Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Race Recap: Death by 5K

On Saturday, I ran the hardest race of my life. Don't let the name "Death by 5K" deceive you. This was a 50K run over the course of 24 hours at Shelby Farms Park in Memphis. The first 5K started at 8 am on Saturday, and then we ran the same 5K trail loop again every 2.5 hours through 6:30 am on Sunday — for a total of 10 5Ks (or 31 miles).

I've run two 50K races and one virtual 50K (and I'm currently training for a 50-miler in May), so I knew I could do the distance. And I assumed that breaking a 50K up into 10 5K segments could make it feel easier. But boy, was I wrong. It wasn't the distance that was challenging; it was the sleep deprivation. But let's back up a bit. 

I arrived at the race on Saturday around 6 am and set up my campsite. This would be my home base for the next 24 hours. Inside the tent was an air mattress and my pillow, because I intended to catch naps in the breaks. 

Before I left home, I had my usual pre-race white bagel with vegan cream cheese. And I intended to have another snack after every 5K. But I topped off the tank before 5K number one with a coffee soda and a banana.

And then at 8 am, we were off! I felt great on that first 5K. We ran the Shelby Farms Tour de Wolf trail, which I run often, so I was on familiar terrain. It's not my favorite trail because there are lots of uneven areas and deep bike tracks that make it easy to roll an ankle. But I've run my share of miles on that trail over the years, so I knew what to expect. It rained very hard on Friday, so the trail was fairly muddy. But I've seen worse.

After that first loop, I had a Calorie Bomb Cookie and a Sesame Rice Ball — both recipes from the workout foods chapter of the No Meat Athlete Cookbook. 

I finished the first loop in less than 40 minutes, so that gave me a little under two hours to rest before the next loop. My tent neighbors invited to me sit with them since I was there alone, and we quickly bonded and stuck together all day and night. So I chatted with them until the second loop at 10:30 am. 5K number two went well. Still feeling strong and running a faster pace than I typically would in a 50K.

After lap two, I boiled some water in the camp stove that I packed and made this Dr. McDougall's Vegan Chicken Ramen. I also had some applesauce. 

I should also mention that the race organizers provided hot meals after each lap, like pancakes, pizza, chicken noodle soup, and grilled peanut butter sandwiches. But I assumed, rightly so, that those meals wouldn't be vegan, so I packed all my own food. Here's the race HQ, where food was being served all day, and they had Death by 5K merch for sale.

In my break time, I also did a Yoga with Adriene video. I packed a yoga mat, and that was a very good decision. Next up: 5K number three at 1 pm. It had warmed up quite a bit by then, and the weather was just perfect. I felt amazing! 9.3 miles down.

By this point, I was getting pretty hungry, so I broke out the Amy's Bean & Rice Burrito that I'd prepared at home. And I grabbed some Nutter Butters from the free snacks area. Although the hot meals weren't vegan, the race provided some vegan snacks, like those cookies, chips, and peanut butter crackers. I visited with my new friends — Bonnie, Susan, Colin, and their friends/family who came to support them — while we waited for number four.

The fourth 5K started at 3:30 p.m., and I was still feeling fantastic. I changed into a singlet because it was even warmer (maybe 70 degrees and sunny). I would have preferred the weather to be even warmer, but 70 felt good when I was moving. When it was over, I'd completed 12.4 miles. That's about what I would do on a typical fallback easy long run day.

My post-run snack after number four was an Uncrustables Strawberry PB&J (my fave long run snack), Ruffles, and a Calorie Bomb Cookie. My goal was to try to get between 200 and 400 calories after every 5K, and at this point, I was a doing a great job of that. 

I read a little bit in my break (Born to Run 2 by Christopher McDougall), and I attempted to take a nap, but I was wide awake.

Here's our crew at 6 p.m. just before our fifth loop, looking fresh and feeling good.

After the fifth loop (which put us at 15.5 miles), I had a banana while I boiled water for Mike's Mighty Craft Ramen. I also had an Athletic Brewing NA coffee beer. I figured it was time to start pounding coffee since this was our last loop in the daylight.

Our next loop — #6 — started at 8:30 pm, just after dark. I got a headlamp for Christmas, and this was my first chance to put it to the test on trails. I was pretty nervous about running in the woods in the dark, but there were so many people around (and so many headlamps) that it wasn't scary at all. And it was pretty fun!

After this loop, I decided to go sit in my car, so I could soak up some heat and charge my phone while I watched the Memphis Grizzlies play the Lakers in the playoffs. I brought snacks — another Uncrustable sandwich and chips. The heat in the car was nice, but the Grizzlies were playing terribly (we lost that game), and that was a bummer.

By this point, I'd run 18.6 miles, and I still felt okay. But I was starting to get sleepy, and this is where it started to get hard. I'm typically in bed by 8 pm, and loop number seven started at 11 pm. But I managed to run the whole thing, and my headlamp did a great job. Except the light attracts tiny bugs, and I'm pretty sure I swallowed a ton of bugs. Not vegan, I know.

