I told Joe (the race director for Tejas Trails) that Bandera and I have a love hate relationship. I don’t think the climbs are unclimbable or the terrain is unrunnable, instead I think the hardest part is that there’s are a lot of stretches that are runnable and if you forget that, it will come back and hurt you. Not everything looks like this:
This race was complete chaos, from forgetting essentials, read contact lens case and water bottle to allergies and stomach issues. This year I decided I wanted to share part of this painful experience with my dad so I invited him down, probably the best place for it too, given the caliber of a Tejas Trails race. The race for the most part did not go as planned but I finished what I came to do, which was get that buckle. Finished the race in 13:37:02, good enough for 57th place out of 201, improved my place and PR, not bad for a “terrible” running day. The rest of the report talks about specific details of the race and how it went, so brace yourselves because it was a long day.
There were a lot things going on that I had no control over when the race started and it made for an interesting day overall. Had dinner with Lety, the kids and my dad on Friday before heading down south drove through San Antonio and through the hill country. As soon as we drove in to San Antonio I could feel allergies getting worse, not like scratchy but down nasty dry, hard to breathe and stomach upsetting kind of allergies. Brushed it off and thought that it would get better. We arrived at the park around 10:30PM at night, set our tent and lingered for a little while before going to bed. We woke up early the next day to the sound of cars arriving and madness ensuing with volunteers parking cars where they could. Dragged myself out of the sleeping bag to pick up my race packet, trying not to miss anything else, I strapped my chip and attached my bib to my shorts. Huddled around the tent for a while before making one last trip to the porta-poties, just in time for the race except I walked down with the 50k folks, seriously, was this my first race? Had to walk down back to the start line where the 100k started, might have been an easier day if I started out the other way 🙂
More information about the race can be found in the Tejas Trails site, everything from past results and aid station location, to race reports and a weather almanac 🙂 I mentioned a weather almanac because unlike last year, this year there was no mud only 75 degree weather, there were points during the race that I wished for some of that mud. The 100km course is two 50km loops, what follows is my recollections of how it played out and summary and thanks to those who were there and those who put up.
The bad – First loop
Right from the start I noticed it didn’t feel like race day, didn’t really feel stiff, sore, probably just the brain saying it didn’t want to play today. Still feeling the allergies, my stomach felt meh and had just a light headache. One step at a time I told myself. The first aid station (Nachos) came pretty fast and looking at the pictures it doesn’t seem l’m not enjoying it.
From here to Chapas it isn’t too bad and for the most part was uneventful, kept running trying to make sure not to push where I shouldn’t, kept the pace at a comfy 10:30 min pace.
From Chapas to Crossroads I might have pushed a “tad” too much and it’s why this course is so deceiving because all this section is very runnable, I was running in the low 8’s probably the last time I would do that during the race, except for the down hills. Nutrition so far had been consistent but my stomach was still not feeling great and would not for the rest of the day. Crossroads came and went and I replaced my nutrition as planned. I looked forward to the second loop, last year by the time I made it here, the sun had gone down, so this would be a mental boost later. Headed out of Crossroads and knew that as long as I power hiked the sisters I’d be fine. There’s a bit of a climb called the 3 sisters which feels oh so good after this section because I can go down hill, it was the only thing that I could do well this day, I even managed to slip and not fall with a one hand save.
I met quite a few folks while running this section that made this part of the run really enjoyable, this and the last 10 miles are the only sections I remember being enjoyable. We chatted about how this felt so different than last year and how I kind of wished that mud would have made its way to Bandera instead of the heat, yes it was getting hot and I didn’t like one little bit. For the record: “My name is Jorge, I’m from Texas and I dislike the heat” there I said it, moving on.
I replenished at Crossroads the second time and headed towards Last Chance. Made it to Last Chance and saw Larry, Olga and John crewing that aid station, chatted a bit about shoes and how the day was not going so well that I was feeling like a bad training run.
