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.
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.
There’s no way to capture the scale of the Grand Canyon in a photo, so I was looking forward to seeing it with my own eyes and as I ran through it. The canyon lived up to the hype. It was impressive and a little ginormous. The run, however, wasn’t as hard as I expected it to be. I expected to be on Death’s door, shriveled up and/or burned to a crisp after finishing.
But it wasn’t that bad, which was oddly disappointing.
Don’t get me wrong, it was tough. Especially the last four hours hiking up Bright Angel Trail. But overall, it felt like another 50 mile race, just with more vertical. I feel like I trained pretty well for the run, but what really made it “easier” was the weather.
Perhaps the trail gods pitied us, as there was cloud cover for a good portion of the day. This made a huge difference: It spared us the heat of the inner canyon, which is supposed to be tortuous. It allowed us to run for longer periods without overheating. And it kept us from running out of water. (Sort of.)
Ultimately, I’m thankful we didn’t have to endure the heat.
I ran with four other people from our group of 20. We started about 4:45 am. Once it got light, the first few miles were spent oohing and ahhing and taking pictures. It was awhile before we really got going. We took our time and drank in the Canyon. We made several stops along the way, but the majority of the first 15-20 miles was uneventful and went by relatively quick.
Lower mid right, that white streak is a baby waterfall.
As the day went on, it warmed up. Going up North Kaibab was probably the worst of the heat. It was hot, but not unbearably so. We stopped in an awesome shady spot and lounged for a bit. The rock was cool and felt great on our tired legs. Once we started back up, we were greeted with a never-ending series of switchbacks to the top.
We eventually made it to the top of North Kaibab and had lunch. One of the other sub groups was already there, so we got to to eat and chat with them. But the best treat? The water. Oh-my-goodness!! So cold and refreshing. (I felt guilty about dumping out my bladder just so I could refill it with cold water.) Oh, and mental note for next time: Extended breaks make it extremely hard to get moving again.
After the agonizing uphill, running –actual running– the downhill was really fun. I felt we had been trudging along all day (which was probably actually a good thing), but now was a chance to to open it up. I love the feeling of bounding through rocky trails as fast as I can. So I started running up ahead at my own pace and then stopping and waiting for the others. They were never that far behind, so that worked out great. But I had to remind myself to keep it in check because there’d be hill to pay later.
At Cottonwood, we stopped and soaked our feet and legs. The ice cold water felt great, though I could handle it for only like 10 seconds at a time. The others had no problems sitting in the water up to their waist, so eventually I had to do the same. It felt great for like a second. It’s crazy how fast the water evaporates though.
We took a detour to check out Ribbon Falls. It was a great little water fall. You can climb up to the top and stick your head under the water. As you might imagine, it felt great.
And then came the slog. Running back through the inner canyon was the running version of Groundhog Day. It was the L-o-n-g-e-s-t S-e-v-e-n M-i-l-e-s E-v-e-r. We would have really suffered here if it weren’t for the cloud cover because the rock absorbs the sun’s heat all day and then radiates it right back out into your face.
By this time, the moon was nowhere to be seen and it was pitch black. Michele had a problem with her headlamp/batteries, so I let her use my headlamp. I ran between her and Tanya and was able to see well enough. The trekking poles were a lifesaver here. They allowed me to cross over the logs more easily, helped provide depth perception, and overall stability.
This was by far the toughest section to get through. It was certainly challenging physically, but even more so mentally. We could hike only so fast. Partly because we were tired and partly because of the fear of walking off the cliff. Chris had said if we could do a 30 minute mile, we were doing well. That sounded ridiculous, but I think it was true.
There were some lights at the top of the canyon that we seemed to be moving toward but not getting any closer. We seemed to be hiking forever but not making any progress. All we could see was five feet in front of us. And those damn lights up top. I started thinking about food. I would have killed for a burger and a Coke. Seriously.
Strangely, it wasn’t even midnight yet and we started getting bombarded by other runner’s (presumably)starting their R2R2R journey. It was disappointing because many of the runners didn’t yield the trail to us or even slow down. (Trail etiquette dictates that those moving downhill should yield to those moving uphill.) A few bellowed the “Looking good!/ Good job!” line which was a little too chipper for my taste.
Some time after midnight, we finally made it to the top of Bright Angel. I thought for sure I would cry, but I didn’t. I was too tired.
Other Notes/ Advice type Stuff
Water: Jason and Michele both ran out of water twice. We gave them some water the first time, and the second time was right before a stop. They got lucky. It’s better to carry too much water than to run out. Simple as that. And really, how do you run out of water twice?!
