Friday, April 23, 2021

The Game Backyard Ultra

Another Backyard Rumble!

Short Version, (#TJM style) race report Haiku:

The Game Backyard Ultra

Round and Round We Go.

One Hundred Twenty Five Miles. Shit!

Cocodona in Two Weeks.

Long Version, more details:

I have been lucky enough to have done this format a couple times before:

  • 2018 The Game - Last Runner Standing | 48.91 mi,  6th "DNF" (not official "Backyard Rules")
  • 2019 The Game Backyard Ultra - Race Report | 23 yards, 95.87 mi, 1st overall
  • 2020 Quarantine Backyard Ultra (Virtual) - Race Report | 26 yards, 109.39 mi, top41 "DNF"

I have been anticipating coming back to join Spectrum Trail Racing and give this another go. This time it was different. This year Spectrum had an extra carrot for us silly enough to sign up - a Golden Coin - which is the ticket/invite to the infamous World Championship of Backyard Ultras put on at Laz's farm every October: Big's Backyard Ultra. Not going to lie, this was a big goal of mine heading into this one to get myself an invite to Big's by attempting to be the last person standing.

Saturday morning we got up pretty early from our house in Sugar Land. We packed up the entire family and all my gear and off we went. A short mix up at the local Starbucks attempting to get our coffee caused a little extra time getting on the road, but that's life. In the end both myself and my wife Katie were able to get our caffeine for the 1h 20m drive out to Columbus, Texas. I had been out to the ranch the evening before after work in order to secure a spot for our tent (aka base camp) for the race. As we parked I started unloading and hauling the remainder of my gear and cooler full of food over to our claimed area right near the start finish arch. Katie was getting the kids fully dressed and into some warmer clothes as the air was crisp and the wind kept the air temperature cool.

Sitting in my nice comfy chair I was just chilin' and hanging out with the kids keeping myself relaxed. The race nerves were present but also not really because I knew the race wouldn't really start until about 24 hours later. Around 07:45 the Race Directors (Mallory & Jason Brooks) gathered the crowd of runners and started the race brief which also included a brief history lesson of the Ranch 88 from the owner himself.

Pre-race brief. Photo: Katie Meding

Our kids were getting ancy just sitting there trying to stay warm in the cool Texas morning. Typical kids as we had only been outside for like 20 minutes at most and they were already complaining wanting to go warm up in the van before seeing me off to start. The countdown was on, the runners were called into starting corral, as the final minute was now here. I kissed all five of my girls one at a time, and then ducked under the rope and into the starting area. 08:00 and the cow bell was run nice and loud. Off we went!

The course was a lollipop with about a 200 m chute straight down from the start/finish where it opened up to the left down into the trees and to the right were it started off into the pasture. The loop was pretty nice and it was a complete circle where we'd go around the loop and then back up the chute to the finish line. There was a nice mix of open pasture field (true Texas ranch style), trails through the canopy of tress, and couple small dried up creek bed crossings, and animal carved paths throughout the ranch. The trail was quite rough and very crude, which made for footing placement to be precise as to not twist or jack your ankle.

The Game loop at Ranch 88. Photo: STRAVA

As I went around the first loop I was stuck in the middle of a conga line on this ranch animal made singletrack. This kept my pace under control and allowed me to absorb the sights and sounds of the loop. I tried to notice everything I could about the loop as I went around the first time. I was mentally noting the mid point of the loop and a couple of the major points. The group I was running with this first loop settled into decent pace that ended up popping us out into the last portion of the pasture within sight of the start/finish in the distance around 41 minutes into the hour. Another 4 minutes later and I was there coming back up the chute to the finish arch. I thought it was a slow pace, but in fact it was the perfect pace! I was aiming for 45 minute loops, which would give me that 15 minute interloop time. My crew of girls were all there to greet me as I kicked my feet up and just relaxed in my chair and sipped some water.

The 3 minute warning was called out and the runners slowly gathered in the corral. I waited in my chair sitting there a mere 10 feet away, but once the 1 minute warning came I got up and got myself in position. The unique aspect of The Game here is that either Mallory or Jason, whomever was exactly at the start at the time, would flip the coin to see which direction we would be running. So it was left to chance each loop whether it was clockwise or counter-clockwise. This added a slight nice element of chance into the loop later on. In the beginning it did not seem to matter much I thought. At one point it did seem like we ran a clockwise direction for like 6 times in a row - not sure the statistical probability on that, but it is certainly low.

Start of a loop. Photo: Spectrum Trail Racing.

Very quickly after the first couple loops the groups and paces were evenly divided among the large group of nearly 90 runners out there who had started. By the forth or fifth loop I was running closer to the upper portion of the pace groups, but not overreaching myself. I had found myself a comfortable pace that allowed me to come in each time around 41-43 minutes with some consistency. It was working nicely. As the loop direction changed sometimes it would take a bit for me to keep on the target pace I had, but sooner or later I got it back. 

My 2nd daughter Lily, running with my up the final
chute into the finish of the loop. Photo: Kaite Meding.
Each time I would get back in sight of the finish area, which was a nice large open area of the pasture that the start/finish chute lead up, my daughters were there running around looking for me amongst the other runners. Often I could here them yelling "there he is....Daddy!" - it was my favorite part of the loop every time. Around 14:00 or so my family was headed out on the short drive back home. I said goodbye and informed them I would see them tomorrow morning, which would be at the 24 hour mark or more. But admittedly I was a little bummed they were leaving for the day as they truly did give me a boost coming in from each loop. On the flip side I was committed to running long as they were my ride home too and wouldn't be back till at least Sunday morning.

The days loops kept ticking by and the number of runners was very slowly dropping off, but honestly not as fast as I thought it might be. Coming into the 12th yard, which would signify the 50 mile mark, there was nearly 50 runners still standing, I think 49 to be exact if I recall, a very good showing for the race. At this point I knew The Game would be going to 24+ for sure, just based on the amount of people left. I was still up near the front in terms of pace, but there was a decent group of 5-7 people who'd still be running in front of me at this point, doing faster loops.

The sunset came at around 19:49 I believe so it was almost exactly when I was finishing off my first 50 miles into the event. for the next loop I took only my headlamp as I thought I wouldn't need a lot of light just yet. I've been using NATHAN headlamps for years now so I am used to them. Running in the open areas and pastures I didn't even turn on my headtorch at first, but as soon as we ducked under the canopy of the tree cover it was super dark and a light was required. Arriving back at my base camp completing loop 13 I knew I wanted more light out there in the darkness of the corners of the ranch. I got out my newly purchased kogalla RA adventure light. I put it around my waist and lined up for the next loop. I've done a couple test runs with this light prior (I purchased it for my upcoming Cocodona 250), but utilizing it during a race to test it out further was a great opportunity. The moment I got out and running I turned on my light and bam....the span of 120 degrees of brightness shined in front of me. I literally ran this loop 4 minutes faster with the new light guiding me through the night. I felt so much more confident with the amount of lighting in front of me. The next few laps I received a few comments and inquires about my light as some of the other runners seemed to enjoy it as well. Every once in awhile I'd find one or two runner right behind me for majority of the loop, most likely enjoying the addition light in front.

I have done a lot of night running in my relatively short ultra running career. My usual low during overnight ultras happens around 03:00-06:00 right when those natural circadian rhythms kick in from the build up of natural melatonin rises to tell the body to sleep. I am quite aware of it coming, and often try to stave it off with caffeine and by simply just continuing to move forward. The extra light from the kogalla RA seemed to really help and may have aided me in not getting as drowsy as I usually due in the wee hours of the morning. Coming around to the sunrise at our last loop with lights was yard 23, and there was still 5 runners standing in The Game. It was just beginning...

Finishing the 24th yard - 100 miles.
I texted my wife and asked when they were coming back on one of my breaks. I asked for some hashbrowns from McDonald's when they did - I love me some potatoes late into ultras. After the 24th yard and completing 100 miles we lined up for the next loop and only 4 were now on the line. The other runner had just completed his first 100 mile and called it a day. I can't recall exactly when the 4th place runner dropped out but I think it was after 26(?) cause if I recall correctly my family had just arrived, which was just before the 10:00 loop - which would have been yard 27. Either way there about I got my beloved hashbrowns from my amazing crew, family, and supporters. I gobbled them down and was ready for more miles. I was feeling good and still ticking by at a good pace so I thought now down to the final 3 runners.

Loop 28 something happened suddenly where I lost a couple minutes on my overall loop time, nothing super significant, but it felt harder. Then all of a sudden loop 29 it got slightly slower again (and was my slowest yard yet overall). I discussed my difficulties with my wife when I returned again and to put my feet. She reassured me and simply told me to rest. I heeded that advice and attempted to close my eyes. Too soon I was back on my feet as the 1 minute warning was called out. As usual I awaited for about 30 seconds before getting out of my chair and stumbling over to the corral and fist bumping my 2 competitors. Yard 30 had begun, and I was off with the thoughts in my head and y dwindling pace. I felt so slow and even took 3 walk breaks during the loop. I had only taken one significant walk break on each of the prior 29 loops, so I felt the slow drip of my body not wanting to keep the pace anymore. I let it get in my head.

