Sunday, November 7, 2010

Cactus Rose 100 v 2010 Race Report

Cactus Rose 100
October 30, 2010
A nasty rugged day in the hill country
Steven Moore

I started thinking about this year’s Cactus Rose in late August. Specifically at about mile 90 of the Leadville 100, coming out of the last aid station headed back to town. I figured that race had gone pretty well (so far) and if I could knock out a 100 mile run at ~10,000+ feet in 21.5 hours then I should be able to improve on my 2009 Cactus Rose time of 24:05 if things went decent. Actually, I’ll have to admit, I’ve carried a small chip on my shoulder all year after last years ‘learning experience’. In 2009 I experimented with some advice I received and failed to realize it was going wrong in time to save my race. I still finished and I’m proud of myself for gutting that one out but…I knew I could do better and was waiting for the opportunity to prove it.
Back to the future. My 2010 race season had gone pretty well leading into CR2010. I ran some solid races thru the spring and the aforementioned Leadville race in August bolstered my confidence as well as my endurance and mountain running muscles.
My training was going great and everything was falling into place with the plan to attack the CR course with the respect it demands. Going great until….the dreaded head cold! I felt the first effects late Saturday, a week before race day. I never get sick and was super bummed about the timing obviously. I ended up staying home from work Tuesday to try to sleep it off and pounded the Vit C and Zinc tabs for 4 days. Luckily I started feeling better by Thurs morning and began to feel hopeful again, if a little drained.
In 2009 I slept in a tent the night before race day. This is usually plenty comfortable for me but I didn’t get the best night’s sleep with all the late night and early morning traffic (!) coming and going around race headquarters. This year was different. My crew included my wife Sandi, our kids Sierra (and her friend Cali) and Calvin, and my in-laws Sheri and Jerry. My in-laws brought their camper trailer and even offered up the big bed for Sandi and I. The tent may be hard to go back to…
Race morning was business as usual. Up at 3:30 for coffee and breakfast, take care of business, get geared up, do some light warm ups and get ready to roll! The kids wanted to see me off so they woke up and helped usher all the runners off at the 5am start! The weather was perfect, chilly but no wind and a warm day on the horizon.
I like to start fairly fast but let 5-6 folks run out front to set a pace and find the trail for us. The Tejas Trails races are always well marked and this CR was no exception. However, no sooner than the very first climb up Lucky’s did I come across 2 dudes headed my way, backwards off the trail to my left. One kept going and the other asked me if I knew where I was. Without getting too esoteric that early in the morning I eventually replied that indeed, I did know where I was and hopefully even where I was going! Our time together on trail was brief, the steep decent was over and the trail had smoothed to one of the few sections where a fast pace is not only allowed but also wise if one is to make up for walking the steeps later in the loop.
I ditched my light windbreaker and gloves at CrossRoads (Equestrian) about 5 miles in and signed the book with my clock time and race number. Getting ones fingers to work any time during an ultra is interesting but signing in with cold fingers that have been gripping bottles is an added challenge for sure! The frost on the tall grasses in the morning darkness made for some neat visual effects in the glow of my light but I tried to focus on not tripping on a rock or root and searching for the confirmation ribbons along the trail to Nachos. 10 miles in and all systems go. My left hip was a little tight but I knew there was plenty of time to loosen up and I was just happy I wasn’t coughing up a lung or battling the stuffy nose from earlier in the week.
Ice Cream Hill wasn’t too bad from that direction and soon enough I was on the road back towards CrossRoads. The first sign of human life I ran upon was none other than Crash heading back in after glow stick duty! Yep, the volunteers that mark courses and help pull off these races really set the tone. How can I let them down after all their hard work?! CrossRoads for more fuel and water with my father-in-law Jerry making new friends with the other volunteers in the pre dawn light. No time to dally, Three Sisters and Sky Island were waiting. I’m in race mode but to not stop for a second on top of the middle Sister and look at the view is just plain wrong. You’ll have to see it for yourself to truly understand but I can say it’s worth running at least 25 miles for!
The miles were ticking off and after restocking at Boyle’s, only its Bump and Cairns Climb remained of lap one. I can’t say anything nice about Boyle’s Bump and tend to refer to it as Boyle’s Butt. It’s a place rocks go to die. I suffered through them both and met the 50 mile leader, Simon, on my decent of Cairns as he was headed back out for loop 2. Derek was not far behind him and I zipped in to the Lodge by myself to regroup. Jerry was there to help me turn it around and get back out without much delay.
The ‘washtub’ loops as well as signing the log books at each station help one keep tabs on where everyone else is on the course. I was really looking forward to seeing everyone on loop two now that the sun was up. The proximity to Halloween always brings out some interesting costumes and it wasn’t long before I encountered a Sponge Bob Square Pants making his way around the back of Cairns! Lots of funny stuff on loop 2, culminating with a wild pink flamingo get-up that would take the costume prize in the end.
