Lone Star Trail Run

Saturday was a real nice trail run with HTREX at the Lone Star Hiking Trail.  It was an 8.5 mile out and back.  The terrain is pretty flat through the forests of the Sam Houston National Forest.  Lots of tree cover, and about 20% of it had the shoe sucking mud… but it wasn’t that bad. The weather was a little cool but pleasant at the start, ~60, and warmed up to at least the lower 80’s.  Pace started out a bit quick and it took me a good hour or so to warm up, but settled in and actually felt really good the last 2/3 of the run.  Was probably one of my more satisfying runs in a while — just long enough to feel good, but not too long to feel totally destroyed either!  Shared some beer, food, and stories at the end with the other crazies to wrap up a nice morning.  On to Hell’s Hill’s 50 mile for a little redemption…?!


2012 Nueces 50 miler

50 miles is a long way.  Especially if you are traveling on foot through the Texas Hill Country.

The Nueces 50 miler was 3 16.67 mile loops starting at 6 am.  The weather was just about perfect.  This race was the 4th the Tejas Trails 50 miler series, which I was participating in.  So if I finished this one, then I would “only” need one more to complete the series (there was only 4 of us left that had completed all of the previous 3 50 milers).  I think this race was probably the toughest course I’ve done.  While it isn’t quite as rocky/technical as Bandera, the hills are longer and I believe the elevation gain/loss is larger than Cactus Rose 50.  I think there is more flat sections on Cactus Rose and the hills, even though they are steeper, are just over much quicker.  I ran this race in the Brooks Pure Grits — they worked pretty well.  I rolled my ankle the week before, so I think it was weaker and thus I rolled it probably a good dozen times at Nueces.  Didn’t really bother me running (and I don’t think it was from the shoes).

The first section of the race was lots of winding narrow single track, slightly rocky, kind of narrow.  Slightly uphill with a ton of switchbacks.  I just spent the first hour or two warming up, trying to get in a comfortable pace and get some space.  It was kind of narrow and was slightly crowded the first few hours.  Overall, it wasn’t bad.   Leaving the first aid station, there is a really nasty area, one that I think Joe created on it his own.  If you aren’t careful in some areas of this course, you could easily just slip off the edge, into the trail below.  Would not be pretty!  The first part of the second section was pretty nasty, a definite hike for me.  It wasn’t too long, and once you got to the top of that hill, it was flat and pretty easy running.  Then you are greeted with a huge jeep road, where you can fly downhill.  (I took all my photos from Joe’s smugmug site)

Buckle up for the downhill ride!

I took that downhill pretty fast, as I’m sure everyone else was, and was kind of worried that I would be paying for it later.  Oh well!  Enjoy the moment while it lasts.  I’ve been told before, and I’m not sure if it’s true, is that holding back on the downhills is what really trashes your quads.  Guess I won’t know.  Anyway, after that downhill you hit another switchback before crossing over the road, and hitting a few more switchbacks down the cliff to the next station.  Coming out of this station, you then cross a rickety wooden bridge.  This area was quite beautiful in the morning.  Maybe the prettiest part I’ve seen in any race.  The sun was coming up, and you had the river, hills, and a huge rock wall on the right.

The rickety wooden bridge and the rockwall... really pretty area.

Somewhere in this area a 25k runner passed me and asked if he was on the right course.  I told him as far as I knew that was true… just keep running til they tell you to stop!  Anyway, that section was short before you went back up a small hill, through some flat dry, rocky creek-beds and then continue to the toughest part of this course.

Anyone who’s run this race knows what this is.  The Windmill Hill.

The climb isn’t too steep, but it is long, probably a mile, and is pretty rocky.  The first time through, it isn’t that bad, but the second time, and then the third time…. it adds up.  By the third lap, it doesn’t seem like it will ever end!

F the windmill!

Well the first time through, I was feeling pretty good.  I passed a guy who wasn’t having a good time.  I gave him some papaya for his stomach but never saw him pass me again.  A false peak or two, then you turn and are facing the windmill.  I don’t know what it is about it, but it just sits there…. staring at you…. laughing at you.

I'm not certain but I believe this is looking down from the windmill hill, from where you came

Well the hill was over and now it’s time to fly down the hill.  The downhills were all very runnable, compared to Bandera where the footing is quite treacherous in some areas.  This downhill was about as fun as the jeep road, just a few more rocks.  After that downhill, you hit three small rollers before hitting the last station.

The last sections was pretty easy.  You got to run on the river, and hop over a few rocks before climbing another small hill and more switchbacks to the finish.  I passed some young ladies down by the river who I overheard them make a comment something to the effect of “you know you’re going slow when a 50 miler runner passes you!”  I told them it didn’t matter … just as long as you’re out there.  They should have seen me on lap 3…..

Well I rolled into the start/finish aid station and refueled.  Olga told me I looked pale, but I didn’t really know what that meant, I was eating pretty well so far.  I tried to be quick but these stops usually take longer than I plan for some reason.  After bonking in a few previous races, I was making a very conscious effort to always have food on me so I could eat regularly, and eat more at the stations than I had been.  Olga told me to get the heck out of there ,so I obliged.

