Thanks to my friend Colleen who kept me company all day and took this picture at the end!

I survived. BARELY.

Be proud and thankful of your Mountain Mist Trail Run finish today. That was the worst course conditions I have seen in all 22 years of the Mist. I know, I have been at every one

Posted by Mountain Mist 50km on Sunday, January 24, 2016

I have no time to expound on my race because my schedule has changed today and now I don’t have as much time this morning as I had hoped. Just read that status above and know I survived and that the 2016 Mountain Mist 50K will go down in the record books. I missed my goal by 36 minutes but I know if I hadn’t been in as good of shape as I’m in, I wouldn’t have even made the cutoffs. It beat me up but I also smiled a lot more than last year because the whole time I was experiencing that maniac-euphoria where you’re just laughing like, “This is some crazy shit, y’all.” Ice, mud, rope climbs, and nine million falls. Tune in tomorrow for the gory details.

Thanks to my friend Colleen who kept me company all day and took this picture at the end!

Thanks to my friend Colleen who kept me company all day and took this picture at the end!

535159_10153161625486493_8413955819631553794_n

Pistol Ultra 110K Race Report

UPDATE: I changed to title of this race report to reflect the race director’s official change due to the mismeasurement on the course. You can see on this page where all of the “K” distances were changed by 10% because those courses couldn’t be modified on the fly like the “Mile” distances could. I RAN A 110K, Y’all!

Why The Pistol?

I had been looking at the Pistol Ultra for my first 100K since 2014 but didn’t think it was a good idea to try that AND Grand Slamming in the same season. The reason I liked it was:

A) It was kind of a “local” race since my Mom lived nearby and my high school friends are in the area
B) It was a greenway which eliminated my fear of running through the woods at night
C) It was reasonably-sized loops…not too short to make me crazy, not so long that I’d ever be too far away from my self-support station.
D) It was close enough there would be Huntsvillians running it too.

Once the Grand Slam season was over, I settled into know that the Pistol 100K would be my first 100K. I had no desire to try a 100-miler until I had done one race that allowed me to experience a little bit of that running-past-bedtime sensation.

Training

This is the first time I’ve come close to sticking to a training plan. Of course, by some people’s standards I didn’t stick to one at all, but my past year “plans” were just back-to-back long runs on the weekend totaling a 50K as often as possible, and weekday runs when/if I could squeeze them in. This year I used this 50-mile training plan as a guide. Basically, I looked at the weekly totals and try to stick near those in whatever combination I could. I also made the weekend of my Dizzy Monkey the “goal race” weekend since that was essentially like doing a 100K in one day. You can see a photo of my almost-complete run log here. I did try to do at least one of my long runs each weekend on pavement to keep my concrete legs trained, dirt is so much kinder that I would have been in a lot more pain if I had only done long runs on the trails.

The Race

It was about 27 degrees at Race Start in Alcoa. We noticed people already set up tents in the “self support” area the night before the race so I was REALLY worried about not getting a decent spot on the actual route of the race. I didn’t want to have to detour at all, I wanted my chair to be something I passed every loop easily. SO! Of course we got there early. Race started at 8am and we got there around 6:30am to set up my spot.

A photo posted by Kim Holmes (@misszoot) on

I packed food, clothes, winter gear, medical gear and my Ewok as my spiritual totem. Then we went back to the car where I stayed in the warmth and greased up every inch of my body to prevent chaffing. (Spoiler Alert: NO CHAFFING!) About 30 minutes until race start we went to the common waiting area inside the school until RIGHT BEFORE the start and BOOM! It was time to go.

I kept my runkeeper app on the first loop so I could get an idea of what the exact measurements were between certain points. Donnie, my pacer Colleen, and two local friends Ashley and Dana were all going to try to see me at some point during the day so I wanted to be able to maybe give them some approximations about timing which would be easier to do knowing the distances. My app was reporting in my ear that I was staying between 10:15 and 10:30 minute miles and that was – honestly – much too fast. BUT, I was cold and the pace felt good so I stuck to it.