Finishing a loop, pressing the lap on my Garmin. Photo: Jason Brooks, Spectrum Trail Racing.

I arrived back at base camp and kicked up my feet and starting chatting again with Katie, telling her, I think that it was over. I had come in in 0:48:43 so in reality I still had a full 11 minutes of rest time interloop, which in all honestly is a lot in these type of events, but I felt slow and could feel my pace slowing dropping 3 loops in a row now. I have to hand if to my wife, she said all the right things, and was being the best crew chief and supporter possible. I sat there being all pessimistic and told her I had thought it through. I got up for yard 31, lined up with Nick and Vincent gave our pre-loop fist bumps and then I sprinted off the line ahead of them. About 50 yards down the chute I stopped turned around and gave them each high fives as they went by informing them I was done and surrendering my effort in The Game. I was done after 30 yards complete and 125 miles officially run. I slowly returned to start/finish arch to a small crowd of applause from the few spectators still remaining, and of course both Mallory and Jason. I thanked everyone and went over to hug my wife and kids.

I have given up. My body had not failed me yet...and in the backyard if you are not willing to go until your body gives out on you, you will never find out how far you can go. I finished yard 30 with 11 minutes to spare for rest and still convinced myself I was done. Physically I know there was more much...well we will have to wait to find out next time I line up in a backyard because on this day, my mind told me I was done, and I caved to that thought. There is no room for weakness in the backyard, especially in the mind of the runners. All weaknesses will eventually get exposed. That is why this format is such and intriguing and fun event.

Until the next time....

Cause there will be a next time.

My Tips for some success at your next Backyard Ultra  

*NOTE: results may vary, no guarantees*

 1.   Maximize the time OFF your feet.
    • This is crucial if you want to maximize what you want to get out of yourself and test your limits at the backyard ultra format. This is tricky as it depends on pace and how you split your running time versus your interloop time. Either way, as soon as you arrive back to your base camp - get off your feet!
      Photo: Mallory Brooks, Spectrum Trail Racing.
   2.   Get a your base camp set up AS CLOSE AS POSSIBLE to the starting corral. 
    • Also keep in mind vicinity to other amenities such as the porta-potties and/or the aid station table (if one if provided).
    • Note that during the first 24 hours or so this is a crazy area of the race with my people and spectators potentially, so it will likely be loud and ruckus. However later on in these races people are very respectful and allow the then tired racers to get whatever minimal rest they can interloop.
  3.   Ensure you have a GOOD CHAIR with your own preferred snacks/drinks located directly within reaching distance when sitting down. 
    • I suggest a cooler right next the chair acting as a table as well.
    • This year I bought a anti-gravity incline chair (Magellan Outdoors) which was amazing! I recommend something like this to kick the feet up as high as possible between running loops.
    • most ultras you may have been warned of "beware of the chair" but here in the backyard you must embrace the chair!
 4.   Get as much SLEEP as you can.
    • Easier said than done, especially if you have not experienced long endurance events. Having run a few 200+ events now and a few other backyard formats I have learned to almost get myself to sleep as needed (not always the case).
    • Part of my strategy of running 45 minute loops was to be able to have 15 minutes interloop: 10 minutes for sleep (or at least closed-eye resting), and 5 minutes to eat and whatever else as needed. During the night loops I got about 10 minutes of sleep for the majority from midnight till 5a.m.
5.   Have your watch settings dialed in ahead of time.
    • Have all the settings worked out on your watch prior to the event. This sounds like a no-brainer but for an event like this you don't want to think about extra details like changing settings or worrying about your data.
    • I use a Garmin fēnix 6X Pro Solar and I have my settings ready to go. I use the "Ultra Run" activity widget and here are a few tips for any other Garmin users. This type of activity automatically tracks rest time when you hit the lap button. The screen displays current rest duration as well as the total elapsed time since starting. Second tip is I have a "drink alarm" set for every 20 minutes. This is extremely useful for this 1 hour looped event because as the loop unfolds every 20 minutes the alarm would beep and I knew exactly where I was at 20 minutes and again at 40 minutes. It helped me gauge where I was in terms of my pacing on the course every lap as the event went on. I didn't even have to look down, the alarm would go off, and I just knew where I was based on the spot on the loop comparatively. 
    • I am sure other brands have similar function, but Garmin is my brand of choice! (do your own research for your particular device….ahead of time).
My Garmin "Ultra Run" activity. Display showing the rest period. This photo is cropped from one clearly after my 29th yard, but shows how simple the data is for viewing.

6.   Have a great support crew.

    • A Great support crew can be pivotal in any ultra. But one in the backyard where you have a set amount of time to get up out of our chair and back in the starting corral at the top of every hour is especially important. The longer the race goes the more crucial your crew becomes.
    • Having your favorite foods, snacks, and drinks set out for you on returning from the loop saves time and makes it easy on the runner. 
    • I recommend fellow ultra running friends, or even better a awesome supportive family such as mine. Some of them may not be the best at crew logistics (yet), but they are cute and provide all the inspiration I need.
My crew chief, my biggest supporter, my best friend, my wife.
My 2 oldest daughters giving me a big hug after completing a loop. Photo: Katie Meding.

Results and Statistics

  • Flow of the race:
    • 1st yard- The Game begins: 86 runners start
    • 2nd yard- 86 runners start
    • 3rd yard- 80 runners start
    • 12th yard (the 50 mi yard)- 49 runners start
    • 14th yard - 30 runners start
    • 17th yard (100 km done)- 20 runner start
    • 24th yard (the 100 mi yard)- 5 runners start
    • 25th yard (100 mi done)- 4 runners start
    • 31st yard (125 mi done)- 3 runners start (I dropped after seeing the final 2 off the start)
    • 34th yard- winner determined!
      • Vincent Barrientos (@vincentbarrientos) won The Game by completing the 34th yard.
      • Nick Nelson (@blackflagrunning) completed 33 yards, started the 34th but turned around.
  • STRAVA stats: 126.87 mi | 2,274 ft+ | 14:11/mi overall average pace
  • Overall Time: 30:00:19 elapsed time
    • 21:20:29 running time (71.14%)
    • 08:39:31 interloop rest time (28.86%)
  • STRAVA activity:
  • Results: 3rd overall, but still technically a "DNF"
  • Achieved my backyard Personal Best of 30 yards (previous was 26)
  • This was my 75th ultramarathon & my 21st completion of 100 miles or more
My personal spreadsheet data analysis of the race numbers.

Gear Used

  • kit (top): rabbit - all sorts of various shirts used
  • kit (bottom): rabbit 5" FKT shorts
  • jackets: rabbit Elements light wind jacket
  • hats: rabbit (BOCO gear)
  • Gear bags: Victory Sportdesign
  • Lights: kogalla RA adventure light wore around waist & a NATHAN Halo Fire headlamp (as backup)
  • Flasks: NATHAN 20oz handheld
  • Socks: Drymax
  • Shoes: Altra TIMP 1.5
  • Anti-Friction Body Lube: Trail Toes
  • Watch: Garmin fēnix 6X Pro Solar (finished with 43% battery life still)
  • Eyewear: goodr (Sorry, Not Sorry (But Actually Sorry) edition)
  • Chair: Magellan Outdoors Oversize Anti-Gravity Lounger
  • Cooler(s): x1 YETI & x1 Coleman

Thank You

Huge shoutout to the Race Directors of Spectrum Trail Racing, Mallory & Jason Brooks, whom put on a great event. The race was a pretty decent size and they kept up a great upbeat atmosphere throughout the event with music, pizza for the runners, and a well stoked aid station at the start area. Thank you for putting on The Game and encouraging us to run far and push our limits.

Thanks to my sponsors and supporters: 

Last and certainly not least thank you to my 5 ladies in my life (Katie, Addison, Lillian, Paisley, Hazel) whom without their support I would not be able to do what I do. Not only do they allow me the time to train for these crazy endeavors, they came out this weekend and supported me and cheered me on. I am truly grateful for their support.
That's my amazing support team in the background...all 5 of them.

