Friday, January 24, 2020

Thursday, January 23, 2020


This year I ran my fifth Bandera100k. I can't say how much I love this race. You come out of the holidays feeling somewhat out of shape but ready to kick off the New Year with resolutions and visions of PR's. And then you get out on the course and remember how tough and rocky and unforgivable to terrain is and your goals get crushed!

This year I went into the race not only out of shape but also with an achy leg. A little before Thanksgiving my leg got to where I could barely run, and stayed that way most of the holidays. I decided to run the race with friends in crewing from California, and used a thigh sleeve for some extra support in hopes that it could get me from start to finish.

On the drive down to the Hill Country from DFW it was misty and rainy, and then that evening the skys opened up and it poured down rain. If you've run Bandera before you know this isn't anything out of ordinary. It's rained, sleeted, and been really hot - sometimes all in the same race! While the forecast looked favorable for the Saturday race, I knew everything was going to be muddy.

We drove out to Bandera and made it to the start about an hour ahead of time, grabbed a perfect parking spot, and got the cooler and chairs set up. If you haven't done Bandera - definitely get there early so you aren't parking in the back 40. After getting things set up and grabbing race number and chip, we hopped back in the car and kept the heather going as it was really cold.

Sun up and the race started and I shuffled down the trail. My goal was to take it super, super conservatively the first loop to make sure the leg was going to hold up, and then to assess after the first loop and put a strategy in place for the 2nd loop. After a flattish section we had some climbing and rocks. In fact, the first 5 - 6 miles were pretty rock with a lot of up and down; typical Bandera. Because of the mud, a lot of the rocks were mud-covered which made the footing really sketchy. Even though it was a little tedious, I kept methodically working my way through each section and checking my watch to make sure I was keeping a decent pace.

Typically on this course I'm a 13 - 13.5 hour runner, but with my leg wrapped and being super careful I was barely managing 15 min/miles. No problem since my goal of sub-17 (Western States qualifier) was around a 17 min/mile. After a few runnable miles, the course hit more rocks, more climbs, more footing that kept my legs wobbly and made me continue to protect my bad wheel. After pushing through some very runnable sections, I finally made it to about mile 30 when we hit a super steep climb followed by a super steep and rocky descent. Toughest part of the course! I could hear the state/finish nearby and made it through the first loop in 7:35 with the watch indicating close to 32 miles.

During the second loop I picked up my pacer who was in town from California and had just finished Snowdrop55 hour run in Houston a week prior. We started off, the course FAR less crowded that the first loop, and we kept moving slowly but deliberately. It was in the mid-60's but in the sun with no wind the first 10 miles or so were really hot. A few times I had to take my hat off to prevent getting overheated. I kept wanting to push and run to get through as much of the rocky section as I could before the sun went down, but the legs just wouldn't cooperate. I took some Tylenol and kept pushing and made it to the half way point of the loop in about 12 hours.

I kept checking my watch on every mile and noticed that my pace kept getting slower and slower and slower. I was still ahead of sub-17 hour pace, but I was cutting it a little closer than I wanted to. Because the course is front loaded with a lot of steep, rocky sections, I knew I could make better time on the second half if I just ate and kept hydrated. Sure enough, the terrain became more runnable and I had plenty of energy and was able to get back ahead of the splits I needed, and the last few hours just took the foot off of the accelerator and took it easy.

I ended up finishing in 16:48 which is over 3 hours slower than my usual pace, but these types of races where you have to fight and persevere are sometimes the most rewarding. Since I wasn't physically in the best shape, I knew in order to achieve my goals I'd have to run a smart race. For me, a smart race usually means walking as fast as I can if I need a break from running, staying on track of my calories and hydration, and minimizing time at aid stations. There are races where you can relax and enjoy, and there are races where you have to have an "all business" approach. This race was all business, and had I not been focused and raced a really smart race I wouldn't have my name in the hat for the Western States 100 lottery in December!