Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Pacing Elizabeth

Three weeks before the Cactus Rose 100 mile run I told Elizabeth that I may only be able to go 15 miles with her. Even though she had asked me to pace her the last twenty five when she would be moving at a slower pace, physically and in a poor state of mind, I felt I couldn't do it. But a week before the 100 all was well again. I had shaken off the demons hovering over me.
Elizabeth was hoping to be at mile 75 about 3 or 4 AM on Sunday morning (October 26). I camped out at the race site Saturday night after arriving late afternoon and cheered on  many of our fellow Rockhoppers before I hit the sack at 9 PM. Some in our group were running their first hundred miler. Elizabeth was running her fourth I believe, but her first Cactus Rose. She would later say "never again will I run this race. These rocks hurt!"
This race is held at our favorite training location, Hill Country State Natural area. Rugged hills littered with Sotol cactus that whip at and bite at your legs. Rocks, Rocks, and more Rocks of all shapes and sizes that don't stay in one place.
 Elizabeth Arrived at the mile 75 turn around at 5:30 AM, 24 and one half hours into her race. After Tim, her pacer up to that point, and I made sure she ate something solid and helped her change her shoes Elizabeth and I left the Lodge aid station to complete her 100 mile run. With a 36 hour cutoff we had plenty of time.

Pacing Elizabeth was a pleasure. Although she often spoke of how the soles of her feet hurt it was never in a whining or complaining manner. She handled the heat well too. It was a beautiful day to be sitting in the shade. The race director would later say that this was the hottest day ever in the history of this race. Many experienced runners would drop out.
Towards the end Elizabeth began to really slow down. Always cheerful though and able to laugh at herself. Such as when she struggled descending the last hill at mile 98. A downhill littered with big rocks, loose dirt, and scree. It was hilarious as she crab walked some of it! A memory that will always come to mind when ever I descend this hill.

Last climb completed at mile 98. Just before the descent

A high five after the descent and a stroll down the dirt road to the finish. Elizabeth would approach and cross the finish line to yells of "Woo Hoo, Elizabeth!"  at 34 hours 8 minutes.
Another challenge tackled, a 100 mile finish, and another belt buckle for Elizabeth.

Another great experience and more great memories to reflect on for me.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Much Better now.

Recently I had been struggling with my training. I say recently but it has been going on for over a year now.
2013 started well for me. I PR'd at the Austin Marathon, Ran well at the Possum Kingdom 55K, and had a great race at the Golden gate 50K near Golden Colorado. After that the bottom fell out. Was it overtraining and too much racing for me? For a year though, I could not get into a rhythm. Burnout! That had to be it. But what could reignite the flame? The friends in our group kept me going. I enjoy their company as much as I enjoy running. I still could not get into comfortable training. My legs felt weak, worn out, tired.
The Dallas Marathon is on my schedule this year, December 14. In the back of my mind was the thought of training hard to be as close as possible to my PR. Six months out and I attempted to train seriously. Four months out and still no improvement. Two weeks ago I hit rock bottom. Pain in my hip, sore throat, sinus headache, stomach virus! I was not able to run for almost two weeks. I contemplated giving it up. Confiding in my brother and sister. Sister said listen to your body. Brother said, slow down, take a break, think about it. I did. At REI  bought a par of hiking shoes. From now on its all about enjoying hikes in the woods.

(I started this post 4 weeks ago and thought, "who cares/" Does anyone really care to read my blog?
On this morning's attempt to run thoughts were flowing in my mind as usual.  I want to write about them after every run but don't. Today I thought I would. It's a form of meditation and my Grandkids may one day read my online journal. Well, now to finish my original post.)

Things got better! My sinus headache was gone, stomach felt better and I was running again. I can't quit running. Can I?  Naw.
Going into the Hillotes half marathon on Oct. 17, a race I registered for back in August, I felt well rested. My mindset was "just enjoy the run." This course is very very hilly. Although I had not run in the area recently, I knew this course very well having trained regularly on it some 10 years ago. The course's first big hill is at mile 1.5. My friend Arturo and I exchanged pleasantries. A mile later Arturo and I were running together and ran together the rest of the race. I began using him as my pacer. At one time I told him to go on because he seemed to be running more comfortably than me but he insisted we stick together. We did and what I thought would be a 2+ hour run turned into a 1:51:00 finish! I felt so good and ran so strong! Very surprising. Attributed to beginning with that mindset, "just enjoy the run." Plus running with a friend helps a whole bunch too.