I had a 2L bladder for water which I filled completely at each stop and a 21 oz bottle for Perpetuem/ Heed.
Calories: I brought around 6,000 calories, almost twice what I actually consumed. (Although about 2000 of that was Perpetuem and Heed.) Often what seems edible in the grocery store is anything but on the trail. And again this was the case. A dozen+ gels, 3 bars, cola flavored gel chews (next best thing to a Coke), pretzels, beef jerky, cookies, almonds, single serve tuna fish with crackers, olives, a real sandwich, and powdered Perpetuem and Heed. And I forgot to bring Payday candy bars. I think those would have done me well.
I love my Salomon pack. I bought it specifically for this trip and it has been great to me. Maybe I should finish the review I started.
Garmin Forerunner 310XT did work in the canyon (even though it was constantly losing satellite reception), lasted over 17 hours. I never stopped it, if I had, it might have made the whole trip. What I should have done was to stop it at each water stop and treat that as a run. The drawback is you have to remember to restart the watch…
Trekking poles were a HUGE help going uphill. I’ve never used them before (hills in Texas?) but they were easy to get the hang of. Most of us rented them from the General Store. Best $12 I ever spent.
A wide brim hat or a legionnaire’s cap is a must. And sunscreen.
Make sure your headlamp works! Put in new batteries and/or carry spares. You might even take two headlamps. If your sole source of light breaks somehow, you’re in a tough spot.
Proper foot care the week prior to the run: Clip and file your toenails, pumice any tough spots, and moisturize with lotion. Wear double socks – toe socks under Drymax- and gaiters. And carry a spare pair of socks. Dust and sand still managed to infiltrate the mesh in my shoes, but I had ZERO blisters.
It’s go time again. Nerves! Anxiety! Excitement! Fear! Giddiness! And Delirium
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.
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.)
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!
It’s funny how you look forward to a race for so long and then when it finally arrives and you’re in the thick of it, you can’t wait till it’s over. At least that’s how I felt running my first 50 mile race.
* * * * *
Rode up with Chris and Anabelle on Friday. I’d not really talked much to either of them before, but got to know them a little more which was nice. The 2 1/2 hour drive flew by. A very pleasant drive, except for the time that we spent driving directly into the sun – that was awful.
Shared the Dave Brown Suite dorm with Anabelle, Scott and Melanie, Dave and Kim, Tom, Larry, and Cara and Alex. With so many people, I was worried that it would get rowdy and be hard to fall sleep. But being out in the middle of nowhere, it felt later than it was. Everyone settled down, and it wasn’t an issue. And surprisingly, neither was waking up. Someone placed their very loud alarm in the windowsill, and when it went off, they struggled to climb down from their top bunk to turn it off.
No one else seemed to notice, but that really woke me up, so I got dressed, went and got my packet and dropped off my drop bag. It was pretty dang chilly outside. The race start was 6 am. I hung out and waited in the coffee shop with Stefan and Larry.
I was slightly nervous about a few things: my right hamstring had (and still is) not feeling 100%, the mystery pain in my right foot that appeared after pacing Rachel and then running at Government Canyon, but most worrisome was my poor nutrition planning.
Starting with yesterday’s lunch: a spicy Chic-Fil-A sandwich that was actually spicy. Spicy enough to worry me about possible consequences during the race. Last night’s dinner: half of an Italian BMT Subway footlong that probably had too much roughage. ( I guess I hadn’t consumed enough calories that day and was just plain hungry.) But most troubling was not having a real breakfast. I didn’t bring any breakfast food with me because I thought there was a breakfast event at the cafe, but I didn’t get up early enough to investigate. (!) Had it not been for the samples of some Power Bar type thing they had at packet pick up, I would have had no breakfast at all. Not a good way to start a race!
And the race seemed to start abruptly. Having left the warmth of the coffee shop two minutes before 6, Larry and I were towards the back of the back. All of a sudden the countdown started and we were off. I was not as excited as I should have been. I had to force a “woo hoo,” which is pretty sad.
Off we went into the woods, this little train of runners. As to be expected, the start was slow going since it was single track. There are a bunch of switchbacks the first few miles, so it was funny to see this little parade of bouncing headlamps heading in the opposite direction. It would be several miles before the course opened up.
Looking at the line of runners ahead of me, I was annoyed when I saw gaps. I felt like that one person was holding up traffic. I know it’s not good to start off too fast, so I tried to convince myself that this would be good to cool my jets. But I wasn’t buying it. If I go slow it should be because I choose to, not because I’m forced to. I don’t want my pace to be determined by someone else. So there were a few instances where I had to make some difficult passes.
