knee surgeries and as much as I love being free out running the roads or trails I live with a voice in the back of my mind telling me to be careful. I am thankful for the first fall because it really shut that voice up. As I ran on I thought about Frank Gore and how he came back from his two major knee surgeries in college to becoming one of the best running backs in the NFL. His story was my inspiration in physical therapy after my 3rd knee surgery.  I don’t want to have another knee surgery but I also don’t want to spend the rest of my life playing everything so safe that I miss out on the excitement and adventure of trail racing.

At some point there was a root sticking out of the ground that wrapped around my right foot and tripped me. I did not fall but I made a mental note of it for my second time around. There was a pretty major climb as I got closer to completing the first loop that kicked my butt and I made a mental note of that as well. I finished the climb, realized my right shoe had come untied, ignored it and made my way to the finish/start line where I could stop at the aid station before starting my second loop. 

I took a shot of pickle juice, gatorade, tied my shoe, and grabbed little bags of M&M’s and fruit snacks for the trail. I had finished the first loop with a time of a 1 hour and 34 mins according to my watch.  I took off for my second loop and I felt great. The temperature was nice and the wind was minimal and I felt like my pace was where I wanted it to be. I knew what was up ahead of me on the second half of the loop so I also wanted to save some energy for the elevation gains. A tree branch knocked my hat off of my head so I stopped to pick it up and it was at this point that I realized my right eye was starting to bother me. The wind was not a factor, but when I wear my shades that tends to keep me from rubbing my eyes. My guess is some of the drift on my hands from my first fall got into my eye and irritated it.  One thing I have learned about running is that typically whatever is bothering you typically goes away a mile or so down the road. I forgot about my eye because my left hamstring started cramping up on me. I knew I was close to the final aid station and there would be some pickle juice and electrolytes waiting there for me. 

I arrived at the last aid station took a couple shots of pickle juice, and drank two cups of Gatorade and I got back on the trail. I got a comfortable pace going and prepared mentally for what I knew was ahead of me. I arrived at the river jump and I was able to clear it again without incident. I ran faster where I could knowing I would not be able to keep that pace for the elevation changes up ahead. I was very much aware of the spot that I fell when I got there and I reduced my speed and I am happy to say I did not fall there this time. However, another mile down the trail I came to the spot where a root had tripped me the first loop and I did not see it, but somehow it found me and tripped me a second time. It was at this point I looked at my watch only to realize that It had stopped recording as well. Might be time to get a new watch. I knew then that I had no idea how many miles I was from the finish line and would just have to push myself like it was right around the next corner.  

I caught up to a group of people who were running and then walking up the steep climbs and I fell in behind them. I felt like I had too much energy to be walking that much so I went around them on the next spot that they started walking. As I passed the last person I rolled my ankle on a rock and fell onto my right knee. One of the girls asked if I was okay and I said yes, it was only my 4th fall of the day. I ran on. I finally came upon the last turn that took me to the finish line and I completed my second 25K trail race. I completed the race with a time of 3 hours 17 minutes and 45 seconds. This was much slower than the time of my first 25K trail race but I believe that is primarily due to the elevation climb on this course. My goal was to finish in the top 30. I finished 29th out of 120 runners.

I got to ride back to my truck in the shuttle van this time which was a much warmer trip. All of us were pretty sore after running and were afraid that if we sat down we might not be able to get back up. I crawled into the van and sat on the floor. I said I have no shame, and that I would be crawling out of the van to get out as well.

It has been many years since I last played competitive beach doubles volleyball or even a game of basketball. Three knee surgeries over a five year period left me thinking I would never play any sports again. I don’t think that the competitive drive in an individual ever goes away though. I am so thankful that running has found its way into my life. I enjoy pushing my body every time I lace up my shoes. I had bought into all these lies about what I could or couldn’t do. I now know that I don’t have a clue of what this body is capable of. I do know that I am very proud of all that I have accomplished as a runner, and I look forward to seeing what else I can do.

100 Miles

When I was in the fourth grade my family and I lived in the small west Texas town of Wellington with a population just over 2000. It’s one of those small towns where everyone knows their neighbor and many of the streets were still made out of bricks. It was the place where I first experienced the atmosphere of Friday night lights. How as a kid I wanted nothing more than to put on the red and white and fight with the Wellington Skyrocket football team more than anything in the world!

