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
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…
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!
With that, before I delve into the race report, we need to talk about the rocks! While I was running, I kept thinking about this very thing that Monte had said during his 3 loops leading up to Bandera 100k and I believe I have figured it out!
I live in the country and my country looks kinda like the parking area at Bandera. There is not a manicured yard. There are random holes, tree roots, and ROCKS. Even with it not being a manicured lawn I still do have a responsibility to cut the grass; This is where it all goes wrong! While cutting the ground cover, if I come across a rock (they are always there regardless of how many times I remove them) I grab it, and toss it somewhere on the property where I don’t cut. After spending 13hr 52min on the trails at Hill Country State Natural Area I believe I have an explanation. There must be a secret portal somewhere on my property that drops all of those rocks out onto the trails. So for the love of all of the runners, EVERYONE, please stop throwing rocks away! They all mysteriously land on the trails at Bandera! If you are going to throw them into this mysterious portal, please paint them lime green first so I can see them better! 😀
While I have run a 100k prior, this was actually going to be my first 100k trail race. I have had my eye on Bandera 100k for several years now. The reasoning for that is rather odd, but I was REALLY looking forward to it. In all of the race reports that I have read over the years on Bandera as well as hearing the stories from friends, there was one thing that I wanted to “experience” and that was the sotol! I was looking forward to experiencing the small razor-like slashes on my legs. I wanted to see what it really felt like! Truth be told, it didn’t provide nearly the pain that I was hoping for. It was actually very mild. Even the shower afterwards was very tame compared to the stories I had heard.
I maintain a very consistent running regime and for the last year I ran 7-days per week for my running streak. Over the last year I was averaging about 60 miles per week. Going into this race I really felt good! I think a lot of that has to do with something new that has recently been incorporated into my training. Over the last 3 months my training was no longer just running; I have been working with a coach (Karen Kantor) that has had me working on very specific training. I have been working speed work (which I have NEVER done), hill repeats, focused long runs with speed work. I really think the training has paid off! in the short 3-months I actually set a PR on every distance from 5k to 100k (counting Bandera 100k of course!) My last 100k was at Jackalope Jam. This was a timed race on a FLAT pavement. My time was 15:59. When looking at the time for Bandera… I would say there was significant improvement!
Going into this race I had developed 3 goals ranging from sub-17 to obtain a WS100 qualifier and my goal time grew faster the closer we made it to Bandera. The training leading up to Bandera felt great and with each passing training run I believed I had a little more in me than my previous goals for Bandera. As we got closer to Bandera, I was going to shoot for a 13hr finish. This was going to be almost 3 hours faster than my last 100k (which was only 3 months prior) but I felt pretty good about hitting this!
This was actually a pretty exciting race for me on several fronts. First and foremost, Liz and I were going to be going down there with our new camper TOGETHER! She has been such an amazing support team for me. Without her I would not be running and having her there at the race with me was all that mattered. No matter what time I finished… She was there.
Second, I was going to feel pain from the sotol (don’t judge me), and lastly, I was READY! I have grown a lot with my coach and this was the most prepared I felt for any race. Just a few days before race day another bonus was added. I found out that Karen was actually going to be at the race too! Granted she was coming in to crew Michele Yates (who I finally got to meet!!), but Karen was still there! I say that now, but part of me was a bit nervous that I would see her at random aid stations and she would be disappointed in something I did or was doing. Never did that happen. 😀
My last bit of encouragement came for this race at my last long run. My last long run was 5x 10k intervals on a similar (or as close as can be) trail to Bandera. The purpose of this was to treat each aid station as its own race. My vehicle served as an aid station and I had individual drop bags made up to simulate 4 different aid stations (exactly like I would have at Bandera). In doing this I actually recorded my fastest 50k and felt GOOD! After that race, I knew Bandera was going to be “OK”.