Once I got away from the clumps of runners I had a little more breathing room. I then set my attention to the horizon. There was a faint glow that promised a nice sunrise, and possibly some much needed warmth. I kept checking every few minutes, but nope, not yet. Meanwhile, my stomach was making threats and demands for action.
It was tough looking for a proper spot to go, but eventually one was found and corrective action was taken. What was upsetting to me was the clumps of runners I’d passed earlier ran by during my transaction. I would have to pass them all over again.
I kept watching the horizon, waiting for the sun to show itself so I could get a photo. Somehow I missed it, but at least the daylight provided an opportunity to see and appreciate the scenery. I took what photos I could during the first loop and some of the second, while I had the energy and brain capacity. Unfortunately, these photos and videos don’t do the course justice.
I had had a month to train for the race, but never felt really confident because I never got to run the full course. Training four weekends at Bandera (where my last race was) gave me tons of confidence because I knew exactly what to expect. At Nueces, I had only a rough idea.
During the group practice run a few weeks ago, four of us got separated from the main group and were totally lost. We ran what we thought was the course, including a very steep hill. I ran it three times to overcome any anxiety this hill might produce. I was waiting for this hill to appear, ready to take it on again. Turns out that hill wasn’t part of the course.
The hill that was part of the course was worse. We had run this hill in our lost adventure, but I assumed because there was no defined path, it wasn’t part of the course. Wrong.
You couldn’t slowly chug your way up this hill, you had to think your way up. Sometimes you can just follow the clues left by previous runners footsteps, no such luck here. The ground was littered with rocks. You had to figure which way to go, what rocks do you step on and which do you avoid; it was a choose your adventure sort of hill. And there were at least two false peaks. And I’m pretty sure by the third lap, the hill had doubled in size. (Again the photo does not do the hill justice. It’s much worse than it looks.)
On the flip side, there were two sections of nice and easy loooong downhills on wide open roads that were a fantastic change of pace from the narrow, uphill brutality. Just look at how long this stretch is!
And then some of the fun stuff! (These are out of course order, but that doesn’t matter, does it?)
There’s a nice section right a few miles before the finish, that goes across and beside this small river, very scenic. The guy ahead of me was filming himself with (I believe) a Hero cam. So I thought, “Heck, I should do that with my dumb phone.” I bet his footage was way better.
Right after was a long suspension bridge that just sapped the energy out of your stride.
That was actually the second bridge, here was the first, which I felt was worse.
The most curious part of the race: running across these stepping stones. This had slip and fall written all over it, but I managed just fine. It was warm enough on the last lap that I could have just run through the water, but didn’t. (Apologies for the sideways video.) Later someone mentioned that finishers were using the river as a natural ice bath. I wish I’d thought of that!
And perhaps the best video of the day: after shooting something and then realizing that I wasn’t actually recording then, but now…
I was surprised when I finished the first 16.7 mile loop, it went by so quickly. I was feeling great. I was feeling more confident now that I’d seen the whole course and knew what to expect. Now it was just a matter of consuming enough calories and drinking enough liquids.
The rest of the rest was sort of jumbled, so here are notes by topic.
FOOD: The first gel I consumed was a Chocolate Power Gel. They contain caffeine, which is good. And normally I like chocolate anything, but these were thicker (than my preferrred Vanilla flavor), almost paste-like in consistency, which made them really tough to swallow – literally. They seem stickier and messier, and you really have to make sure to wipe your mouth so you don’t have any “mystery brown” around your mouth / face.
After I’d consumed all my gels, I resorted to scarfing down Pringles at the aid station, and grabbing other nibbles to go. At one point, I arrived at the Wall to fresh cheese quesadillas and grilled sausage! Perfect timing and simply amazing! Also, Coke and Mountain Dew are so freaking good after drinking nothing but water and Gatorade.
I had a bag of beef jerky in my drop bag, but never touched it. And I forgot to grab my Vanilla gels. And I forgot my running sunglasses. In fact, the only time I used my drop bag was when I finally remembered to ditch my headlamp on the last loop. I definitely need to work on using a drop bag more effectively.
I came up with a little trick that whenever I saw another runner drinking, I would drink too. But alas, I didn’t drink enough. The consistency was good, but not the quantity. At one point, I tried eating some beef jerky that was leftover in my pack. It must have dried out a bunch because even after five minutes of chewing, I was unable to generate enough saliva to be able to swallow it, so I had to spit it out. Later, the same thing happened with a mouthful of Pringles.
I now realize the reason I’m not hydrating properly is my Camel Back. When I wear my Camel Back, I cannot accurately gauge how much water I’m consuming because there’s no easy visual aid. With a handheld, you can easily tell how much water you’ve consumed.
