Snowdrop Ultra 55

I won\’t lie to you. I\’ve wanted one of these buckles since 2014. I entered the race that year, but did not finish the 100 miles. I only got 45 miles; and my knee wouldn\’t work after that. So I dropped.

Here is the 2018 version with the shirt; which I now own.

So the race lurked in my mind quietly for several years. In April this year, I did a 50k in a great time and I felt great after; I wondered if I could do 50 miles or even try a timed 100 again.

I started to watch for Snowdrop entry to open. Opening was midnight on June 28. That night, I was laying awake in bed at 1:30 am thinking how I would enter in the morning. I decided to enter right then and maybe I could go to sleep. It was already 65% full. It filled by 8 am.

But, I\’m IN!!

I signed up for a rails-to-trails 50 mile race October 28. It went really really well. I was surprised. I did a 50k on December 16. It went really well. I decided I\’m ready for Snowdrop.

On December 24 I went to the Snowdrop course and ran for about an hour. While I was there, two of the race directors showed up. They explained everything to me and gave me a tour. On Monday December 25, I thought it would be ok if I just didn\’t go. I even drafted an e-mail to the RD saying to give my ticket to someone on the wait list; but I never sent it. I decided to go running first. For one hour, I was sure I would skip the race. Then I was thinking about how I was making an emotional decision, projecting how unhappy cold mud and porta-potties are. Then after 2 hours, I got this tiny little thought: what is so bad about just going one day and seeing how things are? Uh…. what a concept, don\’t quit without even giving yourself a chance. You can\’t get to day 2 if you don\’t go to day 1. You can\’t get to day 3 if you don\’t go to day 2.

By Wednesday, I realized: you can\’t finish if you never start. I decided I would get my butt to the starting line.period. Then, the day before the race, I decided I would get 61 laps done (42 miles) but no other commitment.

This race is a mental race. The course is flat and short. It is not a beautiful dramatic thing like Hardrock; but there will still be blood and tears as each racer meets their own limitations. The whole problem of finishing is mental. Hence, it is unknown territory. I am a notorious quitter. But I am better now than have ever been.

You can\’t have a journey if you never start.
You can\’t have grit if you let your fear keep you home.

I went to packet pick up with a box containing about 10 lbs of old race medals. Snowdrop Foundation puts new ribbons on these and hands them out to kids with cancer; \”Bling for Bravery.\”

Day 1: I\’m at the race site very early. I was awake most of the night worried about getting a parking spot in the A lot. Driving to the race, I heard a story on the radio about a girl who fell off a cliff while riding her bicycle and almost died; and how she got a love of life itself during the experience. She learned not to just go from thing to thing, but to live each moment as a precious time. Perfect. I need to enjoy this race, not just hope to get it over as soon as possible. Journey they said.

The weather might rain but it is pretty warm. I claim a good spot along the course for my wagon and chair. Eventually, the race starts. I planned to run 3 minutes and walk 2 minutes until I got to 61 laps (42 miles). I did well with this until about 34 miles when I decided to walk the last 15 laps. The course was half concrete and this was taking a toll on my lower back and knees. So I shut down the running. I was on course moving forward about 11 hours and a little. Lots of pit stops to grab food, shift garmins, porta-potty, etc. It did rain for about 30 minutes so I got to use my new umbrella. I was very tired after the 30 min drive home.

Snowdrop Foundation helps kids with cancer. All around the course they have pictures of little kids with cancer. Some say, \”In honor of  ____\” Some say, \”In memory of _____\” (Oh, these are the ones who didn\’t make it). Some say, \”Survivor ____\” In any case, looking at these pictures made my choke up repeatedly all during the race.

I resolved to show up for day 2, but no expectations on performance. I ate a big bowl of vegetarian cuisine for dinner. I didn\’t sleep real great.

Day 2: I got to the course and started running at 5:17 am. I was surprised that my legs felt good. So I again did 3 minutes jog and 2 min walk. I slowed down my running speed to lessen the impact. I did real well, with too many pit stops. The weather was pretty warm, but a heavy mist. I was getting wet and had to use a rain shell.