The only thing that I didn’t really enjoy about my time in Wellington was the fact that we were a million miles away from our nearest big city. Okay, it was 100 miles to Amarillo, but to a kid in a time before cell phones, tablets, laptop computers, or even the Nintendo game boy it was an awful trip. Amarillo was not Dallas or Houston but it had all we needed that we couldn’t get at the local grocery store. The drive was rough but I always liked the trips to town excpecially when we stopped at Sams Club. My sister and I would eat our weight in the free samples that were scattered all over the store. We mastered the art of pretending like we had not tried something at a table that we had just been to 10 minutes earlier. Of course the demo person knew, our parents knew, and every other person that I have ever met who grew up spending part of their childhood at Sams knew too.

Texas is a really big state and we tend to measure our road trips by how many hours it will take us to get somewhere. I tend to gauge trips in 100 mile increments myself because of those trips to Amarillo. I will say that since the speed limit is now 75 and the invention of audio books and podcasts the 100 mile trip would pass by much faster. Did I seriously say the “invention of something” (audiobooks) that isn’t even considered a new thing today? How old am I? I can’t be that old. I still make sure to check all of the sample tables at Sams, or I did until COVID-19 hit. Just once I want to write something that doesn’t mention Covid-19. It’s the here and now though and slowly changing our world as it is firmly ingrained into our story.

I did have books that kept me entertained when we would make the long journey to Amarillo and I am forever grateful for that because I am sure that that is why I enjoy reading so much still today. Trips back home were not as fun. The sun had typically gone down or was in the process of sinking down into the flat west Texas farmland. My dad had installed some reading lights in the back of our family’s 1987 suburban (wait until I tell you about learning to drive in that same suburban or bus as I like to call it) which helped me with night reading. Most nights I would just try to sleep or I would daydream about the brown haired girl who’s dad had a business across the street from where my dad worked and the blonde hair, blue eyed girl that lived down the street from me. I liked both of them.

When making any kind of long trip repetitively you start to learn the landmarks along the way. There isn’t much surprise as to how far you have traveled and you pretty much know how long until you get home. When I go for a run I don’t like to know how far I am running. I like to find that out when I get home. I like to create a route and just go because it is exciting for me to explore places I have never been. I do my best not to look at my watch to see how far I have run. I also try not to look at my pace. I have had many issues with my watch pausing in the middle of a run so I have developed a habit of looking at the top part of my watch screen to ensure that it is recording.

Sunday night was the last night of January and I knew I needed roughly 10.4 miles to accomplish my running goal. I wanted to run 100 miles in a month for the first time since my running journey started in March of last year. Saturday in Amarillo the wind was insane! 40 plus MPH and when the wind blows in west Texas it carries dirt, dust, tumbleweed, and the occasional empty used shopping bag. I opted for a longer run on Sunday rather two shorter runs so that I could avoid a few days on Zyrtec and Flonase. I plotted out a route that would get me to roughly 10.4 miles, put on several layers of clothes and I took off.

The weather was nice and cool, wind was at a minimum, traffic was light, and the run was great. It was a quiet night except for the occasional sound of a car racing down Soncy rd. I could hear the sound of my shoes on the road, my breathing and the sound of the chain I wear around my neck bouncing against my chest. What was more noticeable about the quiet night was what I didn’t hear. I was running for almost two hours and I do not recall hearing a single siren from an ambulance or a police car. The town was quiet. I found myself thinking about the 100 mile journey I was working on. I thought about how I only logged 11 miles in the first 10 days of the month. The temperature started dropping and I started to feel it. I started thinking I should have done more miles the first ten days and I wouldn’t be out in the cold. I had this argument with myself for miles 7 and 8. I started on mile number 9 and I forgot about my argument because I was close to accomplishing my monthly goal. I finished my night run with 10.63 miles. I wanted to make sure I completed the 100 miles. I could not see myself spending the entire month of February arguing with myself about how I came up short of my goal by a quarter of a mile.

