Sunday, May 10, 2020

Possum's Revenge Virtual Race Report

Not quite a year ago, some friends and I headed to Texas for the Possum's Revenge trail race. Three of us--Kirkley, Paul, and I--were signed up for 69 miles of fun, and our comrade Theresa was in for 17 miles. Theresa has always been a smart one, but she was especially wise that day; she was the only one who came back to Louisiana with anything to show for her efforts. I mean, I had an enormous blister on the side of one foot, but Theresa was the only one who had any race bling. 

Kirkley, Paul, and I all DNFed (Did Not Finish) the 69-mile race and left the race empty-handed. The race was set up on 17.25 mile-loops, and Paul and Kirkley called it after two loops. I finished loop #3 with a little over 6 hours to complete the final 17.25 miles. At that point, it was dark, I was tired from the first 51.75 miles loop (plus 2+ miles from a wrong turn I made), and there would be no buckle if I didn't complete the race in 23 hours. Even though Theresa was ready to pace me for the last loop, I just didn't think I could do the last loop in the dark (complete with hills and rocks) in the required time, so I called it too. 

I try to be a good sport whenever possible, but I was definitely a bad sport that day. After I dropped out of the race, we packed up to head back to Louisiana. As we talked about the race--the good, the bad, and the ugly--I let my ugly side emerge. I should have probably consulted with the others before I wrote this, but here are some choice lines I remember:
  • This whole idea was stupid. 
  • Why did I want to do this?
  • Why do I even attempt ultras? I need to just focus on running faster at shorter distances.
  • This wasn't even fun.
  • Maybe I'll have a baby next year. Or at least be really pregnant. Then I'll have an excuse not to sign up for this shit.
  • I am NOT signing up for 69 miles again. 
While there's no baby, and I'm not really pregnant, I thought I was out of the woods (pun not intended) this year when COVID-19 hit and races started getting canceled. Then, the fine folks at Trail Racing Over Texas (TROT), took the Possum's Revenge to the virtual level. Somehow (I blame Kirkley), I ended up registering for the 69-miler with hopes of clutching the buckle. Surely, I could cover 69 miles in 23 hours without heat, hills, and crazy rocks, even if I had to do it by myself. So, I signed up and said I would do it after finals week.

Well, I took my last (only) final on Friday.

I started checking the weather for the weekend after finals almost as soon as I registered, which was April 15. While some parts of the country are experiencing unexpected snow, the weather gods smiled on Baton Rouge and gave us a low of 57 (Fahrenheit) and a predicted high of 72. I made spreadsheets for Plans A through C. Plan C involved finishing in 20 hours, and I decided to start at 4:00 am so I would be done with midnight even if I didn't have my best race day. Thanks to my incredible friends and husband (who is also my friend), I beat plan A with 40+ minutes to spare. Here's my race report!

Start - Mile 10.23

The first thing on my race spreadsheet was 10 miles at a 14:00 minute/mile pace starting at 4:00 am. Ken was scheduled to be at my house at 6:30 am, so I built in a 10-minute break to refill my water bottle before he arrived. I didn't make it out the door until 4:04 am, but I made up some time on the run and was back out the door with a full bottle as Ken was pulling up. It's not often that I am up and running at 4:00 am, but my headlamp illuminated the street, and I had podcasts to keep me entertained. 

Miles 10.23 - 21.02

Ken and I have only been running together for a few months (almost three, I think), but he's committed enough to show up at my house and pound out 10 miles with me. (He's also trying to log 300 miles for Miles de Mayo, and he's participating in the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee.) We talked about Eminem, did impressions of preachers we'd had in our lives (yep, we listened in church!), and I shared some of my favorite battle stories from past races. It's always fun to run with Ken!

After this photo, I left Ken eating pancakes on the tailgate of Richard's truck.
Miles 21.02 - 31.18

Elena was up next. She never shows up anywhere empty-handed, and yesterday was no exception. She had a bag of hot, delicious chicken McGriddles. I am not sure if I have ever explicitly mentioned it on this blog, but I really enjoy eating food from McDonald's. (I did find a draft of a post from 2016 entitled, "What the McGriddle Taught Me About Being True to Myself" that I might need to revisit and finish writing.) I was thrilled to have a McGriddle during my race. Richard was also busy making pancakes, so I took a pancake on the go with me when we left.

