Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Bandera 100k 2015

Bandera 100k
10 January 2015
“And I Thought They Smelled Bad on the Outside!”
-Han Solo, The Empire Strikes Back

Freezing rain mixed with sleet. A 40% chance of precipitation throughout most of the day with 60% chances that night. A morning low of 30°F with an afternoon high of 33°F. What better forecast could an ultra runner ask for? It was like we were gonna be spending all day out scouting Hoth with Luke and Han. Only they got to ride on Tauntauns like a couple of pansies.

Our tent had a layer of ice on it when I woke up. Luckily I had plenty of sleep (and it helps when the race doesn’t even start 'til after sunrise). I was getting my back bib pinned on literally seconds before the race started. I didn’t have time to chit chat with friends, not that I’d have recognized anyone with how bundled up everyone was.

I set out for what would hopefully be 100 kilometers (62 miles). I say ‘hopefully’ for pretty much the first time ever. Just two days previous, I noticed my right knee was hurting, and cut my run significantly shorter. It still hurt the next day, and I cut even shorter the already short run. Eight miles in two days is more of a post-race workout. I went to work Friday wondering how my knee would hold up for 62 miles when 4 miles was making me want to go home. Strapping heat packs and the like through most of the day would hopefully provide something positive.

Such a good knee to get me through 62 miles
After about two miles in my wonderful teammate Mel caught up with me and we ran through the Texas Hill Country (aka Rock Country) for about the next ten miles. I’m sure that I’ve said it a few times before, but having someone there right next to you, whether or not you actually talk, is such a benefit to your run. But we of course talked almost the whole time. Religion (or lack of it) happened to be the choice of topic for most of those two hours. Roughly halfway from Chapas (aid station; 11 miles) to Cross Roads (aid station; mile 17), Mel dumped me and made me run ahead without her. But then when I was leaving Cross Roads, I could’ve sworn that she was just coming in. And I later found out that she was only thirteen minutes slower finishing her first lap (31 miles) than I was. Okay. I can take a hint.

Back to my knee. It didn’t seem to be getting any worse. At Last Chance (aid station; 26 miles) I sat down and removed my right shoe to fish out this rock that had been bothering me for the last ten miles. But I couldn’t find anything. After I started running again, there it was. The rock was my foot and I was starting to fall apart. I tried not to think about it, but we all know that that just makes you think about it even more. Talking (whether to myself or to a runner that happened to be nearby) seemed to help. I enjoyed the conversations with an Air Force guy from Clovis, NM; Matt from the Bay Area (CA) whose friends got him out here to run a 100k; and several others whom I can no longer remember. But you all really do help out. A race just wouldn’t be the same without the talkative hippies that make up ultra running. And I was able to ignore my knee for parts of the rest of the first and second (final) lap.

Finally finishing
Altra Superior 2.0 (plus some mud)
Due to the high numbers of runners and all of their crews, vehicular traffic was not allowed. You could walk or bike to the aid stations to crew your runner. Well, with wet and cold conditions, we weren’t about to bring bikes and I would just make do with whatever I could carry and get at aid stations. I got to see Amy (wife) for the first time when I finished lap 1 (31 miles). I was feeling pretty good, but it was still cold as hell (if hell is cold) and I didn’t want to start the shivers. We walked together for a little bit and I saw the timer: 6:04:00. ‘Six hours? Holy crap! Did I really just go that slow?’ But then I remembered that my knee was misbehaving and I was happy to be where I was at (as long as I got back there in about 5-6 hours). I said bye to Amy and of course, about five minutes later, I started to realize my pace. A 6-hour first lap, unless I ran at most a 5-hour second, put me about 1.5 hours in darkness. That meant that for the second race in a row, I might have screwed myself over by not having a headlamp in a dropbag. One of these times it’s gonna catch up to me.  But my savior and best head crew member came through. Amy was at Cross Roads with my headlamp. It nearly put me in tears. I was doing as well as I could and almost had to rely on some other runner and whatever pace they might be going to lead me in the rest of the way. I’d of course do it if it came to that, but it’s not how I wanted my race to end.

Enjoying mashed potatoes and broth next to a heater
I was now at 53 miles and only 9 more to go. It was getting darker and I was heading for the only place real trees exist in the park (I don’t consider the mesquite trees as real because they don’t provide any cover from the sun, not that it mattered today). I was running everything flat and slightly uphill, only wanting to walk the three really steep hills (Lucky, Cairn’s, and Boyle’s) and some of the muddy steep downhills. And for the most part, I was able to do just that. Another plus was that I hadn’t really given much thought to my knee. It still hurt, but it wasn’t bothering me (maybe it knew that it had less than 10 miles to go and not 40+ like all my other races). But in any case, I kept moving. I came into Last Chance (aid station, mile 57). ‘What do you want?’ ‘Nothing much. I just wanna go and get done.’ The Cairn’s section was over quickly enough. The downhill before Boyle’s wasn’t fun with my knee. The Boyle’s section just went on forever, but I was able to run most of it. Some of those high points during that last 5-mile stretch got foggy and low on visibility. The downhill from Boyle’s was rather dry, and I took advantage of that. I knew I was almost finished and pushed it. I was at Boyle’s (aid station for Cactus Rose) and only had (maybe) a quarter mile remaining. I gave it most all I had left. As I passed the horse corral, I shouted ‘AMY!’ ‘MATT?!’ And I pushed it even more through the tiny field and across the finish line. My knee held up, and I was happy to be done before any of that rain came.

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