Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Bandera 100k (12 January 2013)

A relatively last second decision and I was going to be adding another ultra race to my yearly schedule. I had read about the Tejas 300 last year and thought it sounded cool, but for whatever reason, I didn’t sign up to complete it. The two 100-mile races that I do are put on by the same race director. He actually has a number of races that he manages (and quite well at that). But it’s been hard for me to want to do the shorter races as I see them as less than a challenge (instead of a different challenge). Perhaps this is why I didn’t do this last year. 
The Tejas 300 is a club, I guess, in which you have to complete Cactus Rose 100 in late October, then Bandera 100k in mid-January, and then Rocky Raccoon 100 in early February. 262 miles. Three races. Three months (plus a few days).  For completing it, you get bragging rights and less importantly, though much more pretty, a thick five-pound slab of polished granite in the shape of Texas.
I figured this year I’d see what all the hype was about. So I signed up for the race in December or so and saw that there’s quite the turnout for this race. Since 2011 (and through 2014) it’s been the US 100km Trail Championship race. Along with this race there is a 50k and 25k race. Thus the big turnout. Almost 1000 entrants among the three races. And when we all showed up in the minivan at the same field as two and a half months ago, I was shocked to see the place packed with cars. We parked in the camping area, set up our tent right next to the van, and got ready for bed. We of course had our super nutritious dinner (and later to become breakfast) Little Caesars pizza. When we returned from my last race, the boys saw that we had removed the chairs to sleep in the van. They wanted to do the same this time. “As long as you guys are dry, you can sleep in the van.” It was nice having the whole tent to ourselves (and Lena) and also not worrying about two boys that are not very quiet when they awake in the morning. 
Sleeping was not a problem this night. Since this race is so much shorter, its start time wasn’t until 7:30 a.m. It was enjoyable to sleep in ‘til 6:30. I proceeded to get dressed, check in, and have my pizza breakfast. The boys were of course awake (the first glimpse of the sun’s rays instantly removes any need of further sleep) and Amy brought Lena out a little after 7. It was cool, just 50 degrees. But it was very foggy, which meant there was a lot of water in the air. It was clear that I’d be needing some Vaseline to keep from chafing too much. It was going to be nice not having to start the race with a headlamp/flashlight as it was already bright enough to see all the rocks along the path. I was hoping to be able to finish the race without needing a light at the end (because I hate carrying anything with me and headlamps are not comfortable after a few hours). Which I figured would require me to finish in less than twelve hours. And that made sense to me. I did some math in my head: just under 24 hours to finish 100 miles; that means 11 or so to finish 50 at the same pace; but I wasn’t running 100, just 62. So my pace was going to be faster than 100-mile pace. Goal for this race: sub 12 hour finish for 100k (62 miles).

Each race had its own starting line and went in their own direction. The countdown ensued and we were off. I saw Amy and the kids off to the side and waved as we left the camping area and entered the hills. It seemed as though a number of people took off and I wondered why. I knew this was the US 100k championships and that a number of awesome ultra runners would be here to fly through the course, but it couldn’t be this many people. But I was here for myself and all I cared about was finishing under twelve hours.
This race was going to be a bit different. Not only was it much shorter, but there were only two loops instead of four or five. There were a few people that I ran with for awhile and enough to even exchange names. About 12 miles into the first loop, I happened upon a couple of runners that I ended up running with for 6 miles or so. Lorenzo (Sanchez) and Hannon (Didier), though I didn’t know last names at the time. Lorenzo had done a few of the same races as I, but Hannon hadn’t. But we were all going to be doing Rocky Raccoon 100 in three weeks, and it was Hannon’s first 100. So we talked about this and that and what to be ready for. (He’ll end up finishing it 34th place in a time of 21:16:17.) My body told me it was time to move on. I said my goodbyes and left them. 

