2011 Capt’n Karl’s The Lake 60k Race Report

“You ready to drop now or…….” I thought he was half joking and half serious, as I finished another lap, since about half of the 97 starters would not finish.   “Nope, I’m still alive.” Staying alive and moving is most of the battle in these summer races where the heat and technical trails are a challenging combination, and I was pretty determined to finish since I DNFd the year before and had no desire to be a part of the carnage this year.

But it all started several hours before when RD Brad Quinn gave us the rundown and offered us a moment of silence—the Capt’n Karl’s series are in honor of his father in law who passed away due to cancer, so this was a moment for us to reflect before we began.  And so we did begin the 60k, 37.2 mi, course of six 10k loops at 7pm at scenic Ink’s Lake State Park with an aid station half way in and one at the start/finish.  37 miles is a long way on foot and too much to deal with mentally, so my plan was to break it up into six loops which was slightly more manageable.

Hijacking the photo...the sun is almost gone and start of Lap 2.

We started 15 min before the 30k runners but it didn’t take too long for the mutants/speedsters to pass us.  The course has a variety of some hills, a jeep road, single track, and rock hills.  The rocks are really the most important feature since they are pretty brutal to run on, especially in the dark.  A decent amount of smaller rocks, but mostly it’s the large rock outcroppings that are difficult to run at night, well… difficult for a Houstonian like me with no terrain like that to train on.

The first lap was relatively uneventful for me, except for the fact I could tell already my stomach was not in a great state and I was probably going too hard since it was a bit hard for me to breathe well, which I suspect was due to the heat.  I made a pit stop at the bathroom on the way out after the first loop, and continued.  Not more than 50 yards out of the loop, I realized I was so concentrated on refueling and hitting the bathroom at the aid station, I forgot my most important piece of gear, my headlamp.  This event was a night run after all.  Thankfully I wasn’t far away—had I continued on for another 10 or 20 minutes… not sure what decision I would have made.  Also at the aid station they had a guy with an exterminator sprayer, only it was filled with water, so I had him spray down my head which was a nice relief.

The second loop continued on but my stomach still wasn’t getting better and in fact was getting worse, and running for any great stretch of time was hard.  I can run 10, 20 miles in the morning in the summer but for some reason I just can’t quite dial everything in right for these night races.  I was eating food, water, and electrolytes so I had no idea what to do to correct it.  So I hit the bathroom again at the end of the 2nd loop and I was feeling pretty awful.  I was force feeding myself a couple bites of sandwich in the hopes I would improve things but it just made me feel nauseous, and all I could think is there was no way I could finish if I felt like this for a long time.  I probably stood at my drop bag for a good 5-10 minutes trying to figure out what I wanted to do and I was *this* close to just giving up.  But I drove all the way up here, and I didn’t really want to stop with only a 12 mile training run.  And my legs actually felt fine, so I thought I could hike to the half way point and drop at the aid station there if I wanted to, so I had the guy spray my head down again and marched out.  In trail running, just like in life, it doesn’t always get worse and you just have to keep on going and tough it out.

I walked almost all the way to the aid station in the 3rd loop, probably a good 30-45 min, and thankfully started to feel a bit better so I decided to jog again, which felt great.  While walking I even passed  a couple who were walking the race, but not “participating.”  This is a trail RUNNING event so it was nice to run some.  The sun was now gone so it had cooled off, which also made me feel better so my outlook started to improve substantially and the thoughts of quitting were pretty much erased.

I came in through the half-way point at over 5 hours.  Well, definitely no way to make it under 9 hours but I should be able to tough it out and finish….but I realized  I was going to be out here a long time.  I ran most of the 4th loop with another guy from Houston, and it was nice to have some company.  Only thing is, most of the people I was running with now were an entire lap ahead of me.  Oh well, I’ll get there eventually.  My stomach was still kind of alternating good and bad… it seemed like I needed more time for my food to digest coming out of the aid stations than in other races.