The “loops” (certain points of the course were actually an out-and-back but for explanation purposes I’m using the term “loop”) were divided into a Large South portion and a very small North portion. The South portion had a few small hills. They were short, but steep which is not the “flat” I was expecting. The kind of thing you don’t fret about for a short race but for a 100K you get a little stressed when you’re expecting it to be flat. (Although most people probably still call it “flat” because relative to most 100Ks it was.) When I passed the school to start the shorter North portion I text my nearby friend who ended up meeting me and running with for the small North portion. It was an unexpected treat and something I really needed considering my runkeeper app had me logging 11.3 miles on that loop and that was stressing me out since the loops were only supposed to be 10.3 miles. The runkeeper app is sometimes off in the woods, but not 10% off on a greenway.

I turned off the app for the second (of six) loop and settled into walking all of the uphills since I had successfully run the entire first loop no problem. It was starting to warm up and I decided I’d take off my windbreaker the next time I passed my chair. My two local friends Ashley and Dana surprised me at a point along the South Portion and ran a couple of miles with me. Again – it was unexpected but LOVELY. I loved just chatting with them as we ran a few miles because it made it just feel like one of my regular runs instead of a race. It especially helped get me to the start of the next loop which I’d be doing with Donnie.

If you’ll recall one of the reasons I chose this one is because other Huntsvillians would be there and that proved awesome even starting with the first loop. I knew people doing the relay, the 50K, and people there just to pace so I saw people I know several times throughout the day and it was a lovely and quick boost of energy to receive/deliver a greeting from/to a friend!

By the time I finished the second loop I had given up on my A Goal of doing it in 13 hours. If I had known the course was actually long, I might have at least tried a little bit harder the next loop but it felt impossible when I was still thinking the loops were 10.3 miles. Donnie joined me for the tiny bit of the North portion of Loop 2 and then all of Loop 3 and it was wonderful. He was wearing the “pacer” bib they allowed me so it made me feel all official and stuff with a pacer. He didn’t seem to hate running slow and just used the time to focus on form and he didn’t whine when I walked all of the hills.

The only problem was the asphalt was hurting his knees. Ever since his Ironman his knees have been really sensitive to concrete and asphalt so about 1 miles from the end of the South portion of Loop 3 he started walking and I ran ahead to tell my friend who was taking him back to his car. At this point I got to see my friends AND Nikki again and all of that was a great way to round me to the halfway point of my day. All I had to do was make it through Loop 4 on my own and then I’d have company the entire time. However, I was starting to feel my typical back pain that I feel after about 4 hours of running, so I ended up telling my friend to meet me before the small North portion of my 4th loop.

As I hit the South portion of Loop 4 Ashley texted me that she was going to try to catch me one more time which she did and then she ended up running with me all the way back to the school where I was going to catch my last pacer: Colleen. I would have never asked Ashley to do that but it was FANTASTIC. She basically pulled me through that last stretch to get me to Colleen and it was exactly what I needed.

I had taken some Excederin for my back and it had helped a little but I decided to brave some Ibuprofen (not recommended EVER during long endurance events) because it was wearing off and I didn’t want to overdo it with one type of medicine. I just decided to really focus on staying hydrated to balance the potential damage an NSAID can do on an endurance event. So, starting off Loop 5 with Colleen I was already in pain but hoping to manage it with Ibuprofen.

Poor Colleen. Little did she know she’d spend the next 2 hours listening to me whine about my back. The Ibuprofen basically did nothing and I was REALLY struggling. I was also getting cramp twinges in my quads which had me a little freaked out. I’m sensitive to cramp twinges ever since my Mountain Mist last year when I full-on cramped and collapsed in a creek and then never recovered enough to run again. I did NOT want a full-on cramp so I was taking salt like a mad woman. Between my back and my quads I was walking a LOT. But never for too long and I was still trying to walk fast. I was also starting to get REALLY cold and decided I’d pile on some layers for my last loop as well as go back to Excederin. Colleen was very patient with me and never complained about the excessive walking OR complaining.