I was pretty sleepy, and I wanted a nap. But I also wanted a snack. So I boiled more water for these Wicked Foods Spicy Coconut Rice Noodles. It was pretty cold — in the low 50s — and this warm meal hit the spot. I also had a Rebbl coffee protein drink because I knew I'd need plenty of protein and caffeine to keep going.

The next race was at 1:30 pm, and I decided to try and catch a nap. But I wasn't able to sleep. I rested my eyes, but there was no drifting off. And before I knew it, it was time for the eighth 5K. It was getting harder. But my legs felt okay, so I kept a decent trail pace. I got a burst of energy while I was running, and then as soon as I was done with those 24.8 miles, I was so ready to crash.

So ready, in fact, that I laid down without eating. I drifted off for about 20 minutes, and then it was time to get up again. I set my alarm for about 40 minutes before our ninth 5K at 4 am, so I could scarf down a snack. I tried to eat this Sesame Rice Ball, but I got nauseous and couldn't finish it. 

They had hot coffee at the race HQ, so I had a little of that. And I tried to pull myself together. Everyone in our little group was feeling pretty gross at that point. 

We were tired. And tired of running in the dark. But we did it. I thought the ninth loop might feel easier knowing we were almost done, but nope. It was the hardest one! Running on trails with no sleep in total darkness (aside from a headlamp) for hours will really do a number on your psyche. Here's a post-ninth loop bathroom selfie. That's one great thing about this race! Because it was at Shelby Farms Park, we had a nice bathroom with flushing toilets and sinks. No long line of race porta-potties!

I couldn't really eat at this point, but I had another Rebbl coffee protein drink. And then I got nauseous again and threw most of it up. Ugh. But that did make me feel a little better.

We'd heard it was about to start raining before the 10th loop, so I panicked and started packing up my tent, air mattress, food, and all my camping gear. I was afraid of finishing the last lap and then having to pack up in a hard rain. I was running on pure adrenaline at this point, and I'm not really sure how I managed to pack everything up in the dark. But I did! 

And by the time I had finished loading up my car, it was time for the 10th and final loop at 6:30 am. The run was just coming up, and it was a relief to not have to run in the dark. But without more than 20 minutes of sleep all night, I felt like the walking dead. On the bright side, the rain turned out to be more of a sprinkle.

But it was cold. Temps had dropped into the 40s, so when we took off, I decided to try and run a bit to warm up (even though I was way too tired to run, and most everyone was walking). When I finally I warmed up, I started walking, too. But then, with about one mile to go, I decided I'd try to run again. And I immediately tripped over a root! My first fall in 10 loops! I was quite proud that I'd made it that far without falling since I typically fall at least once on every trail run. Oh well!

That last loop was by far my slowest since I walked most of it. But I FINALLY finished in just under an hour. And I was awarded my Death by 5K finishers' coffin. Inside was a plastic skeleton. This was a fun twist on the usual medal!

Will I ever run this race again? I doubt it! But it was a very well-organized race, and I'm so glad I did it. I feel like I've earned the coffin, and I don't need to do it again. That said, I do hope to run a 100-miler one day, and I feel like this race prepared me for running in the dark and running on little to no sleep. 

Monday, April 24, 2023

St. Louis Camping Trip, Days 5-6

Okay, so I promised a wrap-up post of our St. Louis camping trip on Thursday, and I failed to deliver. But here I am with a belated recap. Life has just been so busy lately, as tends to happen in the spring. 

Paul and I camped in Eureka, Missouri, right outside of St. Louis, for his birthday. And we did all the tourist-y things, including City Museum, a Cardinals game, and the Gateway Arch. So by day five, Saturday, we didn't have much planned. We'd considered going to Six Flags, because we were camped less than a mile away. But a storm moved through early in the day and more rain was predicted for the afternoon, so that plan went out the window.

We couldn't really hang around the campsite while it rained because we have a small pull-behind camper that only has room for a bed inside. So we decided to have an inside day and hit up a brewery and vegan restaurant. We drove to Maryland Heights, Missouri — just northwest of St. Louis — to check out O'Fallen Brewing. I've been a longtime fan of their beers, so I wanted to see where my favorite smoked porter was made.

We enjoyed a couple beers there, and I got some to take back home with us. And then we headed to Bombay Food Junkies, a vegan restaurant in Creve Coeur, Missouri, that I'd been dreaming about ever since I did my St. Louis Happy Cow research.

This place is a vegan Indian fusion restaurant, and y'all know I love Indian food. Like more than anything else! And to be able to eat everything on their huge menu was so thrilling. I stood in the front of their massive menu trying to decide forever. I finally settled on Kachori Chaat (fried lentil puff topped with chickpeas, onions, sev, vegan yogurt, and other little treats). I love, love, love chaat, and I was excited to be able to order chaat with yogurt.

And a Naan Pizza with vegan mozz, veggies, and Indian spices. This was a fun fusion menu item that I knew would heat up well at the campsite if I had any leftover (and I did). Also, it's pizza with corn! Genius!

