Seems silly to report on a 60K, but here I am. Four 9 mile loops. Boring and uneventful, this is more to get in the habit of writing a race report.
I have a goal of doing a race every month, and since there aren’t any other races this month, I signed up. Wish I had planned better since the price was an extra $20. I had run parts of the trails on two separate occasions for work a few months back, so I didn’t plan much. I knew it was going to be hot and muggy; I loaded up my big cooler with 3 coconut waters, 2 Arizona tea tall boys, 3 sparkling waters, 2 mama chia drinks, and a big chocolate milk, and a Budweiser tall boy. That was the extent of my planning.
It’s a night race. The day of the race, my schedule seemed like there was plenty of time to get stuff done and then drive two hours to the race. Being on time stresses me out, so next time I’ll get everything done the day before and leave earlier. As much as possible, it’s best to avoid mental stress before a race. Planning and preparation is key.
On the way up, there were ominous looking clouds and a few brief showers. Once again, I hadn’t checked the weather report. I was prepared for heat, but not for rain, and that had me worried. I got there about 1.5 hours before the start. The sky still looked like it might rain, but fortunately, it never did. I managed a 15 min cat nap right before the start.
Start of the race, I chatted with Julie a bit. Once the single track got going, I stayed with the group for a bit, thinking take it easy to start. But after a while, I would just jump past the parade leader. It annoys me that people don’t step aside to let others pass when they have a whole train behind them. I didn’t want someone else determining my pace this early in the race. Eventually the field spread out and I had my space.
Expected the humidity to be an issue, it wasn’t.
Breezed through aid stations without dilly dallying: filled up a bottle, grabbed a few snacks, and took off. Every thirty minutes or so, popped an Endurolyte. Last race I was taking two at a time, and the second one was tough to swallow. They have an unpleasant flavor when you put them in your mouth. But they kept my fingers from swelling like sausages, so I believe they did whatever it is they are supposed to do. (Balance electrolytes levels.)
Watermelon, orange slices and fig newtons were the majority of my fuel. Had various liquids including tailwind. Had a lifesaver candy which was nice for a while, and at the last aid stone on the final loop, has two pieces of gum. That was pretty huge. Kept my mouth from drying out. Funny, I remember how I used to rave about gum, but stopped chewing it. But since I was chewing for less than three miles, my jaws didn’t get tired. So gum may make it into my next race plan.
And the one time I don’t carry spare batteries. I heard a thump behind me. A lady had tripped. I stopped to make sure she was okay. Apparently it was her first night race and her headlamp was super dim. She said it was a piece of crap headlamp, but more likely the batteries just needed to be changed. Normally, I’d have some on me, but this time I didn’t.
I was kind bummed because I was moving well when I heard her fall. I really wanted to keep running, but that’s not cool. Now I was thinking I was going to have to run her into the next aid station. She followed me for a bit, I tried to light the way. But then she took off ahead of me and sped off. That was a relief.
The course at night is like a nightmare. It seems like you’re running in place, nothing seems to change much. Also because the course is so snaky, you’ll see people on an adjacent path and you can’t tell if they are ahead of you or behind you. Super annoying.
Keep thinking about how hard can I push myself? I never push real hard in races because I don’t want to empty the tank. But honestly I don’t know how much my tank holds. I do think that the box step ups I did for a few days helped. Or I want to believe they did. Def need to be doing more of those. Didn’t have any music, that didn’t bother me too much.
First loop went by quickly. Second loop felt good, thought I was probably running a bit too fast. Third loop was okay. Fourth loop wasn’t bad, but there was definitely more walking. Overall, was a decent race. Need to find a why or a goal.
weather report / bring everything and prepare for anything.
Endurolyte every 30 min
spare batteries, gum
socks: toe socks and darn tough hiking, Altra lone peaks.
The race definitely did not go as well as I had hoped.
My main issue was the inability to take in calories during the second half of the race. I also had some issues with feet because of my socks, but that wasn’t as big of a deal.
On race day, I felt slightly panicked about the rain since both my rain jackets were in my drop bags. All I had was my hot weather gear. I didn’t have any other clothes with me, if it rained, I would get cold quick. I remembered I had the race shirt, a half zip long sleeve. I took that and was glad I did, because I ended up using it.
I was so focused on having a plan in place and sticking to the plan, that it never even occurred to me that the weather might be different. The crazy thing is, I had checked the weather the days before and the day of the race, saw the rain forecast of 60%, but I still expected the weather to be hot. I think that’s called tunnel vision?
The first half of the race went well. We were fortunate to have plenty of cloud cover all day. I had expected Texas style heat for the first 30, and was happy to not have to deal with the heat. Surprisingly, the long climb out of the gate didn’t bother me that much. Could be fresh legs, but the climb into Jaws didn’t seem that bad either. There were definitely slow and tough sections, but mentally I was okay with it.
The cloud cover eventually turned into rain. It never seemed like it was raining that hard, but it was a constant drizzle for 50 miles. Somehow it created a mind boggling amount of mud. And worse, the mud was a greasy slippery slidy mud. The kind that could be fun if this was a mud fight, or you were sliding down it into a pool, but it not good for running. You could see on the ground the patches of parallel lines where someone foot had slid across the mud. Amazingly, I never fell once. That bit of luck I would attribute 100% to my poles.
The week before the race, Travis came into the store and we chatted about the race. He had run Bighorn twice before, finishing once and DNFing the other time. I asked him if he thought we needed poles, he said he didn’t think so. This surprised me, I planned to use them regardless. And I am super glad I did. I used them the whole race. The only point I didn’t want them was the last 5 miles.
I got to the halfway point 2 hours ahead of my planned time. When Rob told me that, I was stoked. I was feeling great considering the conditions. But what goes up, must come down.
As I sat there trying to eat, changing my shirt and getting into a sweater and a jacket, in the span of just a few minutes, I begin to shiver uncontrollably. I never felt terribly cold on the way up to Jaws, but I guess the rain and cold added up. They wrapped a blanket around me and stuffed my shirt with two big heated gel things to get my core temp up.
