Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Cowtown Ultra Recap

859249_4278181004374_1366216399_oWhat an experience!  Running the 50K at Cowtown was everything that I thought it would be – challenging physically and mentally… and FUN!  YES, it was fun.  I’ve learned that anything challenging is only as fun as you make it!

This was my first race that I ran with someone else, thanks Hamlin! I was kind of worried about stupid stuff, like what happens if I need to slow down, have potty breaks, or who know what else… but, it all worked out.  I either caught up with Hamlin or he caught up with me after stops.

It was great running with Hamlin and other Frisco Running Club members: Brent, Alan, and Jeff.  We also had the pleasure of Cruz running along with us.  Cruz is a running friend that I made from the New Years Double race.  It was great to get to know him a little better.  Cruz was able to get a killer PR by knocking off 1 hour 51 minutes off of his previous 50K best!  So happy for you, Cruz!


20130224_065152Before the race started I did a couple of things to crank up the Ultraness of the event.  For Ultra marathoners they give you two bibs – the normal bib and then a bib that just says ULTRA on it.  I’ve seen these ULTRA bibs on the back of the Ultra Marathoners when I ran the Marathon 2 years ago.  I knew that I was going to put it on my back.  To have some fun, I placed my name under ULTRA.  The birth of Ultra Mark!  :)  Hamlin had his ULTRA bib strategically placed… I’ll let you use your imagination.  It was always cool to see other Ultra runners and provide them some encouragement along the way.


20130224_064941The other thing that I did before the race was to write on my left arm.  I’ve done this before just remind myself to stay strong, keep running, etc.  I wrote on my arm, “ULTRA STRONG”.  It looked pretty good as it was from a thick Sharpie.

From the start, we had a lot of fun with the race.  I was acting crazy stupid from the start by yelling at every mile marker.  I pretty much made up something to yell at every mile. 

At one mile marker, I asked a lady if this was mile 16 or whatever and then acted all crazy and gave her hug.  I then tried to pull her along to run with me.  She wasn’t having it.

At another mile marker there were 2 ladies that I did the same as before and gave them hugs.  When I ran off, my day was made by hearing one of them say, “Score!” for getting a hug from me.

The mile marker yelling wasn’t happening at the last few miles.  I was losing my voice and energy.  It was fun while it lasted.

858096_4277611310132_763566612_oHamlin and I were interacting with a lot of the spectators and runners.  Hamlin definitely interacted more than I did.  I think he had more energy.  Here’s some of the fun that he had:

     Dancing Gangham Style and other styles that I cannot describe.
     He was cracking jokes with runners and spectators throughout the race
     Taking pictures of complete strangers… children riding tigers (stuffed animals) and a huge group of spectators at a TCU house.
      He played fetch with a dog.
      Played the bongos.  He’s waiting for his 2nd audition.
      He showed women how to hold a cowbell.  I thought they would have known how in Cowtown.

We took a picture of a guy wearing an Insanity shirt.  We both agreed that we never saw someone wearing the shirt.  For some reason he wouldn’t show us his abs.

As mentioned, I got some hugs from strangers, but as well all of my friends on the course.  If you see me at a Marathon… watch out – I’m a hugger!

ok… how did the race go?  It went very well.  First, I had some goals…

  1. I wanted to finish at 4:50.  I missed the time by 2 minutes with a time of 4:52:51, but in the grand scheme of things, I’m completely happy with this time.
  2. I wanted to get to the Marathon Split in 4 hours.  I got there at 4:02.
  3. I also wanted to make the Top 10 in my age group – 45-49.  I made 10th place.  Super happy about hitting that goal.

Mile SplitsIt was probably good that it was so crowded with runners at the beginning as it kept our pace pretty slow.  The first mile was a 10:26 as I started the RunKeeper app 90 seconds early.  It took a couple of miles for it to get less congested.

I had RunKeeper running and my Garmin GPS watch.  Yep, I’m a bit over the top.  Crazy thing is that my Garmin somehow got paused at mile 2.5.  I didn’t realize it until before mile 5.  I reset it and restarted at mile 5.  RunKeeper was still working.  Why both? Garmin is habit and gives me instant feedback on current pace, overall pace, and distance.  With RunKeeper, I had the RunKeeper Live feature turned on so that my family could track where I was.  My daughter could see on her phone exactly where I was at.  This was so much more helpful to them than the occasional splits on the course.  RunKeeper also announces the distance, time, and overall pace at each mile.

To make sure that I had enough battery life for my music, RunKeeper, and the normal phone activities, I had my phone hooked up to a portable battery.  The phone and battery were able to fit in my SpiBelt.

The first miles were pretty uneventful, until we got to the Hill at Mile 9.  From a mile away it looked pretty daunting.  However, once I got there, I just kept the focus on keeping a constant effort.  I felt really good knocking out that hill.  It was great to see my FIGJAM friends and at the very top friends from the enduraLAB.

