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That Mountain Race really “BLEW”!

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!

Flat John is ready!

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!

Maggie helping me up Aztec!

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!

Reaching the summit of the North Peak

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/

Goodr!

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!

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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!

Fellow OM Am-badass-adaor!

 

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!

The end of the gnome!

 

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…

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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…

#Ultragnome

Naked Bavarian (un)Race Report

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!

Gear

Shoes – SKORA Tempos

Hydration Pack – Orange Mud Hand Held / Gear Quiver

Drop Bag – Victory Sport Design Bear II

Socks – Injini Trail

Headgear – Orange Mud Buff / TROT Trucker

Prep Day

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.

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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.

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Race Day! 

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.

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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!

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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!

 

Bandera (Rockfest) 100k

Steven Monte said it best…”This is where rocks come to die”

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!

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Photo Credit – Steven Monte (Twitter: @CajunScoopMonte)

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.

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Our camper at Crossroads Aid Station

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”.

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Liz and I at packet pickup! Photo Credit: JoAnna Brand

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!

Gear

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What would a race be without Flat John!

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.

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Coming into Crossroads (1st time) after my fun little hammer fest! Photo Credit: Elizabeth Stasulli

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!

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Mile 31 at the Lodge Aid Station.  Photo Credit: Trail Racing Over Texas for personal use only.

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.

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Mission Accomplished

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!

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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

Burning Hot Durty Spur 30k Race Report! ;)

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!

Flat John!

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.

Arrived at Circle K Ranch!

Arrived at Circle K Ranch!

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.

The finish...

The finish…

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…

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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! 😀

The Army Marathon – Afghanistan “Race” Report

Last year when I registered to run #TAM-III (The day after TAM-II) I knew that I would not be running it.   Like last year’s marathon I was expecting to volunteer again this year.  Even going in with the expectation of volunteering for the event, I still registered to show my support for the event, the community, and the Race Director.  I would simply go out after the fact and “earn my bib” like I did last year.     During the summer of 2014 those plans changed and I would not be volunteering OR running…I was going to be in Afghanistan.  My arrival in Afghanistan was planned for only a week before the actual Army Marathon was to take place so there wasn’t even a way for me to coordinate a shadow run in theater.   Even though I was deploying I still volunteered to support this years Army Marathon and do everything I could to help the RD put on a successful event!

I had talked with the RD prior to my deployment and we decided that I would simply run my marathon in Afghanistan.   I am honored that Ed Bandas, the Army Marathon Race Director, supported me on my shadow run and was back in Texas cheering me on.  I would have not done this without his support and am extremely grateful!

My wife picked up my race packet for me and secured my marathon bib and “Veteran” bib and sent it to me.  The plan was as soon as it arrived I would plan my race the following Monday (It is an odd day but with scheduling… Monday just works better).

Running a marathon in Afghanistan is not difficult; what is difficult, at least for me, is coordinating that run around an already busy schedule that has me working 14 hours a day, 7 days a week.

On March 12th I received my bibs in the mail which means my marathon would take place the following Monday on March 16th.   Leading up to my marathon I wasn’t really training for anything, I was just looking to maintain my base.  I was still getting at least one 15-18mi run per week and running 7-days per week to maintain the streak.   The week before the marathon I actually had an 18mi run so I knew my body was ready.

Army Marathon Bibs!

Army Marathon Bibs!

Prior to receiving my bib I had also registered for a St Patrick’s Day 5k which took place on 14 March.   Every part of my was planning on going easy on this run since I had the marathon shortly there-after… Needless to say when they said go my mind had something else planned.   Ended up getting 3 PRs on the 5k!  (1k, 1mi, 2mi)    Since the course was not “exactly” 5k I missed the 5k PR though!

On March 15th I began getting everything ready that I would need.  Luckily I am at Bagram Airfield so I have a fairly large loop to do my run on.  I know some people that have done 100k and 100mi runs out here on a 1mi track.  I was EXTREMELY thankful for my big loop!  I plotted out my course through Suunot’s Movescount in advance so I knew when/where I would need to refuel on my Tailwind.    Based on the course I was planning 2 locations that I could refill bottles as needed.  One was my office and the other was my barracks.   My course would have me stopping at both of these locations at least twice.  This will have proved to work PERFECTLY!

Prepping for success with Tailwind!

Prepping for success with Tailwind!

Fuel on my run was the same as always; I would be running with Tailwind.   I prepared my Tailwind bottles conservatively and actually prepared enough bottles/baggies to drink one bottle every 5mi.   While I was closer to 7-8mi I would rather have the bottles ready and not need them.   Since the temps were going to be in the 60s (first “warm” day this season) I wanted to be ready.

