Early morning start - up climb number 1
Stage 1 (miles 1 thru 10)
Typical running surface for the about 80% of the course
Stage one is the toughest part of the race. That’s the good news. The bad news? It will beat you up for the rest of the race if you’re not careful. I have to admit that climbs are not bad. Just put your head down and go, you will soon be at the top. Technically, it is fairly difficult. One has to always be cognizant of one’s footing. There are rocks on top of rocks…small rocks, big rocks…rocks on top of rocks. Did I say there were a lot of rocks? I learned something about myself. I love extreme technical downhills. Descending down precarious downhills is not only exhilarating, but an opportunity to make up some time. The downside, (no pun intended), is that it totally hammers the quadriceps, a fact that I would lament later in the race, particular in stage 3. For the first 10 miles a group of five of us hung together. John, Joe, Nancy, and Ross were the four horseman of the Apocalypse from Austin Texas with a great sense of humor. We kept laughing heartily and at on point Ross’s footing was in question. I mentioned to him to be careful. I would hate to have to publicize that an Aggie had to carry a T-Sip down the hill. We were all having a great time and the first 10 miles flew by. I had determined to try to hang with them. Upon leaving the aid station after mile 10 the course leveled out a bit and the four horseman of the apocalypse picked up their pace. I realized that there was no way to keep up with them and finish the race in one piece. In hindsight, I was maybe too aggressive during this first 10 miles.
The four Horseman from Austin - John, Joe, Nancy and Ross
You get the idea...
Stage 2 (miles 11 thru 21)
At mile 11, I was struggling to find a tempo. There was a guy with a funny jester’s hat that ran upon me and I fell in behind him. I liked his pace, his tempo of handling the terrain and I latched on. Of course I start talking to him. His name is Dmitry Rozinsky. He ran five 100 mile races last year. He currently lives in Austin but is originally from the Ukraine. He grew up in the Soviet Union. He married a 4th generation Texan. (That was an indication of how bright he is.) He had run this course many times and completed the 100K race. Additionally, everybody seemed to know him on the trail...a heck of a guy. I inquired what he was anticipating for a finish time. Dmitry’s reply, “some time under 7 hours.” He was running the 50K as a training run to start his training season for the coming year. Dmitry has at least two 100 mile races on the calendar for 2009, one of which is the Western States Race. We talked and the miles flew by. He was coaching me along the way. How to handle the terrain, why we walk this part, when not to go all out… all these things I know but find it hard to do when racing. Four hours into the race and I realized I had yet to urinate. Knowing this is not good, I began to hammer fluids down me. Because of the cool temperatures and high winds, I had not been hydrating like I should have earlier in the race, a mistake that I knew better than to make. At about the 18 mile marker I commented to Dmitry to go on if I was holding him back. His response, “I am not crossing the finish line without you with me.” Dmitry took it on himself to pace me and began to make sure I was staying on top my electrolytes, hydration, and calories. The hydration issues took care of themselves after the Crossroads aid station at mile 21. This part of the trail is the easiest by far. There are a few climbs and more rocks, but you also encounter some undulating soft trails in grassy meadows. We made good time through this part and my legs and body felt good. That would change by the time we would swing back through the Crossroads aid station at mile 26…or so.
Follow the guy in the funny hat - he'll get you there
Notice the runner in the center of the picture
Stage 3 (miles 22 thru 31)
The first time you go through the Crossroad aid station you are beginning to enter that last 3rd of the race. Child’s play of the previous 10 miles is done and the course will fire it’s last shot at you. The terrain begins to get more technical and the climbs begin….again. At mile 23, Three Sisters begins to determine if you were too aggressive at the start of the race. The piper is about to begin collecting for any over aggressiveness on the first 10 miles. Dmitry kept my pace and he maintained a good tempo. At this point I was laboring to keep up and the quadriceps began to show signs of wear….the burn became evermore intense. I mentioned that I think I went out too hard. Dmitry’s comment was, “That’s behind us, we can’t worry about that.” Ascending the 3 sisters was one thing but descending on hammered legs is another. After climbing trail #6 we cruise into the Crossroads aid station for the last time. A volunteer hands me a quesadilla and I believe I swallowed that thing whole….chased it with a cup of chicken noodle soup. That hit the spot. We had 4.25 miles left…and one last short climb...Lucky peak! We leave Crossroads aid station with a volunteer reminding us, dryly, that there are hills and rocks on the course….Really? I hadn’t freaking noticed! Dmitry keeps a hard pace for me and warns he is going to push and ask for me to give more. I nodded. I was really hurting and keeping up was becoming a Herculean task. Dmitry realizes this and now we are running a 100 steps and walking a 100….we are making progress to the foot of Godforsaken Lucky peak. We began the ascension and my quads refused to fire. I mention this and Dmitry responds, “That is called a dead quad…we don’t have time for that, lets pick it up.” I push harder. The descending down the backside of Lucky Peak sent the quads into more anguish. After Lucky Peak, the rest of the course is down hill for about 3 miles. I was on vapors and I was also starving. I would have eaten the back end of a dead armadillo if there were one on the trail. I realized that if this was a longer run I would have had to get some calories in me…but since we were almost done...finish up on vapors…leaving everything on the trails. True to his word, Dmitry finished up with me with us crossing the finish line together….7 hours, 6 minutes, 12 seconds. My tank was empty, but my cup was full.
Literally 2 minutes after finishing
That time was 24 minutes better than my goal time that would have been considered a great accomplishment for me. After nearly 6250 feet of ascending/descending, I finished up the racing season leaving everything I had on the trails. Bandera is beautiful and now has part of my heart. As for Dmitry, a friendship was forged that day. Twenty years ago, either one of us would have ever guessed that our worlds would come together. It is obvious that I would not have done near as well without Dmitry pacing me.
I have so much to learn and so far to go, but for this race, lessons learned:
*Never underestimate the value of a good pacer.
*Soloman XP Wings are fabulous for me in this terrain
*Remember to eat early and often...especially in longer races.
*I need to strengthen the quads for longer more brutal races like the 100K.
*Regardless of the weather, stay on top of hydration.
*Guys in funny hats aren't all bad.
*Keep moving forward...it will eventually be over! (we already know this...but somehow trail races keep reminding us don't they?
Now what? I have wrapped up my first year of trail running and ultramarathons. I have been in a training cycle since last February and need to recharge my batteries. So I will be taking a brief break to put the wheels back on the wagon, repaint it, and maybe go look for a little more horsepower.
Dmitry and me after a bit of recovery. He went back out to man an aid station for the 100K racers till 2:00AM!!!!
Brother in law and myself...he had a heck of a race on the 25K