We stopped for a bit before starting the last loop to pile on layers and take meds. This caused us to REALLY get cold so we detoured by the “warming tent” before heading out. THIS was when we really got the confirmation what we’d been hearing earlier, that the course was long and they were cutting one loop off of the 100-milers because it would still give them 100 miles. There was no easy solution like that for the 100Kers so we were just stuck with the extra miles. I did the math based on my 11+ mile first loop and realized I was actually at 56+ miles at that point in time which was really only 5+ miles away from a 100K. So, even though my loop would bee 11+ miles, knowing I was only 5 miles from the 100K mark gave me a boost.

Between that knowledge and the Excederin helping AND the finish-line euphoria, the last loop went MUCH better. I still walked a bit but according to the results, I did it almost 8 minutes faster than my second-to-last loop. I was texting Donnie updates. Unofficially? I hit that 100K mark in under 14 hours which was my B goal, but the official race would be at least 5 miles longer so I was wondering if I’d be able to officially make it under 15 hours which had been my C goal. I was feeling better so we were running more.

Donnie was at the school when we crossed before doing our last 1.5 mile North portion. I was feeling GOOD. I had 30 minutes to do that 1.5 miles in order to come in under 15 hours and I was determined which I think helped Colleen because she was cold and I’m sure preferred running over walking to stay warm! We made it on that 1.5 miles in PLENTY of time and I crossed the Finish Line (after saying “HOLY SHIT, COLLEEN. I DID IT!” at least 100 times) at around 14:48 with an unofficial distance of 67 miles.

Wrap-Up

The whole thing was great. I never had any of the really severe problems you can have on a long race like chaffing or blisters. My back was terrible but it didn’t keep me from running altogether. My slowest loop still kept me at a 14.4 min/mile pace which is STILL mostly running. I never did cramp, I think because I did a really good job keeping my salt levels up. I never got dehydrated. I never got too cold. It was cold for sure, but not unbearable. I had several surprises with friends meeting me up on the course which was lovely and then I had Donnie and Colleen officially pace me for half of the race. It was all perfect and lovely and I know I couldn’t have done it without my support team. I’ll be forever grateful for each of them.

What’s Next?

NOT a 100-miler next year. Nope. This level of training was almost more than I could handle. It was like having a part-time job. I spent 8 hours running on a light week and 14 hours running on a heavy week. That’s not counting the time for getting to-from runs and soaking and prep etc. To do 100-miler I’d probably have to increase that by up to 10% and there’s just no way right now. Not while the kids still have extra-curriculars they need me to attend or at least chauffeur. Maybe after we sell our house I’ll feel like I’ll have more free time, but I doubt it. I will do a 100-Miler someday. And probably the Pistol 100-Miler because it was just what I’d like in a 100-Miler, but not any time soon.

What I’d love to do is convince my Knoxville friends to train up to the 10-mile distance and the 3 of us do a relay together some (next?) year. But they’re both busy with their own kids and I’m not sure when that would be in the pipeline. I might do the 50K just as a fun long run next year though, it really was a well-run race, even with the distance snafu. There’s one huge aid station on the South end of the loop named “Woody’s” and they even had a MENU. They had WONDERFUL stuff. It was amazing.

All in all it was exactly the race I wanted and needed. The location allowed for blessings of friends and the kids could hang out with my Mom instead of spending 15 hours chasing me around. Donnie was a great support crew chief even if he did complain I woke up him race morning. (“So you woke up at 5am! We had to be AT BODY MARKING at 4:30am of your Ironman and I had both kids. YOU CAN DEAL WITH IT.”) He found local beer to put in the fridge of our hotel and he carried all of my stuff to the car so I could just sit in the warmth. He was wonderful.

