The Grinch that Stole the Lead!
The period of time surrounding Brazos Bend 100 was so surreal that it required yet another blog post. Like many of my posts, this is raw, unedited, and just FUN!
This is an unusual “race report” simply because I wasn’t running! My entire plan for BB100 was to volunteer for the setup, prep, and the race itself. Since I was going to be running an Aid Station again for this race, I couldn’t possibly do it without having FUN! Rob’s forecast called for 100% fun so it was only fitting right?
While out in El Paso working at the Franklin Mountains Trail Race I was told what the theme of the race would be and what the shirt would be. I knew INSTANTLY what my costume was going to be…I was going to be The Grinch! The Grinch is actually a very fitting costume for me for several reasons. 1) I may come across a bit harsh at times 2) Like the Grinch at the end of the movie, I will bend over backwards for people, and 3) This is probably the most important! I had the chance to use LIME GREEN makeup! I have a thing about lime green so this was just the icing on the cake!
I was getting more and more excited the closer we came to the race. After completing Jackalope Jam, my wife and I actually bought a camper. This race was going to be the first time pulling the camper out!! Couple the new camper outing in addition to the race itself.. There was a lot of anxiety building up!
Let’s talk about this camper a bit. After we bought the camper, my wife went through and began making it a home and making sure it had EVERYTHING we needed. We had cleaning supplies, trashcans, coffee, toaster, first aid kit… We had EVERYTHING! Even though she wasn’t with me, she made this trip flawless with all of her preparations! I cannot wait to go on a trip together with her!
I pulled into the park late Thursday afternoon and quickly jumped in with Rob and James; It was now time to start working! We worked pretty quickly and got all of the aid station tents set up (except for one). We wrapped up well before sunset which gave me the chance to head into town (not exactly close; I ended up driving 20mi to get some dinner) as well as get out with the alligators for a little bit. I must say, Brazos Bend State Park is DARK, DARK, DARK at night! I was literally the only one around the pavilion Thursday night so there was no noise, no light… just me, my camper, and my generator!
Friday morning we were going to start working “bright and early”. In typical fashion, before we started the day, I needed to get in a run. Since I didn’t have much time to run and shower before we started working I just ran the first 5mi of the course around 40-acres lake, Elms lake, and back to the start line. Let me tell you something that I learned about Brazos Bend State Park in the early morning hours. So I absolutely LOVE running at night. There is something about the stillness and solitude that I really connect with. Well at 5:30 in the morning, there is no solitude in that park! As I was running towards 40-Acre lake I realized that on both sides of the trailI was being watched! I was looking all over the water and edge of the trails in hopes of finding an alligator (secretly I wanted a selfie from a distance!). While I didn’t see any gators, what I did come across was the splashing of gators in the water feeding in the morning. While having a love for the night; this was VERY unsettling! I couldn’t see them, but I heard them and that was enough for me to run a bit faster! It was so fun and exciting…I almost wish I was going to be toeing the line Saturday morning! That was only short lived… I have been patiently waiting for this race to get here…I had other plans in store for the world!
After my run I returned to the camper, took a shower in my shiny new camper, and sat outside enjoying my “special” coffee.
While waiting for everyone to show up, I began hanging all of the Christmas decorations at the Aid Station with one of the volunteers. All of the Christmas lights were up and working and the snow man took his spot on the corner of the tent! We were FESTIVE!
Around 9am the crew began showing up and that meant it was time to get busy! The Uhaul pulled up and that only meant one thing; It was time to get unloaded and get cracking. While there was a lot of work to do, we all worked really well together and had the UHaul unloaded and semi-organized pretty quick. All of the volunteers that were out there were awesome! No-one asked questions, no one BSd…We simply did what needed to get done! Once we had the truck unloaded, we began sifting through the food and distributing everything across the 4 aid stations. This is where I think I had somewhat of an advantage. Being that I was the main aid station, we just had to drag all of my food and boxes a few hundred feet. Once we finished the aid stations we quickly jumped over to the start line to get all of the electronics set up. Next thing you know, we were done with the day’s prep and getting ready for Santa Claus to conduct the race briefing!
I must say, Rob really does put a lot of heart into his briefings. It was informative and FUN! How could it not be fun! He was Santa Claus!
The rest of the evening I spent getting my aid station organized, filling my water jugs, and walking around chatting with everyone! This is one of the many things I love about trail running. The community is absolutely awesome and this race was no exception! I even got to spent some time talking with Marc at the Orange Mud tent (and even tried pitching products on people!). After making my rounds, it was finally time to head back to the camper. I had to wake up at 3:30am if I was going to make a timely appearance at race start!
The moment of truth had come… My alarm went off at 3:30am and it was time to get started. I kicked on the generator (sorry everyone) and made some coffee. I WAS only going to make a few cups of coffee, but I came across several people that had inquired about coffee so I made 2 big pots of coffee and put them in the thermos for those that wanted to get some coffee prior to their race. Once the coffee was made, there was only one thing left to do… BECOME THE GRINCH!