They had some new signs on the course. Here is my favorite:

They also had a sign that said, \”They didn\’t say it would be easy but they did say it would be worth it.\” These two signs helped me alot mentally.

I must have been a cranky pants a good part of day 2. Some people started finishing. I got to see the things they do for each and every person who gets to 100 miles. All I thought was I don\’t want all that fuss. Just give me my buckle and let me go. Cranky Pants!!!  Better I finish on day 3 when I won\’t be so cranky.

I got the second batch of 61 laps done. Another 11 hours on course. The shoes I used for day 2 weren\’t exactly right. These shoes had caused some problems with one of my toe nails. After I got home, I figured out what to do about that (and used a different pair of shoes for day 3).

I was now up to 84 miles. I knew that come hell or high water, I would finish those last 16 miles, even if I had to crawl.

Day 3: Again, I didn\’t sleep very much. After 84 miles, my body felt a little beat up. Nothing was broken, but I kept feeling little twinges of pain here or there. My hips weren\’t happy, so I couldn\’t lie comfortably. But I had the alarm set for 3 am; and when it went off, I was up and at \’em.

I started forward motion at 4:45. It was very cold. Many people were still on course. Many of these people were walking very slowly and maybe limping.

I, on the other hand, was amazed at the recuperative power of laying in bed for a few hours. I was well enough to again do the 3 minutes jog and 2 minutes walk. I was doing really good. It was very cold and windy, but this didn\’t seem to bother me.

I had to be patient. It was still going to take a few hours to finish 16 miles. Don\’t screw up now. But I was excited to see my lap count get closer and closer. And I was feeling better and better. I couldn\’t believe I was actually going to finish this thing. It had taken alot to get to this point.

At 143 laps, I could hear them mention my name. The RD asked me how many laps as I went by. I said 2 more. She said, \”Next lap is your bell lap?\” I said, \”Yes.\” She wrote something on her clip board. I kept going but started to cry real tears. Even as I type this now, I\’m crying. I was going to finish that race. I finished the final 16 miles (23 laps) in about 3:45.

I am not a quitter!

They actually have a big bell that you ring for your last lap (in honor of a cancer patient completing treatment). As I came through the race crew was again saying my name. I rang the bell. Then, I ran most of the last lap. The crew was watching for me as I came around. They hold a finishers tape for everyone. They announce on the loud speaker. The RD even said it was my first 100 miler (true), and that I almost quit earlier in the week.

Here I am getting my buckle.

This was an experience of a lifetime. Worth it!

A word about me and timed ultras. Why did I go home? Well, for many races, when something goes wrong, my brain is too worn out to fix any problems. All I do is quit, usually with 50 miles. But, when I get home, I realize what I could have done. So this time, I just planned to go home, even though it was a 35 minute drive. Indeed, after day 2, I had some repairs to do on toes and at home, I had the resources.

Also, I know what part of my problem with 100 mile races is. After about 35 – 40 miles, I am not interested in more running. If it is a 50 mile race, I\’ll tough it out. But I fail to see the point of walking slowly in pain for 65 miles. I admire people who do it, but I can\’t seem to do it myself.

Snowdrop Report

Someone else said this, \”I don’t know how to describe the pain… the excruciating, searing pain that each footfall brought to every joint and muscle fiber in my body or the exhaustion that left me unable to walk even a single step beyond the finish line.\”

I can\’t do that. My brain says that I should stop. This happens over and over; and why I fail at 100 mile timed races.

But I am not going to throw away the 45 miles I did do. So here goes.

I have been a fantasizer about ultra miles for years. And I have tried various venues. When I heard about this one, I thought it could finally work. The course is in Houston so I could drive to it. It is essentially 3 days which should be enough. They rented cubicle tents next to the course. There was a hotel 5 miles away. I clicked submit.