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Next Up: Cocodona 250 (2021-May-03)

Friday, April 2, 2021

Southwest 100 Endurance Run

Southwest 100

Fort Davis, TX | My 74th ultramarathon

I've had my eye on this race for a bit now as it is another mountain race right here in Texas put on by Ultra Expeditions. If anyone knows me and my love of the mountain races it would make sense. I have never actually been down to this part of Texas, although I have driven by the turnover on I-10 many times when travelling to El Paso a few different times now. In fact I didn't even realize this was a relatively new race. This year was only the second edition, as it started originally in 2019, and was subsequently cancelled in 2020 due to COVID as most races were. None the less I signed up for the race only a couple weeks in advance, as per my usual last minute protocol on race planning. Luckily my wife gave the blessing as I had hinted at the idea (but I had already entered when I approached her upon this).

Race Weekend

I had taken off the Friday from work so I could travel to West Texas and get there for the early packet pickup so I would not be super rushed on race morning. Plus this would give m the bonus of sleeping close to the race and hopefully getting a good night sleep nearby the start. 02:00 on Friday I was awoken by my preset alarm and out of the house by 02:30. My wife was so amazing to have set the coffee machine onto a timer so I was able to have a fresh cup of hot coffee on the road (a true must for any road trip, no matter the distance). As it was about a 10 hour commute to Fort Davis from Sugar Land the miles chugged along. Eventually I got there and was now back in the mountain playground. Naturally once I got there I took the opportunity to get in my daily run. I went into the Fort Davis State Park and ventured around the Indian Lodge area. This was a portion of the course I would be on tomorrow. I basically took it super chill and just hiked with a little jogging, I was playing it smart for once. The views were gorgeous as it was a nice clear warm afternoon.

The road view coming into Fort Davis, TX area.

Pre race shakeout hike/jog. Pictured below is Indian Lodge located within Fort Davis State Park.

After wandering around for a few miles I waddled back to my car and then headed over to the packet pickup to get my bib number. After that I headed back into town for some pizza and much needed per race fueling. I found myself a nice parking spot next to a local hotel and adjacent bar patio type area. I perched my sleeping arrangements here, as I was full dirt bag style this trip and sleeping in my car....again. A decent sleep was had for staying in my backseat set up. I woke up every couple hours, but honestly it was one of the better rests I've had in my car (I've had quite a few before races, even 100 milers like this).

03:45 am wake up and I sprung out of my backseat as nimbly as I could. I headed down the road for the 3 minute drive to the Fort Davis National Historic Site as it was open to us racers as of 04:00 for last minute check-in and to get ready for the 05:00 start. I set out my one and only Victory Sportdesign drop bag positioned at the start finish area as this is a looped course, which makes it very easy for self crewing. I lined up in the 39 starters of the 52 mi & 104 mi event. Paired up 6 feet apart were we stated in those pairs every 5 seconds to help space everyone out as per the protocols. As per the norm these days everyone also had to have their masks on until we were away from the start area. Off we went into the crisp morning Texas mountain air.

The loop was listed at 13 miles which started in Fort Davis National Historical Site climbed up and out of that area and traversed over to Fort Davis State Park where did a larger figure 8 type loop and doubled back into the Historical Site for a small nasty little loop in the rock formation behind and overlooking Fort Davis itself. Overall it ended up being 13.35 miles with about 2,375 ft of gain per loop.

STRAVA segment of the Southwest 100 loop. The elevation profile shows just how steep the climbs were even if they were not super long, they beat you up after a while.

The route consisted of 4 main climbs. Overall there short (~0.5mi), but very steep and technical (pointy). It made it slow going up & down those every loop. Overall we were at same basic elevation of El Paso too at ~5,200ft so there is that big difference from the Houston area, but never got above 5,600ft. It was a tough mountain course though!

As the race started off I stayed relaxed and did not initially head to the front of the pack. during the first climb a little ways into the race I was still behind a bunch of people and just reminded myself to stay patient, as I often have issues with this even in the longer races. Eventually a lot of people moved over or slowed down and just naturally let me by. I was following the leader for the majority of the first full loop and was just settled into a nice relaxed 100 mile pace for me. Coming through the first loop it was just past sunrise now so I took very little time and basically dropped my headlamp and changed into a slightly lighter feeling long sleeve rabbit shirt.

The second loop went by quite quickly as well and I found myself falling back from the leader, although I did not feel it was because my pace was slowing. About two thirds the way around the loop I caught back up again on one of the longer climbs. I just stayed behind him and maintained a comfortable pace for the remainder of the loop. Another quick change over in between loops and I trimmed down to short sleeves this time, and brought out my sunglasses as the sun was getting up there. I kept my stop under 5 minutes and kept on truckin'.

I am not entirely sure where I passed the race leader and took over, but it about half way around loop 3. I tried to kept my pace constant and maintain my even perceived 100mi effort. The sun was out and there was literally zero clouds in the sky. It was still comfortable running temperatures at this point, but I knew that would be coming to and end soon. Loop 4 is where the sun and the heat of the day really showed its force. I had my NATHAN ice bandana out and was putting ice around my neck from the aid stations trying to keep the back of my neck cool. I was sucking back the fluid too and doing my best to stay hydrated, but at these elevations and heat it is hard for a flat lander. My pace slowed a lot in these warm late afternoon hours but I knew I just had to slog through. I completed my 4th loop, the halfway point, just after 12 hours elapsed. I knew this was a decent pace but that I probably would not be able to hold the same effort for the second half. I have run a lot of 100s now and I know how my pace eventually slows. But I tried not to think of this and quickly shed the thought from my mind. I took a longer break this time, around 20 minutes, and downed some of my left over pizza from the night before and a nice cold Coca-Cola, along with a few other snacks. I did change socks too at this point which was a great refreshing feeling for my beat up feet.

Heading out for loop 5 I did bring a headlamp in case I need it for the last few miles in case I could not beat sunset. I was still in front at this point and noticed the second place person was slowly falling back as we passed each other on the 2-way section of the course. I used this as a mental note more than anything at this point in time, as it was too early to worry about overall positioning quite yet. The latter half of this loop the sun was slowly falling down behind me in the West as I was headed back eastbound at the time. With this the temperature was finally falling and added some relief to the body. I was nearly back to the start/finish before the sun's light had left us for the night time hours. I utilized my headlamp briefly to navigate the remaining technical climb and decent before getting back and finishing loop 5. only 3 to go.

With the darkness upon me I did something I rarely do...I put in my headphones and listened to some podcasts to help keep me company. The course was much less populated and I was seeing less and less people out there at all, except at the aid stations long the way. The night hours went by consistently although there was a about 2 hour period where the wind picked up and it was pretty brutal out. Luckily it was not a super cold wind, even when at the top of the hills. Finishing loop 7 I came in just over 25 hours, so it was around 06:00 on Sunday now. I dropped off my light jacket I was carrying for the night and headed back out for one last lap. The RD informed me there was only 3 people left on course, which made complete sense as to why I was never seeing anyone anymore. She told me I had about 1.5 hour lead at last check.

On the night loops. That is my headtorch in the hills there as viewed from the start/finish area.
Photo: Ultra Expeditions (from their Facebook page).

Off I went for a measly half marathon to go. It seemed to take forever now that I was actively looking forward to that finish line. Eventually I made it around and saw the finish area with my small little 3 mile loop left around the Historical Site. It was at this point I knew I would manage to break the 30 hour barrier. I came around the last stretch to a few people out and about cheering me in and the race even had up a Facebook live going for the  last couple of minutes (this was awesome as I would later find out my wife and kids managed to see me finish this way). I was not really near my goal of 24 hours for this race, but I managed to run a good race and be the first ever finisher of the Southwest 100 Endurance Run in 29:26:25.

Finishing kick coming through fort Davis National Historical Site.

Finish line with 2 of the 4 Ultra Expedition Race Directors

My stats on my Garmin fēnix 6X and the nice shiny buckle earned!

Gear Used

  • Gear Bags: Victory Sportdesign Grizzly backpack (Main Start/Finish aid station)
  • Jackets: rabbit elements vest
  • Shirts: rabbit long sleeve rabbitELITEtrail team jersey, a couple other rabbit shirts
  • Shorts: rabbit 5" FKT
  • Shoes: HOKA ONE ONE Speedgoat (test pair)
  • Socks: DrymaxSocks (2 pairs)
  • Headwear: rabbit (BOCO) rabbitELITEtrail cap, Trail Racing Over Texas endurance cap
  • Sunglasses: goodr (TransRockies Run 2019 edition)
  • Watch: Garmin fēnix® 6X - Pro Solar Edition
  • Headlamp: Nathan Sports Halo Fire
  • Hydration: Nathan Sports VaporKrar 12L Race Pack with x2 20oz Nathan soft flasks
  • Other: rabbit (BOCO) gloves
  • Anti Friction lube: Trail Toes

Results & Data

Official Results: 1st overall. Only 3 finishers out of 25 started for the 104 miler (12% finisher rate | 88% DNF rate). In 2019 during the first edition of the race no one finished the 100, and thus by default I got the Course Record as well by being the first finisher of the race.

