Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Twice As Spicy

Twice As Spicy

Habanero Hundred: The Return | Ultramarathon #091

…I can feel my left heel starting to get annoyed. I recall to myself that this happens when I have begun to have heel blisters issues in the past. Normally I don’t get a lot of blisters, but heel blisters have happened on occasion (usually due to extended downhills, or when excess sand/pebbles accumulate in my shoes). I talk it over to myself in my mind as I trot along the pasture surrounded by the onlooking cows who don’t seem to care about my presence. 

“Maybe I should stop now and empty my shoe”

“The next loop I will address this, not long and I can change my socks and clean my shoes out again.”

“It is only a small annoyance. I can probably just run through this pain for a while”

Isn’t ultrarunning a stupid sport. Here I am less than 4 hours into this ultramarathon and I am arguing with myself, trying to persuade myself that ‘it is fine’. Perhaps this was the beginning of my downfall in attempting to repeat a sub-24hr performance at the hottest race in Texas.

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Let me step back for a minute. Why was I even here again? I swore to myself I would never let myself be found running this race again after completing it last year. How did this happen? Well I somehow let the thought of another buckle creep into my mind. As you may know by reading my blog I am a buckle chaser and love the 100 Mi distance. With this race nice and close to our home I somehow had the thought of well maybe I could do it again. Clearly, I had forgotten all the pain and suffering my poor feet went through last year to get the run done (see 2021 Habanero race report).


Wednesday of race week I had not entered my name into the registrants list yet, but I reached out to TROT (Trail Racing Over Texas) and asked if they needed help on Friday to setup for the race still. In fact they did so I was going to give myself some volunteer hours opposed to running the event. But something changed somewhere between then and Thursday. I don’t even know what changed or what exactly happened. It was like I had blanked out and the next thing I know it is now Thursday evening and I am sitting there staring at my screen with the UltraSignUp confirmation number just eyeing me back. 40 hours till race start…


Friday morning it was pouring race in the Houston area and so I was a few minutes late getting to the ranch to help Cal, TROT’s newest fulltime RD, with the race setup. Arriving safely getting through the storm it was a nice day after all, not super-hot just yet, still cool-ish from the passing morning storms. I got set up with the course flags and set off around the infamous Yellow Loop at 7IL Ranch and began flagging the course. I spent a good 2.5 hours on my feet simply hiking the loop planting the flags as I went clipping the odd reflectors into the adjacent tree limbs for some night time visibility as well. I got back to the main barn and met with the packet pick-up crew where Cal had arranged some pizza delivered for us for lunch. A quick bite to eat and then I spent another 2 hours or so setting up the main start-finish aid station with a couple others. The weather had cleared now and few clouds remained. The humidity returned and I was dripping by the end of my volunteer shift. An hour commute back home to the family for our traditional Friday family movie night where I’d kick my feet up and pack my things. 


Race Day arrived and my Victory Sportdesign Grizzley backpack was ready to go with all my essentials and my few spares things I may need depending on the day. Since the race is a “high noon” start, just to maximize the heat of the day, it was an easy going morning overall. I had my coffee, ate an omelet my amazing wife made for me, and then at down to play a game with my 2nd oldest daughter not too long before my departure. 


Race ready. Taken not long before my car
troubles started. Photo: Katie Meding.
Said my goodbyes to my wife and kids and then headed out the door. Had everything packed into my car and was ready to go. “click, click, click…..” and then….silence. My stupid car was not starting! What, not now I thought to myself. Why? I reset the ignition and tried again with no luck. Frustrated I went back into the house got my wife’s van keys and dug out our boosters cables from the garage. Luckily I have long cables so I inched the van right behind the car and was able to reach battery to battery that way. With the cables attached I was still unable to get my car started yet. “Shit”. I was now very frustrated and of course time was ticking down towards the start of the race. I was now sweating and getting my heart rate elevated just in preparation of trying to get to the race. My calmness was slowly escaping me. Again no luck with the engine turnover. Eventually I was able to get my car to at least turn on enough to where I could shift it into neutral and I rolled my car a little further down the driveway. This enable me to be able to sneak the van out (by driving on the grass) between the car and the house. My wife gave me the blessing of just taking the van and going. I left for the race with about 75 minutes till the start. The drive is 80 minutes from my house. Between all the antics and burst of swears I did send Cal a message explaining I’d be a bit late and asked if I could start, fully acknowledging my time would start when the race started. He was gracious enough to respond as I am sure he was busy at the race with pre-race RD things. I was now one of those people bugging him mere moments before the start of the event. Pulling into 7IL Ranch driving up the road I saw the hundreds of people lined up in the shoot. I was stopped by a volunteer and told to wait as the race was literally starting. I sat there in the van, watched the gun fire into the air and all the runners take off in front of me. I was then waved on in to the parking field where I proceeded to get ready. Application of my Trail Toes and filling of my water bottles was essentially the only things I had left to do as I had prepared everything else to be ready otherwise. I walked up to the RD table and told Cal I was here and now ready. I recall him saying good luck and to take my time. And with that I started by myself underneath the TROT start arch and onto the Yellow Loop a full 7 minutes behind the gun start.