There were a few things I was looking for out of this run, which are probably nothing what most people would be planning (go figure).    Since arriving I haven’t taken the GoPro out on any of my runs.   It is the Army Marathon… What better time to take pictures!

Since I work nights in Afghanistan that meant that I would have to adjust schedules slightly so I would be able to run the marathon during the day and still make it into work by 2000 (8pm) that night AND have enough energy in the tank to still work a 12-14hr shift.     The morning of Mar 16th I left the office around 5am (EARLY) with the hopes of getting at least 7 hours of sleep before the run.   Being that I average about 5-6 hours of sleep a night, this would be a gift!   Once I arrived in the barracks I looked over “Flat John”, verified that I had everything ready to go and hit the sack…

flatjohn

3hours later I found myself still looking at the springs of the bunk bed above me. My 7 hours of sleep was now down to 4 hours.   Around 9am I finally drifted off to sleep and my alarm was set for 1:30.   That worked great until my eyes opened at 12:45 PM.   45 min before my alarm went off and my body decided it was time to wake up.  Who’s to argue!

I got up…   Drank 1/2 a bottle of Tailwind while I got dressed, and headed to the office to begin The Army Marathon!    The reason I started at the office was to give me an opportunity to take pictures and then drop my GoPro back off at the room (6.5mi into my run from the office).

At 2PM I said my goodbyes to everyone in the office and started running down Disney.

My plan was to treat this as an “easy intensity” run.   I still have work in 6 hours and need to be able to make it all night!   I spent the first couple miles taking random pictures.   There wasn’t anything special I was looking for.  I just wanted to take some random pictures so people could see where I was running.   Of course I did make sure that I stopped and took some pictures of the SKORA Tempos and my bib!   Now since I had arrived at Bagram, one of the things that I really wanted to do was get a photo of the F16th taking off.    My first few deployments out here, taking pictures of F16s would have been EASY.  They were always taking off for missions.  This time you were lucky if you heard them taking off every other day.   Today was my lucky day.  Just as I rounded the end of the runway the 1st of 2 F16s came screaming down the runway and took off across the perimeter road.  I was THRILLED to say the least.   I knew at that point that no matter what happened on the rest of my run…I had pictures of the F16s!   To bad I couldn’t figure out a way to get the SKORA Tempo in the shot!  Now that would have been AWESOME!

First F16 taking off!  (mi 2.5)

First F16 taking off! (mi 2.5)

2d F16 Taking off (mi 2.5)

2d F16 Taking off (mi 2.5)

I GOT PICTURES OF F16s!!!!

I GOT PICTURES OF F16s!!!!

I finished the first 6.5mi, dropped the GoPro off in the room, swapped Tailwind bottles, and set back out again.  The rest of the run was really relaxed and laid back.  I fell into a real easy 10:30 – 11:00 min pace and just enjoyed the run.   I stopped and talked to some people along the way and just enjoyed my time running.    As I circled around past the office at the 1/2 waypoint I skipped my planned fuel stop.  I was carrying a baggie of Tailwind with me so I wasn’t overly worried.   I felt good and really didn’t need anything so I kept pushing and did another full lap around the airfield.    I finally came back the office around the 20mi point to swap out bottles and use the “facilities”.   I probably wasted too much time here (walking with my coworkers to the office) and just BSing, but it was ok. There was no goal time here… 🙂

Buffalo!

Buffalo!

Moving right along!

Moving right along!

By this point the sun was starting to go down and a storm front was moving in.  I took back off onto Disney Dr to complete the last 6 miles.  The original course had me doing a 3mi out and back at this point but decided that I was going to change it up.    I set out running and headed for the barracks.  While there was nothing there that I “needed” there was something there that I wanted.   Since dropping my GoPro off, all I could think about was whether or not the pictures of the F16s came out!      The only downside to this strategy is that with the front coming in I had a headwind for the last 6mi of the run.   Along the way back I made a few stops to visit two boxes (what I call porta-potties) and finally ended up back at the barracks.   Even with my slow easy pace and the lengthy break at the office and room I still managed to finish right at 5hrs.   I ran into my room, grabbed the GoPro, and headed back to the office on the bus… My Army Marathon was complete!

I earned my bib and medal.

I earned my bib and medal.

