Tuesday, March 29, 2011

La-la-land, or a lesson to run your own race and always trust your body.

There was an article in NYT that one of our runners pointed out attention to - and sent a link to Hill Country list. Even if you don't bother to read it, here is a sum up: "In a groundbreaking 2003 experiment, scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology found that 50 minutes of hard running on a treadmill or riding a stationary bicycle significantly increased blood levels of endocannabinoid molecules in a group of college students. The endocannabinoid system was first mapped some years before that, when scientists set out to determine just how cannabis, a k a marijuana, acts upon the body. They found that a widespread group of receptors, clustered in the brain but also found elsewhere in the body, allow the active ingredient in marijuana to bind to the nervous system and set off reactions that reduce pain and anxiety and produce a floaty, free-form sense of well-being. Even more intriguing, the researchers found that with the right stimuli, the body creates its own cannabinoids (the endocannabinoids). These cannabinoids are composed of molecules known as lipids, which are small enough to cross the blood-brain barrier, so cannabinoids found in the blood after exercise could be affecting the brain." The response was pretty cool. While some can relate, a few of runners (at least of those who responded) don't have a clue on being high front. To me, this paragraph made complete sense. As I say, once an addict is always an addict:) But, in all seriousness, I call it "zen", or running in La-la-land. Don't take me wrong, I get to work when I run, and I breathe hard, and I hurt. However, I wouldn't be doing it if I didn't get "high" off it. To tell you the truth, I get high even from the gym workouts or hard core yoga sessions, but nothing beats running, the repetitive motion of it, the simpleness, the rhythm...  A week before the race I invited Larry and Harrison to join me in North Texas (Stephen flew to Portland for the weekend). To make a change in room accomodation, I called in the rmorning of - and found out the hotel had never gotten my Expedia reservation. 3 hours and numerious phone calls later, we were set - only to start driving after work and discover I left my iPod at my work place. I burst into tears. Of course, nothing is the end of the world, and I ran races music-less, but I planned on it that way, and today I didn't! Larry to the rescue - he said he needs a new shuffle anyway, and pointed out to Best Buy off the road. Since I had my laptop with me, he downloaded the music (we even did some selection while I drove and he combined the playlist) - and I was saved! I was ready for this race. I was at the weight I like to race at, I had solid fast workouts, I just ran a marathon I was happy with, and I was looking forward to the hills. This race is built as toughest trail race in Texas - and so it was...if only I knew in what way. I had a goal. I studied the times, and Mariela seem to "own" the race for many years, finishing between 10:30 and 11 hrs. Not to disrespect the girl who raced there over 10 times, I figured I'll go for sub-10. Why not? It's a personal challenge, not a fight. There were usual suspects at the start line, like we never parted from the previous race, and we all laughed. But as I lined up at the front line with Scott and Brian, I tried to crack jokes how others should join us - yet there was a weird gap behind. I don't deal well with pressure, not at all. And it sent me bolted off the start, running behind these two guys up some gnarly steep hill...and another one. Before I knew it, in 5 minutes flat, I had a metallic taste in my mouth and burning quads filled with lactic acid. What the heck am I doing??!! And where did these hills came from? The "meet the Crosstimbers trail" had begun...  Stolen from other blog  I heard the rumors, but you really never know what hit you when you're at this beautiful Lake Texoma side trail on the border with Oklahoma. Oh, My God! There was no rhythm. The ups and down were super-sharp (I should have believed when reports said "pull yourself up with hands"), the technicality of the trails exceeded any expectations. Roots, roots and more of them. High up, downs as sharp and steep as ups - not to mention the race was made up of one 12.5M trail run out-n-back twice, so you get to experience everything both directions. And it was humid - for now just that. I was throwing salt pills in my mouth like a kid who eats candy after a Halloween. And I was still cramping. Every time I pick a root, jam my foot or step sideways, my calf would go nuts. I was petrified of falling and not being able to get up.  