My race at this year's Hells Hills 50K started out all right, finished the first 25K loop in about 3 hours and was feeling pretty good going into my second. Didn't think a Sub-6 Hour finish was possible, but maybe I could match my 6:12 Hr finish at Rocky Raccoon 50K I thought...then it went all downhill. My ITB was painfully acting up again around mile 21 or 22, and I had to frequently walk to settle it back down; don't think I aggravated it, but it was getting very discomforting near the end. Hopefully it'll recover fast, because I can't afford to wait out too long for the problem to simply "go away" when it comes to training for Cactus Rose, which will be just around the corner sooner than I'll realize.
During the race, all the rocks were getting to me, it seemed the trails got even rockier from last year, and were beating my feet mercilessly through the Vibram Spyridons. I heard people describing the trails were smooth from just a few years ago, but erosion over the years and a flood of rain a few days prior to the race has resulted in a lot of loose rocks on the trail in certain sections. I should've changed into my Altra Lone Peaks on Loop 2, but I'm very stubborn and thought I could tough out the second loop to finish the race in my Vibrams...after the first few miles of the trail loop where it was really rocky, I was ready to beg someone if they could trade shoes with me. Also, for this race I tried to go through the whole 50K without taking one Gel, and went with Clif Bars and PB&J sandwiches instead. I've been doing all my training runs lately sans gels, opting for my Hummus with Olive Oil Tortilla wraps instead, and it's been working great, didn't want to bring a whole cooler with Hummus wraps to the race so I tried Cliff Bars instead. I'm not sure if it was the reliance on Clif Bars, or that I was just out of shape for a 50K, but I felt pretty much out of Gas for the last several miles; it didn't help that I had only 1 water bottle with me and ran out of water 2 and half miles from the finish... All those issues resulted in a finishing time of 6:47 Hrs, I'll take it, all things considered.
Hanging out at the end of the race, I was discussing the condition of the trails at the Rocky Hill Ranch with a couple of ladies; the devastating droughts from last year has really taken a toll on the beautiful sights around the trails that I experienced from last years Hell's Hills 50K race. Gone were a lot of the lush greenery along side (if not overgrown...) most of the trails, the beautiful field of Bluebonnets you run through around mile 10 looked like a field of burnt grass this year, and most of the majestic and tall pine trees that towered over both sides of a straight section of pine-needled covered trails that you encounter when you reach the appropriately named Tunnel of Pines aid station were mostly dead and barren. I wished I had a camera on me last year at Hells Hills to capture the sights...I'm glad I didn't bring a camera this year because it was a bit depressing to witness the toll the recent droughts have caused. There was still a lot of good sights to take in this year though, and the challenging trails of constant ups and down and twisty turns makes for a thrilling race for those looking for a beginner to intermediate level trail race. Hoping the conditions improve next year, because I'm still intent on a Sub-6 Hr finish on this fun and adrenaline-pumping course...maybe not with the Vibrams again.