Friday, September 24, 2010

Cactus Rose 100

I'm getting close to registering for the Cactus Rose 100 (again) so I thought now would be a good time to post my race report from last year:

Cactus Rose 100
Bandera TX
October 31, 2009

"A very nasty and rugged endurance trail race." Hey, that sounds like fun! Actually I knew pretty much what I was getting myself into. I've been to the Hill Country State Natural Area outside Bandera TX several times now and have a deep respect for the rocky peaks and meandering trails that wind through it. This was my first 100mile attempt and I was glad that I at least had some familiar trails as a testing ground. Cactus Rose is a 'self supported' race but this time out I had a crew to help me. I arrived around 2:30pm on Friday afternoon and quickly established a campground in the shade of a giant oak stand. The weather was perfect, clear and warm with just a touch of cool breeze from the north. I was casually late to the Friday pre-race briefing by Joe and his band of merry soldiers. The mood was jovial and everyone seemed to be pretty relaxed about the task ahead of us. I chatted with some HCTR club members for a few minutes and headed back to camp to eat some dinner.
Not long after, my in-laws, Sheri and Jerry, arrived and settled in to camp for the first time in...a long time. Sandi and the kids finally showed up around 9pm after battling some Austin traffic on a Friday afternoon. The air turned cool and everyone eventually found their way to the tents by 10pm or so. I was tired but couldn't fall asleep with all the traffic of cars coming and going until around midnight. A few short hours later and it was time to get up and get the coffee started.
After some coffee and an early breakfast, all systems were a 'go' for the 5am start. My crew, including the kids, woke up to see me off and then went back to sleep. The first ascent of Lucky's was easy in the dark and excitement of the first miles. The only surprise on the way to the Equestrian aid station for the first of many times today was a giant mud pit in the middle of the trail that I didn't see until I was running right thru the middle of it in the dark. At this point I was running with Ryan from north Texas and we were having fun chatting as we covered ground thru Nachos and back to Equestrian again. Just before we got there I declared how hungry I was, wishing for a giant plate of pancakes and eggs and another cup of coffee. As we funneled in the shoot at the aid station in the dawn light an unkown spectator or crew member offered up an egg taco on que! As we shuffled up the rocky slope in the next mile I told Ryan that if I continued to have that kind of luck all day it was going to be a good one! The sun had finally risen above the distant ridge line and we more or less stayed together until we got to Boyles aid station. There we saw Josue stocking up on calories and heading out on trail again.
Three or four of us finished lap one fairly close together and it was nice to see my crew ready to help in any way. I changed out of my Montrail shoes and into my Vasque for the next two laps, refilled my bottles and grabbed something small to eat before heading back out in the reverse direction. I really enjoyed the next 15 or so miles since I got to see all the fun and creative costumes many of my fellow runners had donned; it was Halloween after all! I had some more solid food at Equestrian and was still feeling good. I didn't have any real spring in my step and definitely had some kinks but things seemed to be settling into place and I had no reason to complain. What I didn't realize was how dry the air had become and how my sweat was evaporating before I knew it was even there. The result of this mistake was getting low on salt and that had repercussions that lasted thru the rest of the race.
Since my crew met me at Equestrian (remember how I said we'd get to know this place!) I dropped my running belt and ran light the last 5miles back to the Lodge to finish lap 2. I realized my mistake during this point and made sure that the first thing I did at the Lodge was to grab an S-cap and eat some salty potatoes. I hadn't begun to cramp up but the water in my stomach wouldn't go anywhere and that made running difficult and eating unappealing. My crew really took care of me here. Sierra and Calvin filled my bottles and fetched random items as needed. I was able to lie down and stretch out my gut while my shoes were emptied of rocks and my hams stretched. My wife had been hydrating while keeping the rest of the crew entertained and was ready for some pacing now that we had 50miles covered.
Sandi is no running slouch and I could barely keep up with her as we ticked off the miles. I kept having to stop and burp and my pace was suffering. I was really mad at myself for my mistake since I knew the rest of the day and long night ahead was going to be less than what I had hoped as far as my pace was concerned. My feelings of disappointment seemed to fade with every mile as I realized how much fun it was to run with my wife on a beautiful trail in the hill country. It was a pleasure to show her the trails and a joy to have her goading me on by running up ahead and hollering back at me. We were on a roll and Sandi got me thru Nachos and back to Equestrian again just as the sun was setting. She ran 15miles with me; more than she'd ever run before.
Our good friend and my sometimes training partner Megan was waiting for us at the E station. Megan got the scoop from the crew on my status and needs and we set off into the twilight to visit the Three Sisters I first traversed before the sun has risen some 12 hours previous. The climb up Sky Island in the dark seemed to take too long and it seemed forever before we got to Boyles at last. Woody had joined us in similar dismay at the long leg from E to B and was happy to see his stash bag of supplies. Melissa's husband Mike was there and by the time he could get Woody and I to speak coherently about her status she showed up to the party. I was alternating between plenty warm and shivery cold at this point and needed to get back on trail. Woody had taken off already but somehow missed the glow stick path out of the station and didn't catch Melissa and I until the end of lap 3.