  • Congratulations to the other 2 finishers of the race Tom Elliot & Miles Benevich.

STRAVA activity:

Love my post race data.

  • my 74th ultramarathon run
  • my 22nd event of 100 miles or more
  • my 20th completion of 100 miles or more
  • my 11th ultramarathon victory
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If you want to know more about this race I highly recommend it. They have a great little teaser video on their website and on YouTube highlighting some of the course and scenery. If you like a challenge I would say come take on the Southwest 100 ... 104mi ... err 107.5 mile Endurance Run! It is a very scenic area and a race that will challenge even the seasoned ultra runner.

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My updated 100mi+ buckle collection with my latest edition of the Southwest 100 in place. I have now completed 20 100 mile (or greater) events. This one of a kind buckle display was handcrafted for me by my dad, as he is very handy.

Next up: The Game Backyard Ultra (Spectrum Trail Racing), 17-Apr-2021

Cocodona 250 (Aravaipa Running), 03-May-2021

Saturday, February 20, 2021

The Tour (part iii: The Journey)

A Journey Around Texas

Tour De Los Tejas 600 km | Ultra #072

In case you haven't read my 2 prior blogs (part i: Preparation, part ii: The Hay is in the Barn), I have been preparing for this run for a long time now. Basically since the summer months. I've been building up my mileage like never before. Secondly, I have been running so much roads and neighborhoods on purpose to get the body used to the pounding that only pavement can dish out. This was hard for me as I fancy myself a trail runner and only run on roads out of necessity or laziness to get to the dirt. Finally, I have just been mentally preparing for the fact this is going be a full week of running. I needed to engage my mind around that because I don't know how long this would take me and I need to be prepared to be out there to see the distance through no matter the time on course.

The Final Days

4 days to go...

I was printing off my map (for my crew), uploading the final .gpx version of the route into my watch, and also setting up my customized screens on my Garmin fēnix® 6X - Pro Solar Edition. I also created a simple crew checklist I would provide to my family that we would read though each time we met up. It's a list of simple things, but when I'm tired from sleep deprivation and not thinking clearly the checklist will serve clarity to the must dos each time I arrive and leave with my family (i.e. crew).

3 days to go...

Busy day trying to get my usual week of IT project work done before Thursday a.m. when I have booked my time off. I went on walk today during lunch and then a short run after work. The evening rolls around and as I hang out with my wife I am starting to sort my
rabbit gear and get my other essentials ready in my Victory Sportdesign gear bags. Next was ensuring all my headlamps are charged and ready, and then my Anker power banks. Also, I wrote down exactly what I want to carry “on-hand” in my NATHAN Trailmix 12 L race pack to have on me at all times. This will serve as a good reminder that I have everything I want when I start.

2 days to go...

Ensuring the .gpx course is loaded
Today I made a quick trip to the store (a rarity these days) to get a bunch of my favorite sweet & salty snacks. Also a staple in my ultrarunning had to get some Coca-Cola. We also received the final-final .gpx version of map tonight so I re-uploaded that on my Garmin and on the Gaia app for my phone. Trying to attempt to get a good sleep in as I know sleep the night before is not the easiest.


1 day to go...

All about getting my crew “support” vehicle ready. Putting all my spare/extra gear in here for when we do meet up. Filled our YETI Tundra 45 cooler with all my yummy favorites: Coca-Cola, gummy worms, assorted nuts, chips, tailwind, Gatorade, flavored water, and even a couple IPAs. All left to do is get some sleep, drive a couple hours, and check in, and run. Let the journey begin!

Packing our van with my daughters.

The Race

Friday, February 05th, 2021

Essential coffee for our drive to Austin, TX
in our rabbit YETI mugs. 
Alarm goes off at 04:15!! My wife and I slowly get out of the warm cozy bed. First I savor these last moments as I know it maybe another full week before I get the comfort of an actual bed (especially my own). We make our coffee and gather up the small breakfast items we made for the kids. Pack all the little ones in the van and buckle everyone up. By 04:50 we are on the road and headed west making our way towards the Texas Capitol in Austin. The 3 hours drive from our home in Sugar Land seemed to go by fairly quickly as I was full of race day anticipation, nerves, and excitement. Our 4 young girls were all sleeping in the back, and I think my wife even nodded off for a bit so I was alone in my own thoughts for a good portion. We got to the Capitol building parking garage right around 08:00 which gave me about an hour of final gathering of my gear before the mandatory 09:00 pre-race meeting. It was a bit chilly out as the sun had not warmed the air quite yet. I anxiously gathered my gear and arranged my water bottles as I fumbled around awaiting the meeting. Katie, my wife, always jokes about how I am always waiting till the very last moments even when we arrive and have tons of time, I think this is just my way of dealing with the situation. But as always I grab my stuff and am ready in time, and we head over to the Capitol grounds across the street.

The crispness was still in the air hovering around the mid 50s temperature wise. My family and I walked through the pedestrian gates of the grounds and headed towards the front steps of the Capitol. I spotted the Race Director (Rob Goyen) standing there with a couple other runners already gathered around near the front of the building. I came over greeted everyone and got my bib and race t-shirt.  I placed my race vest down and nervously paced around awaiting the meeting. Being such a small group of runners there was not a lot of chit chat and I think everyone was dealing with the pre-race nerves in their own ways. I did get to say hi and greet my  Team TROT teammates that were also running the event (Dena Carr, Matt Zmolek, Vic Valenzuela).

Gathering just before the start of the journey. My amazing family was there to support me, drop me off, and cheer me on. I can't thank them enough. Photo: JJustis Photography | Trail Racing Over Texas

Pre-race meeting at the Texas Capitol (Austin, TX). Photo: Katie Meding

09:00 strikes and Rob yells out for everyone to listen up. The runners all gather around close and Rob starts to explain the in and the outs of the live tracking devices we are required to wear. The software used for the event was and was able to allow people to follow along live showing all the runners on the map at once - a pretty cool option for all the bubble watchers out there. After the quick information session on the trackers, we all were able to grab our assigned devices and attach them to our packs. The signals were tested and confirmed they were all transmitting data. Then the attention was turned to the route and runner safety. Not much insight was given here as the pre-race emails and communication covered all of this in the weeks and days leading up to the race. Rob just wanted to reinforce the fact safety is the number one priority out there, as we are all basically on our own once the run starts. It was now about 09:20 and the weather started to turn a little on us and the rain came out of the clouds. Since everyone was ready and present Rob made the decision to start at 09:30 instead of waiting in the cold just standing there for another half hour.

Pre-race racer portrait. Photo: JJustis Photography | Trail Racing Over Texas

Starting off. Photo: JJustis Photography | Trail Racing Over Texas

With that the group of 9 runners for the 600km event lined up on the Capitol building all placed our hands directly on the building for a photo. No fancy countdown occurs, Rob just yells "go!".  And just like that the 9 of us press our start buttons on the our watches and you can hear all the beeps along with the pitter patter of the rain coming down. As I leave from the building I walk over to my family giving all my girls a kiss and thanking them. Just like that we are off on a long journey ahead. Down the street from the building through the roads of Austin, TX heading south out of the city.

Heading South out of the city of Austin with Team TROT teammate Dena Carr.
Photo: JJustis Photography | Trail Racing Over Texas

The majority of us are together running the first few blocks as we are stopped and started again by many street lights. The rain is light, but persistent still. Off in the distance blue sky is actually visible and gives hope that the rain will stop. My teammate Dena an I settle in our own pace slightly ahead of everyone else at the front as we continue out of the city. We chat and catch up on things as we run making the first few miles go by fairly quickly. Not too long the way, maybe 20-25 minutes the ran drops start to fade away. I take my light rabbit Elements jacket off and stuff it back in my pack. After a more than an hour cruising along the sidewalks of the city streets we finally get to the outer southern edges of Austin and make our way to the first checkpoint along the route. (Note: there were no actual checkpoints, however in my mind the way I framed the race there was 10 checkpoints: the 7 State Parks and the 3 Buc-ee's stops along the route. This was a nice mental checklist for me and gave me something to focus on at times). As Dena and I came out of the city limits we approached the McKinney Falls State Park entrance. I stopped here and got Dena to take my picture to start my documentation of the route. My goal was to get a picture at all of these 10 checkpoints and other major sightings. Just over 9 miles completed now, only about 375 or so to go!

State Park #1 - McKinney Falls State Park just outside Austin, TX. Photo: Dena Carr.

