The day before the race I prepared my gear and fuel. Filling my drop bags for what I may need is always difficult for me. I can never make up my mind and wind up packing too much and adding something different just in case. Same goes for my shoes. I decided to wear a pair of new Balance 874's. I've had them for over three years(they don't make them anymore). I rarely ran in these shoes, instead using them for golfing. And I golf about twice a year. I took along two other pair too. One of them being the Hokas. But I had not trained much in the Hokas so I thought it wouldn't be wise to start with them.
It was cold at 3 AM Saturday morning as I drove up to the race. 42 degrees in the city and surely in the mid 30's once I arrived at Hill Country State Natural Area outside of Bandera, TX.
When I was younger I was able to withstand cold weather. Not anymore! Wearing my 3/4 length spandex pants, a long sleeve tech shirt under a short sleeve one and a fleece vest on top of that, I checked in and greeted friends. Hand shakes and hugs at the start set me at ease as we began promptly at 5 AM.
I've run these trails so many times that it was comfortable running in the dark. Although at one time I did feel I may have gotten off course. But Joe does such a great job at marking the course with glow sticks and ribbons. I arrived at the first aid station sooner than what I had expected. Maybe I was moving too fast but I was feeling good and kept the same easy swift pace. Further down the trail at about mile 6 I was alone. My buddies Lalo and Tom were long gone ahead of me. No way I could keep up with them. As I turned back too see the runners below the slight incline I was on, the stream of headlamps looked pretty cool. The long row of runners headlamps in succession looked like a file of motorcycles on a highway far off in the distance. Pretty, but not as beautiful as the sky displaying it's awesome show of stars. Arriving at the second aid station, Nachos-mile 10, I refilled my handheld water bottle quickly. There was another runner there. I tried to greet him but he seemed preoccupied. He nodded. I took off down the trail. What was on his mind? Maybe he was trying to figure that out. Trail runners are a different breed. how many folks would get up before dawn to go run 50 plus miles, in the dark, on rugged ,hilly trails? Why do they/we do it? Everyone has a different reason. Those reasons change over time. Some reasons they don't care to share. Some will share after being high. High on hours of running on the trails.
At the mile 15 aid station it was time to ditch the water bottle and put on my hydration pack. Quickly filling the bladder with water and grabbing some olives I had in my drop bag, I was off to climb the three sisters, a series of three short but steep and rugged climbs littered with loose rocks of all sizes followed by Sky Island, another steep, rugged climb. Up and over, through the 20 mile aid station and on to the halfway point. Arriving in 5 hours and 20 minutes, I grabbed a banana and some sweet potato fries from my drop bag. I also chatted with my old friend Robert from Austin before heading out for the second loop, on the same course in the reserve direction. By this time I had shed the vest, long sleeve shirt, put on my sunglasses, and Tilley broad brim Hat. It was now sunny and warm.
Going over Cairns climb I planted my foot smack-dab on what must have been the sharpest rock out there! It hurt! Shaking it off, I continued at a good pace although I could not keep up with my friend Rachel who was trucking along on her way to a second place finish in the 100 mile race. About this same time Larry and Chris, Also running the hundred miler dropped me like a wet rag.
At mile 35 I changed from my tights into some shorts. And something happened after leaving the 35 mile aid station. My legs began to stiffen up and soon they were toast. I tried to run or shuffle along but it became painful to do so. I decided it would be a power hike to the finish. The climbs up the sisters in reverse were a bit difficult but my familiarity with them eased the struggle. At about mile 43 my friend Amanda came up behind me. She was cheerful, and lifted my spirits as she passed me saying her legs were aching. She continued on, off into the distance, passing a few people who had passed me before she came up on me. This gave me more energy. I was able to trot now and then.
As I reached the 45 mile aid station Jason and Tanya were there, with Rich and Jeanie who were providing their own special aid to our group. They were wonderful in offering their support (and FOOD!) with genuine care. I sat in a chair for about 10 minutes I guess. Way too long to stay at an aid station in a race, but I was well ahead of my 13 hour finishing goal. Rich looked at me like "you gotta go man" and Tanya said, "you can't stay here long!"
I left happy knowing I could accomplish my goal, covering the next 5 miles in less than two hours. Doable. Even hiking on sore tired legs and knowing I had steep, rocky, Lucky peak to climb. Lucky peak is a bear! I came up behind two others climbing up but could not keep up, much less pass them. I stopped twice to catch my breath before cresting the hill. At this point I knew I was home free, A 100 mile runner beginning his third loop offered encouragement as he said "you're almost there." I could only think about him and how he would have to climb Lucky Peak sometime tomorrow at mile 98.
I finished in 12:22:00 greeted by my many trail running friends, and training buddies and special friends El And O!
I was Aching, aching, aching. I planned on trying to pace a friend on a portion of his hundred miler but I couldn't do it. I ached to much. Besides, he was running faster than I could hike. Thankfully He finished strong.
The shoes held up well. My Fuel? still trying to figure it out. I tried mixed nuts. Olives. fruit. Gels and dates turned my stomach, too sweet. I should go back to chicken sandwiches. Oh well, I'm not trying to WIN these races. Or get faster. I just want to complete them.
Why? I don't know. come run with me. It may spill out.