I’ll be back again. Someday for the 100-Miler, but maybe next year for the 50K. I highly recommend this event, especially if any part of you is nervous about any of the distances. It’s SO beginner friendly that you can’t help but feel confident. Now, onto my second Mountain Mist 50K which is in 3 weeks!

IMG_1624

77 Miles Of Perspective

SO. Here’s my run log.

IMG_1624

As you can see, my weeks start on Monday. If my weeks started on Saturday or Sunday, the week total for this week would say 77 because it would include LAST weekend’s Sunday and/or Saturday. But, because my week starts on Monday I only got 70 miles this week. I’m trying not to be bothered by this. I know my goal/plan was for 77, and I did do 77 in 7 days which counts, but it’s not marked like that on my run log AND THIS BOTHERS ME TERRIBLY.

Which is crazy, I know.

I’ve talked a lot recently with running friends about perspective. And the more I think about it, I think what we talk about probably plays out in all circles with a common connector. Let’s say you start socializing in an new circle. Maybe you started scrapbooking. (Does anyone do that anymore?) Or knitting. Or photography. Or maybe you just started socializing with a group of Moms with kids the same age of yours. For whatever reason, you ended up in a new social group for one common denominator that you didn’t previously have a group for…are you with me?

Before you enter that group you think:
I’m a good photographer.
I’m a good Mom.
I’m a good knitter.

That’s why you found that group, right? To find other people who connect on whatever that level is. But then you are surrounded by a lot of people who do that thing you do and suddenly you realize you’re not the best. And it’s not like you thought you were the best Mom or the best Photographer, but when you’re the only one you know doing that thing, you are the best in your experience. Then you see the quilt that girl in your sewing circle made out of 5,000 pieces of different fabric and you see your quilt and start to feel inadequate.

Perspective.

Before you started hanging out with other Moms you thought you were GREAT. But then you met that Mom who makes her own baby food. Or that Mom who keeps her kids off sugar. Or that Mom who doesn’t let her kids use screens. And suddenly you feel like you’re the worst Mom in the world.

With running it’s like this: You start running and think about braving some group runs because you hear people like me rave about it. Before you do that you’re the only runner you know and you’re awesome because you are training for your first 10K and no one in your family has ever done that and you feel BAD ASS.

But then you meet these great people you run with and you learn about people training for half-marathons or marathons or 100Ks or 100-Milers and suddenly you’re not as proud of you 10K challenge.

Perspective.

I don’t know how to stop us all from doing that. But I know we all do it. When I talk to other runners I always downplay my 100K coming up.

It’s not a trail one. It’s just on a greenway. It’s an easy one.

To which someone said a couple of weeks ago – someone I consider a rockstar of trail running – “It’s still 100K. There are no “easy” 100Ks.”

I just get my perspective out of whack because I run with people who have done the Western States 100-Miler. Or people who are training for their 5th 100-Miler. Hell, I know people who have done all of the crazy ultra marathons you can think of, including attempting Barkley several times. It’s hard to brag about your 100K on the greenway when those people are in your social circle.

But that’s twisted. Not everyone can (or even wants to) make their own baby food. That doesn’t make the Mom feeding her kid Gerber any worse of a Mom. Not everyone can (or even wants to) knit 20 sweaters for family members for Christmas. That doesn’t make the woman knitting her best friend a pair of socks any less impressive. If you’re knitting even a scarf? I’m going to think you are WAAAAAYYYY cooler than me and my 100K. Running a 100K is EASY compared to knitting a scarf. YOU PEOPLE WHO KNIT ARE AMAZING.

When you start to feel like that thing you do and sometimes makes you proud, is no longer impressive because you’re socializing with others who do that thing “better”? Then you need to shift your perspective. You need to remind yourself that your skill (parenting/running/cycling/crafting) is impressive to those who DON’T do it at all. I have friends who have done half-Ironmans and they downplay it because it’s not a FULL and I’m all, “DUDE. I don’t ever want to do an Olympic Distance triathlon again it was so hard. HALF IRONMANS ARE AMAZING.”