Paul doesn't really like Indian food (and he'd eaten at the brewery), but he ordered a Cookies & Cream Ice Cream Cake. And though he liked it, he didn't finish it because he was full. So guess who got to eat most of those tasty cake? Me! It was soooo good. They also had a menu of milkshakes, and I'm definitely going back to visit there and ordering a shake.

While we were at dinner, we started getting tornado watch alerts on our phones. And on the 30-minute drive back to the campsite, those watches became warnings. And the sky was looking ominous. And then it started hailing, so we pulled off the interstate and into a Wally's truck stop to wait out the storm with a bunch of other people.

We finally made it safely back to the campsite and watched a movie in the camper while the rain continued all night.

On Sunday, we headed back to Memphis. But just as we were leaving town, we passed a White Castle. And Memphis doesn't have White Castle, so we had to stop! Paul had never been, and I love their Impossible Sliders.

A perfect ending to a super-fun vacation!

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

St. Louis Camping Trip, Days 3-4

I'm back with another recap from our St. Louis camping trip. I recapped Tuesday and Wednesday here, and now I've got a rundown of Thursday and Friday. 

On Thursday morning, I woke up and headed out for a five mile run around our KOA campsite in Eureka, Missouri. Afterward, I made this Breakfast Sandwich with Just Egg, Morningstar maple sausage, and Tofutti cheese. This became my go-to breakfast most mornings! Just Egg is great for camping trips.

We hung around the campsite for awhile on Thursday before heading into St. Louis and a Cardinals/Pirates game. I'm not a baseball fan (basketball is my thing), but Paul loves the Cardinals, and this was his birthday trip. 

Once we got to Busch Stadium, we headed to a restaurant called Cardinals Nation that overlooked the ballpark. They only had one vegan menu item, a Mediterranean Bowl, but it was really good! It was nice to eat greens! This had quinoa, mixed greens, olives, red onions, tomatoes, cucumber, hummus, tortilla chips, and a balsamic vinaigrette. The lighting in the restaurant was crazy Cardinals red, so this food pic is meh.

Then it was game time! We drank beer and snacked on roasted peanuts during the game. The Cardinals lost, but we still had a great time.

On Friday, I got to sleep in! Since I'm training for a 50-mile race, I tried to stick to my training schedule as best I could. But Friday is a rest day. I had another breakfast sandwich at the campsite, and then we headed into St. Louis again to tour the Budweiser brewery. I'm more of a craft beer girl, but I love beer, and I wanted to see how the big guys do it. We had so much fun on this tour, and we got to try Bud straight from the tanks. It was way tastier served fresh!

After the tour, we went to St. Louis' iconic Gateway Arch. 

We had 4:50 p.m. tickets to ride to the top and some time to kill, and I was hungry. So we checked out the Arch Cafe. They had a Veggie Burger, so I ordered that. It was just okay, but it was better than being hangry.

Then it was time to ride to the top! We got into a teensy elevator with one other random guy (hi, Max!) and made the rickety four-minute ride up. The tiny egg-shaped elevator made me feel very claustrophobic. But once we got up, the view was amazing!

Alright, I'll be back tomorrow with the last recap.

Monday, April 17, 2023

St. Louis Camping Trip, Days 1-2

Hey, friends! I'm back! Paul and I returned last night from a five-day camping trip to St. Louis. We like to pick urban areas for our camping trips, so we have lots to do and see. We stayed at a KOA in Eureka, Missouri, about 30 minutes from the city. 

We left Memphis on Tuesday morning and arrived in St. Louis mid-day to set up camp. 

We didn't get out into the city on Tuesday, just hung around the campsite and played in the nearby creek. For dinner, I wrapped some potatoes (white for Paul, sweet for me) in foil and tossed in the campfire. I thought they'd roast pretty quickly that way, but nope. After 30 minutes or so, they were still hard. So we cheated and put them in our camper's microwave. We tried! I also heated some Gardein chili from a can to serve over the potatoes with Earth Balance. I know this doesn't look appetizing, but I assure you it was tasty.

And since we had a campfire, I had to have s'mores! I found some vegan graham crackers at Sprouts, so I packed those along with some vegan milk chocolate and Dandies. Yum!

On Wednesday morning, I headed to a trail near our campsite to run six miles. The Green Rock Trail was rocky and hilly, and it was quite the challenge to run. I spent plenty of time hiking. 

After the run, I went back to the campsite to make us some Pancakes & Vegan Sausage. I packed a pancake mix and some soymilk to make cooking breakfast super-easy.

After breakfast, we decided to head into St. Louis to explore the City Museum. It's a massive, all-ages playground of manmade caves, treehouses, and jungle gym equipment. Paul and I had so much fun crawling around in holes! 

As we were parking for City Museum, we passed Sen-Thai Asian Bistro, and we both love Thai food. So we decided to eat there after the museum visit. We split an order of Edamame, and I ordered the Cashew Nut with Tofu (no fish sauce).

And then we headed back to camp for another fire and more s'mores and beers!