Know this future Bighorn runners: Jaws was nuts. There were so many people crammed into this tiny tent. People walking all over each other, crew tending to their runners, volunteers checking on runners, at one point, a dude’s butt was in my face as he changing socks or whatever he was doing. It is seriously tight quarters, so be warned. Everyone wanted a seat by the heaters, but there were very few seats to be had. Make sure you or your crew has a big warm blanket for you.
Here is where my race went south. I changed my shirt and and jacket, but I didn’t change my socks. There was so much mud and water crossings, it seemed pointless. But here’s the deal: as you wear the socks hour after hour, they sort of lose their shape and move around, which can cause blisters. If you change socks, those new socks will hold their shape for the first few hours and won’t (Or are less likely) to cause blisters. At the very least, I should have taken the clean socks in a plastic ziploc and changed them along the way. (Another mistake I made was not having two pairs of socks at the first and second aid stations, despite having had that on my pre race plan.)
You can never have enough socks during a 100 mile race in the rain and mud. Make sure that your socks are taller than your gaiters. Make sure to knock off as much mud from your gaiters when you change your socks – you don’t want dry mud falling into your new socks.
I don’t recall what I ate at Jaws. I asked Rob to grab a plate for me, but I ate very little of what was on the plate. I have learned that later in a race, my mouth gets dry and it’s hard to generate saliva, so everything is so dry I can’t eat it. I know now that I need to rely on more semi solid foods or maybe just do liquid nutrition entirely.
After I warmed up, Jake showed up. I gave him my seat and headed out. I knew I was lagging in calories, but I didn’t want to stop in the rain and mud. So I just kept running. At a certain point, it was maybe two hours I went without any major calories. I was shocked I was moving as well as I was, I thought (prayed) that maybe my body was using fat for fuel and everything would be okay so long as I stayed hydrated… Wishful thinking.
I got through the night in pretty good shape. I ran with a guy for a bit. I kept trying to drop him, but he clung on. Eventually, we started talking. He was a little spooked running alone at night. I passed a decent amount of people and felt good.
Then the bonk came.
And the hills showed up.
At one of the smaller aid stations, Jake and his pacer Cam caught up to me. I tried to run with them, but couldn’t keep up. Jake was running strong.
Later I caught up to Travis at Footbridge. He was debating dropping because he was having some knee pain and didn’t want to risk further injury because he wasn’t getting any traction with his Calderas. I told him not to quit, he didn’t want to be the only one in the group to DNF.
And then I teased him because he had two wooden sticks he was using for poles.
Maybe that was bad karma, as I left the aid station, I kept running straight down the road instead of making the turn across the bridge. Luckily, a runner that was coming to collect his drop bag told me I was going the wrong way. I was only half a mile out, but that was still demoralizing. I walked back to the aid station with him and thanked him for saving my ass.
Travis had taken off running pretty hard thinking I was ahead of him. He must’ve been totally bewildered that he never caught me.
The rest of the race was running a bit and then hiking a bunch. There were several uphill sections that seemed to go on just forever. At one aid station, the guy said, “It’s just one 300 foot climb and then it’s literally all downhill.” I honestly don’t know what a 300 foot climb looks like. But going up that hill, all I could think was either the guy was kidding, he thought it was 300 ft, maybe he meant 3000 ft, or I am about to die. We have nothing remotely close to that climb in Texas. It wasn’t technical, it was just loooooooong.
The second day of the race, the weather was absolutely gorgeous. When I could take my eyes off the trail and look around, it was beautiful. I regret not taking a camera or a phone to take photos. The smell of the flowers, the colors of the flowers, all the freaking trees everywhere, it was pretty amazing.
My watch died 10 miles or so from the finish. This was infuriating because I had no idea how close I was until I hit an aid station. During those miles, I asked literally a dozen people how far it was to the finish and not one of them knew. I was utterly surprised since most of them were 50 milers. How do they run without knowing how far they are?? But that’s my problem, not theirs.
Eventually, I hiked into the finish. Rob joined me on his bike about a mile out. I was so happy to finish, happy to be done. 32 hours 17 minutes. Far short of my goal of 28 hours, but maybe next time. Right now, all I can think of is working on my nutrition strategy so that this doesn’t happen again.
Some additional notes:
Know where packet pickup, start and finish is. Know how to get there.
Know how the shuttle works since the start and finish are different locations.
Always label your drop bags yourself. Big and clear: Name, bib #, AS
Make sure drop bags are waterproof.
Have snacks readily available and /or schedule time to eat when traveling. Especially for before and on race day. Consume massive calories day before.
Plastic bag to keep dirty/wet stuff separate from unused/ dry gear, Especially in drop bag.
Notecards w/ instructions to remind yourself of things to do, ie contacts, change socks
WATERPROOF BOOTS W/ GATORS, forgoing that, change socks even if it seems pointless. As time goes on, the socks move around and bunch. A fresh pair stays put longer.
Make sure start kit has everything you need, dont forget trail toes!
Short shorts are okay in cold, but not if it rains.
How to get calories late in the race: liquid calories.
Avoid getting coke or broth two aid stations in row. Skip one or two so that you dont burn out on it. Water down coke. Carry tums if stomach turns acidic.
Put tape on middle section of poles, they are cold at night.
Learn what poison ivy looks like.
Two Chargers for watch.
You can never have enough socks for 100 miles.
Socks need to be taller than gaiter!
How to deal w/mass dirt post race laundry.
Separate dirt (socks, gaiters) from sweaty.
A month ago, I was psyched about this challenge. But this past week, I didn’t run a single mile and I was dreading the event. I don’t know if it was fatigue, burnout, or just plain laziness, but I just didn’t want to run. And I sorta still feel that way, which is worrisome.
The night before, I prepped all my stuff. I read the final email and set my alarm for 5:30, which would give me an hour to have a decent breakfast. However I missed a small detail about the start time – I had put it on my calendar as 7am when it was actually a 6am start. So my alarm goes off at 5:30, I get out of bed at 5:40, and then I get a text from my buddy Dustin at 5:41: “I’m on my way… gps says 5:55.” I’m wondering why the hell would he get there so early. I reread the final email and see the 6am start time. FUCK!!
