I’ve never been good at writing race reports. I will start them and then I get mired down in minutiae and never get them finished or posted, a great example is my Ouachita Switchbacks 10 miler race report. I started it, I wrote it out perfectly in my head; but getting it down on paper has been a real struggle. So on this dreary Sunday morning I am sitting myself down and I am writing out a race report for the Cross Timbers Trail ½ Marathon that I completed yesterday; Saturday, February 22, 2020 and I am going to post it with an effort to avoid over editing and over thinking; so here goes nothing.
I put the Cross Timbers ½ Marathon on my 2020 Race Calendar as part of the build up to my Big Scary A race of 2020 – the Transrockies 6 Day Stage Race in August. I haven’t been running big milage and I hadn’t been spending much time out on trails so given that this race is on a challenging trail that is within easy driving distance of home it seemed like a no brainer to sign up for. A few years ago I had run the 5 mile option, but it rained up until the start of the race and the trail was a slip in slide of mud so not something I could really use for comparison with the half marathon. I knew the trail was a lot of up and down and that it had a reputation for being challenging; but after the 10 miler at Ouachita Switchbacks I was feeling pretty confident and wasn’t overly concerned. I knew that I had a lot more in the tank at Ouachita Switchbacks and that I could have pushed myself a little harder so was looking forward to the challenge of Cross Timbers.
The week leading up to the race was less than ideal. I was late getting home from a trip up to my Mom’s on Sunday night and I have found that the older I get the harder it is to bounce back from a few nights of not enough sleep. Once I get out of my normal cycle I struggle to get back on track and find myself in a self destructive loop of plopping down in front of the TV after work and not getting myself into bed early like I needed too so I was short on sleep all week long. Thursday and Friday brought surprise visits from our friends at the Texas Health and Human Services Commissions at work which always creates a big spike in adrenaline and cortisol; you can look at my heartrate on my watch and see the corresponding spikes, definitely not an ideal setup for a successful race on Saturday and of course I have to top it all off with way too much wine and high fat, salty foods at a work dinner on Friday night. When the alarm clock went off on Saturday morning I was tired, probably a little hungover, a lot bloated, and definitely not feeling my best. A small voice in my head said don’t go, just tell people (my coach @ultraninjarunnr) that you’re sick and go back to bed. But I got up, made my coffee and toast and loaded up the car and headed out.
Saturday couldn’t have been a more perfect morning; almost no wind, a beautiful sunrise and perfect temperatures. I made the drive up to the trailhead on the shores of Lake Texhoma, picked up my race bib, hit the porta potty and made my final selection for a top – long sleeve Flyout with a tank top, my hydration vest and my long pocket jogger tights. I really wanted to wear shorts and compression socks but I’m not feeling super great about my legs right now so the tights, which are pretty light weight and have great pockets were the next best choice.
I made it back up to the start line with enough time to adjust my bib, hear the race briefing and line up with all of the other ½ Marathoners. We started off by running a short loop around the parking lot with the idea that people would spread out before hitting the single track trail, but I ended up in a pretty large group of people as we hit the trail. After the first uphill we started to spread out and I hopscotched back and forth with a guy that was speedwalking about as fast as I was running. He finally left me in the dust and I began the litany of beating myself up for all of the poor choices I had made leading up to this race – not enough long runs on trails, skipping out on one too many strength workouts, not getting enough sleep and most importantly drinking way too much the night before. I was feeling really rough and my legs felt super heavy and didn’t want to move. I started to think about dropping at the first aide station, where the 5 milers turnaround, but decided that I needed to own my shit and just keep moving forward. My goal became to just make it to the next aide station which was the ½ Marathon turnaround, I would just “keep swimming.”
Somewhere close to the second aide station I missed a turn and ended up on one of the alternate bike loops which gave me a few extra steps. Several other runners seemed to make the same mistakes as I meet people coming and going on this little loop. As I made the climb up the infamous, “Stairway to Heaven,” which leads to the aide station I had no idea how I would turn around and make the return trip. My Garmin had already clocked 7 miles at right about 2ish hrs into the race and I had not been staying on top of my nutrition and was probably over hydrated as my fingers and hands were swelling up. I hit the aide station and grabbed a peep, had a quarter of a pb&j sandwich and a little Coke and immediately felt better. I stuffed some peanut butter crackers in my pocket for later and headed back out ready to finish what I started.
Surprisingly I was feeling better and despite a cranky IT band and a sore foot I was still able to run. I managed to pass a group that had been well ahead of me early on in the race and pretty much kept them behind me through the end. I really worked hard on changing the script in my head. I knew what I needed to do to be more successful and to feel stronger. I knew the mistakes I had made, but I also knew that I could pretty much handle anything. My A race won’t be easy, it’s 120 miles over the course of 6 days at altitude and you sleep in a tent. I need to be comfortable with discomfort; to not dwell in the noise in my head, the doubts and the self judgement. I need to Welcome myself where I am, embrace the moment and enjoy the experience.
Once I got my head screwed on straight it felt like the section between aide stations flew by. The 50k runners started to catch us as they were finishing their first loop and it was inspiring to see fellow Team Ninja athlete Jen Kirkpatrick pass me on a climb, making it look easy. I hit the last aid station with a 50k Runner and took another swig of coke and headed out to finish the last 2 ½ miles. I started out with a fellow ½ Marathoner that I had seen at the start, as we started the climb out of the aid station he scooted over so I could pass him and I made it my goal to keep him behind me. I managed to pass another ½ Marathoner and again made it my goal to keep them both behind me to the end. It was fun to cheer on the 50k runners as they headed back out and I made a point to say Good Morning and thank the Boy Scouts who were kind enough to step off the trail so the runners could pass. I made the last climb up Monkey Butt and I’ll confess that I took just a moment to raise my hands in the air and give a big whoop! I managed a run back down into the finish line and was grateful to get my medal and a bottle of water.
My Garmin time was 4:39:47 and a distance of 14.16 miles. Not exactly the race I wanted to have, but I am very happy that I pushed myself to keep going when all I wanted to do was quit. I was grateful that I have been doing my core work and had a strong core to call on when I need an extra boost. I am also extremely grateful that I can have these experiences and that I have the support of friends, family, a great coach that is still positive when you have a bad day, and you just can’t beat the spirit of camaraderie in the trail running community. I am actually looking forward to my next training block which will lead up to the OKC Memorial Marathon in April and the 56k at Possums Revenge in May.
Onward and upward to the next challenge. I can tell you that I’ll be focusing more on my overall nutrition, strength training, and committing to executing on my long trail runs. I’ll also be working on my mental game and making certain I am able to welcome myself where I am and not get mired down in regret and negative thinking.