Capt’n Karl’s The Falls 60k Race Report

3 weeks had passed and time for the next in the Capt’n Karls Series: The Falls at Pedernales Falls State Park. I was not exactly sure how I would fare given my poor nutrition preparation and execution during the previous race which resulted in my bonking in the middle of the course and a DNF. Running a personal long distance was a nice goal, but you had to question the sanity of doing such a thing in a night time trail race, in the middle of the Texas summer. However, I did think that correcting my nutrition issues would give me a good shot. The modifications for this run were to increase my salt intake by double (the doctor lady at Ink’s Lake said it should have been 2-3 times as much…whoops), and also this time I was strictly going to stick to a 8 min run / 2 min walk schedule.  Now was time to test it out.

My trail running buddy (idiot), Adam, who got me involved in ultra trail running, was coming along too for the 30k. We got to the start/finish less than an hour before we started, checked in, and prepared ourselves and our drop bags for the race. Since Adam was doing the 30k, he would be done before me with the potential of pacing me for one out and back portion of the race. The temps at the start were probably in the 95-100 deg F range, but thankfully it cooled down about 3 deg/hour. I honestly didn’t think about the heat after the first hour and it didn’t really bug me during the race. There was a brisk wind at times, which seemed to pick up after midnight, and alot of the course had some dirt/dust which would also get kicked up (this becomes important later).

Off we went at 7pm. Course was 2 30k (18.6 mi) loops, with one big aid station you hit twice, and two other stations which were water only. The first mile or so was through an overgrown grassy field down to the Pedernales river. Not too bad, thankfully no rocks here since you couldn’t really see where your feet were landing. Once we got to the river, we ran along side it on a really nasty portion, my least favorite. Stepping on awkward rock outcroppings and through some brush which didn’t last too long before heading away from the river and onto the fenceline portion which borders the park boundary. A straight shot for a few miles, with some gently rolling hills and small rocks, but nothing bad. Soon I made it to the aid station at mile 8 with the out and back portion and was feeling great. A nice little hill down to open up the pace, and then a small loop. Some rocky terrain, but nothing too bad and at this point my body felt great and even though I still had to run over a marathon’s distance to the finish, I felt like it was going to be a good day/night/morning. By this point it was dark, so I turned off my headlamp to look up at the sky and stars. Could see the milky way pretty good, and plenty more stars than in the city. Soon I made it back to the hill I just came down, and had to walk all the way up since it would be a waste of energy for me to run it. Back to the aid station to refuel and finish the last 6 miles of the lap. Next section was rocky, but runnable at the time. We ran into one runner who was dehydrated, and there I saw myself, 3 weeks ago collapsed on the park rocks. He looked o.k., but probably done for the race, but I gave him some water and we left. Then ran into another guy who was cramping up, so I gave him some food and encouraging words. Soon after I ran into the race director looking for the ill runner, so I felt better he would soon have help. The rest of the loop was pretty easy although my stomach briefly fell downhill, but some food and salt quickly corrected it.

Rolled into the start/finish at 4 hrs 5 mins and saw Adam there, not quite expecting me. He was awesome taking care of me, refueling and bringing me a couple shots of coke. It’s always great to have someone crewing for you, just to save the energy/time performing simple tasks when you just want to rest a minute. I saw the other guy who was cramping up come in, nice to see him finish. I spent probably 10 minutes here eating and readying myself for the next 18 miles, but physically and mentally I felt great.

Off I went, and soon ran into another runner I knew from other races, Steven, and walked with him a bit. I wanted to walk the nasty part next to the river anyway, so it was nice to chat with someone for a good half hour or so since I had mostly been running alone, and now that the 30k runners were done, and the loop was so big, you didn’t really see many people out. Thats ok–one enjoyable aspect of trail running is to escape to yourself and nature, and enjoy the journey.

I soon decided to get moving and started running again. Around mile 22, my eyes started drying up again, and I think a breeze knocked my left contact out. Crap! I have only one good eye now, running around the rocky park at night, and I still have about 15 miles to go to the finish. Well, only way is to go forward. But mentally it was requiring much more energy to remain focused on the rocks and finding the best spot for my feet. And I did have to slow down at some spots since my depth perception was now off. The fenceline rolled on and I eventually jogged into the pipeline aid station to find Adam there, helping out and ready to run 5 miles with me.

We set off down the hill, and kept up a decent run/walk routine, although I was starting to walk more of the rough sections. My vision was going downhill as I was getting tired with only one good eye, which was starting to slow me down a bit. Legs were starting to tighten up, but overall I felt great, and it was great to talk to Adam about the race and everything else. We soon returned up the hill and back to the aid station where Steven caught up. At this point, it was 2:30 am and if we hustled through this 6 mile stretch, we could finish below 9 hours. So, off we went.

Started with a good pace, although this section was rather rocky single-track, which combined with my lack of vision, was causing me to slow down quite a bit and Steven soon took off ahead of me. I started rolling my ankles a lot more as well, which was slowing me down, and a blister on my left heel too was starting to talk to me much more loudly. Soon I realized I wasn’t quite going to make it under 9, but I didn’t care. I was feeling great and happy to have such a great rebound from the previous race. Amazing what can happen with the correct nutrition plan.

I “sprinted” the last hundred yards, as I could hear the others at the start/finish, into the finish line at about 9:05, just after 4 am Sunday morning. Exhausted and hungry after travelling 37 miles, I got to sit down, where I realized my feet were throbbing. I was so happy to be done after completing the longest race I’ve done, on a technical trail in the summer heat, but it was kind of hard to enjoy at the time since I was so tired. But I relaxed, ate, and soon we returned back to the hotel where a shower capped off another successful trail running adventure.

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