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!
Many of you know me rather well so I am going to preface this race report with something that will set the stage rather nicely…
I do some REALLY stupid things sometimes (ok… a lot) and had I listened to my amazing wife, this race report would have turned out significantly different.
I have put off writing this for several weeks because it isn’t really a race report as much as it is a lesson on pain, stupidity, and of course sunblock.
I came home from Afghanistan on leave to accomplish 3 things. Go on a cruise, do a race with my son, and sit around being lazy with my family. The good part, I did them all!
It all started on April 11th when we boarded the Carnival Triumph in Galveston, TX. Liz, my MIL, and I were going on a 5-day cruise to Mexico. This was the 2d time we had done this cruise and we couldn’t wait. Our first day at see (April 12th) I thought it would be a great idea to get some sun out on the deck for 30 min (yes…I laid on my back for ONLY 30 minutes) while Liz took a nap. After 30 min my alarm went off and I walked back down to the room to meet up with Liz to go galavanting around the ship before getting ready for the evening’s formal dinner. Looked in the mirror and realized that it didn’t look like I got any sun.
We went back to the room to shower and get ready for dinner and that is when things started going south. I got in the shower and felt the odd sensation of being burnt on my chest and stomach. What was odd was it wasn’t red… it just burnt.
All during dinner it started hurting more and more. So not to ruin my running streak, after dinner we went back to the room and I hit the treadmill for a short 2mi run. Not to keep it short, but because it hurt to run. I went back to the room, took a shower, and that is when I REALLY screwed up. Apparently blisters had formed while running and they broke open in the shower and peeled off in chunks… MASSIVE chunks. That night in bed was miserable. No matter how I moved it hurt. I couldn’t lay on my back because the sheets would touch me. If I laid on my side it pinched and hurt and laying on the stomach… that simply wasn’t happening at all. The blistered that had peeled off in the shower now exposed freshly burnt skin and began blistering.
The remainder of the cruise consisted in a lot of pain killers and finding the softest clothing I could wear that would allow me to move without being in a lot of pain. Oddly enough I found that sweating cooled me off and made it feel temporarily better. This was helpful in that it allowed the streak to continue! Come to find out that everything we had tried to do was only making it worse. We used solarcaine, neosporin, milk lotion ($74 lotion from the ship’s spa). Anything we could possibly find to relieve it we bought and used. The cruise was still amazing, but the painful part hadn’t gotten there yet.
Once we returned home I began living with my shirt off and wrapping myself in a wet towel. While this did absolutely nothing to help the “sun burn”, what it did do is make me feel relief for a little while. This is how we laid around during the day and how I slept at night. I even took a wet towel with us when we went somewhere so I could put it on in the car!
So where does this race come in? Well April 18th (1 week after getting burnt) Anthony and I had the Durty Spur 30k.
NOW we can get to the “race”!
Like all races, I prepared “Flat John” and made sure that I had everything I needed for the race. I kept asking myself how exactly i was going to do a 30k race report when it hurt to even move. Regardless…We were doing a race together and I was going to go toe the line!
The next morning we woke up and headed to the race. The race was only about an hour away so the ride wasn’t too bad (with my wet towel). We arrived, checked in, attached the bibs and timing chips, and patiently waited.
My plan when I registered for this race was to finish in 2:30. Based on what I had been running in Afghanifunland I was confident that I could have accomplished that goal. As we walked to the start line, I knew what the reality was. I would be lucky to finish. There were still blisters on my stomach, I was still bright red, and every time my shirt touched me it hurt. I had my drop bag with Sarah (AJ’s girly friend) so I could come back and grab a fresh bottle of Tailwind after each loop and there were bottles of water and a towel so I could cool off the burn if needed. This wasn’t going to be fun, but I was going to at least shoot for a finish!
(Have I mentioned yet that you should REALLY use sunblock out in the sun?)
There had been rain so the course was going to be muddy and wet. I was actually hoping for it to rain on this race; It may have made this a bit easier.
Before we knew it, we were off. Each step off of the line hurt. The vibrations up my body just happened to resonate perfectly with the blisters and the rubbing of my shirt. I expected this to subside as we ran and I became sweatier but that never happened. As a result, I held my shirt away from my body most of the time just to ease the pain a little bit.
My nutrition was spot on. Like always I took a drink of Tailwind Nutrition every 10 min and other than the burn I felt awesome. Several times on the first loop we somehow or another even started picking up the pace and logging 8:00 – 8:30 pace. About a mile from the end of the loop I was starting to get excited… In just a few minutes I could get a cool wet towel and get some temporary relief while we did the entire thing again (total of 3 loops) and grab a fresh bottle of Tailwind. One we approached the aid station that is when the run went from bearable to miserable. The course was not setup to loop through the start/finish and I wasn’t going to get my wet towel OR a fresh bottle of Tailwind. While we had only run 6mi so far… this was a pretty hard blow. The start/finish line was only about .25mi away. AJ ran off to get a refill but I could not. At that point, if I went back to the start/finish… it would have been my finish.
I took off back down the trail, through the water crossing, and out into the field for my second loop. I only had about 1/4 of my bottle of Tailwind left, had more blisters forming on my chest, legs, arms, and stomach… I just needed to keep moving. About halfway through the loop AJ caught up with me. I may have picked up the pace a bit when I got mad (ok…I did).
We looped back around at the end of the 2d loop and like before… I kept on running while AJ went back. He did offer to grab me something but I was still just annoyed and didn’t care.
The third loop ended up being pretty crappy. I had not had any Tailwind for the last 6 miles so I had to resort to the watered down gatorade that was at the AS. The third loop ended up being a combination of walking and running. It was getting warmer outside and the warmer it got, the more it burned.
Before long we rolled came to the end of the loop, back across the water, and crossed the finish line. This was one of the shortest races I had done in awhile and was also the worst race that I had done. Not that it was difficult physically, it was difficult mentally. Every step I wondered what the fastest way back to the jeep was so I could get a cold towel to make the pain go away. I was at a pretty low place.
Had it not been for Anthony, I never would have finished that race. He stayed with me the entire race and we crossed the line together (although I beat him my 1/100th of a second! lol. Running with him that day made me real proud and happy. I could not have asked for a better day to spend with him.
Oddly enough, AJ and I both walked away with an AG award. AJ finished 2d in his age group and I finished 3d with a time of 3:01. Looking back would I do it again? ABSOLUTELY! I had the best time that day with my son…
You are probably wondering what happened with the burn? Well I was scheduled to fly back to Afghanifunlan on April 27th. April 21st (now 10 days after getting burnt) I finally broke down and went to the doctor. I still had blisters all over my chest and stomach and if it didn’t go away, I was going to have the WORST 21 hours imaginable on an airplane…. When the doctor walked in we talked about Afghanifunland and the cruise and I told him I may have gotten a little sun on the ship if he could give me something to relieve the burn… When I showed him my chest and stomach his said “Oh my god, you have got to be in some serious pain… We need to take care of you!”
I walked out of the doctor that day with 5 tubes of steroids to treat the open second degree burns…
For everyone… Don’t do a 30k road race with open second degree burns… It is not a wise decision and ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS listen to your wife!!! Love you honey!!!
That was an awesome vacation! 😀
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! 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!