Photo: Trail Racing Over Texas | JJustis Photography

Back to the race on loop 6 now I was wondering if the sunset was ever going to come. The sweet relief of the sun setting at Habanero is a big draw even though the ambient temperatures do not drop super significantly. I still had one more loop I figured until I needed to break out the lights. Cresting the final corner on loop 6 and heading back to the arch I had promised myself a sock change. I figured I had earned it as this point being more than a third done now. I was slowing down and also hoped for a mind reset with this quick break. Passing over the timing mat, I made my way to my parked van not far away and propped open the truck setting up my chair and a small tub of water. I got my shoes off and literally poured the sand out on the ground. “Man this sucks” I thought to myself. Peeling off my socks from my sweated soaked wrinkled feet revealed another layer of hidden ever finer sand. I shook my socks off, flinging sand around me and tossed this pair into the laundry bag I had set aside. Now I soaked my feet into my Tupperware tub to get off the remaining sand particles which required a bit of scrubbing – but that is why I brought this foot tub. A quick bath and my feet looked somewhat refreshed again, beside the wrinkles from being trapped in sweat-soaked shoes for hours now – these would persist until about a day after the race once I was able to air dry my feet out. A shade over 15 minutes of cleaning my feet and getting in some much-needed calories I was back up and on to my next loop: number 7.


Loop 7 = puke loop.
Feeling fresh (new dry socks, new dry shirt) with my waist lights at the ready I figured that the impending sunset would help bring back my pace back down. Heading off for loop 7 I was again filled with a bit of optimism on my interloop reset. …it did not last long. The seventh loop turned out to be the puke loop. After getting through the heat of the day, my stomach know decided to rebel against me. Why now? My stomach simply had other ideas. I resided to my slowest loop of the entire event death marching most of it with a few abrupt intrusions of emptying my stomach on the side of the trail. I did not let this deter me and just stay focused on continuing to consume as much fluids as I could to ensure I did not get dehydrated, even in the cooler temps. This is where the experience in ultramarathons kicks in, even though you don’t necessary feel great, I was able to mitigate any further deterioration of the effects and keep fluids going in despite this puke loop.


The night loops seemed to slow down and time was going very slow. I knew that moving efficiently during the night hours is key during Habanero, but my pace seemed agonizing. The more of the race you can get done at night and out of the sunlight, the less you have left to get done after the sun rises again the following day. This seems simple but it truly is strategic to think about this during this race and at least attempt to incorporate this.


Photo: Trail Racing Over Texas | JJustis Photography
The Yellow loop is alive and bustling with all sorts of runners when the race begins on the first day. There is all the 100 Mi and 100 km solo runners, as well as many relay teams taking on the challenge. Then of course you have the short distance of 10 km, 20 km, 30 km, & 50 km runner that seem to just fly by relatively speaking of course. As the night moon creeps up from the East horizon and the sun disappears to the West the number of runners dwindles significantly too. This event is known for its low finishing rate (due to the heat, humidity, sand/foot issues) so inevitability you come across less and less people as the loops go on. The sun comes up on day 2 of Habanero and the Yellow Loop can seem like a very lonely place for the 3 Miles between the aid stations: just you and the unrelenting South Texas August heat. The only relief is the brief moments of ice sponge baths, Gatorade slushies, and cold water from the amazing volunteers.


