Now, before we get into the race report, I cannot possibly start without sharing our experience at the Melting Pot in Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego. Before the race, we spent 3-days in Gaslamp Quarter resting, shopping, and site seeing. One late night I decided that I wanted dessert (yes everyone, this was MY idea!!) so we went next door to the Melting Pot. This was our first time visiting a Melting Pot and it was AWESOME! Not just the food, but the service and our waitress. She asked what brought us to town and Elizabeth mentioned the crazy 100-mile race that I would be doing in the mountain. After we finished, our waitress brought me something special!Nestled near Julian, California along the shores of Lake Cuyamaca you will find a premier mountain race tucked into a secluded mountain resort that is home to some of the US’s best apple pies. The San Diego 100 course takes you along the Lake Cuyamaca Trails, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Mt Laguna, Noble Canyon, and along the Pacific Crest Trail with over 14k’ of climbing. The community of Julian and the surrounding areas is absolutely amazing. Small boutiques and shops now occupy the historic buildings along Main Street with small mom-and-pop restaurants conveniently located into the side streets.
Living in Central Texas, all of my vert training was limited to 1/4 mile hill repeats, treadmill climbing, and strength training. While making the hour-long drive from San Diego to Lake Cuyamaca it quickly became evident that I was going to new heights as the elevation on my watch slowly climbed from 77′ in San Diego to the 4600′ at the start line. While still not a lot of elevation compared to other races, there was elevation compared to Central Texas.
[/caption]Thursday night when we arrived at the Airbnb I meticulously went through my drop-bags and race plan yet again. Having registered for the Solo Division, this planning was going to be key to my success. The solo division means that you do not have a crew or pacers and rely solely on your drop bags and race aid stations. This also means you can’t have spectators at any of the aid stations on the course. There are benefits for everyone. Solo runners reduce the traffic in the parks and out to remote aid stations thus also allowing more athletes to participate in SD100 and solo finishers also receive a special buckle identifying them as completing the solo division.
[/caption]After months of training and preparation, that time had finally come. It was time for my first 100 miles race! Friday morning at 4:00am my wife and I made our way to the start line. The parking was extremely well organized and they had volunteers ensuring that everything went smoothly. I stood at the start line recalling my goals, training, the advice that I had received from my coach Karen Kantor, and countless stories from those who had run before me. Before I knew it, Scotty Mills began the countdown 10 seconds remaining; 10..9..8..7..6..5..4..3..2..1.
To avoid the conga line at the start of the race as we went across the field and into the single track, I moved to position myself far enough up front. I wasn’t racing, but I also didn’t want to spend my first few miles walking as there would be plenty of opportunity for that later in the race. As we left the grassy field, I turned around to see the long line of runners walking. All I could do was smile and head off into the woodline and enjoy the single track.
There were 14 well-stocked aid stations along the course with splits ranging from 3.6 miles to 9 miles. The aid stations were located in such a way that the race was very manageable even running solo without a crew. As part of my preparations, I had planned to have drop bags roughly every 20mi with the additional essentials I -may- need or want along the way.
The first 7.5 miles to Paso Picacho aid station you experience first hand a sliver of damage that came from the 2003 Cedar Fire as you run through the charred remains of tall pines. Oddly enough (okay, perhaps not really odd for me), it was on this first 7.5im where I fell twice! There is a small stream that you have to cross on the way to Paso Picacho. I watched the runners ahead of me gracefully step onto the rocks and make it across the stream water and mud free! Then there is me. I lost my balance on the first step and my foot dropped straight into the stream. Then, when trying to step out I missed the next rock completely and sank down into the mud. I can say this, at least I stayed upright! Upright that is until I made it into Paso Picacho! As I made it across the Aid Station I tripped over a sandbag and down I went! So, in the first 7.5 miles, I fell and got wet!! At least I checked that box early! Now I could happily head off to Chambers Aid Station.
As the temperatures begin to rise, you get your first taste of the increased heat that you will be subjected through during the day. After leaving Chambers Aid Station you break away from the slight tree cover and into the fields of open rollers as you enter Anza-Borrego Desert State Park on the way to Sunrise Aid Station at mile 21. Next is the part of the race I have been waiting for! You leave Sunrise Aid Station and quickly jump on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). While there were many aspects of the race I was looking forward too, I was really excited to have a chance to run along the PCT for a few miles. This section of the course, from Sunrise 1 to Pioneer Mail 1, has the most amazing views on the course. There are times that you are running adjacent to cliffs and sharp descents that drop 100s of feet down to the valley below as you run along large boulders and rock faces. Looking across the valley at the neighboring mountains you get a sense of how small you really are. This is also the section that you find a lot of race photographers, including Howie Stern, who caught an epic picture of me tripping (next to one of those cliffs!). Even though the heat index at this point was hitting high 90s, I was trapped in the ambiance of the race and mountains to really take notice. You will jump on this section of the course once again as you come into Pioneer Mail 2 around mile 84.
From Pioneer Mail 1 you drop back down into the valley on the way to Pine Creek Aid Station (mile 36.2) for the first of your big climbs. Ahead of you is a 7.5-mile climb through Noble Canyon that will take you into Penny Pines 1. Aside from the views along the PCT, this was one of my most favorite sections. While there are a lot of areas where you are exposed to the heat, there was also a fair number of switchbacks through large trees and small streams. A lot of this sections reminded me of running along trails in Ruidoso, NM.
Upon reaching the top of Nobles Canyon, you then have some rollers as you prepare for the final big descent and climb of the race. From Red-Tailed Roost at Mile 55, you have a 16 mile stretch of the longest descent and ascent of the course as you climb down and out of Cibbets Flat Aid Station (mile 64). This section, while runnable in most places, also has its fair share of technical sections, switchbacks, narrow single track, and a lot of overgrown bushes. With this being an out-and-back section, there are a lot of cases where you will be sharing the trail with other runners coming or going from Cibbets Flat. After climbing out of Cibbets Flat you make it back to Dale’s Kitchen. While there are special treats at Sunrise Aid Station, Dale’s Kitchen was my absolute favorite Aid Station along the course. This Aid Station was the start of the final stretch back to Lake Cuyamaca. The last few aid stations take you back through familiar territory as you get to traverse the PCT sections in reverse as you check off the miles through Penny Pines 2, Pioneer Mail 2, and finally Sunrise 2. The last 9 miles of the course from Sunrise 2 back to Lake Cuyamaca are made up of gentle rollers as you close the distance towards that final grassy hill leading to the finish line. There was a surprise along the trail just 2.4 mi from the finish. There was an impromptu aid station setup with nothing more than a cooler and water. It is what was inside the cooler that made this stop a MUST! They had FREEZER POPS! That Freezer Pop was absolutely perfect!
[/caption]Thirty hours prior to this moment, I and 267 other runners were running along this exact same trail preparing for what challenges waited ahead. Now, from nearly two miles away I can hear the cheers from across Lake Cuyamaca as some of the 116 finishers of the San Diego 100 Mile Endurance Run make their final push up the small grassy hill to the finish line.
As I made my final push up that small grassy hill, it was my turn. While there was a shiny new buckle waiting for me at the finish line, what I received surpassed any buckle I could have received. First, let me explain something. My wife HATES sweat! In the years I have been running, there is ONE single time where she ever gave me a hug and that was after finishing the Livestrong Half Marathon, my first race EVER in 2012! When I ran across the finish line, my amazing wife Elizabeth ran up to me, gave me a hug, and told me how proud she was of me. At that moment, we could have gone home and I would have been perfectly content and satisfied with that single hug being all that I took away from the race. Mind you, that was at that moment; shortly thereafter I had a shiny new SD 100 Solo buckle in my hand, tons of amazing race swag, and memories that I would never forget.
[/caption]This truly was a perfect race for me and I owe that all to Karen Kantor (my coach) and my wife Elizabeth. I went into this race in far better condition than I had been for any race. We began preparing for THIS race well before registration opened in January. We even had the Airbnb reserved before registration opened. It was time for me to tackle the 100-mile distance and I wanted to do it at San Diego 100! I have paced or crewed so many others on their 100-mile journies and was well aware of the pains and demons they encountered later in the race. Not having a crew or pacer for this race I even prepared for those demons that would creep into my head. Thanks to another Texas runner, Ed Brown, I was turned on to audiobooks a few months prior. I have been listening to audiobooks on nearly all of my runs and have REALLY enjoyed it. I would get completely lost in the book and never think about the run or the lows I would encounter. There was never a time during San Diego 100 that I -needed- those audiobooks. In fact, I never even turned my MP3 player on! I did wear an Airpod for most of the race just in case, but my MP3 player ended the race with 100% battery. My spirits were so high the entire race. I enjoyed every single mile of this race. Whether that was running across the Anza-Borrego desert, climbing up Noble Canyon, or taking in the views along the PCT, I was in a new and exciting world and embraced it all! I did have a good friend on speed dial just in case things went south. I paced her on her first 100mi finish and she was there for me, any time of the day or night, to have a stern talk with any demons that crept in! Like the MP3, it too went unused! Not only were my spirits high the entire race, I felt great. I could feel the work being done to my legs from all the elevation changes, but my body really felt amazing from start to finish.
