I would like to start this report before the race because … well it was particularly nerve wrecking to me, I have to say that nerves/anxiety/excitement started off well before the race, now that I think about it, it was probably 4 or 5 days before the race. To top it off, 2 days before the race my ankle started bothering me, apparently for no reason, not sure if my muscles thought it was recovery time or if it was something to do with my training, but nevertheless it was something that mentally I was not prepared for. Before I go into trying to write an essay about what happened during the race, I would like to congratulate Jose my brother-in-law for finishing the race, at some point a couple of months ago I had asked him if he wanted to run the 60km and he said sure why not, you stuck through and made it 60km and saw a sunrise in the beautiful hill country which is always a plus, congrats again.
On to the race report … but not quite, the day of the race we headed to the state park after 12 o’clock, the drive to the park was maybe an hour long, but before getting there we had to buy food supplies for an overnight stay, have lunch, get to the camping site, setup, and make our way the start line. We knew that we had to carbo-load but we did not know where a good place to do this was. At around 3 o’clock when we were passing through Dripping Springs TX, we found a place called: Hill Country Ranch pizzeria. I don’t know if it was the place, the food, or we were just plain hungry, but the pizza and service were great. We finished our lunch, said goodbye and made our way to camp site and to the start line after that.
One of the reasons I chose this race was because there were only 2 loops versus 4 or 6, which I have always thought add to the mental challenge of running a race. With that in mind I’ll break my report into 2 loops, 2 30km loops mind you. The first loop was pure awesomeness, we started out at 7PM sharp with another 100+ degree weather day. Knowing well that I did not want to start at the front of the pack otherwise I would go too fast and risk losing whatever energy I had in reserve, I settled at the back and it got crowded for approximately half a mile, walking at some points because it was a long-single-file-trail run, about 3 miles in we got to the river and its when things spread out. I have to say running through the river was not the sightseeing I had in mind, got a first hand look at what this drought has done to Texas and its vicinity. This section of the trail was not really technical during daylight, the second time around it was completely different given that we were running with our headlamps, but lets not get too far ahead, there are still plenty of mileage to cover.
After getting off the the river bed we moved onto rolling hills along a fence that seemed like it would never end, ok maybe not that long but still a long fence. The rolling hills were not steep and not really technical but hills at 100+ degree weather are always painfully fun. Fortunately by the time the sun was coming down, there was a little “cool” breeze blowing. I think, the first loop was fairly relaxed because I found people who I chatted for brief periods of time, the most memorable conversation I had was with a runner that had a shirt with a quote that read something like: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather”. I thought it was funny given the crappy weather we have had this year. We chatted for what seemed a long time, but it was probably less than a mile, even though I kept running into him at the aid stations. The aid stations were not evenly spread out but they were strategically very well placed and supplied. There were basically 2 water stations and 2 full aid stations (one at the pipe and the other at the start/finish). The fully supplied stations had a good supply of water, gatorade, assortment of sugar/salt, and fruit. I have to say getting to the pipe station was a place to look forward to, I probably took about 4 pieces of watermelon on the first stop, gatorade (about 4 cups worth), ice cold water (more on this later) and cold grapes. The good thing about leaving this station is that you made your way back 4 miles later to resupply. When the race started I told myself I would not lose energy on the uphills but I would do my best to try and run most of them, so I stuck to that plan the first loop, little did I know that this would not work out as planned. Daylight was quickly vanishing after I left the pipe station the first time and before I knew it, I had my hand lamp on and I was more focused than before. During this time, the volunteer in charge of turning on the markers (glow sticks) started biking past us and making his way through the course. I came back 4 miles later to the pipe station and restocked my pack with ice and water, ate some more watermelon and grapes, drank some more gatorade and left. I finished the first loop in 3:45 which was not great but given the amount of time I had spent at the aid stations and that I started out in the back of the pack it paid off the second time around.
As I was starting the second loop, I tried v.e.r.y hard to not stop at the start/finish since they were grilling burgers. I did stop to re-fuel, again they had watermelon, cold grapes, gatorade, water and a lady in a tu-tu who was cheering everyone getting to the aid station. I then proceeded to run the second loop not really knowing which way to go, as I was only told “go that way”, needless to say, I spent about 15 seconds looking around for the trail entry point which was about 100 meters from the start, past the parking lot and to the left. At this point, my left calf was not happy, and by not happy I mean a sharp pain that shot through the top and around my knee every time I tried running up hill. At this point I knew I had to deviate from my original plan and started walking up hill and running as “fast” as I could downhill; I knew I could finish the race, unless something was broken or I had a life threatening injury, it was just a matter of running through the pain and keep going. At the aid pipe station, I met the “no such thing as bad weather guy”. He apparently had been chatting with another runner and, as I found when I met him, he had all sorts of stories to tell about the many marathons he had run. He had run every state and now he said, was just running for fun. During the second loop at the pipe station (1st stop), had a wonderful volunteer helped pour ice on my nathan pack followed by water. At this point, I think I recalled her saying it was 1AM, I was probably dozing off and not knowing I was doing so, I turned around, try to grab a cup of gatorade and there went a full 2 liters of ice-cold-water, right over my shoes and on the floor; I guess she must have seen my face of shame because she immediately started to help me fill my nathan pack again. Last 10 miles is what they said as we left the station, my left calf was screaming “10 miles!? ok but please don’t run uphill” and I didn’t, not because I listened to it but because I couldn’t. Stuck through and made it all the way back to the pipe station, at this point I had been running pretty close to 2 guys that had been infront of me for most of the second loop, and made it to the aid station before them, after re-supplying with gatorade, ice cold water and what was the most enjoyable piece of watermelon I’ve had, since the last time I ran with the Patience group.
There were only 10km left and I just wanted to finish, I walked for about 2 mins maybe longer to make my way up the hill that followed the aid station, and then there I went, ran down hill for whatever was leff of the race, walking everytime I had to go uphill. When I reached the the last water aid station I grabbed a cup of water and kept going; I kept telling myself only 2.88 miles to go. To me, one of the mentally challenging things about races is seeing or knowing you are close to the finish line, yet there are is still half a mile to go. I started trail running not too long ago and the last races all have had points where you can see or hear the finish line, yet you are still far enough from that finish line that makes it seem like much less fun getting there. I crossed the finish line at 8 hours and 19 minutes, shook hands with Joe and he awarded me my finisher medal.
I still don’t know what caused the calf injury to occur but if I had to guess is the lack of core work during the last month of training, fortunately the day after the race I was walking just fine down the stairs, this is not to say that the injury has gone away, it just means that my guess is probably right. Overall my nutrition during the race was straight forward, drank as much water as I could, drank gatorade to replace whatever electrolytes I had lost, ate lots of cold fruit and two small pieces of PB&J, I was worried that I would have stomach problems because I had left my ginger chews in the truck, to my relief this was not the case.
I am blessed to have a wife and family that supports what I do (even though I get the “you’re going out for a run..again?” looks) and friends as well, thanks all for your support. Thanks Tejas Trails and Joe Prusaitis for a very well organized race. Last but definitely not least thanks to Jose for running the race with me.