Tag Archives: Cactus Rose

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.

 

5 Months Later….

I can’t think of a good title right now.

I know some people suggest making the title after you do the writing. But I feel like the title is the easy part: I come up with something catchy and it gets the ball rolling. The title drives the writing.

Well, how’s this: It’s been 5 months since I’ve written, and there’s a ton of great stuff I didn’t write about. And that bugs me to no end. Why blog if you aren’t going to blog the good stuff?  But recent events have breathed new life into my belly fire. This will be a short post, I’m just going to breeze through all the stuff I didn’t write about.

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I finally sold a painting a few paintings. Two for under $200, but the big one  (top) netted me $1800, my biggest sale ever.

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The Rockhoppers had their first official beer mile. I love to drink but I was not going to participate until the last minute I caved. It was tough since I had a tallboy right before the race. I was still working on my first beer when the fast guys came in from their first lap. Beer miles sound like a good idea when you’re talking about it, but actually doing it is way hard. For me anyway. Those other guys were professional.

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My mom, my sister, and I drove to Florida to visit my other sister and her husband. Not a lot of sightseeing, but I got in a few runs with one 20 miler in some terrible heat. However, they were all on paved roads. :(

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I started doing Bikram yoga. A friend took me to check it out and WOW! Did I feel great afterwards. For me, it is actually a very tough workout. It has really helped my running. I look forward to getting back into it.

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Me and one of the other Rockhoppers put on a photo show. We busted our ass building these frames which were way overkill (too heavy). But things turned out well enough. We sold a few pieces. Though I’m surprised we didn’t sell more considering our prices were pretty reasonable. (Or so we thought.) Regardless, we didn’t expect sales, and it was still fun. We also had a photo booth of sorts set up in the hosts’ bedroom. That was really fun, although I still have not seen the pictures…

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I went and read a story at my friend’s grade school. I still can’t recall what grade they are, but they were the sweetest bunch of kids. After that, I went with them on a field trip to the Witte Museum. I’ll be visiting them again shortly to bring them some presents.

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Perhaps one of the biggest deals: I ran my first 100 Miler, the Cactus Rose. I ended up running about 85 miles with Don, another Rockhopper with whom I trained with. It was unplanned that we would run together, and very lucky for both of us as neither of us had a pacer. We tied for 6th place. (We ran it in together.) We were hoping to get in under 24 hours, but that wasn’t in the cards. Still very pleased with the effort. My right knee was f*cked for the next few days.

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I celebrated an early birthday. They threw a surprise party because I was going to be in Thailand for my actual birthday.

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I went to Thailand with my mom again. We stayed and visited family for 7 weeks. It was really awesome. Really awesome. I met a ton more people, and did some fun cultural stuff.  That will be a few posts coming up.

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I made some spray paint stencils while I was there. I am planning on using spray as my medium for awhile as it can do some beautiful things.

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I joined Facebook? What? Wait, that is another post unto itself.

 

 

FFS!! Cactus Rose Clusterfunk

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The start line. That cool little guy is playing guitar, I believe.

I’ve come to realize that during extended periods of running, my heart must be diverting blood and oxygen headed for my brain to my legs, because my mental capacity bottoms out. I made logistical mistakes that slowed me down, but one huge demoralizing blunder earned me the Einstein title: I took a wrong turn.

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The field where I “camped.”

I got to the park, dropped off my stuff, and picked up my packet. I ate some food, pinned on my bib, got my clothes ready. Even though it was still daylight, I figured I might as well try and go to sleep. Later in the evening, it started to sprinkle. It was off and on for a few hours, and I was glad to not be in a tent. Then I realized that the drop bag with my change of clothes and my rain jacket were just outside of the aid station tent, exposed to the rain. Even though it hadn’t full on rained, I figured my clothes were soaking wet by now. The only thing I could do was to accept it and know that I’d be running in the same clothes all day.

As I lay there, tossing and turning trying to get comfortable, I remember thinking, “Jeez, right now I’m just laying here trying to sleep, but tomorrow I’ll actually be running.” And then bam! It’s 4:55 a.m. I’m standing in a small crowd and some lady is yelling, “It’s 5 minutes till the start!”

The countdown commenced 4, 3, 2, 1 and away goes the pack! The first 14 miles went by pretty quickly, as this is the easiest part of the course, and I was still pumped up. When I picked up my first food bag, I discovered that I put the wrong bag in the cooler, and so I had the wrong split information. No big deal. I ate up everything in my food bag and was feeling good about that. Extra bonus was being able to blast a duke while it was still dark. Fortunately, other than being slightly hungry, I had no stomach issues at all during the race.

At the second aid station, Nachos, I wanted some cold water. Three giant Gatorade coolers and I’m looking around for cups. “Cups?” I ask. Guy replies, “Not at this race.” I was at a loss, and was going to just open my mouth under the spigot, but thankfully the same guy let me borrow his cup. (I had no idea that they weren’t going to provide cups! And I thought that there weren’t any volunteers, but that had to be wrong. No doubt many of the people were spectators waiting for friends / family, but there were definitely some volunteers.) Next aid station: Equestrian B.

