Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Cactus Rose 100 (October 2011)

Having discovered the amazingness of ultra endurance runs, I found another 100 miler semi close to home. This was the Cactus Rose 100 in Bandera, TX (Hill Country State Natural Area). I had previously ran the Rocky Raccoon 100 back in February and had such a great time that I couldn't pass this one up.

I read everything that was posted on the website . It mentioned that it was "a nasty rugged trail run" and that it was "a race for veteran trail runners." So I thought (as though I am still 18 and invincible), "I can still do this. That doesn't apply to me."

Rocky Raccoon provided a lot of food and drinks and everything else you could ever hope for in a super long race. I was informed that this race would provide water. I needed to bring any other food that I may want. And unlike any other trip I've ever been on, I started packing a whole week early so I didn't get 4 hours from home only to find out that I needed to buy some running shoes (which still almost happened).

A great friend (Isaac) lent us his camper which he parked at the start/finish line. I slept there and woke up at 3:45 am to check-in. It was about 36 degrees that morning. A great change from the 60-80 degree plus mornings that I was used to for the last 3 months.

The course was a 25-mile loop. The 1st/3rd loops were run clockwise and the other 2 counterclockwise. It was cool because you got to see all the people in front of you But at the same time, the last 10 miles of the 1st/3rd loops were hellacious only to be repeated in reverse right away on the 2nd/4th loops.

I had convinced Matt Hoyt (a high school cross country buddy) to come down from KS to run this with me (though he only wanted to do the 50 miler). We spent the first 12 miles or so catching up on 15 years and had a great time spending 2 hours of non-stop talking. After that, we started getting more and more separated. Luckily, I saw him right before he left to say thanks for coming down and running this with me.

I spent miles 13-50 "running" with random people as I caught up to them or vice versa. I say "running" because this was not a running course. I wouldn't even say it was good for hiking (at least certain parts of it). I mentioned to some that my goal was to finish in 24 hours. I knew that it was going to be difficult as I had seen the previous years' results (and hardly anyone got under 24 hours). But I was still determined to do it. An older man with long white hair on his head and face kinda scoffed at me. So I added that it might be more likely that I finish in 30 hours. But I still wanted 24.

The first lap finished fairly uneventfully. I crossed the finish at 5 hours and 28 minutes, took a break (with a lot of Mountain Dew and M&M's), and headed back out for the reverse lap and knowing just how awful the next 10 miles would be.

I mentioned that those 10 miles were hellacious. There were rocks and boulders and sizes in between that were scattered all over those 10 miles of trails. I think that was the reason that my legs went out faster than I expected. There was just so much trying to run/walk and not step on big rocks or slipping rocks or going up/down really steep hills.

Finishing mile 10 on lap 2 (overall mile 35), I was pretty happy. I knew that the next 15 were nowhere near as horrible (though still not easy). After a few miles, my legs allowed me to "run" and I more or less continued this for the next 10 miles. However, the last 5 for that loop were walked. When I first traversed them earlier that morning, they seemed easy (or I just forgot what they were really like.) This time around, however, this giant bouldery gravel mountain appeared. I was not gonna look forward to repeating this right before I finished. Luckily, Josh Udy would be running with me as my pacer for that last 25 miles.

I'd have to say that the best part of the day was my wonderfully amazing wife and how she drove from one aid station to the next to make sure I was ok, to take some pictures, to let the kids see me and cheer me on ("This way daddy! Over here, over here!"), and to have some warm soup for me (which is so yummy at this point in the race). She did this from about 9am til 9 pm. Luckily she had her mom here too to help with the boys and Madelena (yeah, we brought the 3-week-old on the trip).

I finished lap 2 in 11 hours and 15 minutes. When I headed out for my 3rd lap, there was a man who started just before me and I caught up with him. We were both content with mostly walking and then running on the flatter parts. I lost him after a mile or so and thus began my lonely 24-mile trek. I hardly saw another person until I finished that lap at 18 hours 30 minutes. There was still hope to finish in 24 hours! I just needed to finish really strong, and I was feeling great because Josh drove all the way out from Houston just to support me.

Right when Josh and I left, I told him, "We're walking the next 10 miles. You'll see why. Then we can run the rest of the way in." Famous last words.

As we meandered through those hellacious hills, I remember Josh asking, "How can you see the trail?" "I don't know. I know it's a bunch of rocks, but they're different from the other rocks." We had to look a few times to make sure we were on the trail, but we never did get lost. We speed-walked through those awful 10 miles and now only had the "easy" half of the loop remaining until the finish. I figured I was easily in the top 10 or so and was excited to finish at least close to my 24-hour goal.

I ended up seeing that white-haired man who earlier scoffed at me. "Hey. I just came in lap 3 at 18:30. I'm still close to making 24 hours." He wished me luck and maybe he didn't think I was such a dummy after all.

We headed out on the last 15, but my legs didn't want to go right off. "It'll just take a mile or so of walking and trying to run a bit and they'll kick in. That's how they've been all day." About the time my muscles were supposed to kick in, my brain, which had up to this point been very awake, decided to fall asleep almost literally. Josh had to walk right next to me and hold my arm as I stumbled along like a zombie. There were points where I couldn't even keep my eyes open (luckily it was dark!). All I wanted was to go to sleep. But with the temperature in the 40's, I couldn't just sleep on the trail. I needed to get to an aid station where I had some pants. That was 10 miles away. So the chivalrous Josh held my arm and led me for those 10 miles. I was walking on my own power, but that was about it. I was not picking up my feet much and my eyes were frequently closed, so I tripped over the many "pebbles" in the trail. And I was babbling like a drunk. Josh said he wanted to get his phone out so he could record what I was saying, but he felt like holding me up and all was more important. Oh well. At one point I said, "I'm so glad you're here to help me out" and then started crying. And I do remember telling him that I needed to sleep and that I didn't want to do the last 5 miles like this. Plus there was that giant rocky slope that I didn't want to fall down a mile before the finish. Josh let me sleep. He asked how long I needed. "15 minutes." 15 minutes on the dot, I was woken. But my mind was fresh and we took off.

It was 6:45 am Sunday, almost a full 26 hours after I started this race. I got to see 2 sunrises during this race, even though I told the sun good-night earlier and that I didn't want to see him until I woke up after a few hours' rest (after I finished the race too). But that didn't happen as planned.

We ran and walked right off. As the path got steeper, we walked a bit more. Then an older man (looked in his 50's) started catching up to me and the high school kid in me said, "Don't get out-kicked." As we came down that awful hill, I told Josh, "See. I told you that you wouldn't want to guide me down this hill." We made it down and then we started running. "What is this thing we're doing now?" "I'm helping you get that workout that you came all the way out here for, even if it means we only run one mile out of the 25 we were supposed to do." But the trail kept going, and going, and going. Only I didn't let up the pace. The I'm-at-the-end-of-the-race endorphins were kicking in and there was no way I was going to stop til I crossed that finish line. We finally made it to the spot where the two trails combine and stepped up the pace even more. I wish I had started a timer when we started so I'd have known the approximate pace for that mile. But it was fast, especially since 99 miles had just been completed.

I could see the Lodge and around the corner, the finish line. As I sprinted across it, I was practically in tears. I was so happy to be done with that race. No more going up those murderous hills. No more getting Sotol kisses (google 'sotol' and you'll see how it might feel to run through herds of these plants over and over). No more wanting to get to that next aid station to drink some soup. It was really over and I was so elated. And the best part is: I can't wait for next year. 

No comments:

Post a Comment