In semi-panic mode, I get dressed, grab my stuff, pack ice into my cooler, and get on the road. I drive as fast as I can, and arrive only 10 minutes late. I parked next to a truck, the guy getting out was like, “You’re late too?” My stomach had been churning on the drive. I ran behind some dumpsters and took a quick dump. That was a good start.
And then the “fun” began. Half mile uphill, then a half mile back down. Four hours and 20 minutes of that. But at least there were a lot of other runners there to share in the miser… fun. I had my ipod and was trying to untangle the headphones. It was way more difficult than it should have been. I finally got them untangled one I reached the top of the hill for the first time. I put the earbuds in and pressed the play button…. beep! beep! beep! The ipod was dead. I know I charged it, but I must have accidentally left it on and drained the battery. I laughed and wondered what else could wrong.
Halfway into the race, a light drizzle turned into a full on rain that lasted maybe 10 minutes. Although I was concerned about how it might affect the footing on the course, it was kind of refreshing.
The first three hours went by like clockwork, trudge uphill, and then coast down. My left foot developed an issue that made it hard to run downhill. I think what little arch I have in my foot collapsed inward more than usual, likely a result of not running the past week. It wasn’t painful, but I could tell that it was definitely not normal. I was concerned it was going to get worse, so I slowed down on the downhills.
I had one bright spot during the race. Running beside Tanya:
Me: I am so over this.
Tanya: Yeah, me too.
Me: I am so tired of running downhill!
The last hour was tough. Mentally, I was running on empty and I wanted to quit.
In retrospect, it seems silly that you want to quit running so bad. Those moments that you are in, you’re tired, your feet hurt, maybe you’re hungry, your head hurts, and all you can think about is stopping this nonsense. That’s all you can think about. But time passes and somehow you get through it, the clock stops, and you can finally stop running. Later you think, “That wasn’t so bad. I don’t know what I was complaining about.” You sort of forget the struggle. Four hours and 20 minutes is a drop in the bucket compared to most ultras, so I’m a little disappointed that my mental game suffered.
I’m glad I didn’t quit, despite the foot and mental issues. And especially glad that after the 24th lap, with 10 and a half minutes remaining in the race, I went out for one more. 10 and half minutes is plenty of time to get one lap done. I knew my future self would berate my weak willed past self if I would have stopped.
That gave me 25 laps, one shy of my goal of 26. Had I been on time, I’m sure I would have hit that goal. Driving home, I thought I should have done an extra mile after the race. Oh well.
Putting it in perspective: Be on time. Suffering is commensurate to the size of the race. Expect that suffering and accept it gratefully when it arrives.
I regret going into the race with that sort of attitude. I didn’t prepare as well and my performance suffered as a result. I didn’t have a terrible race, but I know it could have been better. Many small things added up to a frustrating race.
One of the bigger culprits was not getting enough sleep. The day before the race, I got up before 6 to go hiking with a coworker, went to work, and then drove 3 hours to San Angelo, finally getting to bed around 11. That is far from ideal. Sufficient sleep is vital for good performance mentally and physically. When I started the race, my legs felt heavy.
I wore my newish Ultimate Direction hydration pack. I’ve worn it a few times, but never raced in it. I think it still needs to be broken in. Maybe 10 miles in, I noticed my bottle was jamming my rib cage, making a very tender spot. After I finished the first loop, I put on my old Salomon pack and it just felt great. I also love the huge back pocket that I can reach into without having to unzip or zip. Basically, these little gear niggles should be worked out prior to a race, not during.
Coming into the second to last aid station, I found out that the course mileage was off by 5 miles. I was heading into the last aid station when I should have been finishing the loop. This threw me off mentally. What would happen now? Would we have to run a 75miler? I imagined several possible scenarios that could play out, finally resolving not to sweat it, Rob would figure something out. No way would he make us run an extra 13 miles. Like I tell myself all the time, just focus on the mile in front of you.
The sky had been overcast for the entire first loop. It seemed like it was going to be a perfect day for running. Thinking it would stay that way was wishful thinking. Wishful thinking that got me mildly sunburned and drained quite a bit of energy from me.
My old man hat and ice bandana have saved me on numerous sunny occasions. I had them in my bag at the start/ finish, but chose not to bring them with me as I foolishly thought it would be overcast all day. Katie offered sunscreen, which I declined. 2 huge mistakes, likely due to lack of sleep and fretting about the course mileage issue.
The clouds burned off and the sun was in full effect. There was very little shade on the course, it was extremely exposed. Every I looked, there was cactus, as if to remind me that I was in the desert. I used my buff as an ice bandana, and that worked okay. Proper ice bandana is way faster to fill and wear. There wasn’t much I could do about the sun. Whenever I saw shade, I stopped and took a short break.
Hydration and nutrition were okay. Shat once before the race, but still had enough for three more times during the first loop. Wore Calderas first loop, but switched into Lone Peaks for the last two loops. Forgot iPod on second loop, only had music for last loop.
I have never looked at my watch so many times during a race. It became incredibly frustrating near the end trying to figure out how much longer I would be running. I wanted to do 12 hours, and kept trying to calculate in my head if I could. Each time I did the calculations, my results changed. That was pretty demoralizing. And add to that the fact that we had to run a few extra miles because of the marking error, so I wasn’t entirely sure how close I was to the finish.
Leapfrogged with several runners, including Julie of course. Finally caught up to Dustin in the very last mile. He had been puking but was moving. I didn’t stop to talk or run wit him, I just ran past him. Finished in 12:58 for 5th. Dustin showed up two minutes later to finish in 13 hours on the nose for 6th and Julie came in at 13:01 for 7th. She won 100k last week and again this week. Amazing.
So while not a terrible race, it was a far cry from the planning and execution of the last race. What’s worse is that now I am behind in points (but I think just barely) for the Desert trail race series. The winner of the three race series gets $500. I’ve never won any money from running, and it would be awesome if I did. The last race is the Franklin Mountain 50K in November. It looks like if I want to win that money, I am going to have to train, plan, and race my ass off. So maybe being behind is a good thing, providing me the motivation to focus on the task ahead.
