Category Archives: ultra running

Cactus Rose 100

This was probably the most uneventful 100 I’ve ever done.

I started out with high hopes for a Sub 24 hour finish. I made an aggressive training schedule that was going great – for two weeks. But I lost my desire to train, I was just tired. And then it was time to taper. The weekend before was a cramfest of sorts at Ragnar. Ragnar was fun, but was not good preparation leading into race week.

Plan was to focus on consistent eating, especially during the second half of the race. Felt like that went pretty well. Sausage wrapped in a tortilla was awesome, wrapped in a pancake with syrup would have been magical. (Have to remember those cheap HEB tortillas are dry and taste terrible.) Had a tuna fish lunch snack, which was okay.  Don’t eat too much of the same thing. Alternate between salty and sweet works well. Make things that can be eaten in four bites or less. I drank a whole beer after finishing a loop.

Drove up on Friday. Was ready for bed right after the Race briefing. Wondered if Whataburger for lunch was enough food, or should I have had dinner as well? It was nice and cool, but thank goodness it wasn’t as cold as the last time I was at Bandera. (Last time, the water in my Hydro Flask froze.)

Note for future races, have an extra alarm clock, don’t rely on just your phone. The cold sapped my phone’s battery and it died at 2:00 am. I heard it and scrambled to figure out how to set the alarm on my garmin. Luckily, I got that done and started recharging my phone. Even before the phone thing, I wasn’t sleeping well. Another thing to work on for the next race, make sure to get plenty of sleep leading up to a race.

4:00 and I’m up and 4:55 at the start and we’re off. There was no build up, it was like, “Hey it’s time to go.” Kind of how the whole race felt.

Following guy dressed as a Wookie. Hear him huffing and puffing a mile in. I watch his feet as he ran along the trail, his ankles twisting and crumpling every so often. Nike Frees?? Definitely the wrong shoe for this course. Notice how he’s right on the heels of the guy in front of him. Later realize it’s because he doesn’t have a headlamp. Ask him where’s his headlamp. He’s a “Rookie,” and he didn’t think about it. This is his first trail race, which I suspect will be a DNF, imagine my surprise when I see him later in the day.

Met Stewart. Saw him sitting at the Equestrian aid station. He looked like a lifelong runner, but also pretty darn sweaty for such fine weather. We were running about the same pace, so I asked which race he was doing so I’d know whether to worry about him or not. Luckily, he was doing the 50. We talked for a few miles, and I left him at an aid station. I finished the second lap and saw him coming in for his finish, was happy to give him a high five.

German was camped a spot over from Julie and Joe. I squeezed in between them. German came over and asked what people were doing for food. We talked and turns out this was only his second ultra. He won his very first – the Habanero 100K. He was a fast roadie converting to trail. He ran the 50 mile and got second place.

Loryn was a surprise. His girlfriend Sam texted me good luck and that Loryn was running the 50 mile. Luckily, I ran into him pretty early on and we ran together for a few miles. He was using the race as a training run for a 24 hour race in December. He was feeling good and moved on ahead. Later, I caught up to him, he was having knee pain. He wasn’t sure whether to struggle through and finish or pull the plug and save it for another day. He ended up hiking it in.

Carlos and his pacer Mario. We ran together for awhile, and then I would try to drop him. But Carlos kept coming back. With his road training background, he is way better on the flats than I am, and would always catch up. At one point, I saw his pacer Mario run way ahead of him, so I yelled, “Hey Mario, don’t forget your runner!” Turns out, Carlos had told him to do that so he would have to chase him. Later, I would use a similar tactic to get motivated. Whenever I would hear or see the two of them, I would run faster. I especially tried to run harder on the flats.

D Carr at the end. At each aid station, we had to write down our name, bib and the time. Saw her time 15 minutes ahead at one aid station and then 5 minutes ahead at the last aid station. I tried to catch her, but couldn’t. She finished 1:26 ahead of me. I know I could have shaved that time off from several stops. Next time!

Two scenic things. Late in the race, it was cold and I was very sleepy tired. There was a ditch/gulley that you had to climb through. I laid down in the ditch. Sheltered somewhat from the cold, I looked up into the night sky. I could see only the walls on either side of me and the stars. I imagined this is what it looked like from a grave, contemplating how nice it would be to be dead (not running).

The other most amazing thing was the glittering of the ice on the grass. It looked like it was shimmering. Almost like a 3-D version of static on your old TV. Very cool effect.

At the end, I was sooooo sleepy. Rich gave me some caffeine pills, Carbo pro I believe (brand name drugs!) and I held off taking any for as long as I could. I finally took one, and….. not much happened. I honestly couldn’t tell. So the last 20 miles was insanely long. You think, “Oh I know where I am. I turn here, and then the aid station.” But then there are all these other minor turns and sections that seemingly go on forever….

Lowest point during the race was when my after only a few minutes, my iPod said low battery. I was really looking forward to hearing some music on the last loop, but it wasn’t that big of a deal. (Although it probably would have helped keep me awake.) Surprised that I didn’t get super emotional and cry at the end.

D Carr had seen me at the aid station and knew I was right behind her. Wish I had pushed harder and made up that minute and a half.  Finished, changed and waited to see Carlos finish. Was very proud and happy for him.

This was by far the most uneventful, almost “routine” 100 miler that I’ve run. Which is sort of a good thing. Definitely want to keep refining the process and get better at it.

 

Capt’n Karls 60K Muleshoe Bend

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.

Next race:
weather report / bring everything and prepare for anything.
Endurolyte every 30 min
spare batteries, gum
motivation?
socks: toe socks and darn tough hiking, Altra lone peaks.

 

 

 

 

 

Bighorn 100 race report

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.

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My feet have never been so swollen!

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.

Ice pack
Ear plugs

 

Hippie Hill Challenge

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!!

Dustin
Dustin Photo credit: Don Flynn

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.

Tuffy
Tired of it. Photo credit: Don Flynn

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.

Hippie Hill
Hippie Hill Challlengers  post-race. Photo credit: Don Flynn

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.