It was past 2 am and time for the 5th lap to begin and the guy who I ran the 4th with headed out before me, I was taking a lot of time at the aid stations but I needed it.  By this point, my strategy was to run all the easy non-rocky parts and do my best with the rest.  Half way into the lap, my headlamp was getting noticeably dimmer.  This had an inverse effect on my running, as now I had a reason to get back to the start/finish.  Amazing what a little motivation will do sometimes!  At one point I thought I saw a rock in the shape of Texas, and a shadow of another rock that looked like a gorilla. I have never hallucinated, but I had no idea what this was supposed to mean, and  I didn’t think I was hallucinating.  And one last trick of the eye… I saw a planet in the sky (it was not blinking) but it looked like it was moving.  I stopped and focused and realized no, it was not moving and my eyes were playing tricks on me, you must be kind of tired.  I also saw a branch that was swinging pretty wildly…but there was no wind I couldn’t hear any birds.  Probably some creature out there but who knows, some things are better left unsolved.  Later in the 5th loop I also tripped and fell and landed on some rocks.  Didn’t hurt too much at the time but the impact of me landing on the ground broke my watch off which I now had to carry in my pocket.  On the plus side, it gave me some extra adrenaline for a few minutes and I think the scrapes on my leg look pretty sweet.

I still made decent time on the 5th loop running mostly solo and now had just one more six mile loop left.  Running six miles is easy, right… so it was in the bag.  Even though my stomach had been bad, my legs had actually felt great the whole time.  The beginning of the 6th loop some blisters and my toes started to get uncomfortable, which did slow me down quite a bit, but at this point I didn’t really care too much since I knew I would finish.  Getting closer to the finish, I could see some light up ahead—am I getting back to civilization?  Uh, no, that’s the sun, it’s almost 6am, and now the birds are chirping.  I had been running (and walking) the whole night, and was finally almost done.  Going up the last hill, I took a moment to look across the skyline and watch the sunrise over the hill country—a nice prize for finishing near the end.  Going down the hill I could only chuckle to myself that is was now over, I wouldn’t have to see these rocks anymore, that was the hardest race I’ve finished so far.  I am certainly no speedster, but I think I have some respectable times running as hard as I can.… but finishing at the end like this is tough.

I finished after about 11 hours and 15 minutes and co-RD Joe Prusaitis handed me my finisher’s medal and confirmed that I had stuck it out.  They were out of burgers but his wife Joyce was wonderful and waited on me and asked if I wanted some chicken salad?  My mind was foggy and tired but it sounded like a good idea.  It was a good decision, probably the best chicken salad I’ve had.


3 Responses

  1. Great job on finishing. This was my first ultra and it was definitely a challenge for me. I’m no speedster either and was purely elated to just finish and did so with a time of 10:48, almost 2 hours longer than originally anticipated. I have to say it was a great experience being on the trail, alone, in the middle of the night hearing the nocturnals, mostly armadillos, foraging in the leaves just off trail. On the non-technical portions of the course, with the moon being almost completely full in the clear sky, I killed the headlamp and navigated in the moonlight. This was rejuvenating to me as I found the LED lamp light excellent for navigating but, over time, it became a bit harsh on the eyes. Hope my many blisters are healed for the Falls, the next run in this series.

    • Thanks and wow, congrats on your first ultra finish! There were quite a few first timers there, and yall picked a good one to get introduced. I should have tried w/o the headlamp in those areas… maybe at the next one. It can kind of give you “tunnel vision” staring into the light for so long. I too love to get lost in the trails, it is very relaxing and makes me feel “free” to be out there and it’s all up to you.

  2. […] “Amazing what a little motivation will do sometimes!  At one point I thought I saw a rock in the shape of Texas, and a shadow of another rock that looked like a gorilla. I have never hallucinated, but I had no idea what this was supposed to mean, and  I didn’t think I was hallucinating.” by ultra @ A Trail Runner’s Running Blog […]

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