Alone again. As I continued, I was thrust back into the low clouds higher up on the hills. And that’s where the problem magnified itself. I was already shirtless as my top was drenched (between sweat and moisture from the air). I had wrapped it around my waist and tucked it into my shorts on the sides (something I learned in high school cross country). I couldn’t quite remember how the last 10 miles of the lap worked. I wasn’t worried about getting lost as Joe (race director) always marks his courses very well. So I just followed along. I got to an aid station called “Last Chance.” Its location was a mere half mile from the finish, but I quickly found out that the 100k’s had to turn and continue another five miles through the part of Cactus Rose that I hate the most. Great. And to make matters more fun, this part was a bit muddy and slick with all the moisture and light sprinkling during the previous day. Adding insult to injury, my Vaseline had more than worn off and the insides of my thighs were rubbing themselves raw to the point I just wanted to stop. Of course I didn’t, but it hurt so much. Everything under my shorts was raw and rubbing on wet shorts. I needed to finish this lap so I could change my shorts and slather that region with some much needed Vaseline. 
Ahhhhhh! Dry shorts and a layer of protection. That’s how you spell relief. I didn’t bother bringing a shirt with me as I was certain it would just end up around my waist again. Just 31 more miles. Or as I quickly thought, just one more lap. That made it sound much better. I finished my first lap in a little over five hours. Someone I was running with mentioned how nobody ever has negative splits on this course. Adding another half hour put me at eleven hours or so. I could handle that.
I left for my final loop with my thoughts to entertain me. I was running solo for almost the entire lap except when I passed people. One thought that kept running through my head was how much more I needed to run. I would compare it to loops that I usually do around town.  “It’s like I’m leaving my house and doing my Cypresswood/2920 loop (a 24-mile loop).” “Now it’s like I’m doing the Benders Landing loop (18 miles).” “Now I just have 10 miles. I do this just about every day (minus the hills of course).” At the second-to-last aid station, Amy and the kids were there waiting for me. “What time is it?” “45.” “What 45?” “5.” “I need my flashlight and headlamp. I’m not gonna make it 10 miles before it’s too dark to see and I’ll be on rocky hills at the time.” I didn’t want to have to use my lights as I hate carrying things. So I started going back to my not-so-very infallible calculations I made before the race. For some reason, I was thinking the sun wouldn’t go down ‘til after 7:30 (which is what happens in the spring). Maybe it’s because the weather had been so warm at the time. But as I thought about it, the sun was gonna be gone shortly after 6 p.m. And there was no way I was finishing 10 miles in an hour. Especially not after having run 50 miles. 

Once again I made it through the long forest and finally made it to the last aid station. The one that’s only a half mile from the finish. I wanted so badly to just go straight and not make the turn to do my last five miles. Then I’d finish in the light and not have to use my lights. But alas, I turned and made my way up over the first of two super fun hills. The sun made its way behind the hills and as I was going up the last hill, I had to turn on my lights. I was worried that this was gonna be bad because of the mud and slick rocks I experienced on my first time around. However, much to my delight, the mud was drier and the rocks were hardly slick at all. 
As I was coming up to the last of my uphill battles, I heard a couple of guys up ahead of me, but I didn’t see any lights. Weird. “Where’s your lights?” “Well, we kinda miscalculated our paces and didn’t bring any with us.” So I got to use my headlamp as my light in front of me and I held my flashlight straight down as I shared that light between me and one of the other two guys. But the guy in front of us seemed to not want to benefit from the light as he remained rather far in front of us. Continuing downhill, we finally came to the turn off the trails and into the field. Shouts of joy came from the three of us. Apparently the guy in front of us was using the light, but just the very edges of it. He had to slow down every now and then to keep in range of the light. We talked it up as we entered the field. Just a few hundred meters remained. As it was brighter from the various lights around, I took off for my typical finishing kick. I saw the kids up ahead and they saw me. “Daddy!” And they tried to run with me up to the finish line. But I passed them and was gone in a second. I crossed the line and it beeped at me saying ‘Congratulations!’ Final time: 11 hours, 23 minutes, 50 seconds. 22nd place out of 186 finishers and 256 starters. My sub-12 hour goal was fulfilled. Race number two of three in the Tejas 300 completed.

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