As we were finishing lap 3 it was exciting to see the leaders headed out on the final 25. The first headlight we saw ended up being Liza and her pacer. Liza was running strong and had a smile so we knew she was in great shape for the last lap. I'm pretty sure the next runner was Ryan then Glen followed by Jethro/Pete/Lurch on their trail like an Arkansas bloodhound. When I finished lap 3 I was feeling better but still couldn't eat or drink like I wanted to. Again, my crew took care of all my needs with speed and precision. I got a blanket, new shoes/socks, some soup, a sip of Lone Star and morsels of all kinds of other stuff. At this point I knew I would finish no matter what. My goal of a sub 24hr seemed gone but I really didn't care about that anymore. I was getting cold and needed to get out of the Lodge and on trail again. Melissa and Woody had both taken off already and I didn't want to get any further behind. The Lodge Party was in full swing and I left for the final lap amid cheers of support from the well lubricated onlookers!
Megan was resupplied with her gear and 'on task' like never before. The tasks were simple; attack each upcoming challenge and worry about the rest as they appeared. This was the hardest leg of the course but didn't seem as bad this time, perhaps because I was going so slow. We did catch Woody but only because he had to tend to a blister that was causing him grief. Megan ended up running 20miles overall and got me back to the E sometime around 12:45am or so. My good friend Mark had taken his kids Trick-or-Treating in Austin and settled them in at the house before driving out to the race to arrive after 10:30pm and prepare to pace me for the last 15miles. Wow, what a treat! Mark got the lowdown as my bottles were once again filled and random food particles shoved in my general direction. I told the crew to get some rest and set there alarms for 5ish if they wanted to see me finish. I had a few sips of hot coffee and got my self back on trail to finish this bad boy before the sun came up again. Mark caught me up on the UT football game and the rest of the scores of the day as we settled into a rhythm of sorts. 15 miles to go and only two big climbs left. I described Ice Cream Hill to Mark as we maneuvered our way towards it's base for the last time. I wished he could see how cool it looked with it's ancient rock lines and sotol plants but I wasn't in any mood to reminisce or hang out any longer than necessary. We shuffled our way to Nachos for the last time and signed the book to mark 10miles to go. Once we got back across the road and down by the creek it was kind of chilly but still pleasant trudging. We saw a few people leaving the park as we passed Headquarters and headed into the cow pasture under a blanket of stars in the clear sky. The moon was almost full earlier in the evening but was now slipping further towards the horizon. My blazing 10-11 min/mi pace had me looking for Equestrian sooner than it would really arrive but we finally got there...again...for the last time. A dedicated or curious gentlemen turned on his truck headlights just as we arrived so we could see the sign in book and peruse the cornucopia of items up for grabs on the table. I dropped off my Camelback and shoved some chips in my mouth as I refilled my water. I looked in the pizza box because it sounded kind of good but there was no way I could chew and swallow that much of anything so we hit the trail. Mark said I was less than 10min behind Melissa but the thought of chasing anyone didn't sound any better than chewing cold pizza.
The mud pit had dried significantly but we still went around it and headed for Lucky. I was happy I could still run the 'flats' and gentle down slopes and I was actually feeling pretty good but had to walk up Lucky and down the scree decent as well. Once I could run again I knew we were in the final mile or so and relief began to kick in. Mark and I had a few comments but mostly enjoyed the sounds of accomplishment trodding down the trail towards the Lodge. "We've got a runner" someone shouted as we emerged from the dark into the bright lights and sounds of The Finish. I could see my family running into the light from the camp direction just as I approached the mat 24hours5min after I started. It felt great. The hugs, the handshakes, the buckle. Yep, WE did it. I 'ran' a hundred miles and the support from my friends and family made it...a joy.
I found a chair in the tent around the propane heater and soaked up the endorphin rush as my bleary-eyed crew listened to my ramblings. My recovery drink was followed by a few beers over the next hour or so as more runners came in and more crews went to bed. I eventually racked out for an hour or two just before the sun rose in a quasi-sleep dream state. I slid out of the tent and made it to a chair all by myself! Luckily some hot coffee was ready to help me enjoy another beautiful morning. My son wanted me to play catch with the football so we did, with me in the chair! We took our time hanging out before breaking down camp (I supervised from the chair) and packing up the cars. The drive home was uneventful (thankfully!) and a shower was the first order of business. I watched a little football and was in bed by 7pm. I took Monday off from work and was fairly sore but felt pretty good overall. I ate like a horse the rest of the week and it seemed to take till Friday before I was not starving any more. My first 100 was over. I learned some lessons and had a great time (mostly) in doing so. Congrats to all the finishers and a huge thanks again to my crew, Joe and Joyce, fellow HCTR members and all the Volunteers that helped put on this very nasty and rugged Cactus Rose 100! A Halloween to remember for sure!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Father/Son Camping, running, biking...

Had an awesome time camping with my boy this weekend! He ran his first real trail race, a 10k at Muleshoe. He threw down a 1:06 and took 13th out of around 25 adults. We had a blast after the race and then volunteered for the night run; set out glow sticks for 2 hours in the dark! Good times for sure. Check out his finish line lean!