Somewhere half-way through that first "out" section a few guys passed me, and each mentioned "oh, it's not good to get by you". I joked, but I wasn't sure at that time. I kept thinking about that "high", my la-la-land, and I couldn't find it. I pushed, trying to meet my standards, and I wasn't enjoying it much, despite the incredible beauty of the trail - and majestic views of the lakes. I was mad at myself, and couldn't shake it off. I was ready to quit...was I not recovered from a marathon? Was I not trained for the hills on the trails? Should I have NOT run hard 15 trail miles on Saturday before? Is the fact that I was proud of "running every hill on the road" overtook and made me mistakenly run hills here at the beginning? Why did I not listen to my senses and didn't start further back and easier? All this was going through my head, as in the last mile the trail went through the dense woods with long runnable stretch - and I found it. My Zen, my la-la-land. And it all fell in together... Race photo Larry and Harrison were waiting for me with crewing duty, filled my bottles and gave me gels for the next 12.5M stretch back. I wanted to share how tough this trail was, but got my own treatment - nobody asked me any questions, never let me open my mouth and I was sent back. So much for love:) I was mad, but I was laughing at the same time. Learned from a champ, he did. Swallow it, sister! My gate opened up. There were 2 girls right behind, in fact, one passed me shortly after the turn-around, and I told myself: I can only take care of me. There is nothing I can do about other people's race, only about my own. Breathe, eat, drink, and trust your body. Trust that it knows the pace, it is strong, trust your own training, trust that it knows what to do, when to walk, when to run, don't think. Don't think. That's my motto. La-la-land. This is my best running. Let my body do the "thinking" on its own. And I did... The humidity was high, and my skirt was being pulled down, funny how it was. But I was running strong and smiling. I won't bore you with details. Larry and Harrison met me at 25M, and then at 37.5M. During these times I clicked guys who passed me, one by one, and slowly pulled away from the girls. Larry was mentioning later how AS volunteers were surprised seeing me ahead of many who were running in front at loop 1, and that I looked strongest and happiest. One aid station volunteer actually asked me why am I smiling. Steady. La-la-land. I ran my first split in 2:30, and the next 3 splits were done all in 2:45. Talking about trusting your body! I drunk and ate ice like a maniac, the only thing I used at AS, besides 2 cups of Mt. Dew. I popped salt and gels and downed 2 bottles per 40 minutes easily. My calves finally stopped cramping around mile 35 or so, but they felt sore - so funny, like they were tired of cramping. The sun came up high on 3rd section, and it was hot, but the clouds rolled in on the last one. I could care less about time - I lost my math skills. I was trusting my body to do what it knows how to do. Somewhere with an hour and half to go, I had finally decided to pay attention to the watch - and was able to calculate that 11 hrs was within reach, although I still had to work for it. I could picture Larry saying proudly "Yes, she is like that, never fades. Yes, if I know my wife, she'll go for sub-11 because she likes round numbers. Yes, she will pass everybody she can and will hold them off". I was so happy he was there to share it with me. And work I did. I made myself run every time I could find a place to run. I was working hard - la-la-land and all. I was still sneaking peeks to the lake and dreaming of jumping off the cliff into cool waters. And I was NOT giving up my position! Harrison came around the corner, and I knew I have one last downhill. "Run" I yelled, and followed his steps. 10:51. I wished to cry - but was laughing instead. I obnoxiously came to break 10 hrs, but instead worked my ass off to go sub-11. I cracked jokes and couldn't stop smiling. I won female race and came 4th overall. I deserved every bit of that fame at the finish line - toughest little trail race in Texas. The Lake Texoma trail at Crosstimbers 50 chewed me up and spat me out - but I held my own. Something to be proud of... I was crippled and crying in bed last night, and Larry jokingly said "So, why do we do it?". For those 15 minutes of happiness. And for 11 hours of running in La-la-land... Photo tour - great views! My gear – my trusted La Sportiva Skylites! Knowing this trail didn’t have much in terms of wet rocks to slide on, the smooth ride of Skylites provided best fit and close touch for better navigating the twisted trails. It was like running wearing only socks – who need barefoot?