GEAR: Instead of using the brand new handheld I bought just for the race, I opted to wear my Camel Back. As much as I hate wearing the thing – it’s heavy (I carried more water than I needed, yet still didn’t drink enough), it makes my shoulders ache, and gets really sweaty – it gives me some peace of mind knowing that I have plenty of water and room for snacks and stuff. My other excuse is the shirt pocket pouch. I put my iPhone in there and can listen to music without having to futz around with earbuds. And I can easily remove it and take pictures and videos.
That’s how I rationalized it then, and I now see how silly that sounds. I will definitely go the hand held route next time, especially if the aid stations are so close together.
Had no real Garmin issues. Several times I thought I heard a beep and thought I’d accidentally stopped the timer. So I pressed the button start button only to find that I was mistaken. Once the timer stops displaying seconds, you can’t easily tell that it’s still going. I wish there was a little green light to indicate that yes, you are in fact still timing.
My $25 Drymax socks continue to make me happy. My feet stay pretty dry and blister free, except for this GINORMOUS UGLY BLISTER. When I finished, I wanted to inspect my poor toes. I took off my socks and HELLO! A giant blister in all it’s blood filled glory! ( I think Don took a photo of it with the Drymax logo beside it, but since I don’t yet have that photo, here is an after the fact shot. ) I don’t blame the socks for creating this little monster, I blame my shoe.
I wore my New Balance Minimus, which I was happy with, despite the blister. As the miles piled up, my form suffered. I wasn’t picking up my feet enough and I was catching all sorts of rocks underfoot. I almost fell a half dozen times, and stubbed my toes at least a dozen times. I felt it in my black toenails each time. Oh and I fell on my butt at one of the photo spots. And yes, the guy got a photo of that! I thought that was funny.
There was one unpleasant surprise: I pulled out my fashionable sunglasses out of my pack and one of the arms was missing! (One of the screws came out, if you can believe that!) I tried not to sweat it and wore them for several miles. Someone actually made a comment about them, and I was wearing them for the race photos. But I got tired of how unsecured they were, so I put them back in my pack. Worse was that I had my running sunglasses in a drop bag, but forgot to get them because I was so busy stuffing my face.
Brought my foam roller with me, but didn’t use it after the race. Dumb.
GOOD STUFF: I learned more about trail etiquette. It occurred to me that some people don’t realize that you’re right behind them and desperately want to pass. They might be focused on themselves (and rightfully so), or wearing headphones or just don’t hear you. Whatever the reason, breathing down their neck and riding their heels is akin to tailgating and equally annoying. So just pass them already!
If you want to pass in a tight section, just ask: “Can I get a pass?” and let them decide where they want to step aside, or sometimes they’ll ask you where you’d like to pass. If there’s more room, just tell them that you’re passing: “Passing on your left.” That way they aren’t as startled. Most importantly, once you pass them say Thank You. By the end of the day, I felt better about my trail etiquette.
One of the things I discovered was how much your spirits can be lifted by seeing a familiar face, either on the course or at an aid station. Spotting people on the course can be more of a surprise. You’re more focused on the ground in front of you, then all of a sudden, “Hey, that’s Fumi! Or Jason Crockett!” Seeing people at aid stations is cool because you know they’ll be there, you can look forward to seeing them. Chris is a great guy, hilarious as hell, and very positive. Rachel and Holly also worked the Texas aid station and were very encouraging. Jazzy, Doug and Emmett were very accommodating at the Wall.
Perhaps the best part of the run was that I never found “the dark side”. The last few hours were difficult, but aside from a brief episode of light headedness, I managed okay. I was very much looking forward to finishing, and felt like I was going to pass out once I finally crossed the finish line. I did start to tear up on the way back to the dorm because I was so happy to be finished.
SUMMARY: The day after the race my brain was effectively mush and I was walking “the walk”. After a full night’s rest, my brain is functioning better and my walk is getting better.
I’m super happy that I was able to get through the race unscathed. My official time was 8:34:56, 19th overall. Not bad for my first 50, but all I can think about is putting down a better time. I don’t want to think about training just yet, but Hell’s Hills is in a month.
For three months, I was training for one specific day, one specific race. While I am happy to be training, I am even happier racing. But it seemed like that day was so far away. Even as the day grew closer, it didn’t quite sink in. And then it was -holy smokes- race day!
It was kind of a tense drive out to Bandera. At 5:30 in the country, it’s super dark. Add some light drizzle and it’s just not a fun drive. I’m glad my dad was driving, although sometimes his driving scares me. There was very little traffic, which was nice. That is, until we got to the park. Then there was a straight up traffic jam.