Much of this race’s success was the result of the gear that took me through the entire 100 miles. While the aid stations were fairly close and I could have run this with handhelds, I decided to use my Orange Mud Endurance Pack 2.0. Of all the Orange Mud packs, this pack is my favorite and the lightest and most versatile pack (in my opinion). While the pack comes with a 2L bladder and ability to also carry 2x 600ml soft flasks, I opted for a 1L bladder instead. I wanted the additional storage room for items I may need along the way, but I didn’t want to carry the additional 1L of Tailwind. This change allowed me to carry approximately 73 oz of Tailwind with me during the race. In addition to the fluid, I also always had a Bearded Brothers bar on me to stay on top of calorie intake during longer splits that I would replenish at my drop bags. Looking back, carrying less than this would have been problematic. While running from Pioneer Mail 1 to Pine Creek I used nearly all of my 73 oz due to the high heat index and exposure!
[/caption]Now for the magic! I wore Xoskin Compression Shorts and Xotoes (which will be released soon) and I could not be more excited and happier with the results! Many of you will understand this and relate to this oh too well. My shower after the race was pain-free and I didn’t use any lube!!!
The part I want to share is my experience with the Xotoes! I’ve been wear-testing the new Xoskin Toe-socks for about 2-mo now and I committed to putting them to the test at SD100! Now, to provide some upfront info. I have been wearing Injinjis for about 4 years religiously so I am very accustomed to toe-socks. Even my dress socks for work are toe-socks. In the past, I would lather up my toes with Trail Toes (or some other lube) and most times my feet left the races intact.
Well, Friday morning I took a chance. Someone mentioned “you don’t need Trail Toes” so I listened. Friday morning I slid my foot into the Xotoes and set out up the mountains for SD100. 100 Miles later I peeled them off my feet and was beyond excited at the results. For those that don’t have experience with this course, it is rocky, sandy, 3 small water crossings, and 14k of vert. Let me say that the Xotoes performed absolutely perfect! The photo of my foot is about 30 minutes after finishing the race (I had to shower first). Everyone has seen those horrific pictures of feet after races, let alone after 100mi. I had absolutely ZERO hot spots or blisters anywhere on my feet and that is after 100mi of sand and rocks EVERYWHERE! (Next time I will use gaters!). Now to touch on the water crossings! Every other sock I have worn gets that ‘sloshing’ feeling once they get wet. My feet felt dry the entire race, even with the water crossings!!! If you haven’t had a chance to wear the new Xotoes, don’t hesitate when they are made available! These socks are serious game changers! Personally, I would not change a thing! I love these socks!! I mean look at this foot! This definitely doesn’t look like a foot that went through 3 water crossings and 100 miles in a single pair of shoes and socks!
There was unfortunately one period during the race that I was pretty upset. I depended 100% on my drop-bags that I had staged at mile 21, 43.8, 64, and 80.3. While the aid stations were fully stocked with amazing volunteers, my drop bags had the items that would keep ME going. The drop bags at mile 43.8 and 64 were the most critical bags in this race because these two bags would contain my headlamps and items necessary for the dropping night temperatures. At mile 43.8 I picked up a Nathan handheld light and a light jacket. While I didn’t need them at the moment, I would need them before hitting Cibbets Flat at mile 64. This handheld didn’t have the life to take me through the entire night and was only used as a stopgap. Mile 64 would have my Ay-Up headlamp that would light up the entire mountain (seriously, this headlamp is AMAZING) and would last 8-hrs. Cibbets Flat was going to be my longest stop. Here I was going to come out of my singlet and put a shirt on, grab a buff, light jacket, and my headlamp. This was going to provide everything I needed to battle the lower temps during the night as well as a headlamp bright enough to allow me to make up some time during the night. This is where things went south. I came into the Aid Station and my drop bag wasn’t there. The volunteers looked EVERYWHERE for it. We even went through all of the boxes in the area looking. Without my headlamp, I wouldn’t be able to make it the 20mi out to mile 80.3 where I had yet another headlamp staged. At this point, the only option I had was to accept where things were and go as far as I could until my handheld light died. I knew it would give me approximately 5 hours of burn time on high and I have already used the handheld for about 2-hours. I knew the math and even using the light on low would be a stretch to get me to sunrise. Luckily, the aid station captain (I wish I knew his name to personally thank him) gave me a headlamp to use. While this was only about a 150-lumen headlamp (compared to the 800 I was going to use), it provided enough light to get me out of Cibbets Flat and back on my way. I have the absolute crappiest of vision at night and rely on my bright headlamps so this headlamp, while allowed me to continue on, it was at a much slower pace than I had planned. As I was preparing to leave Cibbets I sent Liz a message on what had happened and it put her into action. Mind you, this all took place at 2:30 am! For those that know Elizabeth, she does NOT wake up early. Her biggest concern during this race was my wellbeing. She is passionate and when it comes to taking care of me, she is VERY passionate. Rightfully so, my last mountain race 2 Franklin Mountains 50k, my race ended spending time in the hospital for what the doctors initially thoguht was a stroke! Unbeknown to me, she jumped out of bed and went straight to the Start/Finish line to figure out what happened and there were, from what I heard, some heated talks about my bag, where it was, and what happened. While I didn’t have a ‘crew’ on the course, I knew she had my back! So what happened to my bag? At the start line, she was told that I put it in the wrong location and put it in a different aid station box. This is completely possible and in most cases, if the table was reversed, I would say the same thing. In this case, I don’t believe that. Between my OCD and eidetic memory (to a certain degree) I am confident my bag was in the correct location. Not only did I repack my drop bags countless times before getting there, I even put my bags in their correct box several times at the start line. As I mentioned, running Solo, these drop bags were my lifeline on the course. We had arrived early at packet pickup and my bags were placed in the box well before most of the people arrived at the start line on Thursday. The bottom line is something happened that my drop bag didn’t make it to Cibbets Flat. Either I did put it in the wrong box (which could very well have happened), people were rummaging through the boxes and accidentally put my bag back in the wrong box (also possible), or since I arrived so early the boxes were moved and my box was no longer ‘Cibbets Flat’ (which is also possible). I actually think the third scenario is the correct one. The only reason I say that (think back to my eidetic memory) is there was a large space between the Cibbets Flat row of boxes and Red-Tailed Roost boxes (which is where my drop bag inadvertently went). The most viable scenario I have is the gap was closed up and in doing so my row (since I was the only bag there at the time) became the Red-Tailed Roost boxes. Either way, it happened. While at the time I was pretty upset, it was the amazing volunteers that provided me with what I needed to get out of Cibbets Flat and continue on this amazing ride! Luckily the temps didn’t get that low and I was able to stay warm enough with my singlet and light jacket! I couldn’t be happier knowing that I have an amazing wife who spent multiple hours in the middle of the night to try and get me taken care of! Despite the drop-bag mix-up, I would do it again in a heartbeat! I absolutely loved the race.
[/caption]Whether it is your first 100-mile race or 100th. San Diego 100 should be on the top of your must-do races! Scott Mills and the army of 250 volunteers do a phenomenal job organizing this amazing event!
I want to personally thank my amazing wife Elizabeth, Karen Kantor, Tailwind Nutrition, Xoskin, Bearded Brothers, Goodr, and the amazing team from Orange Mud! This was not only my first 100-mile race, but my first ultra representing the Orange Mud Dirt Unit Elite Team! It was an honor to represent the very products I love and have used for years and look forward to many more opportunities in the years to come to race for such an amazing product!
A week after the race, during an easy group run, a friend of mine asked ‘What would you have done differently in your training and race?’ You know, thinking about it more, I would not have changed a thing. Despite the one drop-bag hickup that occurred during the race, there is nothing I would have changed. I had an amazing experience and my training and fitness was exactly where it needed to be thanks to my amazing coach. A lot of sacrifices went into the preparing for this race and Elizabeth was super supportive along the way. I know this distance scared her (rightfully so) and I know she wasn’t a fan when we initially talked about this. I am nearly certain someone talked to her prior to the race because the closer we got, the more excited she became for the race too! So what would I change? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! I know, I got lucky with this race! 🙂
- Habanero Hundred – Aug 18-19 – (Crew/Pacer)
- Colorado Crossing – Sept 15-16 – (50 mile)
- Mission Tejas – Oct 27 – (???)
- Franklin Mountain Trail Run – Nov 9-11 – (50k, 10k)
- Brazos Bend 100 – Dec 8-9 – (100 mi)
Until next time my friends!