NOW I can wear my shirt!  :)

NOW I can wear my shirt! 🙂

This turned out to just be a great run.   Had no body issues at all.  The legs, feet, back…everything felt great!   I think the best part about the run was walking around the office afterwards having everyone say, “Are you feeling ok”, “Your legs don’t hurt?” etc.  I couldn’t have felt better!   The next challenge was going to be making it all night long with only 3 hours of sleep and a 5hour run!    There was actually a lot going on that night so I had things to keep me entertained.

The following morning I had a massage scheduled at 8:30 and that would bring a close to my Army Marathon Marathon!

Gear:

All of my gear was spot on for the run.    While I had over 200mi on the new SKORA Tempo, this was the longest road run.  These shoes have far exceeded all of my expectations.  Whether it is on the road, trail, mud, sand, or rock. They have been PERFECT!  I can’t wait for the official release of the shoes (coming soon)!

As far as my fueling goes, Tailwind Nutrition provided me exactly what I needed to get me through this run.   I ended up going through approx. 250 calories per hour and felt great the entire time.   Since I prepped a few extra bottles for the run I had an additional 250 cal bottle that I drank post run throughout the night.   Not only was it a perfect endurance fuel DURING my run, but it was also an even better recovery drink after!  I can’t imagine a run without it!

Just wait until next year’s Army Marathon!  The details are already coming together and we are going to be “celebrating” something even bigger at next year’s marathon!   Stay tuned 😉

Until next time…
~J

Sugarloaves Ultra Vista Trail Race Report

When I found out I would be deploying to Asscrackistan out of Ft Bliss, TX the first thing I did was looked for some kind of race to do while I was out there.   For the longest time, all I found was a collection of 5ks to do in El Paso.   While it wasn’t my favorite thing to do, I was going to start registering just so I could get a race in before deploying. One day this all changed when I stumbled upon a small race that was located in Vado, NM which was only a 30min drive from El Paso!    Even better, the race was only $35!  Who can turn down a cheap ultra!!! For the next few weeks I tried finding out anything I could about the race.  I uncovered 2-3 race reports, very few photos and Mark Dorion’s (the Race Director) blog.    So what did I learn?  I learned that there was not a lot to find out about this race in the middle of the desert. After reading Mark Dorion’s blog there were things that jumped out at me:  “These trails are VERY challenging after dark, even for experienced runners.”  I don’t think I had even run a trail race that warned of the hazards of running at night.  Hell, I have run Joe’s races at night;  I honestly believe he purposely places additional rocks and roots on this trails!  😉 Regardless of what the other race reports say or the Mark’s mention of the course being VERY challenging, I was going to go have fun at this race like I always do!   This is also going to be my last race before I deploy to Asscrackistan… It was going to be a blast! 🙂 For the week leading up to the start I routinely checked the weather.  With 350 days of sunshine per year, the odds were in my favor… Right?   Needless to say the 2 days leading up tot he race and race day were 3 of the days this year that were not going to be sunny.  In fact, it was cloudy, overcast, raining, and WINDY! Race day arrived and the only thing that changed was the wind.  Luckily the 30mph winds broken and the race was going to have easy 5-10mph winds.  MUCH better!  Unfortunately the rain didn’t break… Many of my training partners know how much I hate getting out of my car and running when it is raining.   If it starts raining after I have started, that is fine… it is just that first step in the rain… UGGH   Driving down I-10 towards Vado, NM was in the rain.  The road was wet, my wipers were on, and even the mountains in the distance were obscured by the yucky weather.   I did everything I could to push the negativity out of my mind.  The last thing I wanted to do was start the race with a negative attitude;  that was just going to make the entire race bad.

Headed into New Mexico on the way to the race!

Headed into New Mexico on the way to the race!

Mark’s directions to the race were perfect!  There were road closures at Vado, NM (actually the only exist to Vado, NM was closed) so you had to take a different exist about 3mi up the road.   His directions were spot on and after driving down a winding road into the desert I finally arrived at my destination!   Everything was wet, the clouds where covering half of the mountains off in the distance that I would be running towards.   I was just hoping for a change in the weather.