Dustin and I were driving home. We’re cruising along @ 84 miles per hour for several hours. It starts raining, and then its an intense downpour. I slow down to 60. It suddenly feels like we’re crawling. I ask Dustin how fast he thinks we’re going. He thinks 30 or 40.
When you’re used to going a certain speed for so long, a change can seem way more dramatic than it really is.
I was really looking forward to seeing my splits for the portion where I finally caught up to Gerardo. However, I was greatly disappointed. Instead of the sub 8’s I thought I was doing – even if for only a mile or two – turns out my fastest mile for that section was only 9:48 (with a grade adjusted pace of 10:44 since it was downhill.) I could swear I saw a pace faster than that. Regardless, that just shows how unreliable our perception of time and pace can be. After averaging 17 or 18 minute miles for the last 30 hours, 10 minute miles seem like you’re flying.
Before the race, I tried to plan and be as prepared as I could for the race so that I could go into the race feeling confident. I wanted to take out any the usual stresses of preparing for the race so that I could focus on just running. I made my list and shared it with Julie, Dustin and Jake.
Driving up, I ate half a Subway footlong for breakfast, a Whataburger meal for lunch , and some Mexican food for dinner. I definitely think all those calories helped fuel me.
(Of course I shat a dozen times during the race, but that’s part of the deal.)
When our race began, all I could think about was how incredibly crazy windy it was during the start of the 50K in September.
I ran with Dustin for the first loop. I met him at Cactus Rose two years ago. He was doing the 100 miler… on 15 miles a week. I don’t know how he managed that. Apparently, he was doing Lone Star on even fewer miles. He said he has an unusually low resting heart rate, so maybe that has something to do with it. We’ve run several races together, but we weren’t sure if this was going to be a full bromance.
The afternoon was beautiful, but it got a bit too warm for comfort. Dustin has had heat related issues before, so we ran super easy. The course is extremely exposed, so whenever we came across some shade we took a short break. We looked for shade that included slabs of rock because the shaded rocks themselves were cool to the touch. We called these “premium” shade. We saw several runners with only a single water bottle, which seemed like a bad idea.
I was feeling pretty good. Ice bandana was going its job. Dustin had gotten quiet and was slowing down. We talked and I was going to take off on my own for loop 2.
I changed both pairs of socks, my shirts and my shorts. Trying to change into compression shorts with your shoes still on inside of a porta potty is not easy.
I spent a good chunk of time at the aid station. When I left, I saw that I was right at 10 hours.
I always start out in front of Julie, but she always catches up and passes me. I caught up to her and was feeling good, so I pressed on, trying to put some distance between us. I stopped at an aid station and not a minute after I got there, Julie shows up. I kept trying to outrun her, but she somehow kept making up the distance. We leapfrogged a few times. Joe updated us that Julie and I were fourth and fifth. Since Julie always beats me, I was content with fifth place.
But I kept pressing. I was still ahead of Julie. She admitted that climbing was not one of her strengths. Joe gave us more updates about more people dropping. The third place guy was not doing well and was borderline DNF. I found myself in third. I tested out my new iPod entertainment: full audio of Simpsons episodes! There were some funny ones, but it didn’t motivate me to run fast. One of the lead guys dropped, I was in second.
Starting the third Loop, Rob confirmed that I was in second. He said that Gerardo was40 minutes ahead, but wasn’t moving well / or was hurt / something to that effect. I told Rob, “I want to catch that guy.” 30 miles to make up a 40 minute lead seemed doable.
There was a section of huge rocks right before the peak that made progress glacial, which made staying awake difficult. So I laid down on the trail and took a “nap.” It was probably just two or three minutes, but it allowed my brain to reset and my heart rate to come down a bit. During the night, I took probably about a dozen of these naps.
Climbing the peak takes long enough as it is. And all I could think of was his lead was growing every second. Finally, I meet the guy as he’s coming down the peak.
It was the guy who’d given me a low five in passing. Struck me as odd the first time. Most runners just say “good job” or whatever, but this guy was making an actual physical connection and low fiving.
He asked me if I was doing my second or third loop. When I said third loop, we both knew. I said, “You’re the guy I’ve been chasing!” I’m not sure if he cared, but he took off downhill, he looked to be moving pretty well. I figured maybe he had gotten a second wind with the dawn. I saw Joe and he told me the guy was at Mundy’s at 6:55. When I left, it was like 7:30 (or so). I knew how much time I had to make up and began the hardest run I’ve ever done this late in a race.
For some dumb reason, I kept expecting him to be just around the corner, and of course he wasn’t. Several times I mistook other runners for him. I kept looking for signs of movement, hoping for just a glimpse of him in the distance. Nothing.
At the start of the loop, I was certain I would catch him. At the aid stations, I asked the volunteers how far ahead he was, and they told me about 30 minutes. And that he was walking. That gave me more hope. (But then I realized of course you walk from the aid station, he was probably still eating something.) I asked a 100Ker running toward me, how far ahead the other guy was, he was way ahead and made it seem like it would be impossible to catch him. Then I saw a couple and they told me he was moving really well. That further diminished my hopes. I vacillated between thoughts of “I can do this” to “second place is still pretty good.”
Julie had lent me a book, How bad do you want it? and that’s what I asked myself. I knew this was going to be a hard race just to finish, and here I was with an opportunity to actually win it?? Did I want to win – or settle for second? I decided to push till I either caught the guy or blew up. I was running at a pace that I thought was unsustainable. I knew there was no way that he was running as fast as I was because that would just be dumb. I put on my music and felt exhilarated as I was flying down the trail.
The motivation to actually win a race and set a course record was so energizing. I envisioned my name on Ultrasignup as a “top performer”, getting a 100% rating for once. I have no doubt someone will set a much faster record next year, but this year would belong to me! I kept pushing, occasionally taking walk breaks.
I was waiting to bonk because I was having a hard time taking in calories. My source of calories were watered down coke, Gatorade, and a pitiful amount of M&M’s. Hardly the material to fuel 12 more miles of this intensity. I didn’t know how long I could keep this up, and even if I did catch him, would I be able to stay in the lead?