Random Photos:e-1096″ src=”https://johnstasulli.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/img_0386.jpg?w=604″ alt=”” width=”385″ height=”289″ /> Pre-race photo with some of the Orange Mud folks (Missing Summer!) PC: Steve Acciarito m wp-image-1104″ src=”https://johnstasulli.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/img_0384.jpg?w=225″ alt=”” width=”225″ height=”300″ /> Steve Acciarito caught a strange shot of me at Meadows AS (~50mi) -image-1098″ src=”https://johnstasulli.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/img_0385.jpg?w=225″ alt=”” width=”225″ height=”300″ /> Quick photo with Steve Acciarito at Meadows AS mage-1094″ src=”https://johnstasulli.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/img_3439.jpg?w=225″ alt=”” width=”225″ height=”300″ /> Photo along a section of the PCT. 85-90 miles. ge-1093″ src=”https://johnstasulli.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/img_6002.jpg?w=225″ alt=”” width=”225″ height=”300″ /> Overlooking Lake Cuyamaca and the Start Line from the Airbnb
I am medicated at the moment, so now is the best time to get this out there before I go back to bed.
A lot of race-specific training and preparation went into Franklin Mountains 50k. The last time I raced on the Franklin Mountains was a week after coming home from Kuwait where I had been running at sea-level for four-months; no trail work; and definitely not any climbing! This time things were going to be different! My race plan had me finished almost 2-hours faster than my last race!
Leading up to this race, my coach and I were looking at FMTR 50k as two separate races. The first 15mi of the race was front-loaded with a lot of vert and this ended with the climb to the North Peak. While we did hill work to prepare for this, the greatest focus was on the second half of the race. Taking on the rollers after the first 15mi of climbing. We would work dedicated hill work followed by several days of 10+ mile trail intervals and put this on repeat! Leading up to this race, I felt GREAT and felt stronger than ever going into the technical trails at Franklin Mountains!
Like all races, I watched the weather like a hawk as the date approached! The last 50k at this mounted had 50-60mph winds! The wind was so strong coming off of Upper Sunset that you had to walk! Not because you were fatigued, but because the wind wouldn’t allow you to do anything else! The weather this year was the complete opposite! Less than 5mph winds were on the forecast! This was going to be a much different race!
The morning of the race my oldest son Peter dropped Anthony and I off at the start line. Given the parking at Franklin Mountain State Park, this approach was PERFECT! The race started with the climb across Upper Sunset. For the start of the race you either push out with the lead pack or you stay with the large group and take part in the FMTR Congo-Line climbing Upper Sunset. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… GO! As we all took off towards the trailhead, I tucked myself in just behind the lead pack. This was going to be my race. I wasn’t there to race anyone, nor was I chasing Maggie up the mountain. The only thing I was racing against today was my “personal” cutoffs that I established for myself (see figure 1).
There is so much I love about this race. For me, it is knowing so many people along the way. At each checkpoint or aid station there was an amazing volunteer that I knew and called my friend!
I started the race with a headlamp since the sun was just beginning to creep over the horizon. I knew what Aid Stations I was planning to stop at and that was the ONLY place I was going to stop; By the time we came off Upper Sunset there was already enough light that the headlamp wasn’t needed. Since I wasn’t supposed to stop yet, I just kept on rolling through the Main AS. Just as I went through, Marco and Mike were there that kindly took my headlamp from me so I could keep moving! Just two of the many angles I would encounter today! After getting rid of my headlamp I raced down the hill towards Schaeffer’s Shuffle. While Rob talks about how bad this section is, I really enjoy it! It is a great section to wake up legs up and prepare for the climb up Aztec and eventually up to the North Peak! As in years past, I couldn’t successfully make it down Schaeffer’s Shuffle with a bit of butt-sliding action! It just never fails! After completing this first segment I rolled into the Main Aid Station at 7:06 AM (2-min ahead of schedule). This first 15mi were to be conservative and focused. I knew where my fitness was and knew exactly what I could pull off without impacting the 2d part of the race! I passed through main AS only to drop my morning jacket in my drop bag. I didn’t wear it while running, I just wanted to be comfortable while waiting! I ran through, stuffed it in my drop bag and noticed that Anthony had already passed through as well since we were sharing drop-bags for this race!
Without delay (and without stopping at the Aid Station) and took off up the road towards Aztec, which I think is the worst part of the course! Scree fields coupled with rock climbing, definitely makes this next three miles to Trail Head Aid Station pretty crappy! As I made my way to the trail I had a quick chat with Mike, although he wasn’t willing to share a beer with me that early in the morning! Little did I know that we would spend some quality time wheeling in his Jeep before the day’s end! I began the climb towards the Aztec Caves and Mile 7 before dropping down into the evil scree field. Climbing up Aztec Caves is just that. CLIMBING! As I approached the caves I once again heard a familiar voice! Jennifer was on the top of the caves yelling for me to run! Keep in mind, you don’t run this section. In fact, as I approached the caves all I kept thinking about was announcing “On Belay”…”Climbing!”. Just thinking that I will have to come DOWN this during Lone Star 100k has me wondering if I do need to bring a harness!
After a very brief chit-chat with Jennifer I continued scrambling up the rock face towards the top! Shortly after making it to the top I encountered yet another familiar figure! I stumbled across Tyler (Jennifer’s other half), making sure no runners thought it was a better idea to jump off the cliff instead of following the trail! While this next stretch is down hill to Trail Head Aid Station, this is also the section of the course that I have NEVER made it through without rolling my ankle. Saying the scree field is evil would not do it justice; Instead, it is the crappiest section of this entire race! #FUROB!!!
I ran into TH Aid Station at 7:50 AM! This was dead-on with my race plan! While I was not personally tracking this along the way, it was interesting to see the post-run results and see where I was in respect to my race plan. From here on out, I was pretty much hiking. My goal was to hit the North Peak in 3hrs. The year prior I made it there in 3:02. Like I mentioned, the first half of this race was all about being conservative! I wanted fuel in the tank to finish this race STRONG! I ran past Mundy’s Gap, waved to Luisa, and continued the final 2-mi climb to the summit. My plan had me stopping at Mundy’s on the way up, but I was good on my hydration so there was no need to waste any time, so Off I went! Up to this point, another runner and I flip-flopped back and forth. On the climbs, I would push by him, but he FLEW downhill! If I attempted running close to this speed on these technical trails I would have likely ate a rock (or two dozen). I hit the North Peak in exactly 3:00:18. 12 miles into the race and my race plan was spot on! I grabbed my band by Trigger and wasted no time heading back down the mountain! Currently in 14th place, the next part of my race is what I had really prepared for and was so excited! On the way down towards Mundy’s Gap I finally passed Anthony as he was making his climb up the North Peak. Anthony was beginning to have GI issues, but still moving! I finally stopped at Mundy’s Gap Aid Station to refill my flasks, grab a quarter of PB&J, and I was off! The next section of the race is where is starts to be fun! These are nothing but rollers; the same rollers I run each time we visit our family in El Paso. This is the part of the mountain that I LOVE and the part of the mountain that would bring me my greatest gains. My next time-check was going to be at East Aid Station, which was at mile 20.40. According to my plan I wanted to arrive at this Aid Station at 11:06 AM (just over 5hrs). I pulled into the Aid Station WAY ahead of schedule and I was feeling amazing! I ran into the East Aid Station at 10:37 AM, 30-minutes ahead of schedule! This was going to be my longest AS stop. Here I was going to grab my 1L bladder for my Orange Mud pack and a fresh soft flask of Tailwind that was going to likely get me all the way to the finish line! I loaded up my pack, talked with Jessica and James for a bit, and headed up the switch backs out of the Aid Station. I felt absolute amazing at this point! I left the Aid Station 20-min ahead of schedule and was well on my way to a sub-7hr finish! I was imagining running up the stairs to the finish line telling Rob that I took 2-hrs of my Franklin Mountain 50k time from last year!!!
Around Mile-21, something happened that was going to change my day completely. Something happened to my head. It felt like someone put my head in a vice and just began squeezing. I was getting sharp pains down the left-side of my body, fingers where tingling, and the pressure in my head wouldn’t let up. Every time I tried running I ended up sitting on the side of the trail to get some relief. No matter what I tried to do, the pain increased. My surroundings were spinning, the trail was getting blurry, and I continued to have these sharp pains down my arm and leg. Never did my head hurt so bad that it brought tears to my eyes. I was at the point that I would walk, as best as I could, before laying down on the side of the trail. Many runners passed me offering me food or drink, but I was perfect on that front; what I needed wasn’t on that mountain. I needed to know what was wrong with me.
The pain at this point was worse than I had ever felt before and no matter what I tried I couldn’t get any relief. When I would come across the slightest shade on the trail I would lay down and sit on every rock that I cam across. It didn’t matter what I did. The intensity increased with each passing step, I began getting dizzier, and the every few minutes I would get the sharpest of pains shooting through my head that would bring tears.