I think of this race as 3 parts instead of 4 (loops). Loop 1 is a warm up: stay on top of hydration, nutrition and loosening up; Loops 2-3: get to work, lay down some good splits and stay focused on the plan; Loop 4: hold on and see what’s left in the tank, both physically and mentally.
Loops 2 and 3 were just as I said…work. I saw Derek leaving Nachos just as I was arriving, around mile 40. I didn’t stop for long but took advantage of the wonderful ICE and cooled off with some water on the head a few times. I figured I might at least be able to keep Derek in view and maybe catch him. Hitting Powerline without a sighting I figured he’d cranked it on in for a strong 50mi finish. When I got to the Lodge at the end of lap 2, Simon (the 50mi winner) got up from his chair to congratulate me on a great race and 2nd place. I congratulated him back on his win and informed him I still had 2 laps to go! He didn’t sit back down for long because Derek rolled in just as I was leaving again. I was still having fun so I wasn’t too jealous of those guys being finished already.
My crew built up as the day went on and it was a joy to see who would show up and CrossRoads, the Lodge and sometimes Boyles. Having family in addition to other crew and volunteers is pure bonus inspiration. My crew did a fantastic job all day but particularly excelled in a NASCAR style pit stop at mile 55. I had a complete sock and shoe change as well as refueling and cooling and got out of CrossRoads in under 10 minutes easy, maybe closer to 5.
Olga and Larry ran a tight ship at CrossRoads. They helped me several times as well as Meredith and Liza (defending champ with pacing duties this year). Also, Ken and Mike seemed to be using some sort of worm hole to travel thru space and time both ahead and behind me but always there to help. I had my ‘self supported’ supplies ready this year but it sure was nice to have some extra hands out there anyway.
Sandi surprised me at the mile ~70 Boyles aide station with her running shoes on and pacer’s attitude ready to go! I was a little concerned about beating darkness since my light was at the Lodge so we didn’t do much site-seeing over the Butt and Cairns but the sunset colors were as pretty as ever and it helped to keep the mood light.
Megan relieved Sandi at the Lodge and set me up for the next 20 miles of late race pacing over the toughest section of the course. The darkness always slows the pace that the fatigue hadn’t already. I played it pretty cautious, not wanting to take a fall this late in the race, but still managed some decent running on what open sections there were.
The milestones ticked by for the last time of this race. There were some comments tossed around at CrossRoads that hinted of folks making some friendly wagers about my finish time. Most of y’all know, by this point I was just looking TO finish! Megan and I knocked out Ice Cream and Nachos for the last time and got back to CrossRoads at mile 95 by about 11:30pm. Sandi was waiting for me, ready to pace me the last 5 miles to the finish.
OK, so I admit, by this point I knew I had the win and new course record unless I fell in a hole and disappeared or broke my leg or something. No way I was letting up or dropping concentration however. You can’t, it doesn’t work that way. The only sneaky feeling that was creeping into my brain (yes, there is one up there!) was how I must be the luckiest guy in the whole world at that moment. It’s midnight, mile 97, 19 hours into a long day at the office and I’m running around the woods with my best friend, trying not to stare at the stars that seem to be 10 feet in front of my face. Not sure how it could be any better really.
The huff up Lucky’s provided one last funny visual as Pink Flamingo Lady was resting at the top, before her final push to the finish of the 50 mile run. After an oxygen deprived climb up Lucky’s and hitting that scene with my green LED flashlight, I was ready for a chair and a cold beer ASAP! Sandi and I got ourselves back over to the road home and began the final push. Time to wake the kids and call the neighbors!
A decent crowd of folks was still awake and in Lodge mode to great me at the finish line. My full crew was there to watch me cross the mat in 19:35 for a win and the new course record! Wow, it’s over. A chair, some new clothes and a cold beer were presented to me by my crew along with the Iron Rose and a Cactus Rose 100 belt buckle from Joe. Nice.
This was a great way to wrap up a good race year for me. If you count last years CR 364 days earlier, I’ve run 3x100mile races, 2x50mile races and one 60k race. I got to travel out of state twice for races and continue to meet the fantastic people that make our sport what it is. I feel really lucky to have stayed injury free and have such an awesome family that supports my habit with enthusiasm. Thanks to Tejas Trails and all the people behind the scene that made Cactus Rose 100 v 2010 a nasty rugged memory I’ll not soon forget!


  1. Awesome job! Congratulations!
    --clair and oz

  2. Congrats on an excellent race!

  3. It was a blast watching you fly by, and seems that you did have a smile on top of focus every time at Crossroads. That's something always nice from a runner. Larry won the wage on sub-20 for you, but I won as closest to final prediction. We both got a reward:)

  4. great report, Steven, congrats on a phenomenal finish!

  5. Congrats!!! What a report and what a finish!! You made it look so easy but I know what you went through...

  6. Well written, again you amaze me!

    Ann (not Izabella, she must logged in)

  7. Steve! You rock! Loved the race report...


  8. Thanks everyone! Recovery went well enough to sign up for the Wild Hare 50mi on Nov 20th!
    See you on trail!