I had gone through a practice exercise putting on the makeup a week prior to the race. This was going to be my first attempt at makeup so admittedly I was a bit nervous. Truth be told (ok… a lot of people know this) I am a it of a perfectionist. I didn’t want this costume to be ok… I wanted this costume to be perfect! I opened up the youtube video and began going through the steps to transform myself into The Grinch! After all was said and done, it took about an hour to apply the makeup. While I think there are things that I could have done differently, I was really pleased with how it came out and couldn’t wait to walk out of the camper and assume my position at the main aid station…
Many of you have worked aid stations, run through aid stations, or watched aid stations. I had the absolute BEST volunteers at the aid station with me and can only hope I get the pleasure of working with them again! As each race distance started, I moved over to the start line to help Rob wrangle the runners and get our athletes ready to hit the trails. I actually had A LOT of fun doing this! Once we kicked out the 100mi and 50mi runners the real fun started. I actually led out the runners for both the 13.1 and 26.2 races. So there was a period of about 100′ that I can say I was ahead of some AWESOME runners!! (Sorry Jeff lol)
Once all of the racers took off, it was time for us to get busy at the aid station. For the rest of the day I worked with the rest of the volunteers to make sure all of our runners were taken care of. Filling bottles and bladders, making sure everyone had the calories they needed, proving basic first aid and Trail Toes to runners as needed, and even taking breaks to take pictures with runners and kids in the area that wanted their picture with The Grinch.
While I have worked Aid Stations in the past, this was one of the most rewarding experiences I have had at a race! Around 4:30pm came around it was time for me to put on my chef hat! We were getting the Aid Station ready to provide hot food for the runners as we went into the night. We were cooking ramen, mashed potatoes, and grilling quesadillas. One of our volunteers actually educated me on the art of potatoes and ramen. He was combining these! I had never heard of or tried this before but it seemed to be a HIT with the runners! I was having such an awesome time helping runners. I don’t think it could have gotten any better! I was wrong…
I guess around 7pm or so I was approached by a woman. For the life of me I can’t recall her name so I will just call her Cat’s mom! She came up to the aid station and was really concerned about her daughter Cat that was out running her first 100mi. Her mom said she didn’t have any pacers, was in a bad spot, and needed help. I was responsible for running the aid station so I couldn’t simply drop everything. One of the other awesome volunteers Lisa said that she would stay at the Aid Station if I wanted to go assist this runner. I went and talked to Rob and next thing I knew I was getting changed out of my costume and was getting ready to go pace this complete stranger. In typical fashion, I hadn’t been staying on top of my own hydration while working the aid station so I began getting rehydrated, mixed up my handheld of Tailwind, stuffed some Tailwind sample packs in my pocket to refuel on the course, and waited to hit the trails. Since I had been using my PETZL NAO headlamp I had to put it on the charger and hope to get enough charge to make it through the entire loop (good luck with that). I was in such a great mood. I just hoped that Cat was ready to deal with me once we got on the trails! I knew she was in a bad place so one of two things was going to happen. Either I was going to get her out of that low or I was going to be pushed in the mud!
Cat finally materialized and it was time to hit the trails. We left the aid station and headed into the night.
And what happened then? Well, in Brazos Bend they say
That the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day!
And then the true meaning of Christmas came through,
And the Grinch found the strength of ten Grinches, plus two!
And now that his heart didn’t feel quite so tight,
He whizzed with his racer towards the bright morning light. ~Myke Hermsmeyer
I have had so much coffee in me, I ended up talking A LOT! We talked about anything and everything I could think of. I wanted to make sure that her focus stayed on anything but the race to give the evils a chance to leave. We talked about my work, her work, running, triathlons, my family and wifey, dogs.. everything… Less than 4mi into our loop that is when it happened… The mud was VERY VERY slippery from the sporadic rain throughout the day. I was wearing my SKORA so I didn’t have the best mud traction so I slipped with practically every step. That is when it happened. My feet came out from under me and I landed flat on my back in the middle of the mud. I honestly wish I had my camera out… it would have been a rather entertaining picture! Luckily this happened not long before the 40 Acre Aid Station. Once we made it into the Aid Station, Cat hit up her drop box and I went into the bathroom to try and remove some of the mud from my hands and water bottle. Once my hands were clean, I was ready to go. Before long we hit the trails again and we were off on our journey. Now that we made it through the first section of the course we were going to have a lot of runnable section until we approached the backside and approached the other aid stations. I was really impressed with the pace that Cat was running. After 4 loops she still had a lot of strength, was in a great mode, and was moving along GREAT! It was around this point that I think she finally began getting sick of me (I know if I was her, I would have gotten sick of me long ago). She ended up putting her headphones in and we moved out in silence. While she didn’t say it, I am pretty sure she just didn’t want to hear me anymore and that is perfectly fine! I was there to help her any way I possibly could. If that meant I stopped talking and simply provided silent company then so be it!