Arrival at Sugarloaves Vista Trail

Arrival at Sierra Vista Trail

As always, I arrived at the race early.   I was planning to use my car at the Start/Finish line as an aid station.   With such a short race loop, there was no need to stop at the Aid Stations on the course.   Once I arrived I once again made sure that I had everything I needed and arranged the back of the car so everything was convenient for me when I came in. This race proved to be very different.  Usually I attend races from my house and know that I have everything I need.  This race was planned out of my dufflebag that I would be taking to Asscrackistan.    One thing that always follows me to my races is my bag from Victory Sport Design.  No matter the race, there is something in this bag that will help me.   Well for Asscrackistan I downsized A LOT so that I could squeeze it in my dufflebag.   My firstaid pouch was gone, hand warmers, eye drops.    That’s ok.  I had my Tailwind Nutrition, my UD handhelds, and my SKORAs.   If I couldn’t make it through this race with those 3 things, I probably shouldn’t have been there to begin with!   Due to the forecasted rain and the fact that it had been raining the last 2 days I also brought 3 pair of socks along to make sure I at least started each loop with dry piggies.

Start/Finish Aid Station

Start/Finish Aid Station

I already knew this race was going to have a small field.   After I setup my aid station and picked up my race packet it was obvious how small of a field this really was.     The small area that we parked in, even with precision parking, was not going to hold more than 60 vehicles.    By the time the race started there were probably about 45-50 vehicles there and I would estimate about the same number of runners.

Start/Finish line area

Start/Finish line area

At 8:24 it was finally time to toe the line and hit the desert.  The rain had taken a break but Accuweather was nice enough to let me know that it wasn’t going to stay that way.   I had about an hour before the rain was coming back and I was going to get as many miles in as possible before the rain came back! The start of the race was a short 1mi out and back along the power line in and out of arroyos and soft sand.   This wasn’t that bad and gave me a chance to warm up the legs a little before we hit the real race loop that I would spend the remainder of the day on. No matter how hard I try, I always end up starting faster than I know I should but I wanted to get some ground covered before the rain came.  After the first 2 mi warm up I stopped at my “Aid Station” dropped my light jacket (I carried my rain jacket with me) stripped down to a t-shirt, and was off down the trails!    The course was a 3.5mi out and back that had some interesting terrain.  Their were really 3 sections.   The first mile was in and out of sandy arroyos and through a group of rollers.  No BIG climbs, but enough that when combined with the sand, was going to make the legs work towards the end.   The second section was about 1.5mi and was a flat MUDDY grass field.   Personally, this is the part that actually sucked the most.    For people like T.T. and A.B. this is best compared to our mud run at Pairie Haines.    Footing sucked;  every time I put my foot down I was sliding somewhere and this was before the rain started.    The last mile was a gradual climb out to the turn around point.   This was actually my favorite part of the course.  This was a hard packed trail with absolutely no mud.  There were a few rollers in here as well but it was a smooth running trail!      Leaving the muddy field you cross under an old A-Frame powerline.   The first time running under it was a tad creepy.  The humm from the powerline was VERY loud.  As you approach it, it almost sounded like rain or a giant rattle snake somewhere!  🙂 Just as I was approaching the turn-around point, the rain finally came in.   Luckily I was able to start the race without any rain so I could have cared less at this point (so I thought).   I put on my brooks jacket, turned around, and headed back down the trail towards the MUD.   By the time I got back to the mud field the trail had already filled with water.  This is when the run began getting slower and slower.   The good part is my SKORA Tempo shed mud PERFECTLY!   While my socks were SOAKED, the mud never really stuck to my shoes.   The wide tread pattern on the shoes and the flexibility of the sole made the mud fall off pretty quickly!  I could not have been happier.  Not once did I have to stop and kick off the mud… I just kept on moving.   As I was leaving the muddy section on the way back I went around a turn and that is when things started going down hill. I planted my foot and my body went one way and the leg went the other.   My groin muscle didn’t like that at all.   I didn’t HURT, but it was enough that I knew it was there and it would get progressively more nagging as the day went on. Even ever the rain started, the arroyos didn’t get that bad.   Each arroyo had 2-3″ of soft wet sand that you had to run through but there was never any standing water.   Up and down the arroyes and through the rollers and before I knew it I made the turn onto the jeep trail headed back to the Start/Finish aid station.   All throughout the course there were aid stations about every 2 miles.  These aid stations reminded me more of a Fat Ass run rather than a race.   There were painted cinder blocks with a case of water, a few Clif bars or Bonk Bars and s small bucket for trash.   I think what I liked most about the aid stations were the animals.  There were ducks, rabbits, walruses, snakes, all spread out across the course.  Seeing all of these animals actually reminded me a lot of my trails at Dana Peak park and made me think of my friends that I wasn’t running with.   I really missed running with T.T., T.R., N.D, A.B., and Rasta!   These little animals gave me a bit of home!   🙂 I ran past the start/finish, yelled out my bib number to the volunteers, and headed straight to my car to change socks and rotate bottles.   My plan was to take it easy out there and stick with a 12min/mi pace.  The first loop actually ended up being about a 10:48min/mi pace.  Someone was running way to fast, especially in the mud!  I needed to slow down!

