Marla Westbrook » Mom, Runner, Burleson/Fort Worth, Texas Photographer

Summer Vacay ’13 – New Mexico

This year, instead of the beach, we went in search of cooler temps and a little altitude.  We ended up in Ruidoso, New Mexico, and it was an absolutely awesome adventure.  We rented a cabin up in Alto, and WOWSA, this was some cabin.  They advertised it as “secluded” which was exactly what we were looking for and it truly was.  We could only see the roof of one other house and a few other places that were quite some distance away from the huge deck, where Derek and I spent every morning and evening with our coffee and/or other tasty beverage.  We were surrounded by gorgeous pine trees and were visited daily by deer, elk, wild turkeys and about a bazillion hummingbirds.

We did all sorts of fun stuff during our week in our nice cool paradise.  The kids had a blast riding the gondola at Ski Apache, hiking, fishing, going to the horse races, shopping, eating out and just exploring everything Ruidoso had to offer.  It rained a few days that we were there, and none of us even minded, we just snuggled up in blankets, put another pot of coffee on and spent tons of fun family time playing games and goofing off.  I think a TV might have been turned on briefly one time during the entire trip.  I have always considered myself a beach girl, but I tell ya, those mountains were SO relaxing.  Just sitting out on that deck, smelling the pines and listening to the birds lowers the blood pressure considerably.  I think I read a total of 4 books in the week were gone, and at home that would take me months.

We took loads of pictures (act surprised!), mostly with our iPhones, but a few with the real camera, too, so I threw together a couple of collages to make them all fit into one post.  If you don’t use BlogStomp, I highly recommend it, it makes short work of a LOT of photos at once and is super easy to use.

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El Scorcho Siete

Ahhhhhh, El Scorcho.  The race that makes you question your own sanity, no matter how many races you’ve run before.  This one’s at midnight.  In the middle of the summer.  In Texas.  But yet, we keep going back to do it again. My first experience at El Scorcho was not a good one, I was not properly trained and was coming off of a very emotionally and physically exhausting week after my mom’s passing.  I finished, very slowly, with Derek by my side and knew that I’d be back to take on the 25K again (I still have enough sanity to know better than to sign up for the 50K.  For now anyway.)  Well, last Sunday morning, I went out again, ready to take those 15.5 miles on, and this time, I was all smiles at the finish.

Derek and I both agree that the biggest challenge of this race is not the distance, it’s the time of night that you’re running that really makes it difficult.  Your heart is saying “Yay, let’s do this!” while your brain and body and are saying “Are you dumb?  It’s time for bed, not running!”  Running in the dark is something I’m still working on getting better at as well.  I think I still run a little tense, even when I feel like I’m seeing pretty well, so I guess some more practice at that will help.  (Ragnar Relay, anyone?)  The weather was comfortable this year, the humidity was pretty high, but the temps were in the 70’s, and for July in Texas that’s pretty darn nice.

Derek and I arrived early to stake out our spot and visit with some runner friends before the race.  El Scorcho is a party, quite a few folks come out just to spectate and partake in the fun, there’s music going and there are taco and icee trucks to keep everyone fed and cool.  We wandered around a bit for a while, and finally it was time to get rolling.  I said good bye to D, as he headed toward the front of the pack, found my place in line with the back-of-the-packers and at 10 after midnight, we were off.  I started off at a nice steady pace, paying close attention to the course and using my little handheld flashlight when I needed it.  We’d had some rain the week before the race and they had warned of a few ruts here and there, so I was trying to make sure I didn’t end up on my face given my…ahem, clumsy tendencies.  Before I knew it the first loop was done and I was back where I started.  I didn’t get too excited at that point, it was only 3.1 miles into 15, but I could already tell it was going to be a much better race than last year.  I ditched my light (the moonlight and runners around me provided plenty to see by), kept the pace steady and the miles just cruised by.  Derek caught up to me on loop 3, asked how I was feeling and I think I said something to the effect of “Good…almost too good, I’m waiting for the bottom to fall out.”  He, unfortunately, was not having a great race and was stopping to do some stretching, so I went on ahead and didn’t see him again until the finish.