During the summer, I completed a virtual race where I got in 100 miles in 64 hours. This caused me to think Snowdrop was do-able. This was a mistake because the virtual race was in summer (my element). And I ran the virtual race from home where I could get food I needed and in between miles, I could lay on the bed with ice packs. I could use my rollers to limber up. I could make shoe adjustments.

Well, anyway, training went well. On October 31, I did a 50k in fine form. In late November, I did another 30 mile run with a 10 mile walk the next day. I was sure I was ready.

On December 18, I had a terrible sore throat. I thought I had plenty of time to get over a cold before the race. On Monday 12/22, I still had a terrible sore throat and couldn\’t talk. I went on a mission to obtain antibiotics. Yes, I had bronchitis. But I got well very quickly. No lingering horrible cough like I saw others having.

On Monday 12/29, I drove over to the race site and picked up my packet. I also dropped off numerous race medals for the Bling for Bravery program. This caused the volunteers to gasp and thank me for my gift. I also met with a woman who had expertise in taping toes. She showed me how she does it and taped two of mine. I did the other foot myself later.

The course is 0.76 miles, mostly flat. It had been raining in Houston so the course was wet, and of course muddy with numerous people walking around it. And cold and windy. Because of the mud, many of us spent the first 8 hours walking around the mud on the grass. This made the course longer but was worth it to keep the feet dry. Then a group of Boy Scouts were put to work putting filler onto the course so we could easily walk around it. That was impressive.

I got to the start ontime. Everything seemed good. Well, Team RWB is an annoying group of people if you happen to be a pacifist and non-patriot. I had to duck several times to avoid being slapped in the face by huge American flags being carried around the course.

Snowdrop Foundation funds childhood cancer research. Around the course were pictures of cute children Some said \”In loving memory of _____;\” these were the kids that died. Some said, \”In honor of _______;\” I presume these were the kids still fighting cancer. These pictures caused me to choke up. I thought about how they were probably loved. I mourned my own terrible childhood. I came to believe in a loving Father God.

For 30 miles, 8 hours, I did my walk jog. Then switched to power walking. Things felt really good. I was surprised. I walked 5 laps more than plan; and stopped to go to the hotel with 45 miles. I didn\’t suspect any problems. My main concern was food. As a vegetarian, I hadn\’t had the hot meaty meals other people had received. I was craving green.

I got in my car and drove the 5 miles to the hotel.

When I tried to get out of the car, whoa! My right leg won\’t straighten all the way. The tendons on the back had suddenly snapped tight and swollen. I could hardly walk at all. This did not seem good.

I went to my room. I warmed up some beans. Ate the yogurt. Took some Aleve. But mostly I laid there with a pillow under the knee. Every time I tried to get up, everything of my body hurt but also, the leg continued to be dis-functional.

Alone in my hotel room a decision was reached. I know that the leg could be very slowly warmed up and I could slowly walk all day and continue the race. It would be ungodly slow, cold, wet, muddy. Most ultra runners would do this. Alone in my hotel room, I thought that I didn\’t want that leg to feel the same level of bad again the next night or the following night. It wasn\’t worth a belt buckle to continue to destroy the knee. Did I really need to spend 2 more days walking around a muddy cold course?

Gulp! Early the next morning the knee is better, but I\’m more worried about parking at the race (where I need to go to turn in my chip and pick up my gear), and morning traffic when I tried to drive home. My mind was not on trying at all. Only thinking about going home.

I think the power walking was yanking the tendons every step. That particular knee has had an ACL strain in the past. I know it is not a wholly perfect piece of work. I was surprised that walking caused this, but it was exuberant walking for 15 miles on top of 30 miles of jog/walk.

Anyone I\’ve talked to outside of the race has told me I did the right thing. No ultra-runner has agreed however. There is a line there which I have not crossed.

My tendons did get better in a couple of days. I did realize I have a problem which limits ultra-running. Both a mental and physical limit. 45 miles is however not to be thrown away. I did it! I\’m glad for that.

I\’ve cancelled my summer expedition. That is because 2 of the 6 days were to be 39 and 43 miles on hills with time limits. I don\’t want to challenge my knee and then be stuck in a desert tent with no ability to deal with it. An eight hundred dollar lesson.