I loved getting to see my family at Mile 14 for a quick visit.  I had a longer than expected bio break at mile 18.  The “neat” thing about the porta-potty at mile 18 was that there was a course map inside of it and an arrow showing “you are here”.  I found that to be pretty humorous!

I was feeling great up until mile 23 with the exception of it getting warmer and the ball of my left foot was killing me.  I was able to get rid of my base layer shirt and rub out my foot.  For some reason over the past couple of months, the ball of my left foot has been killing me after about 14 miles on long runs.  A couple of times during the long runs I’d take off my shoe and rub it and it worked.  It worked again.

Huge thanks to my family: Ursula, Briana, and Cairo for supporting me throughout the race.  Knowing that I was going to be able to see them at certain points of the race was huge!

The original plan was for Cairo, my 17 year old son to run the last 10-11 miles with me, but his stomach wasn’t feeling quite right.  I’m not sure that mine was feeling right either. :)

482681_10200395961088797_675081145_nIt was great to see Blanca at mile 24.  She mentioned on FaceBook that she was going to run with me, but I wasn’t for sure that she was going to.  What a pleasant surprise when she did start running with us.  She made running look so darn effortless! :)  She ran miles 24-30 with Hamlin and myself.

Getting to Mile 25 was a milestone as I knew that’s where the Marathoners and Ultra Marathoners were splitting.  It got pretty real as all you saw were orange Ultra Marathon bibs.  Right after the 858409_4277906797519_1060494622_osplit, I saw Stacy from work.  It was so cool to see her as I wasn’t expecting to see her.  We had a quick hug and then a few hundred yards up was Crystal and Bridget from the Frisco Running Club.  I cherished seeing Stacy, Crystal, & Bridget out there.  It pumped me up and I got mini-breaks out there.  Hamlin continually kept me going.

A couple of milestones that I was looking forward to was Mile 26.2 and then the turnaround at mile 27.5.  I felt strong at the Marathon split, but then soon after kept looking forward to the next milestone… next water stop, the turnaround, next water stop.  I started to walk through the water stops.  Throughout miles 24-30, Blanca talked to me the whole time.  Please don’t ask me what she said as the soreness in my legs was drowning her out and I wasn’t completely up for conversation.  The great thing is that her conversation took my mind off those last miles.  As well, when I really needed to hear her, I heard her say, “You can do it!”, “Just keep moving” “Slow down if you need to, but keep moving”… these really drowned out the pain and negative thoughts.  THANKS, Blanca!

Miles 25-30 were pretty quiet and spectator free.  However, the Ultra Runners that were running on the way back were full of encouragement.  It was like I entered into a new desolate race full of comradely.  We all knew what each other were going through – it was more than an extra 5 miles!

IMG_4687-croppedAs we got close to the 30th mile, there was Felix.  He was going to run with me to the finish.  I was so glad to see him!  He knows how much to say and when to say it.  We were close to a water stop which I walked through drinking the water.  Soon after we ran, then walked on the hill to get out of Trinity Park.  Heck, I already told myself that I was going to walk that hill.  We ran for a while until we were about less than a half mile away from the finish.  I wanted to finish strong so I took one last walk break.  I told Felix & Hamlin that I wanted to walk to that sign ahead… they said the small sign, I said no, the big sign further ahead.  Once I got past that sign, this was it.  I had to push through and get it over with.  I kept asking Felix where is the stinking finish.  All I remember him saying is behind the Swine Building.  Who the heck puts a finish line behind a swine building?

I saw the 26 Mile Marker, 2 tenths of a mile to go.  I just told myself, less than 2 minutes to go.  Then the 13 Mile Marker, 1 tenth of a mile to go.  Grit it out, you’ve got this.  Then the stinking Finish Line.  Finish strong… I wanted to finish Cross Country style.  I saw 2 runners up ahead that I wanted to pass right before the finish line.  It felt great crossing that finish line!  It’s funny how the pain just passed away and was replaced by a huge sense of accomplishment.

If you watch the video below and see the finish, Hamlin did a completely classy move.  He allowed me to finish ahead of him.  He didn’t need to do this.  Heck, he could of finished a half an hour before me. It was an awesome experience to run the race with Hamlin.  His boundless energy is incredible!

If you made it to the end of this blog post, thanks for reading!  I probably missed a few details or stories along the way. :)

I want to encourage you, that YOU CAN surpass limits that you place on yourself!  Whether it be a specific race time or distance… you’ve just got to believe in yourself, commit to a training plan and execute!


Not So Doomed Runner said...

Nice job!

Cruz said...

Excellent race recap Mark. Now that "not today" has passed, would you do it again? Hope the race recovery is going well. Enjoy!!

Mark said...

Thanks! Yes, I would definitely do it again. I would like to do the Rockledge Rumble 50K in November. I did the 30K last year as my first trail race and enjoyed it.

Michelle K said...

I am over the moon happy for you! What a great example of setting a goal, making your plan, and seeing it through. Thanks for sharing your journey with us.

Mark said...

Enjoyed the read Mark and the video. Kudos!

Mark Baker said...

Great read. Enjoyed the video as well. Kudos.