Arturo and I at the Finish
My spirits were uplifted. My Chiropractor straightened out my hips. I felt good about running again and good going into the Cactus Rose 100 miler on Oct. 25. I was not running the race but had to be there to pace my friend Elizabeth the last 25 miles.
That story will have to wait until my next post. Another buddy is on his way to pick me up. We're picking up some other pals and going to the Texas Longhorns football game!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Not a good day today,.....But last weekend? Yeah, that was good.

Out on the trail today it just didn't feel well at the start. Usually it takes awhile for me to get "in the Groove." After a mile I start to settle into a get comfortable pace. That comfort did not come today. I slowed, I walked, but just could not get my legs to respond on today's 4ish miles (visions of those hiking shoes I saw at REI last Sunday sure looked good).  Just when I thought I'd send my friend John a text saying "I can't do it anymore!" he calls me! I told him what I was thinking and we laughed. For over a year now I have not been able to run comfortably, or maybe comfortably at the pace I am used to. Time to slow down? That is difficult to accept.
 Once home, I dropped and broke my smoothie jar. I
Hung it up for the evening. There will be another day.
John wanted to tell me how humbled he was by our recognition of him as our groups founder.
Saturday last, our group gathered at Hill Country State Natural Area near Bandera Texas for ROCKHOPPER weekend. Rockhopper weekend was an idea our member Rich had three years ago. Rent the lodge at the park and have any and all members and friends come for a day, a night or two. It's been a real hit.
Ten years ago John had a dream of forming a group of fun loving trail runners in the San Antonio area. I thought he should be recognized for it. I asked Ed, one of our group members, to paint an image of John on a run at the Nueces River from a photo I had. We presented it to John at the Lodge at last Saturday's Rockhopper weekend.

John said it takes more than one guy with an idea to make it happen. As I remember it, John gathered email addresses at a training run we attended from people he thought may be interested in forming a trail running group. He envisioned an informal group with no dues, no officers, no politics. Early on there were five then it was reduced to three of us. Then we grew to seven! Arne gave us the name, I got us on the web with a blog that Tim turned into a website, Brian the friendly giant, Chris the 15 year old in a man's body, Liza the talented everyone's friend runner, and Tom with his quick wit, helped bring so many others to join us.
Today we are a fun loving bunch of Ultra and sub-ultra trail runners who support each other. Whether you run 50 or 100 milers, 50K's, Marathons or 10K's. Win, place in top 10, are a mid-packer, or come in DFL. We love you. We are a group who, as Chris puts it;
"Take our running seriously, but don't take ourselves seriously."
 We had Fun running in the Hill Country mud and rain last Saturday.
Fun with the Rockhoppers.

Thursday, August 14, 2014


Maybe he saw something in me. Athletic? Potential as an able riding Partner? A new friend?
I met Ruben in the late 80's. We worked together but did not run around the same circles. I was hanging out with the beer drinking softball players. He was a bit older and fending off needling from the guys in another shop about his healthy eating habits and lifestyle. One day he asked me if I had a bicycle. I said yes, to which he responded, "well do you ride it or does it just sit in your garage?"
I told Ruben I hadn't been on my bike in a while but I was sure I could still ride. Ruben then invited me to ride with him. Coincidently, at about the same time my Brother was speaking to me about the long distance bike riding he was enjoying and how great an activity it was.
I took Ruben up on his offer. I started training. When I told my brother he gave me his C-itoh, a Japanese made bicycle he had paid 250.00 for in 1975. Thus began a great friendship with a man who along with my brother, reignited my joy of biking, running, and the outdoors.
Ruben and I rode our road and mountain bikes long distances all over the roads and trails of the Texas Hill country and the mountains of west Texas. We laughed, teased each other, shared nutrition and training information, were patient with each other when things weren't going right physically or emotionally. We made friends everywhere we went. We encouraged others to join us. Many did. Ruben was older than me but I never knew how much older.
Ruben would go on to retire in 2001. We kept in touch. I made sure of it. After all, we had become great friends and I always thought of him as a positive influence on me. As the years went by our conversations were not as frequent. I had transitioned to running more than biking. I made new friends. Remembering how Ruben had taken me along with him and his encouraging words, I tried to do the same with others.
Yesterday I called Ruben, told him I was riding in the creek near his home and asked if he'd like to come join me. How happy I was when he agreed. Although we had talked, I hadn't seen Ruben in a little over a year. at that time he looked great as he was working in his garage replacing the brakes on his truck. Yesterday when we met though, I thought Ruben is finally showing his age. To my surprise he told me he is now 74 years old. Amazing! That means when we were riding all over the state back in the 90's he was the age I am now! All this time I thought he was maybe 10-12 years older than me when actually he was 18 years older.
I was happy to ride with him again. We reminisced about our adventures long ago, spoke about our friends then and now, and laughed. It was a great time.
After our ride, after we said goodbye, I became sentimental. I am happy my ole friend is still active. But my friend is now old. That's not a bad thing but he's nearing his sunset. Yes I know it can happen to any of us at anytime. and we should cherish everyone important to us. Family and friends. But this is Ruben! I'll have to ride with him again soon. Gotta make sure he sticks around for awhile.
We should rekindle old friendships because before we know it, tomorrow is yesterday.
We are here on this earth for but a tiny speck of time. Yet we can, if we please, leave a positive experience on others. Enjoy and share as much happiness as possible with those in your life now, and reach out to those in your past. for one day the opportunity may be gone.
Ruben and I on 08/13/2014