Somewhere around Mile 22, two runners passed me and I asked them to tell the Aid Station that #53 needed to be evac’d. Something was wrong and it was only going to get worse. Based on my sudden symptoms, I was scared to death that it was a stroke. I was 7mi away from the closest road and still 3 miles away from the Aid Station. I needed help. The only reason I made it off the mountain approached me while I was laying on the trail. Thomas became my trail angel that day and will never forget what he did for me. Before him, I told everyone I was fine. When he approached I knew I was no longer fine. With tears in my eyes I told him there was something wrong. This is where the trail running community outshines every other sport. At that moment, he threw his entire race away and shifted entirely over to making sure I was taken off the mountain safely. Every time another runner would pass he would have them take word to the Aid Station that there was a medical emergency. The longer we moved the more intense the pain was and the weaker I felt. There were several times that I had lost my balance and he was there to catch me. Along the way, he even recruited the assistance from other runners. At one point, we had 5 runners helping me down the mountain. Along the way, Thomas was recording information about me in his phone in the event that the terrible happened and he needed to relay it to medical personal. The final 5miles to the West Aid Station took 3 hours. This was a mix of sitting on the side of the trail, stumbling down switchbacks, and fighting the pain as much as I could. I had one runner soaking my head with cold water while Thomas led me down the hill by my hand and another runner behind holding onto my pack to prevent me from falling. Several times along the way I felt like I was going to pass out but they were there to catch me. About 1/2mi from the Aid Station another of my friends from the Aid Station came running out to me with Pedialite. I took the Dixie cups of Pedialite without hesitation but I knew it wasn’t a hydration or heat exhaustion issue. Something happened to my brain. I did discover that Grape Pedialite was HORID. We were finally off the switchbacks and walking along the jeep road. It was then that I saw a familiar Jeep approaching. Mike and Hiemi (sp) had arrived to get me off the mountain and back to the finish line. It was time to go wheeling in the Jeep! My race ended with 27.8mi.
Had it not been for Thomas and the trail angels, I don’t believe I would have been so lucky. The pain was so severe. I’ve never felt anything like that and was expecting the worse. I don’t willingly go to the doctor. EVER. This time, the only thing I wanted was the hospital.
After what seemed like an hour drive, we finally made it off the mountain and onto I-10 where Mike took me straight to the finish-line. The pain still hadn’t subsided and was getting sharp pains in my head that radiated throughout my body. We finally arrived at the finish-line and I saw Liz and Tinsel approaching the Jeep. Without thinking I opened the Jeep door and tried to get out. Next thing I knew Mike and Elizabeth were picking me up off the ground.
Mike and Hiemi loaded me in the truck and Elizabeth took me straight to the Emergency Room that wasn’t even 2-mi away. We went to Providence Medical Center just outside of the Franklin Mountain State Park. We pulled into the front of the ER and when I looked up I knew things were going to be ok. My nephew, Matthew, came out of the hospital with a wheel chair to bring me inside. I never saw the waiting room. We went straight into and exam room and began a series of tests. I was hooked up to an EKG, a series of labs were taking, and seemed like everyone in the hospital came through to ask questions. It was those questions that began scaring me even more. I couldn’t answer them. They were asking me personal questions and didn’t know the answers. The pains through my head where getting more frequent and more severe. Every time I would get the pains I would get tingled sensations in my head. The doctor that was there told someone in the hall that I was experiencing signs of a stroke and they needed a CT scan immediately. I was immediately wheeled to the CT scan room and they kicked another patient out of the room so I could have my scan done. The first CT scan didn’t show any bleeding or blockages. After another hour of evaluations and labs they ordered another CT scan with contrast to make sure there was nothing additional they could see in my next or brain. Yet again, there was no evidence of bleeding or a stroke. Hearing those words took a huge weight off my chest, but that still didn’t explain what was going on. I was slurring my words when talking, I couldn’t focus, couldn’t answer simple questions; I was afraid of what was wrong. After what seemed like a few hours they finally administered morphine to relieve some of the pain and about 30min later the pain finally reduced to something manageable. Throughout the entire time at the hospital they did a full series of labs and determined that I was not dehydrated nor was I experiencing any heat exhaustion or heat stroke. The CT scans ruled out the possibility of bleeding or a stroke, and they did some test on my heart to look for residuals of a heart attack. What scared me the most had been ruled out. Unfortunately, there was still no answer as to why I was in the ER at Providence Medical Center. The Dr came back in and after a review of the CT scans by the radiologist they determined that what I was experiencing was a Hemiplegic Migraine that mimics the symptoms of a stroke. I was given the option of being admitted to further monitor or be released. My BIL, who is the CEO of a different local hospital, said there was an ER just up the road from the house that if something were to happen I could go there. I was finally discharged from the hospital and returned to the house. That night was better in terms of pain, but I slept very little. I still had a headache and my body was crazy itchy from the dye used on the contrast.
A day later I feel very run-down and have still have what I would call a minor headache. I have been prescribed meds that allowed me to sleep a little bit and luckily feel 100x better than I did in the hospital. That was hands-down the worst pain I have ever felt and nothing that I ever want to experience again!
After all is said-and-done, my training was spot-on for this race. I have zero physical pains in my legs or feet, was 30-min ahead of my goal pace when things went south, and my HR was below 150 the entire race! I was well on my way to an amazing race! My hydration and nutrition couldn’t have been better! I stuck to a strict 250-calories per/hour regimen with Tailwind and it was flawless! Even though this race went perfect up to mile 21, I learned several lessons that I will bring with me to Lonestar 100k! I will be back on this mountain in 3-months! I will not only get redemption, I want an epic finish!
I have the absolute best support team in the world. So many people contributed to getting me off the mountain and there is nothing I can do to repay that. Thomas, Rob, Rachel, Mike, Heimi, West Aid Station workers, and countless runners along the way. Thank you for all that you have done. Had each of you not been there to do your part, this could have turned out significantly worse.
Last but definitely not least is my amazing Wife for being by my side with Tinsel. On top of that I have an absolute amazing family. Thank you, Robert and Matthew, for everything you did and for being there.
While this race ended in the hospital, this race was a success from a performance perspective! My training leading up to this race was on point and my performance up to mile-21 couldn’t have been better! Special thanks to Karen, my amazing coach, and the great companies that have supported me along the way! Thank you Rob and Rachel of Trail Racing Over Texas! You continue to put on the best races in Texas! THANK YOU!
Through Trail Toes, I had the opportunity to toe the line at Run in Texas’ Lighthouse Ranch Trail Run 20mi in Johnson City, TX with two of my fellow Team TROT Ambassadors!
This was definitely not something I was planning for as I am deep into my training for Franklin Mountain 50k, Bandera 100k, and Lonestar 100k. I registered for the race 2-days before so my taper consisted of speed work! That makes expectation management extremely easy. Since my schedule already had a long run, the only difference was I was going to push the pace slightly and get a chance to run on new trails! After a chat with my amazing coach Karen Kantor, I had a plan. lol
With the race only 1 1/2hrs away, the logistics for this race were simple. Wake up at 3:30am, eat my customary Chobani yogurt and enjoy my morning coffee (or 3) and hit the road. I arrived at the race venue for packet pickup around 6am which gave me about an hour to screw around, socialize, and of course drink more coffee. By now, many of you have come to realize that my racing is fueled by COFFEE!!!
The 7am start consisted of the 20mi and 50k runners. As we approached the starting mat I tried to get a feel for who all was running the 20mi vs the 50k. The “plan” that I worked out with my coach was to take it semi-moderately and hold on to an 8:40 pace. It would be comfortable enough given the training so far during the week while still landing a sub-3:00 finish. I told my coach before this even started that I wanted (for a change) to be mindful of my pace and not go out trying to light the trail on fire.
As the gun went off, that is exactly what I did. Knocked out the miles one by one and felt GREAT. The splits where well ahead of where I wanted them and my body showed no signs of of slowing done. Throughout the entire race I not once stopped at an Aid Station and blazed through “self-supported”. I did slow at one of the Aid Stations to fistbump a good friend from Project Phoenix. As I ran through each Aid Station I yelled out thank you to the great volunteers and continued on my way!
Mi 1: 7:35 /mi
Mi 2: 8:00 /mi
Mi 3: 7:53 /mi
Mi 4: 8:00 /mi
Mi 5: 8:25 /mi
Mi 6: 8:28 /mi
Mi 7: 8:01 /mi
Mi 8: 8:37 /mi
Mi 9: 8:29 /mi
Mi 10: 8:14 /mi
Mi 11: 9:47 /mi
Around mile 11 is when things started turning South quickly. My legs and body felt great but I started getting a real sharp pain in my stomach that just didn’t seem right and had the urge to pee… A LOT!!! Up to this point I had not been passed and was holding onto 2d place. Once the pain started setting in, that is when I finally got passed. I ended up getting passed by Meg (who went on to break the women’s CR!) Meg was running super strong and looked awesome!
As I made it to the top of the climb I pulled off the trail to visit the trees and that is when I realized I was going to have some problems. The urge to pee was there, but nadda. Back to the trail I went and continued with the pain. As I ran, it actually reminded me of the E.Coli that I had the year previously, but that couldn’t possibly be the case! I hadn’t been to El Paso recently (inside joke). On and off throughout the loop I had to walk until the pain subsided, tried visiting a tree, and still nothing. It wasn’t until mile 18 that I was finally able to painfully relieve myself and push into the finish. Oddly enough, despite the issues I had with the final loop, I was only passed by one other person!