Luckily for me, the bottom never did fall out and I finished feeling strong.   And even though I didn’t break any land-speed records, I shaved about 48 minutes off my time from last year.  48 minutes.  That’s a lot, y’all!  Derek was waiting with a big smile and after I collected my awesome bling (bravo, El Scorcho for always providing good bling!) and catching my breath for a minute, I popped open a Blue Moon to celebrate.  We hung out for a while to cheer for other runner friends and then finally decided as the sun was coming up that it was time to head out, ending another El Scorcho experience.  And even though we’re still sore and recovering from a night of not sleeping, we know we’ll be back for more next year.  We just can’t help ourselves.  Maybe we’ll even drag a few more friends out there for the fun.  Jason, Leanne, Erica, Jeremy, Nona, y’all in?  :)


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Fit Friday – Ragnar Wasatch Back

Last weekend I had the opportunity to participate in my first (but certainly not last) Ragnar Relay in beautiful Utah.  In case you’re not familiar with what a Ragnar is, imagine 12 runners, packed into 2 vans, running roughly 200 miles in 2 days.  Sounds a little crazy, huh?  It is!  The Wasatch Back race in Utah is the original Ragnar, and this was the 10th anniversary of its running so it was pretty special.  There were so many teams that they had a Thurs/Fri relay, and then another big group of teams ran on Fri/Sat.  We were in the Thurs/Fri group so we headed out to meet our Van 1 teammates at the first major exchange mid-morning on Thursday.  Note to self:  pick Van 2 whenever possible, Van 1 typically starts at the butt crack of dawn.

I was runner 8 of our 12 person team, so that meant I was the 2nd runner in our van to run.  My first leg was only 2.6 miles, but I was so nervous it was like I was about to run a full marathon.  I was the only Ragnar newbie in our van, so I depended heavily on my very experienced van-mates to tell me when to get my happy ass out and be ready to run.  My first leg went just fine, it was short and sweet (albeit a little hot and sunny) and I was so relieved to have the first exchanges behind me and be back in the van.  Let me stop here and tell you about our “van”.  It wasn’t a van at all, it was more like a mini bus.  One of our teammates happens to live next to an assisted living home and they graciously allowed us the use of their vehicle.  It was sweet and runners all the way from Logan to Park City were jealous of our roomy ride, several actually asked if they could come in and check it out.  Yeah, we were kind of a big deal.  I’ve been told I’ve been spoiled and should not expect such luxury on our next Ragnar, but we’re gonna need to see what we can do about that.  Once you go Rag-Mobile, you can never go back.  😉

My 2nd leg came around midnight Thursday night/Friday morning and I was feeling OK about it until we came into the exchange before mine and saw signs that read “Warning, mountain lions have been seen in this area.”  Ummmmm, excuse me, what?!?!  I’m about to run 6 miles in the dark.  By myself.  With mountain lions around?!?!  Yikes.  I donned my safety gear (the rules of the Ragnar are that you must wear a reflective safety vest, a head lamp and a blinking butt light on your night runs), was wishing that I’d brought my pepper spray and headed out, not at all confident that I wasn’t going to have a panic attack, but ready to get my 2nd leg the heck over with.  It was a nice gradual downhill through a canyon, and honestly, it was amazing.  The air was crisp and cool (a runner’s dream), and the moon was almost full, so I could see really well all around me.  I finished up, headed back to the van, changed into some dry warm clothes (yeah…in the van…you become a pro at the quick-change during a Ragnar) and laid down for a bit while we shuttled from exchange to exchange to drop off and pick up the rest of our runners.