And then it happened, I see someone up ahead, it’s him. I blast my music to catch up to him, he sees me and he stops and waits for me. Not quite the showdown I imagined. I stop and we chat just a bit. I don’t remember what we said to each other, but he doesn’t seem to mind that I caught him. I am super amped on adrenaline, I shake his hand and take off in full sprint. I want to put as much distance between us as possible, because there is still a huge chunk of mileage to go and I could still manage to bonk.
I’m constantly looking over my shoulder, but there is no one. I drop my pace. No one is going to catch me, I just have to finish. The wind picks up and for the last 10 miles, LITERALLY DOES NOT STOP BLOWING FOR THE REST OF THE RACE. FOR REALS: NON STOP WIND.
One section was scary because I was heading for the pavilion, heading up this huge climb. I didn’t recall this way before, I thought I had taken wrong turn. My heart sank thinking I would lose the race because I didn’t pay enough attention to the signs. I was so far along, I couldn’t turn around, so I kept on going. Luckily, it was the right way.
As I got close to the top and this girl comes down. She asks me which way I came from, I said, “I don’t know, whichever the hell way I’m supposed to.” “Everyone else has been coming from the left and you came from the right…” “I’m not doing the 100K.” And then I continued up the hill.
The last 1.4 miles.
I got to the top of the pavilion (last year’s finish) and got some cheers from the volunteers. I still have some juice in me, so I put on some music and I sprint up the hill. I make it about half way before I realize I peter out and realize that I need to be careful. The wind is literally blowing me to the right.
During the 50K in September, we had to face the wind at the start of the race while we were fresh. And it eventually died off. But this is even worse. The wind is stronger, I just ran 100 miles, and there is absolutely no break in the wind. I am so close to the finish, and I practically have to crawl there. Oh and did I mention all the cactus I’m trying to avoid stepping in or being blown into?
Hill after hill, this 1.4 mile section feels like 14. But then finally I can see the finish. A lump forms in my throat. I always get emotional after long races, this one has felt especially long. I run to the finish, never in my life have I been so happy to hear a cowbell.
“Hey, I’m going to do a race in colorado with Don in June, you want to go?”
“Um..” looking at the website, I see the price is going up tomorrow. I think about how Julie signs up for races on a whim, and reply, “Sure. I’m in.”
Fast forward a month or so. After a few hours in Colorado, I’m instantly smitten. It seems like there are trails and people on bikes everywhere. In terms of buildings and businesses, much of it seems new and well planned. The landscaping is not an after thought. The weather is picture perfect, although it would get an “uncomfortable” 82 degrees. It’s pretty damn amazing.
When they relocated to Ken Caryl from San Antonio, Don chose wisely as there is a trailhead about a mile from his place. Julie and I hiked and ran a bit Thursday. On Friday, Don joined us and gave a guided tour of his “backyard.” It was completely different than anything back home in San Antonio. It’s how I imagine trail running is supposed to be.
The night before the race, I’m in a mild panic mode getting ready. I haven’t made any drop bags and not sure if I should bother or not. I debate bringing a rain jacket and a headlamp, but pack them “just in case.” (I’ll need neither.) If I don’t have drop bags, I can carry only a few of the food items I brought.
Perhaps giving me the greatest concern is that I’m bring a GoPro attached to a handheld gimbal, which I used while running only once, the day before. During a race is probably not the best time to practice using a new piece of nonessential equipment, but the overwhelming desire to record the scenery trumped rational decision making. Whats worse, I bring my phone too. While I aspire to a minimalist lifestyle in general, when I run, I pack like a boy scout.
A knee issue and then an Achilles issue had me running fewer miles leading up to the race. I knew I’d be able to complete the race, but was unsure of how difficult it would be. Lack of training, lots of climbing, and a bit of altitude seemed like a challenging combination.
Fast forward to 6:55 am. It’s another perfect morning. The RD is giving the race briefing over a megaphone but I can’t hear her over the chatter of the racers. NBD, I figure, just follow the markers. The course is pretty easy to follow. The trail is well worn and well marked at intersections. The course was nice, but I was hoping for a little more scenery.
The trail followed a creek for a while and there were several creek crossings. It wasn’t absolutely necessary for me to stop and put my feet in the water, but at the same time it was absolutely necessary. Only a handful of times have I ever had the privilege of soaking my feet in ice cold mountain water. How could I pass that up?
I suggested to Julie that we stop and soak our feet. My method was to remove my shoes, my socks and my liner toe socks. She, however, jumped in shoes and all. I prayed her feet would dry fast enough to avoid blisters. (Later, she told me her feet dried really quick, guess my prayers worked!)
The last 15 miles were a slog. Other than Julie, with whom I ran several miles, I didn’t really talk to anyone during the race. That isolation made things worse towards the end when I was bonking and mentally weak. My nutrition was absent, nothing sounded good, so I wasn’t eating enough.
The second from last aid station I was desperate, I asked if they had beer. I love beer, but usually save it for after the race. But I was in dire need of calories. The volunteer cracked open a Coors and filled a small cup. I started to say that I didn’t need the cup, but then realized I should just let him do his thing. The beer was very cold… and delicious! I ended up drinking maybe half the can of beer and felt a little better. I thanked the volunteer and headed out.
The last two miles I started to run again, inspired by the desire to finish and be done. (And to consume more beer.) Two girls passed me early in the race, and then I passed them n the middle of the race, passed me again in the last mile. It was somewhat amusing to me as their bibs were attached to the back of their shirts, #69 and #71. I was #70.
When I finished, Don and Julie, and Helena and Hudson were waiting. They looked like they had all been well rested and fed. I didn’t finish with a fast time, around 11:30, but I had fun. Mediocre races do have an inspiring effect on me in that it makes me want to train harder so that I don’t struggle so much.
While I ran with Julie, I filled her in on one of my ideas. I always come up with these crazy ideas while I’m running -because why not? And one day maybe one of my crazy ideas will work out and make me rich.
Anyway, my idea was to start selling WWJ*D bracelets. What Would Julie Do?
Study the course info.
Have mental strategies to cope with the terrain
Finish 4th female.
