El Sendero 60k Race Report

I don’t “train” per se for a particular run…. I simply run for the enjoyment…the stress release…and the fun! (Yes… I said fun!).    That brings us to the El Sendero 60k Endurance Trail Race…

This was to be my very first Ultra….I didn’t follow a training plan…I didn’t seek out a certain number of miles per week… I simply ran with my running partners.  If they said they were running 20 miles… I would go run 20 miles.   No rhyme or reason.   I didn’t go into this race with a particular time goal… I just went into it for the experience and to finish…In fact; this race was my deciding factor of how much I enjoyed this and what would come next…  WATCH OUT WORLD!

With the race starting at 6am, the last thing I wanted to do was drive to Reveille Peak Ranch in Burnett, TX the morning of the race…  I would have been annoyed going into it.  Instead, my son and I as well as some of the other members from Team RWB setup camp the night prior!  This is where the adventure REALLY started!

We had recently gone through a bit of a cold front….the week leading up to the race, temperatures had been in the 20s…the air was cold…the ground was cold… EVERYTHING was cold.   The weekend for the race was the first sign of warmer weather coming..it broke into the 30s!      The night before the race, we had all setup our tents… made our preparations (sort of) for the race the following morning, started the fire, and just relaxed… I must say.. I LOVED IT!  Granted, it was a bit chilly, but it was comfortable and fun…  Soon that will change…

The next morning as you begin hearing all of our alarms going off…that changed….  The weather the day of the race was supposed to be in the 40s due to the cloud cover…. During the night..something changed… the skies cleared…the winds came in… and it was now COLD again.  This quickly turned into a COLD race… not only were the temps in the low 30s, but there was a 17-18mph wind rolling in.   That combination just prevents you from staying warm.  Prior to the race start, we all huddled around the fire under the pavilion to get one last feel for the fire before the start…. Before we knew it they were calling us all over for the race briefing!

As soon as the brief was over we quickly got together for our Team RWB Group Photo!   Mind you… I still haven’t gotten my things ready to run.  I was planning on running with my UD Jurek Essential and one UD Jurek handheld.   Right as we were finishing up our photo…we were down to seconds to run.  WHAAAAAT!   Ok… Off I went… I could not have been more unorganized that morning… At least I did mix my Tailwind in my handhelds… I just carried too many of them to start  🙂


Those aren’t smiles… that is teeth shattering cold!

Here is where the degenerative arthritis and reconstructive surgery come into play… the cold HURTS!   Ran the first 5 miles with one of our teammates Dan until I rolled my ankle (to those of you who know me… this is no big surprise)… This wasn’t a normal roll… I rolled my ankle and ate trail…  I actually caught myself before REALLY hurting it this time, but that was the point that I decided I would just take it easy and not break anything.   The next 7 miles of the loop I fell into my own little groove and just ran and picked these annoying pricky things out of my sleeves, shorts, buff, gloves… They were EVERYWHERE!   I felt really good finishing up the first 20k loop, but I needed to get organized again and get the gear that I was planning on using!


Coming in off of my first 20k loop

My son was there to crew me on each loop.  He has never been at a trail race and didn’t really know what to do… Little does he know how much he really helped… Right when I came in I dropped my bottles and gave him the Tailwind to restock me.   I dropped the headlamp, now that it was light, traded out buffs, put on my UD Jurek Essential packed with Tailwind and First Aid kit, grabbed my topped off handheld… and off I went!!!

Going into the second loop is when the wind really started picking up on the course…  There was no controlling the temperature here… I was just cold…  My ankles were hurting, not from rolling them, but just from the cold.   For the remainder of the loop I comfortably found myself doing an easy run/walk cycle… run downhill and the flats…hike the hills.   I wasn’t getting tired… just fell good.. and COLD!

That was until about 1/2 way through the 2d loop… As I was hitting the Epic trail, the wind picked up and every bit of me started hating the race.  I picked up the pace to try and gain more heat…nothing…I moved as quick as could to get down off of the hilltop and back into the valley to hide from some of the wind.  Every time the wind blew, I questioned why I was out there and if I really needed to do a 3d loop.