I saw my sub-24 hour time goal slip away and knew it is was all about simply grinding out a finish now. I had seen maybe 4 other runners in the last 2 loops, either we were all going the same pace now, or I was one of the last few out there still running – neither was exactly true. Fueling on a heavy fill of Coca-Cola, Water, mashed potatoes, and the occasional Base Performance gel I was trudging forward as a now steady pace. Tree by tree and fence by fence I would use the landmarks to tick away my progress on the loop. Crossing the ranch road back on the inward direction meant only about 1 Mile to go. I had done it, preserving through the pain of my feet and the non-stop salty sweating of nearly 27 hours. 


The last 0.25 Mi of the Yellow Loop pours onto the ranch road which usually filled with tents, crews, exhausted runners, and spectators alike all sitting cheering and enjoying ay piece of shade they can. Now it was void of everything except a couple abandoned spots that seemed lifeless as the owner was probably resting in their vehicles, and maybe 3 people clapping as I very slowly shuffled towards the TROT arch. Cal announced my name over the loud speaker as I can in and I mustered up my best smile and took in another buckle finish, my 29th 100 Mi(or more) completion. A quick photo grab with Cal and my new piece of hardware was required before I quickly resided to my van and grabbed my chair to remove my shoes and socks.

Finish Time: 26:47:17. With TROT's newest Race Director Cal Neff. Photo: Jerimiah Justis

I will let you in on a very often neglected secret of Habanero. The very best part of this race is the fact that the 7IL Ranch has public showers available for everyone. This is such an amazing feeling to just stand under the water and let the finishing feeling overtake your thoughts drowning out the pain messages that your muscles nerves are trying to invade you brain with. A nice 5 minute shower post race is by far the best part of Habanero!


DATA

snapshot from my STRAVA activity.

GEAR USED

LS Shirt(s): rabbit UPF 30 Protector, rabbit  UPF 30 Deflector
Shirt(s): rabbit rabbitELITEtrail team kit singlet
Shorts: rabbit 3" FKT
Other: Nathan Sports ice buff
Shoes: Altra Olypmpus 4.0
Socks: Dry Max, rnnr, FITSOK
Headwear: rabbit (BOCO) rabbitELITEtrail cap, Trail Racing Over Texas bucket hat
Sunglasses: goodr (TROT edition)
Watch: Garmin fēnix® 6X - Pro Solar Edition
Lighting: kogalla RA Adventure Light (waistlamp)
Hydration:  Nathan Sports x2 20oz Nathan soft flasks, Trail Racing Over Texas collapsible cup
Anti Friction lube: Trail Toes
Foot Tape: Trail Toes
Gear Bags: Victory Sportdesign (Grizzly Backpack, Kodiak, Coyote II)



NEXT UP

My next goal race is Barkley Fall Classic (BFC) in Wartburg, TN. I am heading back to the lore of Frozen Head State Park (FHSP) to attempt one of the hardest races I have ever done (mile for mile). Last year this "50 km" felt like a 100 km effort.

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Thank you for following along.
#ultrarunningdad

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Gettin High

Gettin' High in Colorado

High Lonesome 100 | Ultramarathon #089

Pre-race Portrait: Mile90 Photography (Rick & Krisit Mayo)

Photo: Mile90 Photography (Rick & Krisit Mayo)


Preparation

July is an interesting month in our household. My wife has always used this opportunity to take the school summer break and head back to her home for the summer holidays and partake in her family reunion each year on the California coast. At year with the pandemic, I took the opportunity to work remotely and go with my family out to California. Yet again, 2022 presented a similar opportunity. With the flexibility of my current job role and the blessing of my awesome boss I was able to go with my entire family again for a summer getaway. With the draw of the oceanfront only 3 miles from the doorstep and 3,000’ mountains literally out their backdoor my in-laws house always has had a nice draw to me as an ultrarunner. (My wife was lucky to grow up in such a scenic portion of California).