My gear was spot on for this race! While Tailwind Nutrition was at the Aid Stations, I used my own (pre-mixed) bottles that had the calories that I was accustomed to. Each of my bottles has 250 calories where-as the aid stations were made at 200 calories. I wanted to run with what I trained with. On top of that I had my Orange Mud Gear Guiver and Orange Mud hand held to get me through the race. All of my gear was spot on and had absolutely no issues at all!!! I walked away with absolutely no blisters thanks to Injinji, Tailwind kept my fuel and hydration dialed in, and Orangemud made it all look badass and allow me to carry my Tailwind and Spot 3!
- Orange Mud Gear Quiver
- Orange Mud Handheld
- Tailwind Nutrition (Green Tea, Tropical Buzz, and Orange)
- Injini Trail Socks
- Spot Gen 3
The morning of Bandera 100k Liz and I drove down to the start line early so we could get down there before the bulk of the traffic from Bandera. Even with us staying at Crossroads Aid Station with the camper, there was still a lot of traffic getting to the start line!
We moseyed our way to the start line and started the morning meet and greet with everyone!
It was great seeing so many friends out there and amazing runners. Getting caught up with all of the “hellos” is actually what got me in trouble! Before I knew it they said “GO”. I quickly gave Liz a kiss, jumped into the crowd, and moved along at THEIR pace. It was at this instance that I made my biggest mistake of the race. The first 20 miles I put down the hammer and had an average pace of a 9:40 min/mi. While it was so much fun, I also hammered my legs way to soon on those rocks and hills. At mile 15, when I came into Cross Roads aid station for the first time my legs were already pretty pissed off at me and I was not overly happy. While I had a blast running with the fast(er) kids; I also didn’t follow the plan. It was this Aid Station that I would see Liz during the race. I turned the corner into the aid station and had a plan and it worked perfectly! As I came in I saw Liz sitting there waiting for me and also saw Karen who was out and about pacing people.
I came in, topped off my Orange Mud handheld, grabbed a potato, gave Liz a kiss, and headed towards the trail. I actually needed to let some other people leave ahead of me. Up to this point I have been glued to this pack and I needed to let them get ahead of me so I would have enough legs to carry me to the finish! lol
After I left crossroads I had a another short leg until I came back into Cross roads for the 2d time. This was to be a short stop as I wasn’t expecting support at this one. Liz was standing at the camper (which is conveniently located 10′ from the trail) so I snuck in a quick kiss, topped off my handheld with more Tailwind Nutrition, grabbed a potato, and back into the course. I must say it is this last 10 miles of the loop that I personally think are the worse. There are more climbs and more rocks and many more areas that the trail is not as runnable. That said, many people find this section to be runnable. It is this type of terrain that my crusty old ankles become unhappy. Rightly so as I ended up rolling my crusty ankle several times.
As I went through Last Chance aid station I was on my way back around to the Lodge to finish my first loop. Regardless of hammering my legs the first 20 miles, or rolling my ankle, I was having the absolute best time possible! I came into the lodge and needed to secure some gear for the last loop. I came into the aid station and saw Rob Goyen and Jeremy at the lodge! It was awesome to see these two guys. I loved that they were out there on the course supporting all of the #TROT family! Give my inability to run without rolling my ankle I needed to make sure I had my headlamp (just in case). I had my primary headlamp at Crossroads but I wanted to make sure I had one just in case I needed it! I secured my headlamp, Patagonia jacket, gloves, topped off my Tailwind and potato and I was set!
I spent less than 2 min at the lodge before I was back at it. I was feeling good despite my stupidity at the start of the race and kicking rocks. This last loop I needed to take a different approach. I hiked all of the hills and ran the flats and downs (as much as possible). I felt like I was moving along pretty well but this new strategy did put me behind on my planned times. I came into Crossroads about 30min behind schedule and when I arrived there was a note in my drop bag from my wifey to see if I needed anything. With the temperatures dropping she was bouncing in and out of the camper. I would have never thought to leave me a note! Needless to say, I didn’t have to leave her a note. As I was there she came out of the camper! This was actually my longest aid station stop. Right before coming into Cross roads there is a water crossing and my feet didn’t move nearly as fast so I did not displace enough water. As a result of that, when I came into Crossroads I needed to swap out the socks. Once I was done I kissed the wifey one more time and I was off! The temps for beginning to drop now and sitting there so long changing my socks I got cold. On the way through the aid station I grabbed a hot chocolate and set out down the trail! This segment between the 2 crossroads aid station is where you get to REALLY play with the sotol. This was going to be my last time taking in the pain so I made the best of it and deliberately ran through as much of it as I could! (again…don’t judge!).