By the time I came in on my third loop, this thought had already cleared my head.  Once again I had AJ top off my bottle… I checked my Tailwind supply in m Jurek Essential…and I was off.  At this point, I was at 5:30 hours.   My goal on this last loop was 3 hours.  I know I have slowed down, but my body felt really good (other than the unhappy ankles).  I was not feeling any fatigue…nutrition was spot on… I was good!

The third loop came and went without a single hiccup.  I hit the big aid station about 1/2 way through the loop… watched some football… topped off my Tailwind…and headed off.   I found that I enjoyed the last lap the most.  Not that it was a better lap… It just felt good…  I still can’t explain why it was so good… it just was.

As I passed the final aid station, I knew that I only had 1 1/2mi to go until the Pavilion and the finish line of my first Ultra.   I have to tell you, there was something about that last 1.5mi that I just hated.  It wasn’t just this, my final loop.  I hated it on each and every loop!

All of my “first” races prior to this were very exciting for me when I approached the finish.  I was accomplish a new goal.   Ever since my surgery and the doctor telling me I would not be running again, I took such GREAT pride in seeing the finish line on all of those “first” races.  I had once again proved modern medicine wrong!   In addition to that, at every one of those finishes, I saw my wife…This time was different.  While I was completing a “first”, it seemed so very insignificant.  This time when I crossed the finish line, my wife was not there to witness this new feat with me. While it was great to have my son there… It just wasn’t the same without Liz.

After crossing the line, I gave up my timing chip, dropped my gear, and heard Alex running up the ramp from the pavilion  ”Ultramarathoner!!!!  How does it feel!”    For a second, that happiness of finishing something new was there… I was.. I finished my first Ultra!!!   Alex has been a real big help with my running.  I knew that I would not be standing there today, finishing my first 60k, had it not been for him.


Team RWB at the finish line

I learned a lot about this race.  I learned what works for me… I learned what I need to change… and I know what not to try again..

Nutrition:  My entire 60k was 99% Tailwind.  Only reason I say 99% is because on my second lap, the Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich looked real good while watching football! :D   I experienced absolutely no issues with my stomach… The Tailwind performed PERFECTLY!  It will continue to be my source of fuel going into my next training and races!

Gear:  While they say not to change things up… I did do something new on this race:

  • Shoes:   New Balance MT1210
  • Hydration:  Ultimate Direction Jurek Grips
  • Extra: Jurek Essential w/Tailwind pouches and First Aid Kit

The hydration and Jurek Essential was new for this race.  Up to this point I had always used my SJ Ultra Vest.   The essential was perfect.   I was able to carry all of the Tailwind I needed, in little plastic baggies, for the entire race as well as my first aid kit.   Not only was the storage capacity great for this race, but I couldn’t even tell I was wearing it.   I have always hated waste packs… This is by far the exception.   It didn’t drop, it didn’t ride up… It just sat perfectly and comfortable!      The same is also to be said for the Jurek Grips.   I loved the minimalist approach to the grips.  This will be my standard kit going forward!

Training:   I have learned something very valuable… While I can get through the race… I want to be better at the race.   With the completion of this 60k, I am going to begin something that I have never done before… I am actually going to follow a training plan to prepare for and train for a 50mi in the spring.   Had this race been a 50mi, I am confident that the way I felt I could have completed another 20k loop.   In the spring, I don’t want to just finish.. I want to do better!  The minimal standard has been set.  Now I move forward!

Posted on December 28, 2013, in Race Reports, Trail Banter and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. John that’s so awesome! I loved that title Ultramarathoner! I remember earning mine at midnight a year back, I just had completed a second 15.5mi loop and I couldn’t stop smiling. Can’t wait for the summer and all the camping trips, hopefully the baby (more like is momma) is ok with going outside. You looked really good coming in and the several times I saw you. Dan really crushed us both, good thing I’m faster than him at a few things, even though he’s probably twice my age. Going to be a fun summer running with everyone from Ft. Hood.

  2. DUDE! You write just like you talk!! What a hoot you are!! I look forward to watching your progress and maybe sharing in some of the madness and mayhem that is Team RWB trail running!!

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