In the middle of June we packed the van full of our luggage (along with my own storage of running gear and a few pairs of shoes) and headed west towards the Pacific Ocean. I packed in a lot of vert and mountain running in Santa Barbara, as I now know those trails very well from all our visits over the past decade. I had to take advantage of my last week or so of true training before my taper would begin for High Lonesome. This meant I focused on lots of hiking and running downhills to “season my quads” as they say.

A bonus week of training popped up when we decided to go to my in-laws cabin up in northern California Sierras (Arnold, CA) for a week. While still working remotely I was able to live, run, and sleep at ~5,000 ft elevation which was a nice little intermediate step towards heading to CO at the end of July. I even drove up to 9,000’ one day at Ebbett’s Pass on the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) and just enjoyed the afternoon up higher. I used this week as my last training taking it easy and just trying to let my body get used to some altitude. 

Loading up my rental Kia Soul with my Victory Sportdesign bags.
Photo: Katie Meding
Back to Santa Barbara for a week and then I was off to Colorado for HiLo. I rented a car and decided to drive out to avoid the clusters of airport travelling with all the delays and cancellation that have been occurring. I just wanted to be sure I would get to the race logistically that was within my own control. Secondly the car rental was basically the same price as a roundtrip ticket, and that is before transportation once I landed. I don’t mind driving on long trips so the 15 hours of driving was not a deterrent. Wednesday of race week I set off East through Los Angeles then into Nevada, briefly across the corner of Arizona, across Utah, and finally into the heart of the Rockies within Colorado. The trip took me about 20 hours as I stopped and had a nice nap during the wee hours of the night. This meant I was able to enjoy the day adjusting and walking around Buena Vista, CO before the packet pickup and pre-race meeting. A nice coffee stroll along the river enjoying the views followed by a small lunch run around the hills above the river overlooking BV (sidenote: I recalled these trails from the start of Trans Rockies Run back in 2019). A small lunch and nap in my car before heading to the high school for packet pickup. I had to present my Colorado CORSAR card and also bring my shoes to wash (i.e. the Toad Bath).

All the nearly 150 runners, the pacers, and their crews were gathered into the high school gym as we listened to the race briefing. All the details and traditional messages were given out. After the meeting everyone piled out of the gymnasium and headed for their respective quarters for the night. For me this meant driving out to the start/finish line just outside of town and car camping in my little rented Kia Soul. True 100 Mile mountain ultras require dirtbag camping to have the true experience in my opinion.


The Race

Start Area. Pre-race gathering at sunrise.

The morning was a nice crisp fresh mountain air despite being a bit chilly. There was not a cloud in the sky from what I could see and so we knew the morning chill would not last long at all. The start arch was in a large open field just a few miles south of Buena Vista. Runner check-in for the morning consisted of a mandatory gear check (for the required “basic gear”) before being allowed to line up in the chute. A quick photograph from Mile90 Photography under the starting arch and I was ready to go. A 06:00 start coincided with the sunrise slowly creeping up over the mountain range to the East. The first 2 miles of the race was down the paved county road and into a small dispersion of houses in the bottom of the valley of Mount Princeton Hot Springs. Another 1.5 miles on some gravel and we got to the CT (Colorado Trail) junction where we hopped onto singletrack and started heading up the mountain into the San Isabel National Forest. I settled into a smaller congo line of sorts following a group varying between 6-10 runners. The time flew by as it usually does in the first miles of a race due to the excitement and joy of the ultra event itself. Raspberry aid station was the first stop after an hour and a bit of running, 7.3 Mi into the journey. A refill of water and a piece of watermelon then I was off again.

Leaving the Raspberry aid station there was a short flat section through the forest and then the climbing began. I looked down at my Garmin fēnix® 6X to see what was ahead of me. I had the .gpx of the course preloaded and so I was using the ClimbPro visual navigation during the run (This is such a great feature of Garmin to see the data mid-run. I really enjoy this for my longer ultras). What I gained from this glance at my watch was the fact I had 5.2 Mi to go…UPHILL…before cresting out at the top of the saddle between Mount Antero and Mount White. This turns out to be the high point on the course (13,108’), although we would get above 12,000’ many times over the course. What a grind. The views at the top were astounding and well worth it.


Mount Antero Pass. Photo: Mile90 Photography (Jordan Chapell)
My view from Mount Antero Pass down onto the descent ahead of me.