Throughout our loop we came across another runner that was sitting on the side of the trail in bad shape. I actually had Cat go on ahead while I talked to this runner. She was also in a bad spot and didn’t believe she was going to be able to finish. I did my best to encourage her and try to get her to continue moving. I don’t know how successful I was, but I tried. Once it was said and done I headed back out on the trail chasing after Cat. Apparently I stopped to talk to this other runner longer than I thought. I ended up having to run run sub 7min/mi to catch up!
The rest of our loop was on and off chatting. I actually had a lot of fun talking with Cat during those few hours and was honored to have the opportunity to pace her! In addition to pacing her, I also got to chat with all of the runners I knew out on the course! I really had A LOT of fun out there! After we cross through the Windmill Aid Station we came across another obstacle. My headlamp finally began to die. What’s worse, it died on the worst part of the trail where I actually NEEDED the light. From the Windmill Aid Station all the way to the Sawmill Aid Station I ended up relying on Cat’s headlamp and only turned my light on in case of an absolute emergency. Luckily this portion of the trail wasn’t very runnable by this point so it wasn’t that big of a deal. We rolled into Sawmill and I came across a savior. Julie was now there working her shift and she let me bower her headlamp! (THANKS JULIE!) We kept on pushing through and before we knew it, we were approaching the start line. As much as I wish I could have taken Cat out for her final loop, I really needed to get back to the Aid Station. I just hoped that I was able to lift her up enough to kill the next loop. Before long she was off into the darkness by herself. I promised her when she left that I would be at the finish line at the end of her race and I was going to make sure that is exactly where I was.
After pacing Cat, I jumped in the shower, cleaned off “The Grinch” and took a quick 2-hour nap. I came out of my brief nap to see that the world had unraveled while I was sleeping. There were tents blown all over, tents broken, and volunteers hanging onto tent poles to make sure they didn’t blow away.
Whatever happened, the focus had shifted to tent survival. For the next few hours, our job was simple… hold onto the tents so they don’t blow away. At 6:00am (about 2-hours later),we collapsed the main aid station under the pavilion and that marked an end to the aid station responsibilities.
At first light I quickly packed up the camper and patiently waited with the other volunteers for the rain to let up so we could begin packing up. Every runner that came in I looked to see if it was Cat. It was windy, raining, and cold! Around 7:30am the cold front blew through and it felt like the temperature dropped 30 degrees.. it got COLD and it got cold QUICK!
Throughout this entire ordeal I was able to witness a remarkably resilient woman. Cat’s mom, through the wind, rain, and cold stood or sat out in the rain watching the start line waiting for her daughter to finish her first 100mi race. She was such a remarkable woman for being there and supporting her daughter. She would make anyone proud! It really made me happy when her mom came to the pavilion to wait rather than waiting in the rain. Through the rain we finally saw a runner approaching the finish line. Both her mother and I were unsure if it was her until she got closer and we realized it WAS Cat! We both hurried to the finish line to great her as she crossed the line and finished her first 100mi race! All of the runners that were coming in were soaked and cold. One of the volunteers was nice enough to use his vehicle to warm up the runners as they came in. Cat’s race had come to an end and she retreated to the car to slowly warm up. While Rob was the one to award Cat with her 100mi buckle, I had the opportunity to give her the next best thing! Not only did Cat finish her 1st 100mi race, she was also the 3d Overall Female finisher for the race! I took her 3d place award to her in the car and congratulated her again. Giving Cat her award provided me with a sense of closure.
Having the opportunity to pace her that night really meant a lot to me. I had paced my best friend on the exact same course the year prior so being asked to pace someone again out there really meant a lot to me. Cat endured a lot during that race and overcame a lot of obstacles. While we didn’t know one another when I put my costume on that morning, I was honored to have made a friend that night at Brazos Bend 100.
There was such much that happened at this race there is no way for me to capture it all… From meeting some of the great TROT runners, working with and meeting many of the TROT ambassadors, and meeting such amazing athletes like Patrick Sweeney, Alex Ramsey, and Arnulfo Quimare!
This race would not have been possible had it not been for my wife Elizabeth. Like always, she made sure everything was perfect! The Grinch existed because of her. She did a fantastic job on the shirt! It came out better than I could have imagined! The camper was perfectly stocked with everything I needed (and those things I didn’t know I needed!). The only thing that was missing was her!
I hope you all enjoyed the post and had an amazing time at the race! Don’t worry..you will see me again (in costume) at another TROT race in the future!
My next adventure will take me to Bandera 100k (with the wife) where I will actually be racing for a change!
Thank you everyone for making this such a memorable event and to the amazing volunteers and runners that make each and every TROT race a success! A special thank you to Rob and Rachel for allowing me to be a part of this journey with you! The two of you have done such great things for our community…I am honored to be a part of it!