Basically, Julie would kick ass. So BE MORE LIKE JULIE is my new plan.
Waiting forever for a flight? Write a race report!
Went with Elizabeth, my buddy Ed, and his gf Katherine.
Start was a hill. Slowish going, not bad, good warmup. Run behind Ed. Lots of dust. One spot had a rope to use or you could go around. Never seen that before. Chose to go around. First aid station top of hill. Do I need aid this early?
Starts getting light. You can see the scenery. Take shots with GoPro. Stash camera in pack. Stop to poop. Commence running again. More awesome scenery, grab camera and… I’ve been filming for 20 min. Definitely was filming during my poop break. Wonder how that’ll turn out. And I’ve managed to get separated from Ed. Don’t see him again till Mile 50 or so.
Running behind two guys. See kid up ahead, holding out his cupped hands. He offers the first runner, “Ca- SHOOS?” No thanks. And the second runner, “Ca-SHOOS?” No thanks. And them me, “I LOVE cashews!” kid dumps some into my hand. I chastise the runner in front of me for not humoring the kid and taking some cashews. Dry and flavorless, I eat a few and chuck the rest.
Taking a selfie at a lookout. Put phone down, set timer. Hear what sounds like a horde of buzzing bees. Look around, it’s a freaking drone! I give it the peace sign, it hovers for awhile. I try and take my pictures, it’s still there. I give up and start running downhill. It follows me for a bit. I think, Okay. I’ll try and haul ass down a rocky descent, give it something worth filming.” But eventually it flies away, following a runner going uphill. Just as well. I sure hope there aren’t any drones when I have to, uh, you know.
Garmin 920xt failure. Feel smart for finally remembering to use Ultra Trac mode. Watch should last a long time. Miles are clicking by. Before I know it, I’ve done 20 miles. And then a few minutes later, 21 miles… Wait, that can’t be right- 21 miles in 3.5 hours? Ask a girl nearby what’s her mileage? 14. F*********ck! GPS is off by SEVEN miles? Rest of the race, hear the mile beeps but can’t look cause I know they are wrong. Makes the whole race a little more difficult not knowing what mile I’m at. (You could say, “The aid stations are at known mileage points, just go by that,” but that doesn’t help.) Same thing happened to a guy I ran with, except he was smart enough to start his watch over at an aid station and use just regular GPS. I decided against that because …. I’m an idiot.
Adding insult to injury was when watch beeped low battery, after only about 20 hours. The Whole point of Ultra Trac is extended battery life. Now I don’t even get that? Next time, will try and use a charger during the run. Or bring along my old Garmin. (But that’s annoying to have two separate files for the race. Or is that just me?)
The big climb. Talked to a guy named Danny leading up to the climb. Said he’d run the race 5 times. Two other races he’d also done every year. As we began to climb the hill, he cursed at the hill, “Come on mother effer!” Very amusing. The hill was steep and longish, but didn’t seem that bad. Poles were a tremendous help. Made it about 2/3 up before I realized to turn around and look at the beautiful scenery behind me.
Got to the top, the volunteer recording our race numbers was a young girl about 12. She greets me with, “Alright! You made it to the top of that stupid hill!” I was like… Accurate!
This was probably the best section scenery wise. We ran along the edge of the mesa which provided some spectacular views, although these pictures don’t fully convey that.
The rain finally shows up. I’m running down this dirt road that is quickly turning into the worst kind of thick mud. Super slippery, thick, and gloms onto your shoes, weighing you down. I come to a T section, there is a car stuck in the mud, and 3 cars waiting on it to get unstuck. For a split second, I feel like I should stop and help. See several other cars coming up the hill, tires spinning out because of the slick mud. Can only think that these people are morons. Film one girl driving a tiny ass car spinning out.
Running out the red loop. Somehow miss the first turn. Run about a mile before I realize I’ve not seen ANY confidence markers. Think that’s okay, maybe they assume you know this must be the way. Did see one guy running opposite direction, so…. It must be… Turn around and run back. See a pair runners a bit aways, yell at them if they are doing the red loop. They are. I was def off course. Get back on, see where I made my mistake. I think I was readjusting my pack. Pretty upsetting but I don’t dwell on it that much. It’s about this time that I stop running and can only hike. My right shin has started to hurt.
The White and Blue loops were tough: I couldn’t run, I felt like the sections weren’t well marked, it was dark, I was alone, I’d heard all my music by this point, I wasn’t eating well because my stomach wasn’t happy. (At the aid station, I actually threw up for the first time during a race. It was just a little bit, nothing major, but still.) And it rained on and off, which had me taking off my pack to put on my jacket and then 10 minutes later taking off my pack so I could take off my jacket. And the miles seemed S U P E R L O N G. BUT I never got to a really low point, my mental game was pretty good considering. I managed to slog through the night, and my spirits rose when it started to get light.
After I finished the blue loop, I was supposed to do the final trail section to the finish, but because of the rain, the course had been modified to have us run the dirt road back. This route was 2 miles shorter, but would still make for an exact 100 miles.
Walking out to start the very last section to the finish, I see a guy I thought I had left in the dust. Take off my coat and pack, try to stash my poles in my pack. He takes off running. Puts up a good distance while I’m fumbling with my pack. I start running, want to catch up. (He doesn’t know it, but he’s racing me.) Haul ass done a dirt road, stop to sh*t. Hope the guys I just passed are far enough back… I pass a lot of people in this home stretch. Everyone is walking. Eventually catch up to him. I run 90% of the last leg. Final mile I see the 55kers heading out. Film that. Keep seeing roller after roller, more flags, wondering where the f#ck is the finish???
Finally see the inflated finish gate. Haul ass, pass 4 more guys. Run it in strong. Want to cry. Go to the finisher tent, lady basically tells me which one to pick. I’m done. I got my damn buckle.
Ed and Katherine are at the finish. Ed dropped after I saw him last at the aid station. Katherine’s race got rerouted to a lame out and back on a dirt road, so she was able to defer till next year. We waited several hours for Elizabeth to finish. She also got rerouted but finished with only about 82 miles.