A long downhill portion took us past the small town of Alpine, paralleling the creek and old quarry railway all the way over to the next big aid station of St. Elmo. There was lots of great energetic volunteers here awaiting the runners and was great to see. Leaving St. Elmo we embarked on the only true out and back of the course up 3 Mi to the top of Laws Pass (12,296’) and nearly 3 Mi all the way down the otherside to Cottonwood aid station. Loaded up on a bunch of calories and downed a bunch of hydration here, before refilling my Tailwind and heading back. The next 6 Mi was a retracement of what we just did and so I knew what lie ahead of me. Leaving Cottonwood aid station there was another mandatory gear check where the “divide gear” was checked, along with the “basic gear” originally. What I like about this process is that the HiLo volunteers actually made us take everything out and show each item before signing us off. I have been in races before where it is more of a check-box process and not actually thoroughly checking the items – so good job HiLo for ensuring runner safety for their own good!

Along the hike back up to Laws Pass I passed many runners and even a few I knew heading down. I met my two other rabbitELITEtrail teammates whom were also running (Tara Warren and Rachel Kelley). After the long grind back to the pass I stopped briefly at the top where on of the Mile90 Photographers snapped a shot of me with the sign. I took in the views again briefly before gearing myself up for the 3 Mi downhill back down into St. Elmo.

This was my second summit of Laws Pass. Photo: Mile90 Photography (Rick & Krisit Mayo)

Next section was the long portion on the CDT (Continental Divide Trail). It was remote and beautiful traversing through Tin Cup aid station, pass Alpine Tunnel and all the way towards Hancock aid station. Upon reaching Hancock it represented the halfway point of the course, mileage wise. I reached this point in approximately 14.5 hours. After spending a good 20 minutes in the aid station recharging and get some calories in I embarked onward with my kogalla waistlamp at the ready. Passing around Hancock Lake the sun was fully ducking behind the mountains now, and I resorted to turning on my light. A short but steep climb up Chalk Creek Pass was a unique experience as I peered up at the headlamps weaving back and forth on the switchbacks that awaited me. The weather remained a nice warm temperature as the night sky now fully engulfed the landscape. 

Eventually I found myself at the Lost Wonder Hut aid station. I recall having some amazing perogies here that were delightful and just what I needed. A nice volunteer was keeping me company and decided to give me his opinion of the upcoming section. He was warning me of the impending climb that I was about to head into, which turned out to be correct. This section was a total net gain (+2,722’) with little net down, but the good news was this was the last “big” climb of the course. It seemed to take forever probably due to a combination of being exhausted and being the middle of the night at this point. The grind to the top of the divide lead us along a long ridge at the top where an aid station appeared in the distance. Appropriately named Purgatory (as one volunteer said because “you have just run through hell” after completing 100km + and having to grind up that climb). The aid station was situated right at the top of Monarch Ski Area still sitting at over 11,000’. At this point in the race it was the last high altitude portion of the course as is was all [net] downhill from here to the finish back at ~8,000’. In fact the next section of the course all the way to Fooses Creek aid station was all downhill losing nearly 3k in elevation – a real quad buster at this point in the race.

The next sections of the course I don’t really recall a lot about since it was back into sunrise conditions combined with the fact I was tired. I think I was just zoned out trying to keep moving forward the best I could. Eventually emerging at Blanks aid station at the base of Mount Shavano where there was lots of crew awaiting their runners. Passing the various parking lots and trailheads in this section showed me just how popular the mountain scene is during peak summer season. People were everywhere enjoying the outdoors. 

A stretch of 9.6 Mi back to the original Raspberry aid station and I would be now aiming to get the course complete. From here it was all familiar trails as this was the “stick” portion of this large lollipop shaped course (minus the one out & back over Laws Pass). The heat of day two was creeping in fast as it seemed to be even warmer. I focused on drinking my water and ensuring to consume my 2 soft flasks in my hydration vest between the aid stations. One trick I often due to take one out and hold it in my hand to make it easy to access. It reminds me to take small constant sips. Two notable climbs remained between me and achieving my buckle finish. 