But my mind still soars. I don\’t know what to do except restrict ego activities and sink into silent prayer. I guess that is all that needs to be said.

Snowdrop T-10.5 hours

On March 26th, 2014, I signed up for a 55 Hour Race. Back up a little. On November 4, 2014, I regained the use of my left foot after surgery. In March, while I was doing well with rehabilitation, I was still fiddling with insoles every time I put on shoes. What made me think I could walk 100 miles?

Even with good feet, 100 miles is difficult.

Now, my feet feel good. Tomorrow I toe the line. Some of my stuff is already at the race site. More of it goes in the car in the morning. An hour drive to the race.

In 2 weeks, I\’ll be 56. I finished menopause this year; and it left me with a different body. 10 days ago, I came down with bronchitis. But that is gone now. I feel good.

It will be cold and wet. But 50+ other people will be trudging around the course with me.

I\’ve not yet succeeded with 100 miles in one race.

I better go upstairs and finish packing.

Snowdrop T- 1.5 and counting

Tomorrow is packet pickup. Tuesday 7 am is the start.

Today I did a 6.6 mile jog walk in El Lago. It was a good chance to practice wearing a rain suit. I realized that I\’ll have to save the impermeable rain suits for the real downpours on New Years Day. For cold and wind, I\’ll use Gortex and my Texas wind proof jacket. Layers and fleece underneath. Head swathed in hat and buff. I\’ll have the down parkas for really cold times. I have adequate gloves.

But you know, it is illogical and nonsensical to spend 30 hours over 3 days walking around a dirt path just for a belt buckle; or to say I ran 100 miles. So why do this?

It is a mental exercise. It requires me to hone my patience and perseverance. How do I keep going when my brain is insisting I stop. And my brain is right. Keeping going doesn\’t matter. Except in a non-physical sense.

Very few get the point of this. I\’m not sure I do, except I keep doing it. Most friends I know say this doesn\’t make sense. They are right, it doesn\’t. The results are only in my mind.

Snowdrop T minus 2 days and counting

It is Saturday eve. Tuesday morning I plan to toe the line at a 55 hour endurance event. In my house, piles of clothes and food have begun appearing. A couple of things are already in the car. I got my hair cut today. Monday, I pick up my packet, get my toes taped and put my gear in the bunk house.

I don\’t think I have felt so good in my legs for a long time. Thanks to bronchitis this week, I\’ve been resting. But even when sick, I went for some long walks. The fresh air of a walk seemed to help me feel better. The drugs the PA gave me for my cough seem to have prevented the weeks of coughing I see many others have.

But still, walking/jogging 100 miles is alot. I don\’t really know if I can. Things can just go wrong. My brain is my worst enemy. This time, I got a hotel near the race so I can go regroup; but not quit all together. This race is on a cold windy course. I have all my winter clothes from when I used to live in Missouri ready to pack. Including a down parka.

Patience. Patience. Patience. Just quietly keep walking.

btw: like the ship channel skyline? I just put that picture on top of this blog today. Needless to say, I love chemicals and making them is my profession.

Cough Gag

Next Tuesday at 7 am, I will be toeing the start line of a 55 hour endurance event.

What was I doing yesterday? Sitting in the Minute Clinic talking the PA out of antibiotics for bronchitis. Score! I also got a note to stay off work.

Only an ultra runner would think they could have bronchitis one week and walk 100 miles the next. But yes, I think I can.

The sore throat did go away overnight so I know I did the right thing. Being sick for longer wouldn\’t have helped in any aspect of my life. And the other people at work didn\’t want me there contaminating them anyway.

US health care is tragic. Dufus doctors charging high prices for 30 seconds of time. How on earth would I even find a doctor I liked and trusted? You can\’t get a bio on someone when you look through the insurance company web site. Speaking of which: insurance companies are parasitic money sucking killers.