I had one food bag that was supposed to be for the Lodge aid station (Mile 25). In an effort to simplify the drop bag business, I decided to leave that bag at Equestrian B. My plan was to grab two food bags when I went through. No big deal, right? Well not if you remember to grab the bag! Which I didn’t! It would be much later until I realized I’d fudged up.

I start working on food bag #2. Power Bar brand gels are freaking sweet, and not in a good way. The vanilla tastes like vanilla frosting. And normally I like Chips Ahoy cookies, but they tasted extremely weird and chemically. The pretzels were pretty rocking, probably due to the salt. The tropical lifesavers were good for keeping dry mouth at bay and tasted yummy. But the big winner was the cola flavored gummies. AWESOME!

By this point in the race, the field of runners was spread out. It seemed like I was the only one out there. Somewhere in there I ran with Ed Brown for a little while. He, in his insanity, was doing the 100 mile. I thought he was going too fast, and so did he. But he was having a good time and was super upbeat.

Miles 18-24 were the big hills. Strangely, they didn’t seem so bad. I was pretty stoked around Mile 23, knowing that I was almost halfway done. And then I got to Mile 24ish. The course came to a tee. There were two signs, one said LOOP 1&3, the other LOOP 2&4. I stopped and looked at the signs, confused. I asked some runner, “Is this the way for loop 1?” I now realize he was probably just as confused as I was. He said, “Yes.” What I should have asked him was, “Which way to the Lodge?” Or better yet, the sign should have said (for the benefit of Einsteins like myself) LODGE with a big fat arrow pointing right. Instead, I went left.

I saw trail markers and thought that was a positive sign. But I didn’t see any runners behind me, in front of me, or coming from the other direction. (When you reach the Lodge at Mile 25, you turn around and go back. So there was two way traffic on the trail.) After 3.5 miles, I came across two ladies on horseback. They’d stopped because one of the horses was taking a huge dump. I asked them where the Lodge was and they told me it was behind me. My heart sunk.

Backtracking was absolutely dreadful because it was hard not to dwell on my mistake. I really wanted to quit. Why did it take me so long to realize I was going the wrong way? Why didn’t I figure that out sooner? Why didn’t I just ask that guy, “Where’s the Lodge?” 

Coming down Lucky’s Peak, I slipped and fell on my butt. I got up and two steps later fell on my butt again. I sat there for a minute. I felt like a baby. I thought for sure I was going to cry. I really wanted to cry, to get all the anger and frustration. But for some reason, I couldn’t. Since I couldn’t get myself to cry, I tried to push all the negative thoughts aside and shift my focus to the trail directly in front of me. That helped. My spirits were lifted when I finally reached the Lodge, but there was still plenty of running to do.

The

next

ten

miles

felt

like

this.

It was soooo slow. Now I understand what they mean when they say you have to train yourself to run on tired legs. It’s like your legs blow a fuse and refuse to run. As a result, I walked a lot. But you can push the reset / manual override and tell your legs to keep running. Provided you are consuming enough calories.

Ah, calories. I was very fortunate that they had gels available at the Lodge. I grabbed only two because I didn’t want to take more than my fair share, but I should have grabbed like four.  As a result, Course Miles 25-35 were tough because I was short on calories. I was actually licking my arms for salt. It would have been way worse without those gels. And I will say this about Hammer Apple Cinnamon gels: as much as I’m not generally a big fan of apple cinnamon flavor, they are the perfect amount of sweetness.

When I finally made it to the Equestrian B aid station, I immediately went to my cooler and gorged: massive instant gratification by chugging a chocolate protein drink, then starting in on some watermelon, and a string cheese, a sip of coke, and chase it all with coconut water…. Glorious! There were several Rockhoppers there that checked up on me and offered assistance. Weirdly, I’d see them again at the next three aid stations. (I believe they were following a runner behind me.)

Having finally consumed some much needed calories, I was able to run some of the last 15 miles. They weren’t fast miles by any means, but speed was the last thing I was concerned with. It was all about finishing.

At this time I, came to the conclusion that I must have kicked every single rock in the park. Twice. I thought about coming back with a sledgehammer and smashing some of those damn rocks, a la Office Space. But rocks are like Gremlins, if you smash one, they turn into more rocks.

My toes were getting pretty beat up, and my shoes felt tighter than usual. Going downhill became a new challenge. I had to be very slow and deliberate with my foot placement, and it was still painful because my toes would get all jammed up in the toe box. I think the Cascadia’s I was wearing simply DO NOT have a large enough toe box. I thought for sure when I finally peeled off my socks, all my toenails would be black. Surprisingly, as of now, I have only one.

Amazingly though, I got not a single blister! I attribute that feat to my double sock method. Injinji toe socks “liners” with Drymax super trail socks. (The Drymax were like $25, but worth every penny.) And I’m not too big of a sweater, so normally chafing isn’t a problem. But I did chafe –ahem this might be TMI– on my nutsack. That has never happened before, and was quite unpleasant.