Once I conquered the first of these climbs I ran the downhill best I could back on the count road 290 which lead by into the Mount Princeton Hot Springs area. Now only one last climb up the “Swear Hill” which is a 500’ climb up the paved road before a very short run back into the open field where it all began a mere 31+ hours ago. Lots of crews and volunteers were driving by either leaving the race, tracking their runners, or commuting back to various aid stations. They would honk and give words of encouragement during these last 2 miles on the road which was nice to hear for sure. Shortly before the 32 hour mark I managed to run through the last portion of the field and complete my journey of High Lonesome 100.

The Finish (Mount Princeton in background). Photo: Mile90 Photography (Rick & Krisit Mayo)
100Mi Finish Line feels. Photo: Mile90 Photography (Rick & Krisit Mayo)

Course Description

HiLo has a high point of 13,100’, and an average elevation of 10,425’. The course goes over Antero-White pass, Laws Pass (twice), Alpine Tunnel Pass, Chalk Creek Pass, and Monarch Pass. The course is 67% singletrack, 26% mining roads, 3% gravel roads, and 4% paved.


Alpine Tunnel Pass. Photo: Mile90 Photography (Jordan Chapell)


Results

101.02 Mi | 21,195 ft+ | 31:54:04 | 42nd Place

STRAVA activity: High Lonesome 100 (42nd overall), Buena Vista, CO | Run | Strava

Official Results: OpenSplitTime: Full results - 2022 High Lonesome 100


Gear List

Shirts: rabbitELITEtrail team kit SS & rabbit UPF deflector LS
Shorts: rabbit 5" shredders 2-in-1
Jackets: rabbit swish PRO (Hawks edition)
Shoes: Altra Olypmpus 4.0
Socks: Dry Max
Headwear: rabbit (BOCO) rabbitELITEtrail cap
Sunglasses: goodr (rabbit PR edition)
Gloves: rabbit (BOCO) 
Watch: Garmin fēnix® 6X - Pro Solar Edition
Lighting: kogalla RA Adventure Light (waistlamp)
Hydration: 
NATHAN Trailmix 12 L race pack with 1.6L bladder & x2 20oz Nathan soft flasks
Trail Racing Over Texas collapsible cup
NATHAN VaporKrar WaistPak (used to carry my kogalla waistlamp)
Anti Friction lube: Trail Toes
Poles: none
Emergency Bivy: SOL
Gear Bags: Victory Sportdesign (Grizzly Backpack)
Extra Required “Cold Divide Gear”
Jackets: Altra Wasatch hooded jacket (taped seams)
Pants: rabbit Before And Afters
Headwear: rabbit beanie
Extra Layer: rabbit LS
Secondary light source: Nathan Sports Halo Fire (headlamp)


My beautiful hard earned buckle.
This was my 31st race of 100 Mi or more. In total, I have completed 28 of these resulting in 90.32% completion rate.
HiLo was my 89th ultramarathon.


Thank you everyone for following along on my blog and reading my race reports. I hope you get some insights into the races I write about or even pick up on some tips from a crazy person who likes to run a lot of ultras. Please reach out if you have further questions or post a comment below. Thank you.


Confirmed next up:

  • Aug-06 | Capt'n Karl's Colorado Bend 60km Night Trail Run (Bend, TX)
  • Sep-17 | Barkley Fall Classic (Wartburg, TN)
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#ultrarunningdad

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Southwest 100 D.N.F.

SW100

ultramarathon #087 | D.N.F. #003

A nice little trip out west proved a draw to my psyche as “the mountains were calling” as they say. I had been to Fort Davis last year to run Southwest 100 put on by Ultra Expeditions, and it being a very reasonable priced race (even on the cheaper side of average). I decided to make the 9 hour commute to attempt it for the second time this March. My fitness is not peaked by any means, but I did run last month and complete a 95 Mi effort out in Louisiana (Red Dirt). This being the case heading west to the Rockies always presents challenges for someone living at basically sea level: altitude, dry air, and vertical gain!

Once I had gotten to Fort Davis I took Friday afternoon to set up my single tent and go for a little shakeout hike and run. The afternoon was cloudless, and the heat of the sun felt quite intense. This pushed the thought of how hard tomorrow during the day would be on the exposed terrain of the Southwest course. The temperatures of 70s-80s up at the altitude just feels so much penetrating on exposed skin.