While the race definitely didn’t end the way I had planned, I am actually pretty happy with the end results. I ended up finishing in 3:04 (just shy of my 3:00 hour goal time) but also ended up 2d Overall Male and Top Master Male.
Top Master Male? First I became a grandfather and now I am in the “Master’s” category? Well actually I have been in the master’s category for 3 years. I have just been too slow to actually doing anything productive with it! There definitely weren’t any land speed records, but I walked away from this race smiling!
Special thanks to Trail Toes for the opportunity to race and to Run in Texas for putting on a great race with amazing volunteers! I am already planning to come back next year, but this time I am going to do the 10mi with “Fluffy!”
Another great recount of Tammy Tucker’s amazing Bandera 100k adventure! I know I personally look forward to our next exciting adventure!
This is a long one so if you aren’t ready to read almost 3000 words you might want to look at a different blog post (race report)! 🙂
There! Finally, I was headed into the tree line about 10 or 15 minutes behind the very last person who started on time. Could I have started on time? Yes! Unfortunately for me, my brain took a detour before the start of the race as I was putting on all the layers of clothing I’d need to survive the cold, and I completely forgot to attach the timing chip to my ankle. Duh! Such a newbie mistake and one that cost me time. Time is a precious commodity out there when you are running against the clock!
Allow me to rewind the clock a little bit for you to the day prior. I had arranged to have a substitute take over my…
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Robert Goyen, Race Director for Trail Racing Over Texas, announced over the loudspeakers “…cheering in the American Record for the 50 miler, great job Caroline”.
This epic adventure began three-weeks prior at the Wild Hare 50 which was to be my last big training run prior to Brazos Bend 100mi. While Wild Hare 50 was only to be a training run, the target was actually a top 5 finish. 31 miles into the race I began noticing some significant discomfort in my achilles and made the decision to end the race with a 50k PR rather than to risk injury that could potentially take me out of my BB100 race. As expected, I kicked myself the entire way home knowing that I would have gotten a 4th place finish at Wild Hare and a new PR for both the 50k and 50mi (all while on a training run).
On November 29th I visited the doctor to check my achilles (at the direction of my coach) and there was significant concern by the doctor that I have a potential tear in my achilles that would block me from making it even half way through BB100 without serious injury. So I left the doctor with an MRI appointment for December 16th and chalking up a future DNS at BB100. The previous year of training was leading up to this single race and in an instant, it was taken away. The announcement of me dropping from the race put a plan in motion that was going to introduce a silver lining that I could have never possibly imagined and looking back I am so thrilled that everything played out the way that it did. On November 30th I was asked to crew Caroline Boller on her 50mi American record attempt!
Now for those that know me, I am probably borderline OCD when it comes to planning, data analysis, and tracking “stuff”. I began working with Caroline right away to make sure that she had absolutely everything she needed to make her record attempt a success. Together we worked through her nutrition plan, race goals, likes, dislikes, what has worked and what hasn’t, and every little bit of detail I could possible learn about her in just 9-days! (Did I mention I am borderline OCD when it comes to planning?) I even had a lengthy discussion with my coach Karen Kantor just to make sure there was nothing that I may be missing and to hear her thoughts and perspective on things!
So over the years I have crewed a lot of different runners and I have learned so much about crewing from watching Meredith Terranova crewing her husband Paul (and vice-versa). They are so in-sync when it comes to crewing because they KNOW one another. They know how to pull each-other through the lows, how to keep one another focused, and how to get one another through a race seamlessly. In my eyes, this was the standard when it comes to crewing and I had to do the same! (OCD again…)
For the next 9-days leading up to the race I monitored the weather models and provided continues updates to Caroline on the condition of the trails, weather, and any and all course changes. Once we were confident on the weather and course, Caroline put together her final race plan. It is at this point that the OCD REALLY kicked in! I began detailing out the race and the aid station transitions down to the minute to include determining the time that I had to transition between aid stations with the 10-20mph speed limits that are enforced within the park. Once my planning and analysis was completed I printed out numerous “race cards” to put in the drop bags and in the vehicle (which my wonderful wife Elizabeth even laminated), so there was always a point of reference along the way.
These details are what made me realized that with Caroline’s planned pace I would not be able to make it between two aid stations (which was the start/finish) before her and the start/finish aid station was a major transition point. My son, who was going to originally be pacing me at BB100, offered to assist! In order to do this, it means that at 3 points during the race I had to run from one aid station to the next carrying her drop bags and get everything ready for her arrival before she made it there!
The last few days leading up to the race I mentally rehearsed the entire plan to make sure everything was accounted for. If myself (or my son) were off in the slightest, it could have resulted in minutes being taken away from Caroline’s finish time and people that know me, know that wasn’t going to happen! With 11 aid stations even just 5 seconds per aid station was going to be an extra minute! My goal was 0 seconds per aid station (yes ZERO!). Like I said, one of my goals was to exceed the standard!
Friday we made arrangements to meet at the packet pickup to do one final walkthrough of the race and make sure we both had everything we needed, hand-over drop bags, and make final coordination for race day. This is when yet another silver-lining presented itself! While I was at the registration table, Caroline told me to pick up a pacer’s bib to pace her on her final loop. Really!? Without a single sliver of hesitation, I gladly signed the waiver and picked up my bib. Really, I was going to pace Caroline as she set an American Record!! My plan was to only go out with her if things were looking bad and she NEEDED a pacer. I knew how my achilles felt and I knew what distance I could cover at a sub-7 pace before pissing it off really bad. I knew exactly what was on the line for Caroline and what her goals were going into this race. I had determined at what point I was going to push that threshold and pace her. My job was to get her across the line and set an American record and that is what I wanted to do! While she never needed me to pace her and was WELL ahead of the goal, I do regret not taking her up on the opportunity to pace her on the historical event. That’s ok though! Next time I WILL pace her! J
The 50mi race was going to begin at 7am but I had plans to be at the start line at 6am to see off the 100 mile runners. As I had done the year prior (and will do for every year hereafter) was to come to the race as The Grinch and lead the runners across the start line! Every race that I volunteer at for Trail Racing Over Texas, I come in a costume! For me it is a way to motivate the runners and make everyone smile!
Shortly before 7am Caroline arrived at the start line ready to go! We synced up briefly just to make sure there were no changes in the plan and to see how she was feeling and if there was anything I needed to know about. She was rock solid and ready to go! The only thing left to do was hammer down the trail! At 7am, like I had done with the 100mi runners, I took off down the trail with some amazing runners in tow; it was officially time to put the plan into motion!
Caroline was going to be running three 16.67 mile loops and the plan was to meet her at 3 aid stations per/loop (in addition to the start line). Do that math; that meant that in order to make it around Brazos Bend State Park (with the 10-20 mph speed limit) and her planned pace, we were going to be moving!
At each aid station I was ready with her planned replacement bottle and everything extra (in-hand) that she may need along the way. Luckily all of the aid stations where positioned in such a way that we had about a 50-100′ warning before she arrived. As planned, each aid station transition went off flawlessly! Caroline was able to move through each aid station and grab her replacement bottle and update on her time without breaking pace once. With each passing aid station, the gap between her current time and goal time grew. 2 minutes ahead, 4 minutes ahead, 7 minutes ahead, and by the final few aid stations she was 11 minutes ahead of her goal time.
After my last aid station transition I “ran” back to the start line with Caroline’s drop bag and warm clothes to prepare everyone at the start for her arrival; based on her pace I had estimated her arrival at the finish around 12:47. As the last few minutes ticked down Robert announced that Caroline was on her way in and would be, in a few minutes, breaking a 20-year American record. Everyone with a camera began crowding around the finish line to include the camera crew from Sierra films to capture this historic event. Luckily Anthony arrived just a few minutes before Caroline finished so he was also able to witness and take part in her crossing the line and take pictures too!
I grabbed Caroline’s finisher medal and Robert Goyen and I stood in the middle of the trail waiting as Caroline made the turn towards the finish line. Caroline crossed the finish line at 12:48 and set a new American women’s 50-mile trail record with a time of 5:47:01 and also set a new course record beating Ford Smith’s 2014 time by only 9 seconds!
It was an absolute honor to be asked to crew Caroline and the raw emotion that existed as she crossed the finish line setting the new American record is something that words simply cannot explain.
Caroline, thank you again for allowing me to take part in this wild adventure with you! You can call me anytime to crew you and next time, without a doubt, I am going to take you up on that offer to pace you! One of these years when the lottery likes me at Western States we can switch places (although there won’t be any record setting for me! haha)
The morning of September 10th, my alarm went off at 3:45am and like all mornings I enjoyed my pre-run coffee and Chobani yogurt. While the day started completely normal, I was about to toe the line at a race that was far from anything I had ever done before and was going to challenge me in more ways that I could imagine. One of the most exciting aspects of this race is my son, Anthony, who was toeing the line with me and this was going to be his first ultra!