Monday, July 28, 2014

Running with new friends

For me, the most fun and memorable runs have been those experienced with new friends.
What makes them even better is when the run with these new friends is someplace they have not run before, AND what makes it even MORE exciting is when that place is Hill Country State Natural Area. 10 miles south of Bandera Texas HCSNA is a very Rugged, Rocky, beautiful, Rocky, Hilly, Rocky, desolate park. No water here, no shelters, no paved roads, but there are beautiful views from hilltops and many trails littered with Sotol Cactus that bite at your legs. Did I mention it was rocky? An accomplished trail runner from the Rockies who was here for a race years ago said HCSNA was the place where rocks go to die.
Last Saturday I had the privilege of showing some new friends the trails at HCSNA, or as we refer to it, Bandera.
Mari loved the scenery, enjoyed the many birds, ran well, but after the first loop had enough of the tough climbs and relentless rocks. She'll be back though.
Chris and Jeremy loved it as well but were "humbled" by the difficult technical terrain. Chris referred to it as "Delightfully Painful."
Everyone was smiling all the while. I enjoyed pointing out the trails and leading the way. This is what makes trail running with friends so much fun.
What keeps me coming back.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Pedernales Falls 30K night time trail race 06/28/2014.

The Capt'n Karl's races are popular in Central Texas and with my group but I had not run any of them. They just didn't seem too appealing to me. Besides, many folks laughingly complained about the heat and humidity and some about the low hanging tree limbs at some venues. But then again, that's why we run these trail races, for the challenge.
Even at night the high temps and humidity do not take a rest here in south Texas. But last Saturday evening was not too bad. It was humid but not the normal 90+ % and there was a nice stiff breeze on a "cool" 80ish degree night . A breeze we would only enjoy while running in high exposed areas like on a hill ridge on the pretty but not so rugged trails of Pedernales State Park in the Texas Hill Country.
A week before the race the organizer sent out a photo of the age bracket awards. Overall first through fifth and first through third masters would receive a framed copy of a hand painted Texas Longhorn chewing on bluebonnets. Nice! I must confess, I wanted one of those. Yes, I run for the experience first but nothing wrong with trying to beat the competition. I had no idea whatsoever of the other masters abilities.
At the 30K race start, 15 minutes after the 60kers,  it was the usual camaraderie as we all gathered around our Rockhopper canopy and shared handshakes, hugs and laughs.
As the race began I pushed out to a swift clip locking on to another friends pace. Alex was moving well and I hung onto him for the first two plus miles before Alex broke off to deal with a shoe issue I think. My pace was a bit too fast than what I usually run but as long as I felt good I thought I'd keep it up. Soon Alex was back and passed me. I decided to slow my pace to my regular speed. "Run YOUR race Tony" I told myself. Leading up to the  the second aid station, about mile 7, there is a steep but short gravel jeep trail to get over before descending to the aid station. Here I caught Rich (60K). I greeted him and Joe P. who was working the aid station. My one bottle I was carrying was empty. You are not supposed to try anything new at a race but that doesn't stop me. Tailwind had been highly recommended and I had a free sample to use. Half the packet of this powder mix went into my bottle, topped it off with water and took off down another jeep trail. I came upon Jean and then Julie (60Kers) on this stretch. Smiled and said hi and kept going as I was feeling really good. Was it the tailwind? no, it's too soon to credit that. The next aid station was at about mile Eleven. Headlamp out of my bag and on my head as night was almost upon us. I started to get tired at about mile nine but all of a sudden I got a burst of energy! Where did that come from? Maybe it is this tailwind stuff. I started passing folks, Alex too, until mile fifteen or so when my legs began to rebel. I had not run beyond this distance since March. Up ahead I saw a familiar figure. Even at night I recognized Brian's stride. We talked a bit as I surged ahead and came upon Tom (60K). Tom and I strolled in and out of the last aid station together. The other half of the powdery stuff in my bottle and I was outta there. The truth is Tom's pace helped me up the short climb out of that aid station