The morning of the race everyone was busing around getting their drop bags set at the aid station at the start-finish. We would be passing though many times over (six times in fact) for the 100 milers as the course was 7 loops to complete. This feature of a moderate length loop also makes self-crewing very easy for a 100 miler. It was a chilly 40f something in the wee hours prior to the start. I was staying warm in my puffy until the pre-race brief. This was my attempt to keep my body temperature regulated until I started moving. Heading into the race I was standing here hoping to be back with a finish in 24 hours from now.

View of Fort Davis Historical Site up from the nature trails.

LOOP 1 

There was 24 runners at the start line for the 05:00 send off: 14 100-milers & an additional 10 50-milers. With any small ultra race the start was not hectic or anything of the sort, but more of a casual start to your typical weekend long run just with a little more group enthusiasm. 

The headtorches lite the way for the majority of the entire first loop as the sunrise was not until 07:53. I recall the exact time because I have it set on my watch in my ultra mode in order to be aware when I need my lights in my pack and such. Climbing up and back out of the Fort Davis National Park and crossing back into the Historical Site the sun was creeping up in the distance giving the eastward horizon a gorgeous morning orange glow. Moments like these are just awesome as you are moving through nature on your own feet and get to just embrace the entrance of the sun signaling the start of a new day. Running back down the technical descent into the Historical site you approach a small aid station with still 2.5 miles to go where you wind around the old historical buildings then a quick trip up the nature trails which includes a straight up section (including stairs) which is about 500 feet gain before coming around and back down into the finish.

I came across the timing mat at basically 3 hours on the nose and this was my goal time for that first loop. I figured if I could do the first in 3 hours and then every other loop at 3.5 hours I would have a crack at the 24 hour time goal I had in my head.

LOOP 2

A quick turn around at the start finish at my Victory Sportdesign Grizzley bag, I dropped off my headlamp, changed out of my long sleeves I had with me and changed into my rabbitELITEtrail short sleeve team jersey. I also grabbed a pair of goodr sunglasses as the sun was now rising steadily. I took off back out on the course with a purposeful slower pace now shooting for the 3.5 hour loop time to set myself up for success…hopefully. The climbs were a little slower this go around but I kept my pace steady. No major issues occurred on this loop and I continued to run basically the entire loop. The sun was letting us know its presence for sure as again there was no clouds to diffuse the sun rays. I had settled into my slightly slower pace and came in on the loop close to that 3.5 hour mark. Two loops done, 5 to go.

LOOP 3

My legs felt a little heavy after all the climbing and descending thus far, but I was trying to push that thought out of my head. I looked down and saw faint signs of salty sweat stains on my race vest. The heat and altitude combination was wearing me down and it was only starting to now get into the heat of the afternoon. I took some extra time at the aid station and hydrated the best I could – I downed a nice cold Coca-Cola before heading out. I also took my ice bandana with me to keep my neck cold. Something did not feel right. I knew I was in for a battle. Onward I went back out for another 14.3 Mi loop. My goal again was a slow and steady 3.5 hour time frame. After the first major limb on the loop my calves felt gassed. I tried to jog it out but just could not hold even a steady jog pace. I resorted to a power hike on some of the runnable terrain, which also meant I was now losing time on my loop time I was shooting for. It took awhile before I could run again but then before I knew it I was at the bottom of the next big climb and had to hike again anyway all the way up. This time I felt some twinges in my legs as I was making the long ascent. These were the dreaded precursors to full on cramps. I downed all the fluids I had took a salt tab and one of my gels as well in order to be proactive as I could. A little miss step dodging some larger rocks in the terrain and next thing I knew I stumbled forward, and both my legs locked up…ouch! I slowed my pace even further, which was pretty hard to do at this point.

After finally cresting the summit of this climb within the National Park I headed slowly down the steep switchbacks on the other side. This proved tricky as my legs began to cramp more on the descents. At one point both legs locked up so bad I had to turn around and face up hill putting all my weight on my toes in order to counter flex my calf muscles to get them to release. This is a painful situation until they finally release, for anyone not privy to having experienced this. I essentially hiked down the rest of the way and my loop time was inevitably becoming much longer than anticipated. In fact I came in over just over 5 hours as I was not able to get much running in at all after this.