I parted ways and thanked them for crewing and helping out. The first loop was done in about 5:56 which was not bad at all but I was feeling it. I knew I was dehydrated but couldn’t drink any more water with a slushy stomach. I was met by a good friend David Zuniga who asked me if I wanted to wait for the quesadillas, I guess I must have not looked that good because when I turned around he had 2 quesadillas ready for me and for that I’m thankful.
The ugly – Second loop
I started walking out the 2nd loop and asked my dad to walk the first mile with me, I enjoyed that walk as much as I could but soon I had to say goodbye as I had to climb Sky Island and it was getting warmer by the minute. I started failing on nutrition here, the gels I had brought were not helping and the food at the aid stations didn’t seem very palatable (For what its worth, it wasn’t them it was me :), aid stations with cheese quesadillas, PB&J, M&M’s, mashed potatoes, what else could a runner want, turned out I couldn’t stomach any of that 😦 )
Made the conscious decision to pull back and try to see if my stomach would settle, tried some mountain dew but had no luck so just kept pressing. Marched in and out of Nachos the second time around with a relentless forward progress attitude. Things were still slow but I was moving and that’s what mattered. As I made it to Chapas things were not entirely better but I was making good progress, stomach was still not right, felt like throwing up nothing serious just that feeling. I was definitely low on calories so I kept drinking water at least and pushing gels as there was no way I was going to get to the finish line with out some more calories. Got some oreos and mashed potatoes, no not at the same time 😛 (oreos first, mashed potatoes later, not the other way around, just felt easier that way), followed by some coke to try to jump start.
As I headed into Crossroads I knew I needed to run more to make up lost time and things were now moving, with the sun easing up and less than 20 miles to go, I was complaning less and moving more. It took 45 miles to get over whatever that was but I was now making up lost time. As I mentioned before, last year when I got to Crossroads I barely made it with out a light, this year, I made it all the way to the last down hill before heading back to Crossroads the second time before I ran out of light, this was a mental boost. I’m a night runner, always seem to pick up after the sun goes down and this race was no different. I was now at least looking forward to the next 10 miles of actual running and for the first time today felt positive. Still low on calories but at least now I was moving and was enjoying it.
When I got to Crossroads the second time, another runner was feeling not so well and I suggested he’d try some mountain dew. More on this runner later. I refilled the water bottle, had some warm ramen broth, a cup of coke and pressed on. I hiked when I needed and run where I could the next section, made it to Last Chance with my stomach still pressing and the urge to vomit just at the edge. No problem, almost there I thought. As I’m drinking my last cup of coke, the runner at the last aid station arrives behind me and I realize I was being chased. I told him that he was welcome to pass me as I had no business today in trying to play the last push game.
Hiked out of Last Chance and was feeling good, I knew we had a few hills to go over still so didn’t push too much yet, again hiked when I needed to, ran when I could. Just after Boyle’s Bump, it finally caught up to me, my stomach decided that it would no longer tolerate one more gel and out it went, twice. I stopped, reassesed, wasn’t feeling dizzy, no nausea, I knew it was down hill from here, and about a 2 mile stretch left. I proceeded to start riding out the down hill, every minute passing by, trying to avoid getting caught by “that” runner. I could hear the finish line now, to my surprise (again) Lety had made it down to the race and brought the kids, my daughter ran the last 50 meters or so to the finish with me. Everything was good now, I made it in 13:37:02 and it was a good way to finish.
The good – Summary
In reality, I missed some key long workouts that probably would have helped, who knows. It was about 50 miles of feeling nausea, about to throw up (and then some), dead legs, and about 10 miles of joyful running. In those last 10 miles I recounted the first part, remembered the mile I hiked with my dad, the new friends I met, hanging out with awesome volunteers, seeing my wife at the end, running to the finish line with my daughter, hugging my son and dad at the finish line and getting the awesome buckle by his awesomeness Joe, not a bad day after all.
All of my trail running friends, fortunately too many to count (from a bottle to quesadillas thanks guys), my mom and dad for flying home to spend time with me and my race, my beautiful wife for surprising me yet again, and my kids for putting up 🙂