So I find the Minute Clinic a refreshing alternative. For some little problem, a PA is perfectly fine to write me a proscription. The prices are reasonable. The locations are easy. The red tape is minimal. Until yesterday, I didn\’t even know the Minute Clinic could do these easy things. I\’m sold.

Thanksgiving Day 4

Well, rest day. I slept in and then lolly gagged buying running shoes at an early black Friday sale. I also was musing about whether it would be possible to get a philosophy degree on-line. I found an interesting philosophy page which discussed the writing of essays. Reminds me that this blog is very bad in regards to organized thought. I had a nice spiritual study and then made it to the trail at 10:20.

My ACIM lesson was, \”I am in danger nowhere in the world.\” I wasn\’t really clicking with this lesson until I sat quietly. Then it came to me: I am always wrapped in Love\’s embrace.\” And this is what I took with me to the trail. Today, I remembered my garmin and everything. I decided to go to a small loop and be sure to measure it. Yes, it is 0.75 miles. So this loop will be my mental training loop for the 55 hour race over New Years.

Today, I was clearly not interested in long hours of miles. I was thinking alot about my pacing and timing for the 55 hour race. I decided that a good experiment would be for me to try at least one day, if not two days, of 40 laps on this 0.75 mile loop. I thought tomorrow and Thursday would be good. So I kept today short, just 2 hours.

Consequently, the groceries, the car wash, the AA meeting and the house cleaning got done. The AA meeting was about drinking and holidays. I kept quiet since I don\’t want to discuss my particular outlook on holiday activities. As a general rule, for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, it is assumed that you must participate. If you have no family then you should join another gathering or volunteer at a soup kitchen. If you don\’t participate then you are not grateful. Christmas is worse. You must participate in the \”reason for the season\” or you are a scrooge and ungrateful to God.

My radical plan for Thanksgiving is to walk around a park 40 times.

Also, I started a new book on the philosophy of Dune. It is an easy read and interesting. Combined with Plotinus and my general yearning for depth of thought and spirituality, I again muse about the nature of life. Do I think at all? I see that my mind is often caught up in resentments. I can think about something else whenever I realize I need to. That is a practice of solitude.

I first heard of \”solitaries\” about 2 years before entering the monastery. After leaving the monastery, I continued to pursue solitude. I don\’t know what I will find here. I don\’t know if only gaining solitude on nights and weekends is enough. I stand outside the tribe. This is my contemplation.

Seabrook Hill Country

Seabrook has one hill. This one:

Can you barely see a 30 ft mound in the back ground? That is it.

I really had a fun run today. First, I slept incredibly late. No worries, the weather has broken. It may even have got down to 69F last night. So, I can go running later without so much problems with the heat. So I slept late and got in a leisurely spiritual study period.

I heard my mind say, I want to do 100 of something. I realized that with the cooler weather, I can shift my training back to doing laps in non-shady areas in preparation for Snowdrop Ultra 55 hour race.

Today was the first coolish day in at least 6 months. Temps in the 70s, cloudy sky, good north wind. I devised a very interesting run. Near this grassy mound is a 0.35 mile loop. So I walked part of the loop, diverted to the mound for two trips up and down it, jogged more of the loop, ran strides on the back stretch, hit the lap button, repeat.

30 laps. 60 trips up and down the mound. Not bad for a flatlander. I think my quads will inform me of that tomorrow.

I was thinking of my parents and my mother and my 2015 expedition. My parents used to go on week long burro trips with the Sierra Club. As a 6 year old, I didn\’t appreciate these trips very much. Looking back however, I can see my heritage. My parents must have had the idea of adventure and given it to me. My mother didn\’t live in a time when women ran marathons. So she rode horses. She was thwarted by alcoholism. I have a sober life so can do more physically.

It is awesome. I live in an age when many women are doing unbelievable things well into maturity.

9/80 Weekend

This weekend, I put together 42 miles in about 10 hours. Today was walk day, as in mostly walk only some jog. Yesterday was 5×1 day, as in jog 5 walk 1.