100.2 is the distance that I ended the month of January with. As I reflect over my month of running I think about how I could have covered all of the ground between Wellington and Amarillo. I think it is perfectly fitting that my 100 mile goal was accomplished in Amarillo Texas. I am very proud of this accomplishment. As I look towards August I know that I will be making that same trip one and a half times in the period of six days. I have a lot of training runs left. I’ll have a lot more arguments with myself while I’m out running the roads. I’ll be running though. Running on a mission with a team of amazing runners to STOP MS!

First Trail Race

I have lived in San Angelo, TX for almost five years now and I had never been to Middle Concho Park. I also had never done a trail race. I experienced both this past Saturday and I loved it!

I typically do my running when I get off of work but this was not an option for me on race day. I scheduled my start time at 9:15 that morning and I turned it into an early/extended lunch. It was foggy that morning and the temperature was cool as well. The ground was muddy but I was ready for whatever the trail had in mind for me.

I’ll be honest the first set of rocks that I had to climb had me wondering what I got myself in to! I got to the top and thought that if the rest of the 6.2 mile course was like this that I might not make it back to work before we closed the store.

I was on the track team in high school but that was because I wanted to become the next Charles Austin as a high jumper. I never did high jump above the junior varsity team, but I did run the 800, 1600, and the 3200 (once). I was not a fan of running in an oval. Because of my dislike of running on a track I never envisioned myself as a distance runner and I laughed at the idea of me ever running a marathon.

There was absolutely nothing on this trail race that reminded me of being on an oval track. Every step took me to a new place that I had not been with the exception of the few times I had to back track because I got lost. Yes, I got lost 3 times that I know of during the race. My 6.2 miles ended up being 8.49 miles according to Strava. I never got upset about getting lost because honestly I wouldn’t have been out there if I didn’t love running. I thought quite a bit about getting lost before the race so I am not shocked that it happened. I never got lost on an oval track but I also can not recall a time where I felt free between the stripes on a track.

I started running the roads of San Angelo, TX when COVID-19 hit in March. I felt so free taking off and running somewhere, anywhere, nowhere. I started with just a mile every other day or two. The next thing I knew I started having 4-5 mile days and then a 9 mile day in August. My life had changed forever! Not only was I now in pursuit of a marathon, I became obsessed with the idea of completing an ultra marathon! 100 miles in 24 hours.

While I was on the trail watching out for rocks I thought about Scott Jurek’s story from when he set the FKT record on the Appalachian Trail. I thought about natures beauty that surrounded him that he did not get to fully take in because he was on a mission to get through fast. I can read his book “North” a dozen times but I did not fully understand it until I’ve lived it. Middle Concho Park is not the Appalachian Trail but there was so much more I wanted to explore there. I could spend several days there taking in the beauty of the park.

I completed the trail race and I did make it back to work before the store closed. I did grab a shower before I went back because I was pretty disgusting. I did however forget to grab some food before I got back to work. I found myself getting a headache and realized I needed food. I thought of Dean Karnazes and his story of eating a whole pizza in hand while running an ultra marathon (UltraMarathon Man). As I sat there with my slices of pizza I reflected on how amazing the human body is and how we don’t have a clue what it is capable of.

I’ll be back to the park. I’ll do more of my training runs on the trails there. Most likely my easy run days where I’m not worried about pace, just putting in the hours on my feet.

Not Trail Shoes

Sharing My Story

Today is my rest day from training which leaves me with zero excuses to complete this webpage and publish it today. I have been working on it for a while now and I have found several reasons to not do so. Running, reading, running, Netflix, running…

Part of my MS story is that I have not been very good at sharing my story. It was easy when I was first diagnosed because I was in the hospital for a week so my friends and co-workers all knew about it. I have moved around for work quite a bit since then. I found myself not wanting to try and explain to people this crazy disease that most had never heard of. It is even tougher when you don’t look like anything is wrong with you. The looks I would get from people when explaining were much like the looks I get from people today when I ask them if they want to run 10 miles with me. It was just easier to pretend like nothing was wrong.

I believe that Facebook informing me about MS Run the US Relay was fate. A big part of what this organization does is to create an awareness of multiple sclerosis. I had no idea what MS was when I was diagnosed. I just knew I could not see out of my right eye and I wondered what that meant for my future. This relay is more than just the 167 miles I will run. It is about me learning how to share my story.

I have been blessed to still have the ability to run with this disease. I am running for those who can not. I am sharing my story for those who have not.