On a whim, after dropping from Ancient Oaks at 70 miles, I registered for the Houston Hundred. I wanted a do-over and felt I was trained for it. I had scanned the race calendar and realized that next 100 miler I could get to would be in May and that was really far away. I mulled over the idea a bit and pulled the trigger one night when I decided I needed to try once more.
I really should have had more self-restraint. When I had registered for Houston, I had not been certain I would run the 50k the week before and if I did I wasn't planning to run it so hard. However, I went to the BUS Fat Ass and ran my butt off. I had a great race! I was also sick for over a week, but really didn't think that I was too sick to go to Houston. So Friday, after work, I caught my flight to Texas.
I told only a few people I was going because I really didn't have grand expectations, knew this could easily turn into a 10-12 hour training run, and didn't want anyone to set expectations for me. I just wanted to see what I could do on a flat, fast course, in a warm climate in December. However, the weather was not warm. A cold front came through and the temps were in the 30s with a strong wind on half the course.
I purposefully planned to try to sit at just under 11 minutes for as long as could knowing I will fade. I hoped that maybe I could run 20-21 hours on this course and if I had a great day, break 20. I figured I could nap in my car if I needed to after the run until I was able to drive back to my hotel nearby for a shower. I could then get some sleep in a real bed through morning, when I would need to get ready to catch my flight home.
I knew if I ended up going too slow or fading too fast, I could always drop down to a shorter distance to be safe. 24 hours for the 100 would have me finishing at 7:30 am. I could still take a shower and pack up but I knew I would be extremely too tired to drive the 30 minutes to the airport safely. There was a 30 hour cutoff but I didn't have that much time. Because I came alone, there was big difference between me finishing in 21 hours vs 24 hours that only had to do with my concerns about how well I could function after the race and travel about safely. When I am excessively tired very late at night, I am not coherent and I don't want to be a hazard in the world.
The week before, when I called out from work due to being sick, the 100k started sounding like a better idea. Sid reminded me that the whole reason I was going to Texas was to try for one more shot at the 100 before I put them up on the shelf for awhile. He was right. I had already decided to focus on shorter runs in 2013. So I went to Texas with the idea of trying to run a decent 100 if I could.
Part of my trouble with 100's is that somewhere along the way I have lost my ability to be patient. I know that if I paced them slower, I would have a much better shot at completing the distance within the cut-offs. My problem is I really truly just want to run a personal best 100. The idea of starting too slow and not set myself up for my best time is hard for me to do. I know and fear the fact that I will crash hard at 3 am. I have to plan for that break. I always crash. My biorhythms call for sleep and are always too strong for me to fight. In 24s, I tend to need to sleep for at least 60 minutes and usually much longer that that time. I truly believe the best shot for me to get a 100 miler done is to either be done by 3 am or to be pretty darn close. Starting at 12's would work until I need to sit down, sleep, or just stop moving for a while to regroup.
When saw the weather had shifted from warmer temps to cold temps (ranging from 32 feeling like high 20's through mid-50s) I was happy. That sounded PERFECT! My best races are in the cold. Mid-50's is sport bra and shorts weather so it would still get warm. This range is the fastest running temps. 30 is cold, but if you keep moving it doesn't have to feel bad.
However, it felt colder to me at the start. We started off and made the left into the windy coldest part of the loop. If not for that wind, the loop seemed like it could support really fast times. It was a 2 mile flat all-purpose park path. There were bathroom course side so you didn't need to go too far off the course for that. There was a well stocked aid station at the Start/Finish. The race was chip timed.
The race directors were clearly passionate about putting on a well-executed race and did more than anyone could expect to make sure the runners were taken good care of. They were amazing! This race was tiny and we spread out fast. A super small field of maybe 20 runners. The race can support a lot more. The race if advertised as a 24 hour with a 100 mile/100k/50M/50k option would likely lure out more runners. It is an idea 24 hour course, but 100 mile runners tend to look for trail.
The only thing that made this course slow for me was the wind and subsequent windchill. It broke me down early. I expected the early miles to be cold, but I was looking forward to stripping down to lighter clothes by noon for most of the day. But the weather stayed too cold for me and I just could not warm up. There was one lap in the entire race where I took my mittens off and my hands felt ok. The rest of the race I was bundled up. I know others were not as cold as me. I just was not moving fast enough to get warm.
I knew by lap 3, I was not going to have a good day. The slow pace I was running left me feeling like I was working too hard for the easy pace. I never got the adrenaline rush I get from running strong. I ran in a funk for hours from the start of the race.
After 2 hours, I just started experimenting with different food hoping the funk would pass. Food I never eat. Food with gluten, which I avoid at these races. I cant eat gluten and run hard. It upsets my system. I can eat gluten and run/walk so I ate a donut. I hardly ever eat donuts. I knew I was feeling crappy so what bad could a donut do. If I didn't try something, I was surely ending sooner rather than later.
Nothing really helped me to feel better. I think I just need to take sometime to unscrew my head, shake out all the junk related to stress and frustrations about running 100s and start over in the future. I also think I need to make some big changes to my racing and training practices.
At about the 50k mark, I knew I was dropping down. I was not enjoying the experience. The weather was not warming up enough for me to stop thinking about the cold. I was feeling low, down, cold, bored, and a little lonely. All I could think about is "What the heck am I doing here? I should be home, with Sid, and Enzo, and all the things that make me happy." I got in my car and called Sidney. He wasn't surprised that I was dropping down but he was surprised it happened so soon. I wasn't happy and my heart just wasn't in this enough to want to deal with the cold night. I knew I had a lack of pep in my legs from running a hard race the week before and that is why 11's felt like 9's. I knew I was sick all week and that could have possibly mattered. I knew I disliked running in wind, and it was there making me miserable lap after lap.
But honestly, it really wasn't all that bad. There are always challenges to face. Trails, or Heat, or Hills, etc... Here we had cold and some wind. It wasn't impossible. Clouds even rolled in and insulated the earth. The winds began to die down and it felt like it may have warmed a few degrees. If I was in good spirits, I would have had no complaints. I had a brief moment when I thought I could stay in it. But as soon as it got a little bit colder, that quickly passed.
At 45 miles in I decided the 100k sounded nice, but I wasn't truly motivated for that distance either. At 48 miles, I decided I was done at 50 miles and I would go back to the hotel early. I took about 10:36 for those 50 miles. I was not happy with my performance but I was happy to have stopped.
I used my time out there to do a lot of thinking.
I had several important revelation. Some of these were about my life, my life with Sid, and my plans for the future. I reaffirmed my thoughts about where I should focus my attention in my racing life. I look forward to making some changes in the future in a way that will lead me back to the 100 mile distance stronger, fitter, and more confident in my ability.
I am not really surprised or disappointed with this run. I signed up on a whim. I ran a fast 50k last weekend. I was feeling a little beat up at the start and I knew if I wasn't on pace for a great time, I was very likely to bail. I wanted a 50 mile run at least and got that done so all is good. Every race doesn't have to be a goal race. This one never was.