And I bought a new car:

Totally happy with it. Its my second Prius, 4th Toyota. First sexy black car.

It has been a weekend of pondering inner peace. The car purchase was part of it; because it was almost a total non-event as far as life in this world is concerned. I went to the dealership. Jerked around with the sales man back and forth twice. Jerked around with a stack of paperwork. Move my stuff into the new car and go home. Inner peace would mean a not-special life. No dopamine. No highs. No lows. I\’ve been working on inner peace as a spiritual goal. My life does get quieter. But then I ask myself, do I really want this? Well, not ego does. Egos like turmoil and excitement.

Today is the start of Holy Week for the Christians, especially the Roman Catholics. It is a hellish week for monastics. \”The Demons\” go wild with annoyances. As for myself, I don\’t really see the point anymore. It has been several years since I finished my bible studies and decided most of it was the domain early Church Bishop\’s agenda; and that what Jesus said or did has been misinterpreted ever since.

Sitting in my AA meeting this week, I had a revelation. See, I felt guilty that I left my home town at the age of 26 to move halfway across the continent. Got sober and attempted to do step 9 by letter with a raging alcoholic. Didn\’t work. She kicked me out of her life and then died before I ever saw her again. Yesterday, I for the first time thought, \”What if all that was The Spirit\’s way of sparing me additional pain including a life as a drunk?\” What if I was doing the next right thing and how it turned out had nothing to do with me? Then, I should accept The Spirit\’s gift of a sober life and be happy.

Today I did my miles in Brummerhop park. 41 laps. I thought about self transcendence. My whole ultra career go started and stays on because I hope for self transcendence. Truly, walking laps in a 0.37 miles loop is unglamorous and the only thing to do is repeat the day\’s spiritual lesson. For hours. I could call it training for the 55 hour race I signed up for. But really, its original purpose was self transcendence. I attempt to think thoughts not from the worldly source. I attempt to quiet my mind and hear spiritually sourced thoughts.

And just keep walking.

And just keep walking.

Ultra Fever

It happens every time I am not in severe pain: miles.

Since regaining use of my left foot 5 months ago, doing miles has been problematic even though continuously improving. The place where the scar ends on the bottom on my heel can be incredibly painful. And other place on the bottom back of the heel hurt for no explicable reason. But these things are getting better.

So, there is a 55 hour race over New Year\’s in Houston. The race rents cubes in a tent so you can stay right there onsite. I wanted a cube so I signed up for the race as soon as I noticed it was open for registration.

I have tried several times to do 100 miles in one race. But always I\’ve been defeated: mentally. The closest I came was a Silverton in 2011 with 86 miles. If I had just sat down on that last day and ate, and not been afraid of falling on that mountain in the dark, I could\’ve…..  At Ultracentric, it only took 54 miles to tear up my little toes, then I was shivering like crazy and food running out my bowels…..  At Aslinger, I got 80 miles in 20 hours before quitting because I knew I couldn\’t make 100 miles in 24 hours.

But anyway, I keep trying.

This weekend was not only miles for marathon training but miles for ultra preparation. I promised myself 10 hours of walking at any speed. Friday night I walked 7.2 miles in 2 hours. Saturday, I jog walked 5x1s for 20 miles and then walked another mile, which only took 4h53. Today I walked and jogged for 3h14min for 11.55 miles. All told 39.75 miles. Damn good.

As I was walking today, I knew there was no stopping me regardless of how bad this might be for me. Or how silly the idea of 100 miles in 55 hours is. I just must try again. I know the crew-less person has almost no chance of finishing 100 miles. I have almost no chance. But I still must try. I know people who are decades older with leg issues who slog their way along to get their 100. I am going to try again.

Between now and New Years (8 months) is a hot Houston summer. I\’ve always been able to walk even in heat and I have a couple of small loops which are mostly trees. The 3100 mile Self Transcendence race begins in June. That always inspires me to do my laps. I\’ll just keep trying to add hours. I might go to San Antonio and walk a couple of marathons in a couple of days. But I will keep walking.