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.



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