Food wise: Pickles were good! And Bacon and Avacado. Quesadillas are okay, but tend to de dry and flavorless, which is a bad combo because it seems hard to generate saliva towards the middle and end of race. Need juicier things, things with higher water content. Also don’t eat or drink the same thing at every station. Especially soda, it makes my stomach acidic. (At least in the quantities I ingest.) Have to alternate or pace the soda intake. Alternate liquid nutrition with solid foods.
Bladder and a bottle. Best combination. Cannot overstate convenience of a drink tube.
Change of socks. Dry clothes. Bring even more pairs when expecting rain or tough environment. Vaseline and Double sock treatment kept me blister free. Do not care for La Sportiva Bushidos for more than 20 miles. Ran 50 in them and was glad to get them off. Good traction, but not entirely comfortable. Calf sleeves, still not sure about, but my calves weren’t terribly sore after the race, but then neither were my quads, so… Batteries. Extra headlamp. Gaiters. Need to order gaiters.
New hat worked out beautifully, although it is kind of heavy and bulky. New rain jacket worked beautifully. Kept me dry and warm, did not overheat. Watertight bags worked fine. Not sure if they got rained on, but my stuff was dry. (They were also inside ziplocks, so they had better be.)
Changed contacts mid race. No issues with blurry vision. This was a huge win, as having an issue with my vision would have made the night that much more difficult. But it was hard to put them on. Need to practice without a mirror. Always have something clean to catch them on.
Naps. Took two (three?) 5 min naps. Points I felt woozy, like I was drunk. Glad I had my poles at the end. More sleep prior to race, especially if travel is involved.
One carry on bag only. Elizabeth had two(?!) suitcases and that was problematic. Always have a proper post race drop bag. Dry clothes, a blanket or hoodie, cash and ID. And beer and food if possible.
Walking was sore the next day, but not nearly as bad as in the past.
My painting motto is “They don’t all have to be masterpieces.” Going to take that approach to writing. Waste time polishing and nothing gets finished. Quantity over quality.
Training for Rocky was lackluster. Things and life left me feeling kind of blah about running. But the race went pretty well and now I have a little more belly fire to start training again.
Leaving the motel I was worried. I heard some ominous thunder. Then saw the flashes of lightning. I got in my car and then it started… hailing?? Yep, that’s hail. It rained a good deal as we drove to the park. Fortunately the rain stopped, there was very little mud, and we had perfect weather the entire race.
During the early going, I started chatting with this guy Steve from Chicago and another guy from Beaumont (Texas). I think Steve was running his second 100 and Beaumont his first. I was worried for Beaumont; it was 40 degrees and huge beads of sweat were already crowding his brow less than 5 miles into the race.
Steve kept mathing out loud about what pace we should be running in order to finish in a certain time. All of his answers had us running at a much slower pace than we were actually running, and yet we didn’t slow down.
Eventually, Beaumont dropped off. I never learned his name, so I don’t know if he finished. I ran with Steve for awhile and we talked. We ran side by side for awhile as we talked and eventually settled into some quiet periods but we were still running side by side. This made for somewhat awkward trail navigation. It wasn’t until later that this started to bug me.
We caught up to my friend Julie. Steve ran up to her side and chatted. Then they fell silent, but he was still there by her side. When he ran behind her, he was hot on her heels. Julie, ever too polite to verbalize her dislike, said nothing. I however, have no such qualms and yelled at Steve, “Grow your bubble!” I told him: “Run in front or behind, but not beside. Running side by side is cutting the already narrow trail in half.” (I know that probably doesn’t sound warranted, but just trust me, it was.)
Later when it was just Julie and me, I mentioned that Steve had been the dictionary definition of a Klingon. Someone so tight up your ass you just cant shake them.
Trail Etiquette: Give people some space! Especially people you’ve just met.
When I hit mile 50, I was amazed at how fast the time had gone by. Not having any hills or rocks to deal with almost made it…. fun? Is that how this ultra business is supposed to go? I don’t think I ever hit any really low points in the race. My lowest point was around mile 99. But first lemme back up.
At Bandera 100K a month ago, I’d experienced some weird issues with my vision after the race. I was seeing halos around any and every source of light. It made it hard to see, but luckily was completely gone the next day.
Somewheres around mile 70, the vision in my right eye started to get blurry. It looked like I had morning sleepy stuff in my eye. I rubbed and rubbed my eye, but that did nothing. I swapped out my contact, thinking maybe it was damaged. That didn’t do anything either. Gradually it got worse and worse until the vision in my right eye was completely fogged. By mile 80, I was a pirate.
It wasn’t too big of a deal. Even with two good eyes, depth perception is a challenge when a headlamp is your sole light source. (That may also be what is causing this issue.) The hard part was when there was two way traffic, the oncoming headlamp essentially blinded me. I had to slow down or stop and look down at the ground. Again not a big deal.
But then there was this girl.
I don’t know how or why it started. I passed her and her pacer on the trail and I think she was a little put off. Maybe she was thinking something like, “That guy just passed me?” I thought nothing of it and put some distance between us. I was walking a section just past the Damnation aid station, and who would you know pulls up beside me? I looked over and thought to myself, “Oh, it’s you.” I put on a fast song to give me some motivation, and I took off. That may have been the official / unofficial start of this little showdown.
I hauled ass and tried to put as much distance between us as I could. But this girl would just not quit. All I could think of was that metal guy from The Terminator movie. I was running as hard as I could and it was like a nightmare. Everything was the same shade of brown and gray. There were a lot of twists and turns, I had a real hard time telling where the trail went. Several times I went off into the bushes. What really sucked was when runners came from the opposite direction. (Some sections of the trail had two way traffic.) It was neck and neck for the last five miles. She was on me like… Steve! Total Klingon in the best way.
I could hear her breathing heavily, it sounded like she was having sex. I felt like I had the legs to outlast her. I thought no way can she keep this up if she’s breathing that hard. But she kept up, and as we neared the finish, I hit my lowest point of the race – the girl caught up and passed me at about mile 99. Her pacer and I exchanged a few words as they passed. I mentioned she should get an award for best socks.