Which is not surprising. 1,000 people crammed into one lane? Duh! And here I thought getting there an hour early would be sufficient. (At least I wasn’t the only who made that mistake.)
I started to get antsy because I had a pressing gastrointestinal issue that would soon require immediate action. After a few minutes, we’d moved maybe two feet, so I had to act. I jumped out of the car and hiked into the bushes, out of the way of everyone’s headlights, and found a spot and did the doo. Ran back to the car feeling better.
But then I started to get really panicky. We weren’t really moving. It was 7:15 and the race started at 7:30. There were still tons of cars waiting to park. Would they start the race without…..? OF COURSE they will start the race on time! They aren’t going to postpone it for your sorry ass! Get out there and start running! That’s my brain for you.
I wasn’t totally prepared. I still needed to pick up my packet and drop my bag. I was still trying to work out my iPod cord strategy. And I wasn’t sure if I was going to wear my jacket or not, but then I saw a girl run by in a tank top. She looked like she’d knew what was up, so I ditched my jacket and wore just one shirt. (Probably the second best decision I’d make that day, as temps were perfect for just a t-shirt.) I grabbed my bag and my handheld and started running to the Lodge.
I got my packet, took out the bib and the safety pins, and dropped my bag onto the truck headed for Chapas. When I started pinning on my bib, I realized, This is it! I am finally going to run this race! My first 50K! I made it to the start with about 5 minutes to spare.
I whooped and hollered a bit at the start, and several times during the race I put my arms in the air and pumped my fists, thinking YEAH! I’m running! I didn’t care about the mud, for me, that was a bonus. Mud is just leveling up. Yes, it made running a bit more difficult, but then the next time I race this course and it’s dry, I’m going to kill it!
And then after so many miles, it was kind of a blur. I didn’t know where I was anymore. All I could see was the trail in front of me. At some points it was hard to keep going and I started to look forward to finishing, but I knew I’d be sad as soon as I crossed the finish. And I was. I mean I was glad to be done, or maybe I was just glad to stop running. I didn’t want to be done because that meant the race was over. And that’s the beginning of the post-race blues. After the high of the race wears off, the blues kick in. Suddenly, I have no immediate thing I’m working toward. I took off the week following the race to rest up. But then what?
The cure? Sign up for another race!
I learned a few lessons:
Get to the race earlier than you think you need to, especially if there will be a lot of people at the race. If for no other reason than to use the port-a-potty before eight million other people do. I imagine the folks who camped out were feeling pretty smug when they saw the huge line of cars to park and the huge lines for the port-a-potty
Enjoy every minute of race day. Even the parts where you’re sick of running and just want to collapse. Those are probably the best moments of the race, because chances are pretty good that you’ll get through those moments. “This too shall pass.” And then you can look back on those difficulties and know that you have what it takes to keep on going.
Talk to complete strangers during the race. I talked to a few people, and it helped get me through some of the miles in the middle. I’m not much of a conversationalist, but it’s super easy: just talk about running! Have you done a 50 before? Have you run this race? What’s your goal? Even if it was just a brief conversation, it was nice. So talk!
It’s fun to applaud others as they finish. I was confused that more people didn’t smile at the end. Some would start smiling once they heard the applause, but some didn’t. Maybe they were having a rough go of it, but I would think everyone would be all smiles at the finish. I know I was!
Perhaps one of the most fun steps of running is finding a race to sign up for. Once you pick out a race, you make the commitment and sign up. You drop the cash, but then perk up at the thought of a race to look forward to.
Having to part with a chunk of cash (sniff) is a big motivator for me. There’s no way I’m going to pay for a race and then not train for it. Unless there is a damn good reason, then I am going to run that race, which means I have to train for it.
And in fact it has happened to me that I’ve signed up for two marathons but wasn’t able to run them. I signed up for the San Antonio marathon, but then found out I was going to Thailand, which was just fine by me. (And I almost signed up my buddy Jason, good thing I didn’t!) As luck would have it, I found that there was going to be a marathon in Bangkok, so I signed up for that. I was super stoked, but then Bangkok got flooded, and so that race didn’t happen.
Right now my goal is to pick my next race. I will probablythe 50K in Nueces on March 2nd. It’s kind of a bummer that it’s two hours away. I won’t be able to run the course every weekend like I did for Bandera, but I’m sure I’ll make at least one trip out there to see what it’s like. I’ve heard that it is flatter and isn’t as technical, so that’s good. However, it’s two 15 mile loops. I’m not keen on the idea of running loops, but what can you do?
There is also a SARR half-marathon on the 26th, and the Austin marathon on February 17th… Hmmmm…..