Circling around I swung by the camper to give Liz and idea of when I would be at the finish line and found a Karen in the camper too! This wasn’t a social visit so said my peace, drank a bottle of water, topped off my tailwind and headed off into the now dark sky. From this point I had about 9 miles to go and was super excited. While I knew I wasn’t going to hit my personal goal, I was going to still do MUCH better than my initial 15hr goal. The last 9 miles actually ended up being more difficult than the first time. Not because of my body, but the rocks and night time. I have a real hard time seeing and running at night so I had to dial my pace back even further. Sections that were runnable I opened it up and was hitting a 9:00 – 9:30 min/mi. Unfortunately those sections didn’t last very long before I came across another climb or more stupid rocks that I had tossed through the portal!
Coming through Last Chance for the final time I began the last few climbs. The only thing that was going through my mind at this point was stopping by the food truck right after I finished and getting a cheese burger! I was HUNGRY!
I finally came through through the fence and into the field running towards the finish line. You could actually hear the cheers from the finish line about 2-miles out and the continued to grow louder and louder as I zig-zagged back and forth down the trails. I ran towards the finish line and with the blink of an eye… it was over. When the sun went down the temps dropped and I was so glad I didn’t see Liz out there. Being in the truck staying warm was a MUCH better place! I crossed the finish line and saw Rob and Jeremy there again. Just like their own races at Trail Racing Over Texas they stayed there at the finish line to support all of their #TROT family. You could not ask for two better guys and I am honored to call them friends.
I crossed the finish line and I didn’t grab for my buckle. The first thing I did was shook Rob and Jeremy’s hand and thanked them. Then I received my buckle.
While the buckle and experience are pretty amazing, the Mountain Hardwear Fleece is absolutely awesome! I LOVE IT! So much so that I wore it Sunday on the way home as we went walking around the San Marcus Outlets!
The strategy that Karen and I worked out for this race was great! The logic going in was that I was not running a 100k, I had individual races from Aid Station to Aid Station. The furtherest aid station was 5.8mi which was shorter than my long “interval” runs. I focused on the current race, made it to the next aid station, re-evaluated and was back into my next race. For Bandera this was a great strategy as each segment had something to be aware of and plan for accordingly. The strategy from Nachos to Chapas was not going to be the same thing as Crossroads 2 to Last Chance! I gained a TON of valuable insight into this race and my racing and can’t wait until next year!
That wraps up this adventure! I learned a lot of things at this race that I am going to take with me to my next one! With all of my races, I had FUN and that is what matters to me the most. Just look at my picture from the 1/2 way point! 😀 I had the chance to catch up with trail friends that I don’t get to see very often and had the chance to meet even more! That is the amazing thing about our trail community!
So what is next you ask?
Next I will be headed out to Rocky Raccoon 100 (with the camper again) to pace one of my dearest friends for her 2d 100 mile race! My next race will actually take me to Pennsylvania to run the Naked Bavarian 40mi on March 6th. Between now and then I want to focus on preparing for this race. The terrain is really tame, but for all intense purposes it will be self supported for me. The race consists of 2x 20 mile loops with a drop bag at the start/finish. I am looking for a 7:30 finish time at this race!
Unfortunately that may be my last race until Franklin Mountains Trail Run 50k in September. I will be headed across the pond in May and not retuning until the beginning of September.
You WILL see me at random Trail Racing Over Texas events between here and there though! Depending on the schedule I will make an appearance for a surprise run or head out and volunteer for Rob and Rachel!
I almost completely forgot to circle back around on something! I did qualify for Western States Endurance Run 100! That means December I will be at the mercy of the lottery to run WS100!
Until next time… #MilesAndSmiles