We had a bit of a break early in the morning when Van 1 took over, and then before we knew it, we were headed up into the mountains again to run our last legs.  My last one was 5.5 miles, fairly flat with only one real “hill” but I struggled with the heat, altitude and just general exhaustion that comes from doing a relay over 2 days.  I finally came into my last exchange around 1pm and just like that, my part of the Ragnar was done.  All I had left to do was cheer for my 4 remaining runners, who all had tough legs to finish and then it would time for the fun part, meeting back up with Van 1, crossing the finish together and of course, getting our bling.  Y’all know I’m a sucker for good bling, and Ragnar bling is some of the best.  I mean, it’s a bottle opener for goodness sakes.  What else could a girl possibly need?!?!

Van 2 at the first major exchange, ready to take off on our first legs of the race.

{Me, Ryan, Jeremy and Erica (my neighbors), Rick (Erica’s dad) and Krissa (Erica’s sister-in-law)}

Randomness along the way, including my first exchange, some of the beautiful scenery, the famous mountain lion sign, the Rag-Mobile, my temporary Ragnar tats, our mountain-slayer, Erica, the bling and even a few shots from my sight-seeing adventures in Salt Lake City after the race.  Oh, and why on earth would I have a picture of porta-potties, you may ask?  Well, in Utah, they’re called Honey Buckets and like most things in Utah, they were super clean.  Not at all what I expected, lol, so I felt they earned a picture.

Van 2  post-race.  Krissa had already packed away her bling, don’t worry, she got one too.

The whole Makin’ It Rain crew at the finish.

This was such a cool experience for me, and definitely a must-do for all runners.  It kind of reminded me of what I love about ultra running events, lots of support, camaraderie and a ton of fun being had by all.  We are already planning the next one, Las Vegas in November.  Only to make it really cool, we’re going to run it as a ultra or 6 person team instead of 12.  Does that sound like a blast or what?!!?  I also have it on good authority that there’s going to be a Ragnar in Texas in March of 2014 if all goes as planned.  Who’s in?!?!  Come on, you know you wanna!!!
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Fit Friday – CRC Half Marathon

On Mother’s Day, I ran my 5th half marathon of the year and it was my first time to run halves two weeks in a row.  I could tell early on that I was going to have to take it pretty slow, the legs just didn’t have a lot of pep, but it was still fun and I enjoyed meandering along the Trinity.  It was a nice small race with lots of support and though there was no beer at the finish, they did have homemade cupcakes that made me very happy.  We got to see our friend, Elaine, at this one too, so that’s always a nice race bonus.

This was my first Mother’s Day without my mom, so in her honor, I tied her James Avery butterfly to my shoe.  It was nice to look down at it and think of her during the race.

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Fit Friday – Heels and Hills Half

Last Sunday I ran in my 2nd Heels and Hills half marathon.  I really enjoyed it last year and knew I’d be back.  It’s a flat course on the very pretty Campion Trail in Irving, is a really nice, smallish race and the bling is pink.  Hello!?!?  How can you not love a race with pink bling?!?  The weather was absolutely perfect, I was able to keep my jacket on until right before the start and then handed it off to my really sweet Sherpa for the day, Derek, before taking off.  I have to say I felt awesome for the first 8 miles of this race, like really awesome.  The miles were just ticking away and I was totally enjoying myself.  I was on pace to set a good PR and then suddenly my tummy started to bother me (yes, this is a recurring theme with me lately).  I had to make a stop, and it pretty much took the wind out of my sails, but I still posted my 3rd fastest time out of 9 half marathons.  Obviously I need to work a bit on my pre-race nutrition.  I think I know what the problem is, so I’m making some adjustments this week (skipping the salads and eating earlier Saturday) and am hoping to feel better at the half I’m running on Mother’s Day.

My high school friend, Shona, also ran at Heels and Hills, and her hubby snapped a couple of pics of us at the finish.  Despite the tummy issues, I really enjoyed this race yet again, and will definitely be back.


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