Dena and I continued together for the entire first 16 miles or so. We got to a fuel station at a road crossing where we were met by some of the TROT race support staff. They provided some donuts to us, and I popped into the store to grab a coke and some chips. Dena sat down on the steps of her van and her

TROT support staff Angelica providing some Voodo Donuts
fuel. Photo: JJustis Photography | Trail Racing Over Texas

husband Frank was there in support of her. We chatted briefly with the crew and Dena's husband, and then thanked everyone and forged on forward. The should of the road narrowed a lot here and so I was running in front and Dena was behind me. Not too far down the road from here I was in my own flow state and just a nice steady pace. I can't recall how long it had been, but I turned around to say something to Dena, but she had fallen back slightly and was no longer with me. I knew at this point I was on my own for now and just had to worry about running my own pace which I was already doing. It was great to have her company for the first portion of the race.

The freedom of the road. Photo: JJustis Photography | Trail Racing Over Texas

State Park #2 - Lockhart State Park.

Coming up on 6 hours into the run I recall passing over the 50 km point on my watch. A small milestone that really means nothing. Everything was still going smooth as the afternoon was pressing on. Next stop was at Lockhart State Park at mile 38 where I grabbed my selfie to document this 2nd item on my checklist as noted above. Also sometime in the afternoon Rob and the race photographer (Jeremiah Justis) stopped randomly to get a couple photos and just to say hi. They were driving up and down the course checking up on everyone that first day. A lot of this section was full of classic Texas ranchlands and farmland with cattle and longhorns. 

As the sun was going down it reminded me to call home and chat with my daughters before they went to bed. It was a brief and chaotic call as they were still excited from the day of travel to and from Austin. It was nice to be able to say goodnight to them before I trudged on into the sunset of day one. Katie and I discussed how tomorrow would look in terms of meeting up and how I was feeling thus far. I assured her I was fine until the morning and would touch base then to arrange a place or time to meet up.

Arriving at first Buc-ee's in Luling, TX

Next stop and goal point for me was just past the town of Luling, TX. Directly off the I-10 near Luling is the classic staple stop of Buc-ee's. If you have never been to Texas, let's just say Buc-ee's is a one of a kind fuel/rest stop that is large like the state of Texas. There are so many fuel pumps and the inside of these stores are jut chocked full of every snack, food, drink, and classic souvenirs you can think of. You must stop at a Buc-ee's every time you are on a road trip in Texas, it is just a given. After navigated the narrow shoulder section between the city of Luling and getting to I-10 I finally saw the glorious beaver of the Buc-ee's sign in the distance. I made to Buc-ee's Luling around 21:00 with an elapsed distance of 58 miles to this point. I spent a good amount of time stopped here, made a bathroom stop, got some food, refilled my hydration bladder & bottles heading into the full night ahead. As I was finishing up my stop and was getting ready to leave southbound again, my TROT teammate Matt Zmolek arrived just as I was leaving. We chatted briefly and checked in with each other. I was honestly too cold to just sit around and wait for him and his full stop which we was just about to start so I continued on as Matt did he self-aid at the Buc-ee's. 

A mere 4 miles down the road was the 3rd State Park on the route. Palmetto State Park was at mile 63 where we had to do a very short out & back to tag the park itself before returning to the road and continuing on. I got my selfie with the sign to continue my documentation and uploaded to my ongoing Instagram story. This was around 23:00 still on the first day.

State Park #3 - Palmetto State Park.

Saturday, February 06th, 2021

Usually my low times in ultramarathon occur in the 4-6am time periods. I am well aware of this by having had so many overnight race experiences. This day I was having a low slightly early, probably due to some poor sleep prior to the race. As I was staggering into Gonzales, TX in the middle of the morning around 02:00 I was basically death marching just trying to stay awake. I was now about 75 miles into the race and fighting off my first battle of the "sleepies" (as I refer to them as). I sat down at a bench out side a middle school in the town and grabbed some gels from my pack. In my effort to revive myself with some calories I was just sitting there and Matt rolled up on me. He came over to me at the bench and checked in. I told him nothing was wrong just fighting a minor low. The effort of comradery got me to my feet and I followed Matt through the remainder of the town of Gonzales. However he was clearly in good spirits and I good not keep his pace, so on the far edge of town here continued on in front of me moving slightly faster and I just settled into a more gradual run-walk pace. 

Fueling up in Shiner, TX.

From Gonzales we continued east towards Shiner, TX. It was super early morning hours and I was still battling my eyelids to stay up. I was getting so close to sunrise but decided I needed to lie down for a quick nap, so at 06:15 I did just that after 88 miles elapsed. A quick 15 minutes in the ditch lying my head on my hydration pack as a pillow and I felt a lot better. I got back up and continued on towards Shiner, TX where the Shiner brewery was located. The route took us right beside the brewery in fact. It was also around this time I texted my wife and we came up with a game plan for our crew meet up for the day.

The next major town stop along the way was Hallettsville, TX. By the time my family had made their way out to meet me I was only about 6 miles outside of this town. Rob, Angelica, and Jeremiah from TROT had just dropped by for a couple more pictures and just to say hello. They were only planning on doing this for these first 2 days to check on the runners. It was a nice surprise to see a familiar face and chat for a minute. After they left I was chatting with my wife telling her exactly where I was and we finally met up about 3 miles east of Hallettsville. I spent a good hour with my family here and it was great to see them. I got a change of clothing, reapplied my Trail Toes anti-friction cream as preventative measure, ate a bunch of snacks, and probably most importantly I got to put my feet up and elevate them for a little while. This was a key thing every time I'd take a break and see my family throughout the event.

Chatting with RD, Rob Goyen, just outside Hallettsville, TX.
Photo: JJustis Photography | Trail Racing Over Texas

My awesome crew. Photo: Katie Meding

I continued on after seeing my family in higher spirits then when I was for sure. It had been overcast all morning and even looked like it might have a chance of rain. But not too far down the road the clouds parted and the sun came out, bringing out that afternoon Texas heat. My phone said it was 75f but it felt a lot warmer in the direct sun on the side of the highway. At 15:30 in the peak heat I took the chance to lie down in the shade briefly for 15 minutes just to cool down and close my eyes. The noise of the rushing traffic was annoying and constant, so not sure if I actually had any true sleep here, but the break in the shade helped out. I got back up and trekked eastbound again.

The draw of the next major city along Highway 90a stretch was Eagle Lake, TX. It was going to be another late night push before I'd reach there. My paced slowed a bunch going into that second night. I knew this was a crucial point as it had been before in my prior 200 milers. As I kept pushing forward and got to Sheridan, TX and stopped and had a nice big meal at a fuel stop here: pizza and coke. The sun had just gone down so I getting out my headlamps and putting on my full reflective gear. At this point I realized my first actual problem of the run...both of my headlamps were out of charge. Even though we had swapped out my old light during the crew stop earlier in the day, I am not sure if we mixed them up or what but I could not get either one to turn on. I had a battery back and cable and as I ate my food I did finally manage to get one of them to charge. The other one seemed completely dead and would not even indicate charging. As I set off from that gas station I also purchased a $5.50 flashlight to take with me as a backup just to get through this night. Once I got to Altair, TX I made another fuel station stop and grabbed some food here. I saw the sign across the way that said 8 miles till Eagle Lake. That was my next goal, and so right around midnight I headed back out on the road in the dark and continued toward Eagle Lake which contained the 2nd Buc-ee's location on the route.

Sunday, February 07th, 2021

Those 8 miles seemed to take forever as the temperature slowly dropped in the wee hours of the night. It was also a bit more windy out that prior and so it was harder to maintain the body heat. It took about 2.5 hours to travel these 8 miles and I arrived in Eagle Lake, TX looking forward to a nice warm Buc-ee's store for refueling and possibly a nap. But as I made a turn in town following the route I spotted this small run down motel, with the Buc-ee's viewable down the street in the distance. I instantly made a quick decision. I went over to that little shady motel and rang the after service bell. It was about 02:45 and now the wind had picked up quite a bit, so I was now quite chilled. The man came to the service door and filled my request for a room. I turned off my live tracker and promptly got into bed. I did not shower, nor do much of anything I simply got out of my clothes, and hung them out to air out, while i propped up pillows below my feet to elevate them. Then I checked on the Live Tracker website and realized I had virtually passed Matt's "stake out" point during the night between Altair & Eagle Lake. Apparently he stopped there and had his wife grab him for a hotel stop as well, so he would be resuming there whenever he got back at it. So technically as I laid down to sleep I was back in the lead and wasn't even aware of it until just now. My alarm was set for 05:30 which meant I got about 2.5 hours of good solid sleep in the motel.

My first unplanned motel stop in Eagle Lake, TX. The cold and windy conditions brought me to this quick decision of a warm room for a break and proper sleep arrangement. I think it was worth it.

I sprung out of bed and got ready as fast as you might think I would at this point, 153 miles into a race. I had texted with Katie and she was going to meet me early in the a.m. on the road as I was relatively close to our house on this side of the course. At exactly 05:51 (only because I noted it) I was back on the road headed back down the street marching towards that Buc-ee's Eagle Lake. This made the perfect breakfast spot. I grabbed a breakfast sandwich and a warm coffee to go. The morning was still super chilly as the sun wasn't fully up yet. I just kept walking briskly forward as I was consuming my breakfast. Eventually I was able to run and get my core temperature up. The highway was quiet at this point and actually quite peaceful as the sun slowly rose off in distance directly eastward. 