The second lap felt good. I jogged briefly with a guy from Maryland.  Later I jogged with another guy who DNF’d the rocky 50 miler.  Apparently he wasn’t taking any salt at Nueces so I told him to load up!  I guess I’m getting to be a veteran — although I felt slightly silly since if you read any of my reports you can tell I am far from skilled at running 50 miles!  The second lap felt good.  The miles were adding up but I still felt strong, considering.  However somewhere around mile 20-25, my left quad starting getting sore/stiff.  Around this time Mariela passed me.  It looked like she was sprinting but I thought I was actually moving pretty well.  Anyways, my leg didn’t really hurt yet, so I didn’t worry about it too much.  Continued back down the rock wall and over the Windmill Hill.

By this time of day, it was probably after noon, and although it was probably in the 60’s, I was getting hot.  I should have brought a second water bottle because I could tell I was going to run out in this section, which was a low point for me.  Going up the hill, I was keeping up OK but it was wearing me out.  I think I was just slightly cranky from not having water…. and the hill that would never end!  Going back down the downhill, I was feeling pretty awful.  Nauseated, I almost felt like dropping when I got back to the start/finish.  I was going through the 3 rollers where I came upon a girl who had just passed me, now limping bad.  She thought she had broken her ankle, so I offered to walk in with her, I wasn’t moving fast anyway.  And I was thinking, she was moving faster than me, and my ankle is just fine (relatively)–guess I should suck it up.  Got to the last aid station and I got some ginger, and I spent some time trying to rebound since I wasn’t feeling well. I don’t think I ate much there, but I took probably too much time.  I think one of my friends Stef came in too, showing off some nice trail rash from some of Nueces’ many rocks.

The last section was OK this time.  I started feeling better but knew I needed to carry another bottle.  I brought one to the race, but it had an equipment malfunction the night before, so I couldn’t use it.  I came through and Mariela lent me one of hers to carry since she was done with the 50k.  Olga again told me I was pale… which I guess was normal. I spent too much time again, eating, and refueling for the last lap, which I now had slightly less than 6 hours to finish in.  Which even at my pace, should be easy enough.

Started the third lap, and it was empty.  Almost no one around.  I was moving slow and my left quad was getting more and more sore.  It would be ok for a while… then act up… then get better.  Flats were joggable, but hills were getting tough.  I stretched it a few times but maybe in hindsight I should have stretched more — although the course was pretty barren to find anything to balance yourself on.  Well the first section went on forever, and I finally got the first station in what seemed like forever.  I couldn’t jog for very long.  The next part had the really nasty short uphill, which I managed OK until getting to the top.  I remember my leg bothering me more up here, so even though it was nice and flat, it was too painful and my body was just tired from all the miles.  That downhill, I think I ran OK and I was hiking OK at the point. I also remember seeing the windmill from atop this hill and cursed it outloud a few times, it was ~5 miles away.

The next station John Luna came in right behind me after I grabbed my supplies and refueled, and wondered why I was back here with him.  I’ve seen him at many of the Tejas Trails races but never actually spoken or ran with him.  He was also doing the 50 mile series too, so we chatted for a while while hiking out of that section.  Soon though, my stomach had some issues so I had to make a stop off trail and told him I’d try to catch up.  After that pit stop, I was going through the creek-bed and was just wondering if I should try to jog, or save energy for the last big hill, and I chose the latter.

Going up this hill was pathetically slow and painful.  My quad hurt when I lifted my leg up too high, so I could basically only get a half step with my left leg, and full with my right.  So I was moving at half walking pace up this damn thing.  I think at least 2 people passed me up the hill which should have raised a mental flag but I was just trying to continue moving forward to finish under 14 hours.  I had something like 7 miles total left at this point.  The hill dragged on and on… and my leg just hurt.  And to make matters worse, I think overcompensating with my left leg it made the outside of my left foot hurt… so now I was just a walking debacle.  Too bad no one else was around so I couldn’t start a pity party!  But I just had to keep moving forward.  The downhill came and I thought I could try to make up some time… but it was just as painful going up so it was slow going downhill.

I came into the last station and the guy there told me that the cutoff had passed 13 minutes ago, so just like that my race was over 47.5 miles in to a 50 mile race.  I felt pretty upset, stupid, and defeated at that point.  Usually I have good attention to details, but this was  a monumental mistake.  Could I have gone faster if I had known I had to get to the last station by 6:30?  I don’t know if I would have made it but as painful as it was I sure as heck would have had more motivation and would have probably spent less time at the stations loading up on food the previous couple hours.  It sucked, but there was nothing I could do about it.  I had gone almost 200 miles in a 250 mile series but I had come up several minutes short.  I know if I could have continued there I would have finished under 14 hours (I would have had an hour and fifteen minutes to go less than 3 miles which even at my pace then was achievable).
So, rather than totally wallowing in this I guess I should use it as motivation to improve.  The first 50 I did at Rocky a year ago went really well… but the 4 of these have been hard, and not really gone very well.  Maybe 50 is too much for me?  If I’ve learned anything it’s my training specificity wasn’t adequate — mostly my hill training sucks, or is non-existent — but it was hard for me to dial in my training in between all these 50 mile races… and I’m not sure there is much I could have really done between recovering from the races and other minor injuries the past 4 months which held me back a little.   I tried my best, and I didn’t quit, I just ran out of time.  Sometimes you try your best… and it just isn’t quite good enough.