Leading up to this race I had spent 3 of the last 4 months in Kuwait. That meant the elevation was about 90′ and the greatest climbing I was going to get on any run was stepping onto a 6″ curb. Put differently, my last 50k training run in Kuwait had 161′ total of gain. Regardless of the environmental challenges, my coach did a phenomenal job getting me ready for this race on a treadmill! We simulated the race (as much as possible) on the treadmill with grades from -3% to 15%.
Going into this race I felt GREAT! My training had been spot on, had zero injuries, and this was going to be the race of my life! With a gust of wind, that plan began to blow away…
“We started the race with 45-mile-per-hour winds and gusts of 60 miles per hour, which made many runners fight hard to stay on ridge lines and stable on the peaks. To say it was a wild start to the first Texas Sky Race was an understatement,” race director Rob Goyen commented.
I had run these trails around Franklin Mountains a lot over the years since our oldest lives there with his family so I was not a stranger to what I had ahead of me. When we toed the line I didn’t start in the “front”, but I did start right behind the lead pack. Not because I thought I was fast, but the first 2 miles of the race were through a section of trail that was going to end up being a lot of “stop-n-go” congo line type movement and I wanted to push through this section and get on with the race.
Rob Goyen sounded off with “GO!” and we began pushing towards the trailhead for the “Upper Sunset Trail”. The winds that we had coming across the Franklin Mountains that morning were CRAZY! We had 45mph sustains winds with 60mph gusts. As we made the first small climb runners in front of me were literally being blown off the trail, runners were losing their hats, and I even say headlamps go flipping into the night sky from the wind. It was at that moment I realized this was not going to be a normal race. After 2-miles of a brutal cross-wind we finally turned and headed downhill off the ridge. Usually running downhill is an opportunity to pick up the pace a bit and let gravity do its job; this was the first time I HAD to walk because the wind was so strong. Every step you took was a gamble on where the wind was going to allow your foot to land. The first 5mi of the race looped around to the “finish line” where I had a drop-bag positioned. I came through, dropped my headlamp, grabbed my second handheld, and I was off on the single 26mi loop up, over, and around the Franklin Mountains!
The first 12mi would take me to the North Peak of the FranklinMountains and I spent a good majority of this time running with Team TROT runners DB and MG, and a few others that I really look up to as runners! I absolutely loved the first half of this race.
All of my races up to this point have been multi-loop races. That meant that the lead runner, at some point, was likely going to loop me! You would think on a single-loop race I would be safe right? No. As I was making the climb towards Mundy’s Gap I turned around and guess what! I was about to be looped on a single-loop race by Maggie! Go figure 😉 Oddly enough, that one moment was the most memorable for me. I don’t know why I found it to be so entertaining, but it was! So Maggie; thank you for making Franklin Mountain so enjoyable! Not only did Maggie provide a memorable part of the race, she also saved my life while climbing to the Aztec caves!
After passing Mundy’s Gap Aid Station, the climb up the switchbacks to the North Peak began. Regardless of how many times I have done this climb, I still fall victim to the many “false summits” you pass along the way. About a mile from the top I finally began seeing runners coming off the peak. The most unfortunate part about this section is I was in such a hurry to get down off the mountain and into the Sotol Forest that I didn’t even stop to look around. Of course what would a TROT race be without an awesome photo by Myke!
Now 12mi into the race and really feeling good! Once I realized my lofty goals where blown away at the start of the race I opted for a solid race with a strong finish but chose to not push into the pain cave! My original goal was a top 10 finish (which in hindsight was CRAZY). Coming down off of the peak I finally saw Mark Henn and Anthony (my son) climbing the peak. Based on where they were I was guessing they were about 2-hr behind me. Coming down off the peak was also when I took a nice dive down the rocks (which was oddly enough my only fall!). Ended up with minor scratches on my hand and scratched my new Goodr glasses. I am pretty certain I may have a slight fracture on my little finger too, but who cares!
Speaking of Goodr! I ordered these at the last minute for my race! They are a VERY cheap alternative to expensive running glasses but these turned out to be the absolute BEST running glasses I have used! Absolutely zero bounce, light weight, badass colors, polorized and inexpensive ($25 each!) Check them out at https://www.playgoodr.com/
Before I knew it I was down off the peak and tackling the rollers along the east side of the Franklin Mountains. I have always loved these trails. Running in and around the Tin Mine and through the Sotol Forest while looking out across east El Paso and Fort Bliss. I did get to spend a few miles with Katie G through here. Katie, another Team TROT member, is yet another fantabulous runner and inspiration. It was great to share some miles with her while we tried to figure out Rob’s marking strategy and made-up trails that he took us through! lol
The miles ticked away and finally I came upon the East Aid Station (Mile 20.6). This is was the only aid station on the course that I had a drop bag (other than the finish line). I grabbed my Tailwind from my drop bag, another Epic Bar, and began the trek to the West Aid Station (final Aid Station of the course). By this point the climbing was finally starting to take a toll on my thighs and quads. Each climb and descent, regardless of how small, was noticeable. From a positioning perspective I was still where I wanted to be so I began walking a bit more during the climbs. This section of the trail was all new for me. I had never run through the pass or on the west side of the Franklin Mountains. I REALLY enjoyed this section! My next time out in El Paso I will have to come back here and run this for fun! Before I knew it I came across Mary at the West Aid Station. Her and the team of volunteers went through a tough time. They weren’t able to put anything on the tables due to the wind (yes…still windy) so this aid station was a “made-to-order” stop. I grabbed some pickles, topped of my hand-helds, and took a Red Bull for the road (not sure why but it seemed good).
Glancing at my watch I had been running about 7hrs at this point and based on the pace I was anticipating a finish around 8:30 or so. This, while the easiest part of the course, was also the most boring. Really didn’t feel like running because it wasn’t fun so ended up doing a run/walk shuffle. The last 6mi to the finish I ended up passing a few more people and chatting with some other runners. Before I knew it I crested the final hill, turned the corner, and off in the distance I could see the line of spectators looking over the valley at the runners that were approaching the finish.
I couldn’t wait to get to the finish line. Not because it was over, but because my family was there waiting. As I climbed towards the finish line (yes…climbed) I could see my wife, son, daughter-in-law, and grand daughter all holding signs cheering me on. No matter how many times I finish a race, seeing my family waiting for me is always the most emotional part.
Like EVERY Trail Racing over Texas Race, Rob was standing on the finish line waiting with my medal! While I didn’t finish with an age group award, I did receive first place in a different (self identified) division! I finished first in the gnome division!
I finished with a time of 8:31.24 35/229 athletes! It was an absolutely amazing experience and can’t wait until the Franklin Mountain 50k next year. I gained some valuable insight into my training, what worked, and what I need to work harder at for next year! I can honestly say that had it not been for my coach Karen, this race would have been pure hell! Karen gave me everything I could have possibly needed to be successful out there and I was! THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!
I even got to meet another fellow Orange Mud ambassador Joel!
After my race, all that was left was to wait for Mark Henn and our son to finish. This was the longest race Anthony had ever done and this was to be his first ultramarathon. At 10hr 42 min, Anthony became an ULTRAMARATHONER! He did amazing on a super challenging course!
Leading up to this race I wanted to do something strange! At all of the TROT races I have been in a “costume” of sorts. This time I was going to run as a Garden Gnome. My wife absolutely HATED the beard and once the race was over (and she made a donation to Septembeard in support of Prostate Cancer), the #Ultragnome took a break. Not to worry, if I get into Western States 100 this year, the gnome is coming back!
This ended another absolutely amazing race weekend with my family and friends. The TROT family has given me so much and I look forward to giving back to both Rob and Rachel whenever I can. Until next time…
Special thanks to my amazing wife Elizabeth, my family, and amazing friends that continue to encourage me along the way to craziness! These races are strange for me. Without my wife, none of these races would be possible. While I know many of these races scare her, she always stands by my side! My next challenge will be for her to hug me after a race while I am all sweaty! Perhaps Brazos Bend 100?
Thank you Tailwind Nutrition, Orange Mud, Goodr Running Glasses, SKORA Running, INKnBURN, and Injinji! We have been on an amazing journey together and you have all contributed greatly to where I am today! 😀
So what’s next?
Hill Country Ragnar – 21/22 October – Comfort, TX
TROT Trail Running Camp – 4-6 November
Wild Hare 50 mile – 19 November
Brazos Bend 100 mile – 10/11 December
Bandera 100k – 8 Jan
Until next time…
My running nearly always takes me to the trails. Trails are always changing, take me away from the busy roads, and allow me to find a calm that I can’t find elsewhere while running.
This past weekend my wife and I hosted a “group run / product demo” at Reveille Peak Ranch in Burnett, TX. My wife deserves so much more credit. None of this would have been possible without her. She did so much to make this a reality! The plan for this event was to share those trails with others and give people a chance to try the products that I personally love and use. For many, their exposure to different products comes at races and races are the last place you want to be trying something new. This event provided a fun relaxed atmosphere where people could try many different products without worrying about any negative impact to their race.