I took a nice long break after this loop trying to hydrate as much as I could before heading back out. I was not happy about my legs and trying to work my way through it. I put on my stubborn mindset and got ready for a forth loop.

LOOP 4

With the damage of the heat and cramping on loop 3, I was just trying to work my way back to actual running again. I walked the initial 0.5 Mi of the loop and hiked up the first climb, hoping that by the time I reached the top all the caloric intake and hydrating I did would kick in and help me get back on track. Sadly this did not happen as I hoped. I trudged on slowly hiking and slow jogging, downing lots of fluids but nothing seemed to be working. There was still a few hours of sun exposure at this point and I just hoped that sunset would bring some relief so that was my next thought: just make it through the remainder of the daylight. At point my legs got twinges again, and I even had some side cramps in my abs (i.e. my core). I knew this was a bad sign. I stopped and took my time at the aid stations. Again, nothing was working. I tried pickle juice, bananas, salt tabs, lots of water, electrolytes, and yet nothing was helping my body work through this.

I was moving so slow that my attempted jog wasn’t even much faster than my hiking pace. Luckily I was smart enough to bring my headlamp with me in case the loop carried over into darkness. Sure enough I needed that light for the last third of the loop or so as I snaked my way around back into the Historical Site again finishing up the nature trail loop section again before returning to the start/finish area. Loop 4 nearly took me 6 hours to complete those 14.3 Mi. Brutal! I was beat mentally and physically as my body still randomly was seizing up and cramping. The sunset and cooler temperatures had not brought any relief to my agonizing death march I was on.

I sat down slumped in my chair. It was cold and chilly once I stopped moving. I made a quick decision that I was going to sit in my car and warm up. I let the race directors know and walked the few hundred yards down the path into the lot where I was parked. I bundled up with a jacket and hat, and got in my passenger set with a blanket. I closed my eyes and slept for about 30 minutes once I was able to find a position my legs didn’t seize up.

I awoke in a slight chill under the blankets as I was sweating slightly on my under layers covered up with my jacket on top. My body was confused it seemed. I felt quite fresh mentally but my body was still not on the same page as it needed to be. I pondered my thoughts for a few minutes and texted back and forth with my wife. With the dread of 3 more loops in front of me and the coldness of the night I made the rash decision to call off my race. I was a Did Not Finish (D.N.F.) after 4 loops, 57.5 Mi into the race. I informed the race director and passed in my ankle timing tracker. This was simply not my day. I hobbled back to my car after packing up my things and took me with a rare incomplete finish to a ultramarathon. I was content with my decision as it was my choice, but still disappointed my body was unable to respond and never really recover from the heat and perhaps slight dehydration I had occurred out there in the Fort Davis mountains.

"Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face" - Mike Tyson

RESULTS

Distance: 57.40 Mi | 92.38 km (completed 4 loops out of 7)
Elevation Gain: 10,338 ft+ | 3,151 m+
My 3rd Did Not Finish.
2022 SW100: 3 finishers & 9 D.N.F. = 25% completion rate | 75% D.N.F. rate

GEAR

Shirts: rabbit  LS & SS rabbitELITEtrail team kit
Shorts: rabbit  3" FKT rabbitELITEtrail team kit
Jackets: rabbit  elements
Shoes: Altra Olypmpus 4.0
Socks: Dry Max
Headwear: rabbit  (BOCO) rabbitELITEtrail cap
Sunglasses: goodr (couple different pairs)
Gloves: rabbit   (BOCO) 
Watch: Garmin fēnix® 6X - Pro Solar Edition
Lighting: kogalla RA Adventure Light (waistlamp) & Nathan Sports Halo Fire (headlamp)
Hydration: Nathan Sports VaporKrar 12L Race Pack, x2 20oz Nathan soft flasks, Trail Racing Over Texas collapsible cup
Anti Friction lube: Trail Toes
Gear Bags: Victory Sportdesign (Grizzly Backpack) 

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Thank you for following along on my adventures.
Next up: The Game Backyard Ultra | Apr-09

Meding Baby #05 due Apr-20th (t.b.d.)
I will have to update my logo ;)