Breakfast at second Buc-ee's location in Eagle Lake, TX.

Heading eastbound during sunrise.
It was around 07:30 and my family drove up on me in the other direction. They turned around and found a nice sideroad where we set up our aid station. It was a nice visit and catch up. Since I had just slept this was more about getting fresh clothing, changing out my battery pack, and reapplying my Trail Toes for the day. I got a bunch more calories in as I had my feet up on our van bumper. We tried to keep this stop minimal, I think it was around 40 minutes or so, as I was still fresh off sleep I got up and headed on my way. We had discussed another tentative crew meetup for later afternoon for a potential nap before the night hours.

Photo: Katie Meding

My youngest daughter, Hazel, helping me fuel up. Photo: Katie Meding

Continuing on Highway 90a for what seems like forever the next city was East Bernard, TX. As I approached the edge of town it was just a few minutes below 11:00. I spotted a Subway sign and thought this would make a great lunch. The subway store was closed, said it opened at 11:00. So I walked into the adjoining convenience store and grabbed a giant Red Bull and some chips. I sat down outside of Subway eating my snack in the meantime waiting for them to open. I waited and waited till about 11:07 and finally after knocking and not seeing anyone move inside I headed further into town for my next prospect of a lunch stop. Luckily I spotted a nice little BBQ spot less than a block off the main route. I went and got my fill there, which was probably a lot better than Subway after all.

A well deserved lunch break in East Bernard, TX.

Back on the road and not too long later we finally got to head south on the outer tip of the course that ran down to Brazos Bend and back. The afternoon was relatively warm again, but not like the day before. I was still making decent time I thought. Late afternoon came around and Katie and the girls were about to meet up with me again. This time they brought some nice pizza for me. Yummy! Ate a bunch of calories and got fully rehydrated as the kids ate their pizza with me as well. Then I checked on the tracker and noticed Matt was about 5 miles behind me (so like ~1 hr or slightly more). I opted to lay down for a nap and wake up around the time he would be passing through which would be right around sunset as well. I had completed 182 miles at this point. I arose some a good 45 minutes of rest which definitely revived me a little. As I was getting bundled and ready for the night miles Matt came rolling up beside our van which was parked just off the road slightly. I told him to hang tight for 2 minutes and I'd run with him, which he did. With that I said goodbye to my family and had my warmer gear with me for a cooler night ahead, but now I had a running buddy for now.

More fuel. Photo: Katie Meding.

Another perfect sleeping location, side of a county road. Photo: Katie Meding.

Off we went catching on on how our respective journey's have been going. Matt was having some Achilles issues on one side and so he was down to a mean power walk pace. But let me tell you Matt's ultra walking pace is near 4 mph anyway, most people can't keep pace walking, I know I barley can, sometime I find it easier to shuffle along beside him instead. We spent the next 6 hours just plotting along keeping forward momentum working towards the low end of the course. I was feeling decent but decided to stick with Matt until the turn around. A couple time he tried to get me to continue on without him, but I was not in a hurry just yet. 

Met up with my Team TROT teammate (Matt Zmolek) for a bunch of night miles. We kept each other company. Man we both looked tired in this picture.

Monday, February 08th, 2021

Huge thank you to Marco!
After lots of endless country roads and dodging the odd headlights we had finally made it to Brazos Bend State Park at mile 204 just after midnight. We arrived at the gate and to our surprise a road angel appeared. Our TROT friend Marco pulled up and mentioned he had been following along. He stopped by to check in on us since he lived close by to the park. Matt and I took up the offer to sit in his warm truck and in fact we both promptly fell asleep. I think I got a decent hour of rest here as well before getting back out. Sometime in the last couple hours Matt had called his wife and convinced her to come pick him out as his one foot was bothering so much. He was determined to drop at this point. So as we woke up and got ready to go Matt did come with me inside the park as we did a very short 0.3 mi out & back to the "40 Acre Lake" restroom area which was the far data point on this entire course and the true turn around point. Once back at the gate Matt informed me he has heading home. I thanked Marco who was waiting still to see us off, and also told Matt to get some rest and come back out and catch up. 

The very far end of the route...40 Acre Lake within the Brazos Bend State Park.

State Park #4 - Brazos Bend State Park. Photo: Matt Zmolek.

With that I headed back northbound by myself in the middle of the night heading towards Austin with half of the course now done. At this point I was now just passing personal longest mileage best as well.

Enjoying a McDonald's breakfast sandwich
just outside Beasley, TX. Photo: Katie Meding.
After the nice long walking pace I had with Matt, coupled with the refreshing nap (thanks to Marco's warm truck), I was in good spirits and ready to move again. So as I took off by myself I picked up the pace and tried to move a decent clip. It was kind of a long lonely trudge through the night and by the time the wee morning hours came by I found myself texting my wife asking when she would be able to meet up. With that they set out to meet me, as daylight approached and I was still slowly moving forward. I had all my warm gear from the night running and was slowly peeling it off and placing it in my pack as the sun slowly warmed the air. By the time Katie and the girls got to me I was nearly back to Beasley, TX at the Highway 59 intersection. It was about 09:30 when we finally settled in a parking spot to meet at a fuel station. I was walking dead at this point and extremely fatigued. In that moment I made a snap decision....let's go home! I told Katie this and she looked a little confused, but we were literally only 20 minutes or so from our doorstep. So I took this opportunity to make a decent rest break and in my own bed. So I "staked out" there at the parking lot. I turned off my tracker and we headed back home. (*Staking out - defined as stopping the race at a certain point in which the runner leaves the course for food, rest, etc. and upon returning the runner must begin right where the left off at their stake.)

It was 09:47 when I staked out with 222 miles completed. I slept in the passenger seat on the way back for about 25 minutes. Got out and wobbled upstairs into bed, and slept for 3 more hours. My wife awoke me as I instructed and then I got up and had a nice warm shower. We then loaded up the kids and headed back to Beasley fuel station along Highway 59, and yes I slept another 20 minutes on the way there. A few more snacks and couple more swigs of fluids and I was kissing my family goodbye again in the afternoon. At 14:42 I "staked back in" by turning my tracker back on in the same parking lot I left, and headed on my way back north.

Prepping to take off north from Beasley, TX. Photo: Katie Meding.

Couple hours later after a mere few hundred meters from completing the full out & back section of the course I cross over my TROT teammate Vic whom was venturing south from where I was coming from. We chatted briefly there on the side of Highway 90a and caught up. Wished him luck and continued on my way.

Met up with Team TROT teammate Vic Valenzuela as we crossed paths and the very far end of course where the only out & back section was, just outside Beasley, TX. I was headed north, and Vic was heading south towards Brazos Bend State Park.

It was a boring afternoon from what I recall just pushing forward making miles. My friend Chad Laester had messaged me and asked if I needed anything as he was going to swing by and say hi. I simply requested a coffee. It wasn't until well past dark that Chad finally arrived. It was right around 20:00 out on FM 1458 a very lonely road so I was happy to see my buddy pull up. He popped his truck and offered me a chair - perfect! I sat down and propped my feet up and we bullshitted for awhile. He was kind enough to have me a coffee, a coke, and even brought some chips and a random honey stinger waffle he had left over which I gladly took with me. A local state trooper did stop and ask if we were ok since Chad was simply parked in the middle of nowhere just hanging out at the back of the vehicle. I think we hung out for about 30 minutes before I mentioned I should get moving and stay warm. There was 244 miles completed at this point and I had a mere 8 more till then next town.

At this point in the run I had not had any issues or problems, beside fatigue. After closing in on San Felipe and was only a couple miles south of town I felt a very sharp pain in my left leg. It came very suddenly. I did not know what to make of this, but it basically slowed me to a walk right away. Trying not to focus on the pain I just kept starring at the lights in the distance drawing me into town. I got into San Felipe and there was not much there on the route, so I popped into a gas station grabbed a couple drinks and some nuts & chips (I think). I made the rash decision to continue to the State Park not far away, and then stop in the following adjacent town. It was a long slow grind out to the park.

Tuesday, February 09th, 2021

State Park #5 - Stephen F. Austin State Park just outside San Felipe, TX.
I arrived at Stephen F. Austin State Park, which marked mile 261, not long after midnight. After tagging the state park sign I headed back towards the next town Sealy. I had been slowly convincing myself the pain in my left leg was getting worse and I needed to lay down properly. It was too cold out just to ditch nap and so I was seriously considering a hotel room now. After getting into town itself I quickly realized the route was no where near where all the hotels were. A quick left turn and I went 1.2 mile off course to the nearest hotel. To me this was so worth it at this point as the pain was intensifying. I set my alarm for 05:00 and drifted off to sleep right away.