A few of us arrived early on Friday to get the trails (course) marked for our group runs. Tammy, Roel, and I set out around 2:30 to mark the 10k course while a nephew of the ranch owner set out on his mountain bike to mark the 9mi course. I am so grateful that the ranch assisted us in marking! We were actually going to start marking at 8am but there were some Airmen out on the ranch doing sniper training so we had to wait! Had it now been for the ranch, we would not have gotten the courses marked! It was during our course marking where a bit of realization it me. We have been running for years on such beautiful and miraculous trails; we just never stopped (slowed down) to truly appreciate them.
The weekend started with a 5k night familiarization run followed by some time to relax around the campfire. Unfortunately I didn’t make it out for this as I was assisting one of our runners get their camper situated. The following morning we began the day with another 5k run followed by a door prize give away. As soon as that finished, the group set out on a 9mi adventure around Reveille Peak Ranch.
As I logged miles Friday and Saturday on the trails of Reveille Peak Ranch something occurred to me; I have never stopped to look at the ranch. Much of my time at the ranch, prior to this, was during a race. I have run a Captain Karls race on the ranch, which was during the night, as well s several other ultras on these trails. Like many, my focus was on the trail in front of me. Rarely did I get a chance to see what these trails offered to everyone.
This group run / product demo changed that! I talked with another running in the group about this very thing. It is amazing how much different these trails looked when you stopped to enjoy them. The wild flowers and blue bonnets that riddled the ranch, the wildlife, the beautiful rock formations, and even the cactus. When you stop to take it all in, it is like you are running someplace for the first time. This is exactly how I wanted to spent my weekend; Sharing that experience with friends.
So while this weekend was about giving others a chance to try out some amazing products on the trails it actually did so much more! For me, this weekend was about finding something on the trails. This weekend gave me a chance to really enjoy the trails, spend some time with some amazing people, and enjoy life.
Once I stopped to love the trails, this is what I really found…
This was going to be my last big group outing until September when I make an appearance at Franklin Mountains 50k. In a few weeks I will be headed across the pond for four months. I will miss you all!
This turned out to be such a great event! Next year it will be a “Product Fat Ass”
Here are the amazing sponsors that made this event possible. Be sure to visit their site and show your support!
- Orange Mud
- Tailwind Nutrition
- Epic Bars
- Bearded Brothers
- Austin Trail Running Company
- Altra Running
- Ragnar Trail Relays
- Trail Racing Over Texas
At the end of the weekend it all came down to friends, family, and the trail community!
As with all of my races, there is a race report tail that goes along with them. While this race was far from what I expected and prepared for, it is the race report that allows me to grow, identify areas for improvement, and identify collect lessons-learned (which there are many).
Before I get into the details, I will sum it up with a simple acronym. DNF
This race took place in Pennsylvania just 12mi from where I grew up. While the elevation in Pennsylvania is greater than what I am accustomed to, and the course had more climbing than I was accustomed to, I was well trained, well prepared, and had a race plan that was going to get me to a sub-7 finish.
To put it simply, I have been a pain here in Pennsylvania. Even while we are here on vacation I was still adamant on what I was going to eat the week leading up to the race ensured I was well hydrated and adequate amount of fat to support the race plan. I did everything possible to set the stage for what I was hoping was going to be a perfect race, except for one thing; I did not account for any type of contingencies that may have transpired during my race.
Over the last 4-hours I have gone over every detail of the race seeing if there is something I could have done differently to change the outcome and there is honestly no point. Everything that I did prior to this race was done for a reason and what I planned on doing. There is absolutely no room for any type of “what-ifs” to be considered. I simply need to take what happened and move forward. My coach said to me “You are allowed to be mad, sad etc for about 5 minutes. Go….” Well 4-hours later I am now ready to go!
Shoes – SKORA Tempos
Hydration Pack – Orange Mud Hand Held / Gear Quiver
Drop Bag – Victory Sport Design Bear II
Socks – Injini Trail
With the race being only 12mi away, there was very little prepping that needed to be done outside of the norm. #FlatJohn had been prepared the day prior, my single drop-bag was prepped and packed, and the coffee pot was ready to make my coffee.
I even had Elizabeth mark my aid stations on my arm so I know when to prepare for the aid stations! The only thing left was dinner and sleep. Dinner was pretty simple. We had pasta for dinner and salad. This isn’t unusual and nothing that I haven’t done in the past. Honestly I don’t really plan anything for dinner. I just avoid fiber and grease to ensure that I have a happy stomach on race day. Here is where the first “difference” comes. Before every long run/race I have a gluten-free beer (Angry Orchard) the night before my race. Unfortunately there was no Angry Orchard available so I had Wood Chuck instead. While made with apples, this one wasn’t gluten-free. Personally I don’t think this had any bearing on race day, but it was still outside of the norm.
I woke up at 4:30am to begin my preparations. TYPICALLY my race day preparations include coffee, Chobani yogurt, and a Banana. Since I was treating this race much different than past races I thought it would be wise to get some more calories prior to the race. Instead of the yogurt and banana I stopped at Dunkin Donuts on the way to the race and had a bagel with cream-cheese (2-hours prior to the race). This is where I am going to get the “tsk tsk” from people! 😉 I have never gone into a race with a bagel and cream cheese and today should not have been the day to start. Much like the beer, I don’t know if this caused an issue, but it was still different.
I arrived at the race around 6am to patiently wait for the 7am packet pick-up and enjoy the rest of my coffee before the race. This is mainly for people watching and talking to people. I talked to some of other runners, actually met some that we share mutual friends with, met another SKORA and Orange Mud Ambassadors; I did what I do and had fun! The race actually didn’t start until 8am so I had plenty of time to allow for my bagel and cream-cheese to get into the system, drank my final bottle of water, and patiently wait. About 15min before the start I went over my race plan one last time, looked at the course profile so I knew where the climbs were, and did a final gear check. I was ready; the gear was ready; my race was READY!
After yet another visit to the porta-me (this is very common for me before races) I made my way to the start line. I didn’t line up where I typically do (towards the back), I was on the line with the lead pack! Yelling over the German music that was playing I heard the RD make the final countdown; 5…4…3…2…GO!
The first 1/4mi of the course was actually on the road before entering the trails. I wanted to remain in top 10 hitting the trails and I did just that. I was able to secure a position that I want and from that point fell into MY pace that I was ready to hold throughout the race. My goal was to keep my HR in check through the climbs and to avoid chasing any rabbits. My fueling and hydration were spot on. Every 1mi I took in a big drink and every 20min I took a SMALL piece of protein (Epic Bar). This is the approach that I have been using on my fueling runs and it had worked perfect in training. Here is where another slight difference came; I had been training with an uncured bacon Epic bar. For this race I was using Beef. I didn’t think it would matter; Epic is Epic, but… who knows.
The Aid Stations where staged 3 – 3.5mi apart. My plan had me skipping every other age station which had me stopping every 6.5mi, which is also how I trained on my fueling runs. This part actually made me REAL happy. I came trucking through the first aid station, tossed up a wave, and thanked the volunteers as I pushed my way through. In order to hit my race plan, stopping to talk was not an option! The miles started ticking away and before long I was at 6.3mi and it was time to prepare for the aid station. My goal here was to be in and out of every aid station within 10-20sec. I drank the remainder of my Tailwind (which was only 1-2 mouth-fulls based on my fueling strategy) and grabbed another Tailwind pack from my Orange Mud Gear Quiver. When I rolled into the Aid Station the cap was already off my hand-held, Tailwind was already added to the bottle, and I was ready for water. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! I hit the water and was back on the trail in under 10 sec! This had to be the most efficient aid station EVER and my next 2 were mirrors of this process!
More and more miles started ticking off as I went into the largest climbs of the course. After the 6.5mi aid station I went after the 4 largest hills of the course which were all back-to-back. Mile 10 was the only mile split that I was off on as this segment had the “ski slope”. All of the other splits remained exactly where I wanted them. After the 13.5mi aid station the next stop was going to be the start/finish line to do it all again! This section of the course had the least amount of climbing and was smooth sailing. I played hop-scotch with a fellow runner through this section.
Along the way I noticed something… I was CHAFING! How is that possible? I ALWAYS use something to prevent that… Well it was “always” until that morning. I never used anything while getting ready that morning… OOPS!
Shortly after mile 16 things started going south. I was getting real sharp pains in my stomach and something wasn’t right. It wasn’t “cramping” but there were sharp pains and I was getting spasms every few minutes. Soon I found myself on the side of the trail leaning against a tree. Something has made my body unhappy. I have read numerous blogs from runners and the commonality was “I threw up and after that I was back on track!”. I kept going over that in my head and began pressing. That didn’t term out to be the case. Not even a mile later and I found myself holding onto another tree for another bout. The more I pressed the more off my body felt. Now I was having strange sharp pains going through my back, legs, and arms that I can only attribute to the lack of fuel and fluids in my body. My goal at this point was to get to the start/finish so I could get back on track. I rolled into the aid station, checked in on my Spot3, and began to triage! I grabbed a fresh bottle of Tailwind, drank some water, grabbed some solid food from the Aid Station, and grabbed a cup of ginger ale. I needed to do something to get something back in my body and try and keep my body at bay. I didn’t even make it out of the aid station before I got sick again and off I went. CRAP! I still forgot about the chaffing and turned around to get that taken care of. By this point I wasted 4min at the aid station and was getting annoyed with myself. To the trails! By this point I had lost my 8th place OA and had no idea how far I dropped and wasn’t overly concerned. I was new plan was to save something.