You have to remember that while your social circle may do amazing things, those outside of it think YOU’RE amazing. I promise you. Because you ARE amazing.

Hell, I still hold to the fact that my first 5k (the one that started my FIRST attempt at running but ended with a 7+ hour run/walk marathon) was the hardest thing I ever did. I trained entirely on the treadmill because I was scared of running out in public. I could barely sleep the night before. I thought I was going to throw up that morning. I was TERRIFIED. I am still as proud of that 5K as anything else I’ve ever done. Even though that attempt at becoming a runner didn’t stick, it planted a seed so I could try again in 2011.

Be proud, is what I’m saying. And I’m saying it to you AND to me.

11218950_10154371907118496_5421723332342379514_n copy

Training Brain.

Last week I posted a self-deprecating/humorously ashamed post on Facebook about how terrible I felt for forgetting Wes’s basketball practice on Thursday. I did feel terrible but I posted about it with a note of humor so that I could lighten my guilt. Many people chimed in about things they had forgotten, even the coach reassured us! ALL WAS WELL.

And then I forgot again this week.

I KNOW! I SHOULD HAVE PUT IT ON THE CALENDAR.

Let me tell you why I didn’t. Because I never put sports practices on the calendar, only games. Because practice schedules don’t change! Every Thursday! I’ve never had a problem remembering practices. And while last week I forgot, every night this week I thought, “Tonight is not Thursday so we don’t have practice!” Since it was on my mind so clearly every night before Thursday, I never thought I would forget when Thursday arrived.

The catch was this: I had a gathering-I-couldn’t-miss Thursday night, so Donnie was going to have to handle practice. No big deal, he does that fine, but then I found out Thursday day he was going to work late and my mind went into: FIND A BABYSITTER SO I WON’T MISS MY MEETING mode.

I found a babysitter, went to my meeting, and was completely fine until last night when Wesley quietly and sweetly said, “We forgot practice last night Mom, BUT IT IS OKAY! DON’T WORRY!”

My kids know my guilt issues too well. My daughter sent me this message via instagram.
11218950_10154371907118496_5421723332342379514_n copy

And of course Donnie was like, “Put it on the calendar,” because he’s not as in tune with my issues of guilt.

Can you guess what happened next? YES YOU CAN BECAUSE WE ARE SO MUCH ALIKE.

ME: “I just feel the need to point out all of the things I did this week that I did RIGHT like put garbage and recycling out and do laundry and pack lunches and sweep and vacuum and change the kitty litter and Christmas shop and move tons of stuff downstairs since the renovation starts in a week and met with the contractor and dealt with the insurance company for my car and set up childcare for the holidays and went to a meeting and took the kids to the library and bought groceries and…”

I stopped there because I realized Donnie had left the room to go to the bathroom. He may not know my guilt issues well, but he knows when to make an exit.

I still woke up feeling pretty terrible about it. It is on the calendar now. I keep telling myself that this is Training Brain. Pregnancy Brain works the same way. When your body is doing something exhausting like growing a human or training for a 100K, your brain gets deprived the necessary oxygen since other parts of your body need it more urgently. I’ve run 77 miles in the past 7 days and I still have 33 miles and 2 days to go before I get a rest day. I AM TIRED, yo. So the blood is going to help my legs and my body cope with all of these miles and it’s doing a decent job with my brain, but on Thursday when the “Donnie Has To Work Late” alarm was sounded and I panicked about missing my meeting, the basketball practice just disappeared amidst the chaos and the exhaustion.

