Sunday, January 13, 2013

2013 Bandera 50K Race Recap

Ultra-Turtle...mostly how I felt like for much of the race during Bandera 50K. This was the toughest race I've ever been apart of, the course itself under good conditions would have been relentlessly challenging in it's own right, with tortuous hill climbs that seemingly never ends, and the subsequent downhill rocky descents that tests your concentration, agility, footwork, and quad strength to it's limits in order to bring you down safely in one piece. Now combine that with the muddy conditions from the rains the night before, dangerously slick rocks, the warm temperatures (mid 70s in January, really?!) and harsh humidity, and you'll have one insane race that leave you frequently wondering why exactly are you trudging up a rocky hill with a pound of mud caked onto the bottom of your shoe in the first place...and, most importantly, why you wouldn't rather be anywhere else at the moment; welcome to the crazy world of Ultra-Running.

I came into Bandera 50K strictly as a training run for Rocky Raccoon 100, running 50+ miles the previous week, taking on Bandera with exhausted legs was part of the plan in order to get me ready for the big dance in 3 weeks, and exhausted was pretty much how I felt for most of the race. The race begins three steep hill climbs during the first 7 miles that will set your quads on fire and leave you gasping for air, followed by yet more gradual hill climbs till you hit the 13 mile mark where the course flattens out for the next 10 miles; don't be fooled into complacency though, the worst hill climbs are saved at the end as a nice "F'You" from Bandera. I finished the first 23 miles in under 5 and half hours, for a training run under such nasty conditions, I was content with how I was doing so far, the last 8 miles would be my undoing however.

By this time, the temperature was in the mid 70s and with practically 100% humidity, I was sweating profusely. My left calf also started to cramp up that no amount of Endorolytes seemed to help, and my stomach became mildly unsettling for the rest of the race making it hard to take down food (it may have been the Redbull I drank, never taken it before during a race). These conditions combined with the exhaustion of already covering 23 tough miles, made for a grueling 8 miles to the finish. At this point, I no longer wanted to push myself so hard, and decided to take it easy and enjoy the magnificent views (the early morning fog had finally cleared up) on the top of the hills overlooking the Hill Country State Natural Area Park where Bandera was held. The easier pace also gave me time to enjoy some extended conversation with new friends I met along the way, something I always look forward to in these trail runs, suffering together on an Ultra trail run is a nice conversation starter. It would take me well over 2 hours to finish the last 8 miles; it starts with 2 moderately steep hills, followed by the next 2 and half miles of gradual inclines that culminates in an abrupt 100 foot sheer climb up the final hill of the course at the 29th mile mark. I sat on top of that hill for 5 minutes to catch my breath, taking in the amazing view it had to offer (I swear I will bring a camera next time I run Bandera!) and having a brief chat with a couple other guys there before moving on to put an end to quite a memorable experience, finishing in 7:45-ish hours.

If there's one lesson I need to take away from this grueling race, it's that I need to put extra effort on my hill training this year; I can make excuses of the terrible conditions during Bandera, and choosing not to taper for the race, but quite simply, I'm not prepared for the type of steep hill climbs I encountered at Bandera and I never was last year in all the ultras I ran either. 2012 was all about putting in high volume mileage under my legs (over 1,700 miles for the year, first time going over a 1,000 miles in a year) and reaching for new distance goals; I chose Wild Hare for my first 50 mile specifically for the paltry 2,000 feet gain over the entire course...I think Bandera had more elevation gain for it's first 13 Miles! If I'm ever going to be a better trail runner, and no longer think of running all the tough Ultras with tens of thousands of feet worth of climbing that I read about as just a delusional dream; 2013 will have to be the year I devote to no excuses, quads melting hill workouts as a regular part of my training schedule. I've came this far in my brief foray into the world of trail ultras, time to push things to a whole new level in 2013!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012, a Wild Ride

2012 has been quite a year, far exceeding my initial lofty (at the time) ambitions when it’s comes to pursuing running more seriously.  After the 2010 Dallas White Rock Marathon, I spent nearly half of 2011 injured with a knee problem that kept me to limited miles, and spent the second half struggling to make it back to Marathon form.  For 2011 I completed only one half Marathon and a 10 mile trail race at Isle du Bois later in the year, so going from that to completing 7 Trail Ultras and a Trail Marathon in 2012 is quite mind-boggling.  I can still hardly believe I ran so much last year, over 1,730 miles total for the year, probably more running than my entire life put together in previous years.

I remember thinking to myself after reading “Born to Run” all those years ago, that there was no way I could ever run Ultras, and after such a lengthy injury following my first marathon, I doubted even more if my body could withstand such distances.  Thankfully, I recovered and became a stronger and smarter runner because of it.  I set a goal at the beginning of 2012 to eventually complete a 50 miler by the end of the year...ended up completing two 50 milers instead.  It hasn’t always been easy, the entire year has felt like a roller coaster of ups and downs; with the high's completing an Ultra, and with the low's of recovering from them, dealing with nagging pain, fearing my knee injuries would return, and struggling with balancing rest (burnout was a huge problem at times) with the need to constantly ramp up my mileage to meet my next Ultra feat. 

With each punishing Ultra completed though, my confidence grew with them, not just in my running ability, but in myself as well.  Ultra-running has done a lot in improving my outlook on life; completing such grueling and difficult ordeals that Ultra-running presents is something I really needed to experience, in an otherwise stagnant and suffocating life of boring work and routines; the comfort zone is your enemy.  2012 has been a wild ride, met lots of new friends and great and inspiring people along the way, and took on increasingly insurmountable odds...always finding a way to make it to the end, and in the process discovering a little bit more about myself that I never knew was there.  Here’s to 2013 and whatever new challenges await; first up is Bandera 50K, leading to what has really terrified me all year, Rocky Raccoon 100...can hardly wait.