My efforts at getting my body under control were not working. I continued to have sharp pains throughout my body and emptied my stomach yet again. There was now nothing left in my stomach as it burnt coming up. I came back around to the 23.4mi aid station (3.5mi) and waved at the volunteers yet again and kept going. I was determined to try and maintain some resemblance of my plan. The more I pushed through the more I knew something wasn’t right. I wasn’t fatigued and physically felt great, but I kept getting sharp pains in my stomach, back, legs, and arms. I suppose the only advantage was my stomach was empty and the nausea turned into dry-heaves on the side of the trail.
When I arrived at the 26.5mi aid station I needed to make a decision. I had not been able to keep anything down for the last 10 miles and that was not going to go well for my body. After this aid station I was about to go back into the big climbing section of the course and I was concerned that the lack of fluids and fuel was going to end poorly for me. This is when I made a call that weighed on me for 4-hours after the race. I had to drop from this race. Luckily I came across an amazing bearded guy that proved to be my running savior who introduced himself as Leon. I knew his face but wasn’t thinking clearly at the moment. It wasn’t until I sat in my car did it click that I was just taken back to the start line by Leon Lutz and his epic beard! Thank you Leon!
I sat in my car after being dropped off and didn’t know what to think. I had a wave of emotions going through me. I was mad, sad, happy, PISSED, concerned, etc. I didn’t want to talk to anyone and was even afraid to message Elizabeth to tell her what happened. I know no-one would have thought differently of me but I felt like I let people down and didn’t know how to accept that. I even took me awhile to tell my closest friend and coach.
Now that I have had a chance to think about this there is no single thing that I did wrong, but there were several things that I did differently that may have contributed to the outcome. Elevation difference, cold, different food prior to the race, different beer the night before… There simply don’t have an answer but I know what to look for in the future.
With everything there is a silver lining. I was on track to have the best race of my life and I still walked away with a 30k and Marathon PR on the trails with over 2200′ of climbing. That is something that I can be proud of.
With that… My 5min is over!
Thank you to @Vets2Victory @Epicbars @Trailtoes @OrangeMud @GoTailwindNutrition @SKORARunning @VictorySportDesign @TrailRacingOverTexas and @Injinji You were all spot on when it came to taking care of me! Next I need to work on me! 🙂
This was an absolutely great learning experience for me and will not set me back. This is a stepping stone to something greater!
So proud of my runner this weekend! Despite the DNF, we really had a great weekend! How do you top it off? She has been sucked in to pace me at Brazos Bend 100 in December! 😀
As I sit here trying to decide how I feel exactly, this Latin phrase rings through my head in a chorus of simple four letter words. I came, I saw, I conquered or in this case WE came, WE saw and WE conquered.
Rocky Raccoon 100 did not transpire the way it was planned. SURPRISE! You can make all the plans in the world but when it comes time for execution of those plans you have to be ready for the inevitability that you cannot control everything. Really? Have you heard the phrase, the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray? (Robert Burns) Well, this past weekend was a perfect example of this.
Now you may be wondering how in the world can I say that we came, we saw and we conquered IF things did not go as they were planned. I’m going to tell you!…
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For years I have looked at Veteran’s Affairs’ (VA) evaluation of being disabled as something negative almost to the point that I was embarrassed for people to know that I was considered disabled. There is a list of ailments that the VA identified that makes me disabled. Things such as degenerative arthritis, breathing disorders, to the numerous list of damaged joints that resulted in my time in the Army as an Infantryman. That list is actually extremely MILD compared to many of my brothers and sisters but the purpose of this blog still remains the same. Being categorized as a disabled veteran does not mean that life has to stop; More importantly, it doesn’t mean that your physical activities have to stop. It is just an opportunity for you to overcome those challenges and learn how to move forward despite those injuries (both physical and mental).
Since retiring nearly 10 years ago, much of my “disabilities” were tucked into the back of my head as I looked for ways to continue moving forward despite doctors telling me that the days of running were over.
From my time in the Army I amassed several broken ankles, dislocated joints, torn tendons, muscles, and ligaments. Mostly this could be attributed to me being accident prone, but the fact still remains; the injuries still stacked up within this now older body. Now, 23 years after joining the Army, all of those small injuries have been compounded and I am finally willing to accept that I may not be in the same “physical” shape that I once was, but that still doesn’t mean I have to stop!
A few years after I retired I had reconstructive surgery on one of my ankles in an attempt to reverse all of the damage that had been caused from the fractures and repeated injuries. Agreeing to the surgery was actually a difficult decision for me. If you are not familiar with, many of you have heard the rumors of military doctors and surgery. You know, if you go in to have surgery on your left knee there is a slight possibility that you might have surgery on your right wrist instead. That or you will leave surgery with less mobility than you original had. This has always been the running joke (except for those that may have actually experienced the negative effects of the surgery).
Prior to my surgery I ran about 5-10miles per week (if that). It was mainly to attempt to do something physical. By no stretch of the imagination would I have considered myself a runner! I had never been in a race and the extent of my running was PT while I was in the Army. The day of my surgery, the doctor told me “after this, you will likely not run again”. While never considering myself a runner or even having the slightest idea of running, I was not happy with this statement at all! In fact, I was so unhappy with this prognosis from the surgeon that the day I came out of surgery I not only registered for my first race, but it was also a half-marathon. This was not only going to be my longest run ever, it was about 11 miles longer than anything I ever would have voluntarily run at a single time!!
While I don’t think I had something to prove, nor was I being ornery, I simply wanted to be the director of my own destiny. “Disabled” or not, it was absolutely not something I was going to let control my life. The 4-months following my physical therapy I began running. Following the physical therapy, it was like learning to run all over again. While the pain was actually gone, the joint just didn’t seem to move like it once had. Over time I learned how to run on my ankle and was slowly able to go further and further. Even the people I run with likely couldn’t tell which ankle I had surgery on.
February 12th was when the prognosis was officially changed. I toed the line of the Austin Half Marathon and thus begun a new part of my life. I finished my very first half marathon in 2:08. For me this wasn’t about how fast I could run or where I finished within the pack, this was more about taking control over my own destiny and overcoming that which I was told I could not do!
Since that day I have run countless half marathons, many marathons, and even went beyond that to run about a dozen ultra marathons, my latest of which was Bandera 100k. Me being stubborn back in 2012 actually set the stage for what would transition into a late life running adventure. For the last year I have averaged over 50 miles per week (mpw) running and have begun to put more emphasis on how to overcome those “disabilities”.
While I wake-up everyday in pain and even simple tasks like standing up can be painful, I have actually found a considerable amount of pain management through running. As odd as it sounds, the degenerative arthritis in my lower extremities actually feels better WHILE running!
Recently I have been introduced to a remarkable program called Vets 2 Victory (@vets2victory) that takes disabled vets and provides them with a structured coaching program. This program not only exposes those many disabled veterans to a coaching program, which they may never have pursued on their own, but it also builds confidence in themselves, increases their motivation, and serves as a daily reminder to them that being a disabled veteran is not something that has to be a “disability” on life.
For many years I was embarrassed to be considered a “disabled veteran”. It wasn’t something that I announced or talked about. I just went on my life as a Retired Infantryman and that was the end of it. Oddly enough I didn’t even talk of being retired very often for some reason. Much of that is purely mental. I refuse to consider myself old and when you hear “retired” it just carries (in my head) a negative connotation that someone is old. Everyone knows I am still 22 years old anyway 😉 Clearly I can’t be considered old and retired!
Each and every disabled veteran holds something inside of them and carries something with them everyday. They carry with them experiences, memories, and in many cases pain. 20,000 men and women were wounded during service in Iraq and Afghanistan alone, which drove an increase in the numbers of disabled veterans. Many of those disabled veterans don’t wear their disabilities on their sleeves or even share with you their stores. That does not change who they are in the slightest. I have also heard people criticize those people with “DV Plates”, especially when they don’t “appear” to be disabled.
What you see on the outside very well may have nothing to do with how they feel on the inside nor the circumstances that surround what each of them went through.
I have had the honor of working with amazing men and women over the years that have been paralyzed, lost limbs as a result of a tragic incident, or even suffer from PTSD or other mental challenges. What sets many of them apart from others is resilience and their ability and desire to overcome their challenges.
While I do not represent each and every one of our men and women who are disabled veterans, I would like to exist as a reminder that being disabled does not have to be the end. While they very well may not perform things the same way they once could, this may just be an opportunity to experience something new that may end up changing your life!
Being a disabled veteran doesn’t mean you have to stop, it means that you are being given a second opportunity to go!