The original plan was to do 10 miles, but we were moving ahead of schedule, so we added an extra mile. Some highlights of our time together included finding some nesting tables that my neighbor was throwing out, having a costume change in the middle of the run, and snacking on watermelon and pickle pops that Richard brought in the truck. Whereas I mainly stay focused on the road, Elena has an eye for architecture and unusual stuff in people's yards, so she kept me entertained. 

McGriddles and coffee: Race day essentials

Mid-run - mile 8ish?
When we made it back to my house a little over the 50K point, I had a blister on the bottom of one of my feet. That is not a good sign at that point in the day, but I slathered my feet with Trail Toes, and that held me for the rest of the race! I changed socks and shoes, switched hydration vests, and reapplied my sunscreen.  Sandra had mapped a 25-mile route around Baton Rouge, so I would not be back home for a while.

The handoff to Sandra
Miles 32.18 - 62.67

Up until Friday, I wasn't sure if Sandra was going to join me at all during this race. I had planned to do solo 10-mile loops, and Richard was going to break up the loops with a few 2-mile runs with me. Then, on Friday afternoon, Sandra texted me and said she'd mapped a 25-mile run for us. Woah.

Since I was working her in after mile 30, that meant that I would be past mile 55 when we finished...except that we kept adding extra turns and little loops to the route, so Sandra did over 30 miles with me. WOAH. Sandra and I run together pretty often--or we did before we stopped going to work outside of our houses--but we've only run longer than a marathon once, and that was for a 50K race. Everyone who pitched in to help with my virtual race was awesome, but Sandra saw me through a ton of miles during the hottest part of the day (fortunately, that was only about 70 degrees). We set my Gymboss timer for run 1/walk 1 intervals and did that for more than 30 miles. I would have definitely slowed down without her there.

Sandra's route took us out of my neighborhood, through LSU (including around Tiger Stadium), and downtown around the state capitol. Sometime after mile 40, we came across a snowball truck at the park on the LSU lakes. That was a welcome treat. At mile 46, Richard met us at City Park for a watch change (mine was starting to die) and a refill on fluids before we headed into downtown. When we made it back to my house, it was getting dark outside, and I had covered 62.6 miles.

Snowball snack!

City Park check-in!
Miles 62.67 - 69.09

We made it back to my house around 8:00 pm (16 hours in), and I was ready to sit. In fact, I texted Richard, "I cannot wait to put my ass in a chair." Elena came back, and we ate quesadillas and hung out while I rested for a bit. I was tired and wanted to stay in the chair forever, but I was also ready to be done.

Elena, Richard, Scooter, and I eventually set out to finish the race. My desire to run had dwindled, but I was able to move at a pretty good walking pace. Richard and Scooter stayed with us for a little over 2 miles, then Elena was on her own to get me through the finish. I don't even remember what we talked about other than how excited I was going to be to finish the race and get my buckle. There was some talk of what I was going to eat and how great it would be to take a shower. We had a close encounter with a sewer drain, we smacked a "Dead End" sign during the last half-mile of the race, and then we made it home! 

Headlamp Photo-op before Richard and Scooter went home
Richard and Elena had sneakily set up a finish line, complete with tape to break, a finisher poster, and congratulatory sidewalk chalk. It was awesome! I wish I could report that I ate 19 cheeseburgers or 21 brownies, but the truth is that I'm not usually very hungry immediately after running. So, we sat around and talked about the day before I went in and took a shower.

Post-Race sittin'
Before COVID-19, I didn't find virtual races to be very exciting, but they have been a good way to keep my training going lately. I'm still not sure I will return to the actual Possum's Kingdom trail to settle the score with the 69-mile run, but I would like to go back someday and run again. I probably would have completed the race under the time limit if I had to run it (or more of it) solo, but I had a wonderful time with some of my fabulous running friends and felt so supported all day! (I owe them all a favor or ten in the future.) I'm so glad the weather cooperated. I don't see myself running 69 miles again next weekend, but I am proud to say I did it (with the help of lots of people). Whew!

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Day 301

Well, I didn't sleep much last night. Tonight, I'm really going to bed at or before midnight. 

I had my last class of the semester today, so that was exciting. I still have a few things due tomorrow (specifically, two papers and the final version of my conference proposal) then I can decompress a bit this weekend. I am ready.

This is the last day of this block of 100 days. Normally, I would offer some sort of reflection or insight from the semester, but all I can really say is that spring 2020 has been a wild ride. Perhaps I'll get to that next week (or more likely, sometime after my final next Friday). 

That's all I've got today.