My second unplanned motel stop. This one was out of necessity. At the time I laid down I was unsure if I would even be able to continue running when I got up. My race was truly in question at this point. 

I awoke at 05:00 to my alarm and simultaneously with the sharp pain in my left leg as I started to creep out of bed. I thought to myself this is no good, my race is over. I had serious doubt. I had texted my wife and told her the situation late last night before I fell asleep, they were on the way to meet me first thing morning and were actually outside my hotel at this point (which I was oblivious too). I opted for another hour of sleep so I texted Katie and mentioned this and reset my alarm for 06:00, and promptly closed my eyes again. The hour goes by and I wake up and this time force myself up and about. The pain is still noticeable, sadly the magic of sleep did not cure me. I got in touch with Katie and she picked me up and we went to McDonald’s for some breakfast fuel. My family drove me back to exactly where I had ventured off course the night before to come down to the hotel. As we sat there getting ready for the day I was explaining my sore leg and how I had some doubts, but that I was pushing forward. It was a foggy misty morning out so I was bundled up fairly warm and wore my reflective vest even in the morning hours here.

I kissed my family goodbye and took my high calorie coffee cappuccino fuel drink with me. I started through the remaining portion of the town of Sealy, TX headed west back on the road towards Austin around 08:00 that morning. Total mileage completed at this point was 269 miles, and now I was down to a slow walking limp because of my sore left leg. Katie and I planned to tentatively meet up late that night depending on how the day went, because I told her it was going to be slow going as I did not want to push my leg and make it worse.

Rise and grind! My smile is deceiving as I was in pain with my left leg at this point and unsure if I could run at all as I took off hiking. My family gave me a much needed boost this morning, even though I probably did not show it outwardly to them at the time. Photo: Katie Meding.

Lunch break at Cross Roads Tavern.
The first 4 hours I trudged along and just hiked at a decent pace where the pain was tolerable. I did not run a step or even attempt to at all during this portion. I arrived at a familiar portion on the course (to me) slightly after noon. At the Cross Road Tavern, which signals the turn to the 7il Ranch outside of Cat Spring, TX, I sat down here for a rest. Fueled up with a cold coke and some chips and 2 candy bars. I messaged my wife with the update and headed back out. Something magical happened after in that I was able to start shuffling a little, which meant I was slowly picking my pace back up. For the next 2.5 hours I spent the majority of it just plotting along at this familiar slow ultrarunning gait. Man it felt good to actually move faster than a walk again!

The sun was had just went down again and I was approaching Fayetteville, TX. Katie was meeting me here for yet another pit stop, so I was exciting and looking forward to that. I pulled out my phone and saw she was just pulling into town nearly the exact time I arrived. I found her parked right on the side of the route in this small town. I got in the van got my feet up and said hi to the kids. This was a much needed stop. I spent about 1.5 hours total here fueling up and getting a light foot massage (the best), and even slept for another 30 minutes just to refresh me for the night miles. Reluctantly I said goodbye to my family yet again and continued onto into the lonely dark chilly night.

Another crew put stop and short nap break. Fayetteville, TX.

Wednesday, February 10th, 2021

My typical morning low was strong this day. I was basically death marching due to fatigue and the dull numbing pain in my left shin still. I attempted to revive myself with a few naps along the way. I laid down 3 sperate times for 15 minutes once just in the ditch, another time on a rock, and against a guard rail to get my feet up. None of these did the full reset I was looking for but they allowed me to continue in a forward direction albeit slowly. The end was nearing (relatively speaking) and II just wanted to maintain momentum to get through. I arranged to meet Katie again early afternoon, which turned out to be right outside Smithville, TX and the entrance to Buescher State Park at 342 miles completed. I was tired and beat up for the long night trudged through the cold damp darkness. The kids greeted me right at the park sign and we snapped a great picture before sitting down and getting to the clothes change and refueling. My leg was aching but no longer a sharp pain, just a dull annoying presence. Katie seemed a little concerned as my left leg was clearly swollen above and below where I had placed my calf compression sleeve. The rain just started to come down as we sat in the van in the Buescher parking lot. I got cozy and put my feet up for a solid 45 minute sleep. Overall my stop was about 2.5 hours here with my family. I was not looking forward to continuing on getting back on my leg. Katie was an awesome supportive crew chief as in she kept nudging me to get going, but not fully throwing me out. I eventually caved and got ready to go. One good thing I had in front of me was the miles from Buescher State Park through the connector up to Bastrop State Park. These were by far the most scenic miles on the route and I knew this, so the draw of that was something for me to grab onto at this time. I was leaving mid afternoon and had a good amount of daylight left for this section. Plus I was down to a mere 50 miler left to go until the Capitol – the end was near (sort of!). Katie and the girls had gotten an Air bnb in Austin so they could be there first thing in the morning when I was hoping to finish. So they took off to their accommodation and I started off through the State Park into the beauty of Buescher and onto Bastrop.

State Park #6 - Beuscher State Park outside of Smithville, TX.
So thankful for this crew and their smiles and support! Photo: Katie Meding.

Between Beuscher & Bastrop State Parks.
Photo: Rob Goyen.

The park connector road was a hilly rolling narrow country road. It was quiet with very few vehicles at all, even in the parks themselves. Around 17:50 I truck started approaching me from behind and I moved over as usual to allow them to pass, but they pulled up in front of my an placed the flashers on. I figured it was just another nice person checking in to see if I needed a ride, which was not unusual at this point. To my surprise it was Rob Goyen, the RD, whom was stopping by on his way back to Austin himself. He had found me via the live tracker and just stopped to say hi and check in on me. It was great to see a familiar face out in the backcountry. We chatted for a few minutes and I informed him I had every intention of running through the night to break the sub 6 day barrier (i.e. 144 hours). Rob took off and I was back to myself and my podcasts in my ear. By the time I connected up to Bastrop State Park and made it out the other side I was at 356 miles done. The trip from here to the final checklist stop only 2 miles. At this point the weather had gotten a lot colder and it was such a relief to arrive at Buc-ee’s Bastrop just after 21:00 where I’d refuel for the night push.

State Park #7 - Bastrop State Park.

I went straight into the bathroom and to get cleaned up and ready to order some food. Standing at the sink washing my hands & face I heard a large gushing of fluid below me. At first I was like….”WTF!?, am I peeing myself?” I was so confused and looked down to see water just pouring out of my hydration bladder hose as the bite valve on the end was not there. Once I realized what happened I started to search around for the valve but could not find it anywhere, so I am not entirely sure how it fell out, but I am still sure it ripped out somewhere in that bathroom as I was taking off, or putting on my pack, but it was not in there on the floor nor could I find it anywhere stuck in my clothing. After a good long search I resided to the fact I was not going to have a bladder for the remaining push. I simply emptied out the remaining fluid so it would not drip on my back. I then ordered myself 2 large burritos, some chips, and a few drinks to stuff in my pack (in leu of failed hydration bladder). I sat in the entrance of that Buc-ee’s in the very corner where the automatic doors open and close. They have no inside seating and well it was warm and somewhat relaxing considering. I was downing my makeshift dinner and checking the weather for the night. It was not good news. It was already 37f and the wind chill had it even worse. I was dreading the trek, but was determined to get done.

Third and final Buc-ee's location at Bastrop, TX.
It was chilly that last night, wind chill made it feel in the 20s.

I had a nice large warm coffee for the go and this got me going as I started off westbound through Bastrop. Crossing over the Colorado River and was nearing the far edge of town. However I was starting to get the sleepies. Nooooo! I just was sitting down, it was super windy and cold, there was no wear open to duck in for a few minutes of shut eye. So I found a neighborhood sign with a hedge of trees around it, and hunkered down in there blocking myself from the wind. I took out all my layers out and utilized as blanket. I attempted to rest and maybe got 10 minutes of sleep before just lying there shivering. I was now just wasting energy staying here and so I was forced to get up and move to stay warm.

Thursday, February 11th, 2021

This last night was cold, windy, and lonely. The draw of the city of Austin in the distance kept me going. The pain in my left leg was slowing getting better and was down to a minor dull pain, which allowed to run a lot more again. I spent a lot of time just counting down the miles to keep me occupied as a made my way to the Texas Capitol. I forged my way through my usual down hours of 4-6:00 and let my family know as well as Rob that my eta for the finish. I was in the city limits when the sunrise had occurred and I just wanted to touch that building again. The final drive down FM 969 seemed like a long road that went on forever. I had a cause of the dejiveu here where every street I crossed it seems I had been there before at some point in my life. I new this was another sign of sleep denervation but I was way too close now to stop and rest. Adrenaline was fueling me now. I also put in my earbuds for the last time and some upbeat music (this was the first time for music for me, was only podcasts prior).