I tried to keep up with her, “Just keep her in sight,” I thought. I kept skipping songs on my iPod to get a fast song, but it wasn’t happening. And I pretty much gave up the fight right there. I stopped running and walked. My quads were toast. I was tired of not being able to see where I was going. I got beat by that girl!
I was a little disappointed that neither the girl nor her pacer hung around for a handshake at the finish. I didn’t finish that far behind them. Usually after friendly challenges like that, it’s a nice gesture, win or lose. But whatever. I was happy to be done.
20:03:51 That girl
20:05:27 Yours Truly
OH YEAH I FORGOT TO MENTION THAT GORDY AINSLEIGH, THE FATHER OF ULTRARUNNING, WAS AT THE RACE!!! That kind of seems like a big deal, right?
Apologies as I have no photos for this post. Tragic, I know.
Crawling along in tortoise speed traffic, I was trying to get on the exit ramp to I-10 as a big semi truck was trying to get into my lane. The whole front of the truck was covered in ice. Gee whiz, I thought, did this guy just drive here from Canada or something? Two hours later, the front of my car would be similarly covered.
After the two hour drive, I arrived at Camp Eagle in Rocksprings. The weather was cold, wet, and miserable. And soon enough, I’d be running 50 miles in it. That evening there was a nice pasta dinner. I was hungry and the food was surprisingly tasty so I had two huge plates. The brownies were especially awesome, I had three of those!
I stayed in a dorm with 5 other runners. Before lights out, my friend Julie joked she was in trouble if anyone snored because she had only one earplug. And wouldn’t you know it, one of our runners did snore. LOUDLY. It seemed to get louder with each breath until he gasped or moved and the snoring finally stopped…. until a few minutes later when the cycle restarted.
I have a hard time falling asleep as it is, so this was just torture. The worst part was the fact that he knew he snored but didn’t warn us. He offered a limp apology the next morning. As such, he is now on my list of non-approved bunk mates.
Considering the night’s sonic landscape, 4 am came way too early. But once I accepted that it was “Go-Time,” it was business as usual. Waiting under the pavilion at the race start, we found out another member of our group had just gotten off a plane, drove here two hours, and signed up for the race. Oh, and he was working off 2 or 3 hours of sleep. All I could think was, “You’re nuts! But in a good way. Sort of.”
And so the countdown, the race starts, and the running begins…
It was cold and misty, but at least it wasn’t raining. However there was ice everywhere. The ice made for very slippery footing. The loose rocks were like oiled marbles. Going up hills was really frustrating; much of the first lap was an exercise in patience and curse words. Later, I put that practice cursing to use.
I was running along, and came up to a wooden bridge I had to cross. I stepped on the landing, slipped, and dead chickened, landing flat on my right side. I lay there for a second, blinking. I was literally and figuratively stunned. I had just totally wiped out.
My wrist sort of hurt, but otherwise, I seemed to be okay. I got up slowly and gingerly made my way across the bridge, which was coated in ice a quarter inch thick. I could have skated across. Safe on the other side, I found a new respect for those highway signs that say BRIDGE MAY ICE IN COLD WEATHER.
During the second loop, I came into the aid station that we hit twice per loop. Chris (from my running group) says, “Cara was bummed she didn’t catch up to you. She wanted to run with you for a bit.” Half joking and half serious I said, “Cara’s not going to catch up to me!” Cara’s a strong runner, but I know I’m faster than her.
During the third and final loop, I see a girl behind me that sure looks like Cara. I yell out “CARA!” No response – must not be her. Few minutes later, the same girl and a guy I know come bounding up behind me. Wouldn’t you know it, it IS Cara. (Earbuds!)
I’m feeling low energy, so she takes over the lead. We run together and chat for a few miles. I tell her what I’d said to Chris, (lest she hear it from him first.) When we get to the aid station, I say ,”Hey Chris, look who caught up to me!” It was pretty amusing, we all had a good laugh. Leaving the aid station, my energy levels had picked up. I took over the lead and eventually dropped Cara. She would finish only 4 minutes behind me, placing First Female in the 50M.
Speaking of awesome female runners, I remember seeing Melanie pass me on a hill. Her bangs were little icicles. I wondered how on Earth could she dress like it was the middle of summer and not freeze to death? She would go to place Overall Second in the 50K. (Overall First was a female as well!)
And the last strong runner was a dude named Dana. This guy and I had been leapfrogging for the second and third lap. He would slowly but consistently jog up the hills and pass me as I hiked. Then later on the flats, I would bomb past him. We traded back and forth like this at least 8 times.
Every time I passed him, I hoped he would stay passed. But when I’d stop at an aid station, it would be just a few seconds later and he’d come trotting into view. I kept thinking of that scene in the Terminator movie where the bad metal cop guy turns his arm into spikes and he stabs the trunk of the car and they can’t shake him. Yeah, that was the guy following me.
While we didn’t exactly chat, we did speak to each other. We were both running our own race, neither of us were concerned about “winning” the duel. Sure, I would have liked to have finished one place better, but it wasn’t that big of a deal. The whole back and forth was rather comical.
Coming into the final few miles, I was ahead of Dana, but running out of gas. I knew there was a small hill coming, so I stopped and waited for him. I told him I knew he was going to pass me, so go ahead. He finished 3 minutes before me, placing Overall Fifth in the 50M.
I crossed the finish in 9:21:02, placing Overall Sixth. Dana came up to me and shook my hand and gave me a bro hug. Since he’s a local, I’m sure I’ll see him at another race.
What did I learn?
**DO NOT ROOM WITH PEOPLE WHO SNORE. You might say use earplugs, but then how do you hear your alarm?
**GIRLS ARE FAST. Also, I am not as fast as I think I am.
**BE ALERT,ICE CAN BE DANGEROUS. We don’t encounter ice very often on our trails in Texas, so when the conditions are right for ice, pay attention. This is even more important while driving.
**I LOVE SNICKERS. Bite size rule! Sweet AND salty! Actually, I already knew I loved Snickers…
**SOMETIMES IT’S MORE ABOUT THE PEOPLERUNNING THE RACE THAN THE RACE ITSELF.