Something that made today great: Thursday night Happy Hour with some of my classmates!
Time I woke up: 8:40 am

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Day 302

I just searched my blog for the word "donuts," and it seems that I have posted about donuts five times before today. Two were when I was training for the Krispy Kreme Challenge in Raleigh. (This was also when I expected to be living in Raleigh, but maybe I'll do it eventually.)

I hadn't had a donut since I started working from home. A few days ago, Ellen texted me and asked if I like donuts. (I do.) She suggested run/walking to a donut shop that's about 1.5 miles from her house, and I was all about that plan. We tried her route today, and I am pleased to report that we completed the route, purchased and ate donuts, AND I brought some home that have since disappeared.

Not bad for a Wednesday!

This is a stock photo from Pixabay, but I did eat jelly-filled donuts today.
Something that made today great: I switched up my work style, and it was nice! Breaks are important.
Time I woke up: 10:00 am

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Day 303

I must say that today was good but also strange. I just watched a YouTube video on how to calculate composite reliability using output from AMOS (the program I am using for structural equation modeling), and it was one of the high points of my day. I doubt anyone else would get quite the same thrill that I just got from watching this video, but here's a link to it anyway:

This especially exciting because the reliability was not looking as great for part of my proposal using a different measure. I still have to report both, but construct reliability just saved my bacon...I think.

My qualitative methods professor moved our paper due date to Friday, so I am celebrating by going to bed not only before 4:00 am, but I should be in bed shortly before midnight.

This last week of class stuff is not for the weak.

Composite Reliability Calculator | The Statistical Mind

Something that made today great: My Tuesday class met tonight to share findings from our case studies!
Time I woke up: 10:30 am

Day 304

I missed my midnight deadline once more, but I'm really not fretting over it, especially considering how hard I have been working over the last few days. I have certainly satisfied the "write something everyday" objective that I hoped to achieve when I started my first 100 days challenge. Still, rules are rules, and I have not been following my own rules. It kind of reminds me of when my Grandaddy Stone was approaching the end of his life, and he decided he was old enough that he didn't always have to be polite. I won't say he was right to say that, but he wasn't wrong either.

Anyway, the end of this block of 100 days is almost here, and it is coinciding with the end of my semester. I vacillate between, "I only have a few more assignments left" and, "Oh my gosh, these last few assignments are going to take so much time!" My advisor and I were supposed to have a Zoom meeting this morning to discuss a grant proposal that is due next Monday, but she e-mailed me about an hour before we were supposed to meet and suggested that we save our efforts for a different grant. I agreed with her reasoning, and I felt a weight lift off of me when I no longer had to think about another proposal. I think this is the COVID-19 version of canceled plans, and I am not mad about it.

What is rewarding is that many of the things I am working on--the case study, the conference proposal, and my strategic planning paper--are starting to build off of each other. I would really be in trouble if I had to start from square one on everything. This bodes well for my dissertation proposal.

A funny moment is that when I finally came to bed last night (at 4:00 am, yikes), Richard rolled over and asked me, "Why were you up so late?" I told him that I'd finished my ASHE proposal draft, and he asked if it was "finished finished," and I said I was. (That really meant that I'd sent it to my advisor for review.) Then, he said, "Does that mean you don't have to be sad in front of a computer anymore?" That does not bode well for my dissertation proposal.

Photo from Pixabay.
Something that made today great: I feel good about the paper I submitted today!
Time I woke up: 8:45 am

Monday, April 27, 2020

Day 305

Oh no! I missed my blog post yesterday. I literally just watched my clock change from 11:59 to 12:00. Then, I decided that I make the rules on this blog and could allow myself a ten-minute grace period.

Sunday was more of the same from Saturday. I am still plugging away at my conference proposal, though I did make time to test out a new hydration pack on an 8-mile run today. It wasn't as exciting as running the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon (which was my original, pre-COVID-19 plan for the day), but I'm grateful that I can still go out for a run.

I didn't take any photos today, so here's a stock photo of a fat squirrel.

Photo from Pexels

Something that made April 25 great: Richard grilled bratwurst and corn for dinner!
Time I woke up: 10:00 am

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Day 306

I have been working on a conference proposal over the last three nights, and I am still not satisfied. What I am is tired. I have been staying up super late every night. When I had the opportunity to sleep in today, I totally took advantage of the opportunity. I'm still plugging along, but I have nothing to write about because that's all I have done today. Whew.

Photo from Pixabay
Something that made today great: Richard made a delicious lunch and dinner for us!
Time I woke up: 12:45 pm (yep. WOAH.)