A mere 2 miles to go and the route turned west one last time and a straight shot down the final streets. Here I could see the Capitol building, I think, way off in the distance. My pace quickened with excitement now. I texted my family & Rob…”1.8 mi to go”. Rob texted back of “hurry up my butt is getting cold”. Then I put my phone away as the cold was killing the battery fast. A couple brief stops at some traffic lights occurred but a steady pace for me into the Capitol grounds. I crossed through the pedestrian gates and followed the road winding around to where we had started nearly 6 days ago. I saw my kids screaming and yelling and then I spotted Rob as well. Rob was standing literally right beside the building where we started with our hands on and had his phone set out doing a Facebook Live feed for everyone following along. I was raising my hands and letting out some celebratory emotions as I ran into the final few meters. Two of my daughters chased me towards the building and we ran directly toward Rob as I placed my hands on the Capitol. Done. 142:46:02. I had done it, sub 6 days and first overall. Rob gave me a big hug and presented me with the sweet Elevation Culture buckle and a custom finishers jacket as well. I kissed all my girls and embraced my wife. We all chatted for a brief moment there but it was so cold, my girls were all shivering and honestly in worse shape than me at this point, which was ironic. So we grabbed a couple finisher pictures and then walked the couple blocks back to the van, and headed to the Air bnb which we had for another few hours. Once there I promptly fell asleep in the nice cozy surroundings of my family.

My 4 daughters awaiting my arrival on a cold morning at the Texas Capitol.

Finishers photo with RD, Rob Goyen and daughter #2,#3. I received a custom Elevation Culture handcrafted buckle & a unique Tour De Los Tejas finishers jacket from TROT. Photo: Katie Meding. 

30 minutes after finishing I promptly fell alseep. Photo: Katie Meding.

Race Statistics

A Journey Run indeed. Thank you Trail Racing Over Texas for putting this once in a lifetime event on.

Distance: 393.12 mi | 632.66 km

Average Distance per Day: 65.52 mi | 105.44 km

Average Daily Mileage. Note on day 4 is when my left leg gave me issues. I managed to achieve my sub-6 day race goal.

Elevation +: 10,860 ft | 3,310 m

Total Race Time: 142:46:02 | 5d 22h 46m

Total Sleep Time: 14h 10m | 15 stops

Average Sleep per Day: 2h 21m

Groceries (Pre-Race): $102.07

Snack & Food Expenses on route: $177.15

lots of fuel required.

Unplanned Hotel Expenses: $125.00 | 2 stops

STRAVA Activity:

UltraSignup Results:

Race Live Tracking (History)

This was my 72nd ultramarathon I have run.

21st ultra at distance greater than 100 mi (and 3rd greater than 200 mi).

19th completion of 100 mi or greater distance.

Race Gear Used

Lots of gear used. I carried a decent amount with most of it packing in my Victory Sportdesign bags which I had placed in my crew van for clothing and weather changes as needed. My pile of laundry at the end was very large indeed.

Gear Bags: Victory Sportdesign bags packed in my van for our crew stops.

Jackets: all rabbit apparel

Shirts: all rabbit apparel 

Shortsrabbit 5" FKT (3 various pairs)


Shoes: Altra Paradigm 5 (brand new pair – out of box)

Altra Paradigm 5. Brand new pair purchased for this run.

Socks: Drymax Socks (lots of pairs)

Headwearrabbit (BOCO) & NATHAN reflective beanie

Sunglasses: goodr

Watch: Garmin fēnix® 6X - Pro Solar Edition - 66 hours battery life using 1/sec plotting (GPS & GLONASS). Only charged a couple times when i was resting. Didn't really have to worry about it much. And of course it captured the entire run in one run activity.

HeadlampNATHAN Halo Fire (carried 2 with me at all times)

HydrationNATHAN Trailmix 12 L race pack, NATHAN VaporKrar WaistPak (just to carry my phone and extra some auxiliary stuff to have handy

Other Gearrabbit (BOCO) gloves, North Face gloves, NATHAN strobe lights, reflective NATHAN bandolier safety vest, NATHAN ripcord siren

Anti Friction: Trail Toes - applied at every crew stop. I finished the 393 miles with NO blisters and NO chaffing. Thank you Vince!

Applying my trusty Trail Toes which kept me blister FREE and chaff FREE for all 393 miles!

Final Thoughts

Road running is not Highway running. I knew this was going to be hard on the body, but man did I not expect what the exact challenges would be. Every single highway and county road is sloped or crowned, which means you are never truly running on flat ground. The slight slope causes you to have to compensate a little as you go. I was aware of this not super far into the run and so I’d try and run inside the driving lanes when I could as it was slightly flatter and easier on the muscles. At nighttime it was super easy to run in the middle of the road because I could see cars coming for a long ways ahead and from behind as well with the headlights. This little detail of running on the roads for this race was an oversight at the beginning that definitely took a toll on the body over time.

Some county road in Texas. Photo: JJustis Photography | Trail Racing Over Texas

Fueling is hard for this long of an event. Running a couple 200 milers before I knew just eating as much as possible is beneficial to keep the body going but it is hard. At times I found it super easy to knock back a ton of calories, but a lot of time at crew stops it was hard to get in hundreds of calories. I did my best, but often I just ensured I had enough snacks on me at all times in my pack which got me through between stops. Consistency is key, just keep putting in the fuel whenever you can, even if you don’t feel like it.

My pour sore left leg.
The human body is amazing! During late on day 4 when my left shin started to have a stabbing pain I thought for sure my journey run across Texas was over. With taking it easy after that and some timely rest I managed to keep going. My body had somehow adapted and managed to deal with the pain that persisted throughout the remainder of the run but was not debilitating. You can see on my daily mileage I dipped way down but then brought it back up once I was able to run again. I’ve heard of this from other podcasts and adventures but experiencing this myself was simply extraordinary. In terms of my feet they seemed to get used to the pavement pounding after about 3 days. The numbness and pain on the bottom of the feet never got worse, it only got better at that point. I never changed shoes, only socks, so truly my body was adapting to the conditions I was in.

In reflection on this race I am struck at limits being constructs of the mind. This journey taught me that the idea of physical limits are just a mental roadblock that as long as I have enough sleep and fuel I can keep my body going.

Couple of things I have learned is that I do not ever want to run across the country or any other long road event. I am most definitely a trail runner and cannot wait to get back on the soft dirt, rugged rocks, and roots that only the trail provides. This is where my true passion lies, but I am glad to have taken on this adventure and challenge.

Custom handcrafted  Elevation Culture buckle. My name is inscribed on the back. Thank you Eric C.!

Thank you

1. I can not thank you family enough for firstly being supportive enough to even allow me to attempt this monstrous effort. My wife never questioned me and was just fully behind me and was encouraging the whole time. This was months in the making where I had to take a lot of time to train and put in big efforts and lots of miles to prepare my body. Thank you Katie and my daughters for everything. Secondly, during the run itself I was planning on minimal support like once per day meeting my family. But as we went my wife adjusted and adapted to be there for me twice per day most of the time and was truly instrumental of me being able to finish this run within my goal of sub six days.
My crew, my support, my love, my reasons. #ultrarunningdad.

2. Another big shoutout to Trail Racing Over Texas (Rob & Rachel Goyen) for putting on this crazy adventure. Being an adventure style run there was minimal involvement compared to normal races they put on, but they went all out in getting Live Tracking for the event, ensuring we could start at the Capitol and checked in on the runners constantly for safety and just to encourage us. Not only this but Rob was at the Capitol for all the finishers of the 600k and 300k by greeting them personally, no matter the time of day or night, and even livestreamed on Facebook to share the experience with friends and family. A great little personal touch by TROT.

3. Thank you to my other sponsor rabbit (Team #rabbitELITEtrail)  for the continued support and encouragement. Monica, Jill, and Dan: you guys rock and I am damn proud to be a part of representing your brands and simply being a part of the rabbit journey with you since 2017.

4. A big shoutout to Victor from Victory Sportsdesign (#TeamVictory) for the support and encouragement along the way. You make the best gear bags in the world and I truly appreciate all the messages and kudos along my journey. 

5. To every single person out there that sent me a message, comment, or kudos during the event. You all gave me a boost when I needed it most in the middle of the nights, or whenever I was having a low period. I'd pull out my phone and read my messages. It truly did help. This was another reason that I kept sharing my Instagram story as I went as well, just to document and share the journey with everyone following along. I saved a story highlight to my profile in case you missed anything. The ultra community is extremely supportive and I am happy to have been able to share a bit of this personal journey with all of you, so thank you!

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Thank you for following along.
Next up: Sasquatch Shuffle 100 km (Mar-06th)