quickly. A couple hundred feet of running and hiking with Tom and I said goodbye. Again I felt good even though by now that tailwind had left a bitter taste in my mouth. Maybe I have to dilute it more. I had been on the trail about three hours with over a mile to go to the finish. I had hoped for a three hour finish but thought 3:15 was more realistic. With one mile to go the trail.........well there was no trail. Just a bunch of reflective ribbons guiding us through and around large rocks surrounded by water. This went on for about 100 yards or so. At the pre-race briefing we were warned about a high volume of snakes recently. Water moccasins! Besides trying to maneuver over these rocks we had to look out for snakes. These rocks were almost boulder like in all shapes and sizes. No way can anyone run through this crap. I laughed and thought "this is in true Joe Prusaitus style." Throwing in different, difficult and challenging sections is Joe's style. He calls it fun. I've heard many a trail runner call it otherwise.
With less than a mile to go, according to my garmin, I heard the crowd at the finish line. I and a 60K runner came out of the woods to cheers from the crowd as we approached the finish for me, and the half way point for my companion.
3:14:37 as I crossed the finish line. I was happy. My friends greeted me with high fives. Our fellow Rockhopper Stefan won the 30K in a blistering 2:20! We sat and talked about our experience with Thor, another Rockhopper (finished 7Th) and Mike, Jeanie, and Ed who came out to support us.. I began to cramp. My muscles were in shock. I got up and walked over to the results table and found I had placed third in the Masters category! Joe recognizes masters as over 50. I was told my award was given to the fourth masters by mistake. Oh no! Oh well, I'm not gonna chase the guy much less find him in the dark. But the fellow who made the error did find the guy and told him the bad news. I was given the award but by now I felt bad. And even worse when I found out the fourth place guy was not only on my tail at 3:15:46 but he was 62 years old.
I hope when I'm 62 I can run that well. And a young snotty 55 year old whippersnapper like me doesn't show up on race day.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Every Trail run is an adventure!

Ran with some friends today at our local State Natural Area, Government Canyon. It was so much fun. I truly enjoy fun runs with friends more than any race. We saw this crazy looking mushroom too.

 Robert said if I ate it I might feel good, or I might die.
One of the great benefits of trail running is seeing things one might not otherwise see. I shared some of these sightings with a Professor of a local University recently. He is working on a documentary of trail runners to promote interest on a stage race in the Amazon. My good friend Chris and I were interviewed together. I liked that because with Chris there I was more at ease.
Now, I am not the most accomplished trail runner by any means. As a matter of fact, I am not as accomplished as most of my trail runner friends. I think I was recommended because somehow folks in our group think I played a major part in starting the Rockhoppers, our trail running group. I was a small player in planting the seed. Those who came, have stayed to encourage others to join and offer support to them are the reason we exist. That is pretty much the recipe for any successful group.
The interview for the documentary went well I think. Not sure when it will be complete but I will surely share it here.
I was not able to share all that I have seen on the trails. I seem to have a problem categorizing, filtering, and arranging all the thoughts in my mind in an orderly fashion. I shared a few like, the time I came upon a pack of coyotes drinking at a pond, An owl looking at me while flying away from me on a wooded narrow trail (I thought he might bump into a tree!), My first view of a mountain meadow. But I did not tell about the bat that flew right between Lalo and I as we ran shoulder to shoulder at night in the Angeles Crest mountains, the juvenile fox that was following me on a night run, the White tail buck who seemed to want to challenge me for trail access, the beautiful golden Eagle perched on a fence post, The roadrunner who, upon seeing me, turned to run off only to be spinning his legs unable to gain traction (just like in the roadrunner cartoons!),and the Bobcat cubs playing on the trail. I probably will remember more great moments after I end this post.
Get out and run trails people because every trail run is an adventure. Like Forrest Gump's mom said, "You never know what you're gonna get."