First loop complete! 10:48 min/mi avg

First loop complete! 10:48 min/mi avg

I wasn’t out there to RACE…My plan was just to get out on the trail and have some fun.   Aside from swapping bottles and socks I also did a quick blast on social media on the race, chatted with my wifey, and then headed back out. The second loop was much slower than the first.  The combination of mud and the pulled groin muscle greatly assisted it!    My goal for this race was to keep my pace around a 12:00 min/mi.  Clearly that hasn’t happened up to this point!  After hitting the turn-around point for the second time the rain finally died down and the clouds were breaking!  At this point it didn’t much matter as the ground was already soaked and the center of the course was a mud fest but clear skies always make for a better run.  Now the mountain was actually coming into view and you could see everything around you! 🙂 As I came into the aid station I followed the same routine as before.  Swapped out the soaked soaks, grabbed new bottles, and did my typical social media blast.     I have to admit, the new SKORA Tempo did an amazing job once again at shedding the mud.   Even after stomping through all of the mud, the shoes really didn’t look that bad and never did I have to stop to clean them off.

2d Loop and looking pretty good!

2d Loop and looking pretty good!

After my 15-20 min break at the start/finish aid station my average pace when I rolled back out was an 11:42 min/mi.  That just means that despite my slower pace, and about 30min total of sitting around at the Aid Stations my pace was still faster than what I was expecting.  That’s still ok though… I was having fun! The 3d & 4th loop were pretty much the same.  By the 4th loop I was definitely feeling the effect of the mud and sandy arroyos but nothing that really “hurt”.    I tried dialing back the pace on the 4th loop and talked with people out on the trail, stopped to play with the little stuffed animals that adorned the course, relocated the snake to keep people guessing (someone else moved him too though!  lol), and just had fun and enjoyed the trail. After the 3d loop my pace (with the stops and taking in the scenery) remained much the same as the 2d loop.    Once again, swapped socks (STILL soaked), grabbed another bottle of Tailwind, and I was off.  This time I only spent about 10min at the Aid Station before I headed back out again.   The SKORA Tempo are still running strong and have taken everything I threw at them!

Finish of Lap 3

Finish of Lap 3

My only goal this day was to get out on the trails and get one last race before I deployed and that is what I did.   The way back in on the 4th loop all I could think about was finishing up the race and going to have dinner with the family!    As I was approaching the finish I ran in to Mark Dorion who I ran the last 1/4mi with.   I crossed the finish line and felt really good;   other than the slightly pulled groin muscle I felt GREAT.   Never felt winded, no nagging pains… I was just looking forward to dinner! lol Once I crossed the line I spent about 30 min talking with Mark and one of the other volunteers and told them how great of a race I thought this was and that I would definitely be back if given the opportunity!   It was considerably smaller than the other races I have been a part of and to be honest, I was a little concerned that there was not big buffet lines setup at the aid stations (even though I usually don’t eat off of them anyway).   None of that mattered at the race.  It was literally PERFECT! While I was talking with Mark after the race he handed me an envelope for a “Race prize”.   I didn’t look at it, I simply folded it up and put in inside my pocket.    That night after dinner I finally opened it up.  Mark had given me a free pair of shoes from Up & Running in El Paso!   Mark is an awesome guy and honored to have participated in his race.   If given the opportunity, you should definitely head out to Vado, NM and join him for one of his races.    You can find more info on his races at https://markdorion.wordpress.com/. I finally headed back over to my “Aid Station”, packed everything away and got ready to head back to my sister-in-law’s house to take a shower before dinner.   On the way out I had to stop by the “Sierra Vista Trail” sign for one last photo!

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One final shot at the trail head with my medal!

Race Results: 2d Overall, 1st Age Group!!

Elevation profile

Elevation profile

Once again SKORA and Tailwind Nutrition came through.  The new TEMPO shoes rocked the trails like no other!  This is going to be an awesome shoe on the trail for ANYONE!    As always, Tailwind pulled through with no stomach issues, great taste, and had me finishing strong! I would not have been able to do this race without my amazing wifey.   Even with just a short amount of time left, she supported me going out there to run and I had an amazing time!   I love you honey! The next trail race I toe the line of will be Cactus Rose 100 in October when I return from Asscrackistan with some great friends!! On that note… time to head out for a recovery run! Thanks for reading everyone!  😉