But we do have a lot going on. I work full time. Donnie has been working 60-80 hour weeks. It’s Christmas. I have to move almost every item upstairs to downstairs before 12/28 when the renovations upstairs begin. It’s a lot of balls to juggle even without the 100K training so I’m trying not to be too hard on myself. I’m trying to care for myself and be as kind to myself as I would to any of my friends who called and said, “I missed practice!” I would tell them with love how wonderful they are and that the one missed practice is nothing and just life and that they shouldn’t feel bad. So, I’m trying to tell myself that. I’m trying to be as supportive to myself as I would be to my friends.

The funny thing is that now that we’re on holiday break, there won’t be practice for a few weeks. So, anyone want to place bets on whether I’ll take Wes on Thursday anyway? That would be me. Forget the two weeks we actually have practice but show up the night we don’t.

Header-Logo-2016

3 Weeks.

Header-Logo-2016In 3 weeks I’ll be running 62 miles one race. I have 30 hours to complete it, but I pray to ALL THAT IS HOLY that I don’t need that. I truly think 15 hours is “worse case scenario” based on my current training and past experience. I’m really hoping to do it in closer to 13 hours which will barely creep into my bedtime. That is my concern – the deterioration I’m bound to experience every moment past 8pm which is usually when I try to get to bed.

3 weeks.

The 100K is an “urban ultra” called the Pistol Ultra and it’s in Maryville, TN – outside Knoxville where I’m from. I’ll be able to visit my Mom and even take advantage of a running buddy having a sister who lives there so I’m going to actually have someone run the last 20 miles with me. It’s a greenway, so I’ll not have to worry about the ultra shuffle causing me to trip late in the day (trail ultras make me nervous for that reason, tired legs are hard to pick up) and it’s 10’ish mile loops so I’ll be able to set up my own little aid station with everything I might need. It really has everything I’d want out of my first 100K, so much that I’m using this as a trial run for consideration in doing the 100 Miler next year. It’s too perfect not to at least consider it.

I just have to get through the 100K first. And my last big training week is this week. I need to get 77 miles in this week. I’ve not done a great job sticking to training since Thanksgiving. I got my two back-to-back 20 milers in this weekend, but I skipped 2 runs this week and shortened a 3rd so I finished the week about 10 miles too short. I CAN NOT DO THAT THIS WEEK. I have to be very diligent about sticking to the plan. My goal is to do 7-7-10-7-7-23-16 but I’m not sure how easy that will be. It’s hard to get up at 3am every weekday, which is what I have to do to leave the house by 4:45am. I need an hour and 45 minutes to get all my coffee in, do my blogging, minor chores, pack lunches etc. So 3am wakeup 5 days in a row will be ROUGH. This week I’ll actually be sleeping late on the weekends, until maybe 5am! WOO.

I’m telling you all this so that hopefully you can help hold me accountable. My goal is to pop in Sunday evening and say, “I did it! 77 miles in one week! Time to taper!” Which, it’s not EXACTLY A 2-week taper, but I’ll have a big drop to a 1-week taper so if I can just make it through Sunday and get all of my miles in, I’ll have the confidence I need to survive race day.

I’m equal parts terrified and totally zen about it. I did 57 miles in 30+ hours a few weeks ago. Granted I had a night’s sleep in the middle, but I did it and I felt fine so this race is very equivalent. Maybe even easier since there’s hardly any elevation change on this course.

I was telling my friend this weekend – the one who will be running with me at my race – I’m actually pretty zen about the race day itself. I truly believe the journey is the reward. Race day is just the last step in a long challenge and I survived 95% of the challenge before in the training, so big picture? The race itself? Does not need to hold a lot of power over me. I’m confident I’ll finish, after this week I’ll be more confident I’ll finish under 15 hours, but in reality? I’ve already reached very high levels of pride in the weeks of discipline bringing me to this point. I’ve carried a huge burden on top of work/family/life and I’ve not killed anyone or lost my mind completely. I celebrate the training more than I’ll celebrate the victory.

But I promise you, I’ll still celebrate the victory plenty. 62 miles? BRING IT ON.