When I made it to the last aid station, all I could think was, “I’d be done by now.” I tried to enjoy the fact that the finish was close. Maybe an hour. Tim helped fill my Camelback and reminded that, “The rest of the course is easy, it’s all flat.” Except of course, for Lucky’s Peak. Criminy! Just when you think you’re done, the course gives you the finger one more time.

But I finally found my way to the finish line in 12:51. (By my Garmin, official results still pending.)

Jiminy Christmas, the Finish!!!
Jiminy Christmas, the Finish!!!

*   *   *   *   *

So what did I learn?

Planning & Organization = Success. The importance of having your ducks in a row before the race cannot be understated, especially with an undertaking so complicated. I thought I was organized, boy was I wrong!

Make sure your calories and hydration are positioned where and when you need them. Eating solid food early in the race was a little difficult. The food bag was a nice concept, and somewhat successful. However, consuming calories in liquid form is way more efficient. I didn’t drink the Perpetuem like I had planned, so I don’t know how my stomach will handle that. But now I can test it out in training. And I’ll save solid food for the end of the race.

Study the course. Bring a map. You’ll never regret it. If you do get lost or turned around, just concentrate on what’s 5 feet in front of you until you are back on track. Don’t dwell on mistakes and don’t let a time goal be the end-all; sometimes it’s just about finishing. Once you’re finished, you can think of your excursion as “bonus” miles.

Finally, your attitude makes all the difference. You might feel overwhelmed by the difficulties you are facing, but try and remember that it’s the difficulties that make you stronger. Get out of your head and focus five feet in front of you and just keep running.

Cactus Rose Medal. I really earned this one!
Cactus Rose Medal. I really earned this one!

D-Day Again So Soon?

It’s go time again. Nerves! Anxiety! Excitement! Fear! Giddiness! And Delirium

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Tomorrow I am running the Cactus Rose 50 Miler, which will be my second 50. Under ten hours is my goal, which translates to a 12 min pace. That seems downright slow after running 7 minute miles in Chicago, but I have to remember that this is a trail race, there are steep hills. And it’s fifty freaking miles. I fully expect to cry at least once. If not tears of frustration, surely tears of joy once I cross the finish.

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This is the the first loop. You just turn around and head back to the start for the second loop.

In order to avoid bonking at the end of the race like I did in Chicago, the past few days I’ve been gorging on carbohydrates in order to fully load my glycogen stores. I’ve also managed to avoid alcohol, and tried to avoid caffeine. I’ve manged to forgo my morning coffee, but had a Coke yesterday. I’ve eaten a lot of quinoa and bulghur, potatoes, rice, bread… and I think I’m going to have some pasta before I head out.

I’m going to leave today and go get a camping spot at the park where the race is. (Well, really a parking spot, as I’ll be car camping since I don’t have a tent.) The race starts at 5am, packet pickup is 4am if you pick it up the day of the race, the drive is 45 min, so that would make for one hell of an early morning if I chose to stay home. The last race I ran at this park, there was a traffic jam getting in. Luckily my dad had driven me, because I had to jump out of the car and run up to the start to get my bib and get to the start line. Not going to let that happen again, no sir!

I’m not sure if this race is considered “unsupported” or not, but there are no volunteers at the aid stations, and no food at the aid stations. The only thing provided is water, ice and, at two aid stations, a portajon. You have to bring your own food. Which in a way is good, because it has forced me to pay more attention to a crucial aspect of running a good race.

Reading from a couple sources, I’m figuring on 250 calories per hour, and about 30 oz of fluids per hour. The sources are pretty far apart in their recommendations, so I’m taking an average. I made “food bags,” for lack of a better term, that contain various gels, cookies, chips, snacks etc that total at least 500 calories. I will pick up a bag at every other aid station. There enough calories per bag to keep me chugging along, and hopefully enough variety that I don’t get sick of any particular thing. (If you’ve ever had more than 3 or 4 gels in a race, you know what I mean.)

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“Food Bag” with splits taped on back.

On the back of each bag, I attached a print out of the splits from that aid station till the next food bag. I plan to hang and clip this bag around the sternum strap of my Camelbak. I like the idea of having all my food easily accessible right in front of my stupid face. But if that turns out to be annoying, I’ll shove it all into the pockets.

As far as hydration goes, I’ll be relying mainly on water, with a handheld with Hammer Perpetuem. I haven’t really tried the Perpetuem in training, and I KNOW YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO TRY NEW THINGS COME RACE DAY, but I’m going to anyway. I’m going to rely on my “food bags” for my calories, so the Perpetuem is more of a supplement. Also, It may help to have something to drink other than water.

So that’s the plan to get through the race. Watch my pace, hydrate, and consume calories. Keep a sense of humour, talk to people, and most of all, remember that no matter how terrible you feel, this is fun!

Today is the day!