Miwok 100k Race Report

I rolled into the Bolinas Ridge aid station at mile 20, feeling pretty awful. I found my friend Miles there as well — he told me he would be dropping at the next aid station. Damn, that sucks. One of us from Houston has to finish this, and now I’m left. 20 miles in to a 62 mile run, it was way too early to already be feeling this bad, and I suspected my nutrition was really off. If I had the option to drop there… I might have taken it, but I also knew things can always change quickly in an ultra. I dumped out the electrolyte mix from my camelbak, refilled it with just water, and opted for several shots of coke and a few handfulls of potato chips. Miles and I chatted a few more minutes, marveling in both the beauty and difficulty of the course, before he started to hike up the trail. I wanted to linger around longer, to try to recuperate and salvage my race. Another shot of coke, water, and food, and time to continue on the rest of this journey. Up and out of the aid station, I began hiking back up the beautiful trail, surrounded by huge Redwood, Cedar, fir trees all around on a soft single track trail — doesn’t get much better than that. The road to finishing the Miwok 100k continued on, but started much early than at the 5 am start line that morning…

miwok_profile

Miwok elevation profile, as measured by my watch

Last year I had the fortune of running a 50 miler in the Marin Headlands when a couple of former Houston friends, Wim and Gerda, were gracious enough to let me crash at their place. Escaping the 100 degree heat of Houston in August was a no-brainer for the 50 degree temperature in CA and beautiful trails of the headlands. After gutting out a 14.5 hr finish, that was the hardest course I ever finished but gave me some perspective on trails I’d run. When the Miwok lottery rolled around in December… I threw my name in and then in lucky fashion, was selected. Trouble was, I had an lingering ankle injury that threw into question whether or not I’d be able to even show up at the start line for Miwok.  It took months to finally shake after cutting out my recreational volleyball.

I knew my training would have to be almost perfect to finish Miwok, with 12,000 ft of elevation gain and loss, including a few 1400 ft climbs, would be significantly harder than the 50 I did in the headlands — surviving the downhills, so my quads weren’t completely trashed, would have to be a focus of my training, a task made difficult by the fact that the biggest ‘hill’ within several hundred miles of my house is the 70 ft Kemah bridge. On top of that, at 100k (62 miles) it would be ~12 miles longer than any race I had finished. I made out a training plan of several 50k’s, and sprinkled in enough other training I thought would serve me well for the hills and mountains of the northern California coast. First was the Piney Woods 50k for endurance, then followed by some hill training with the Nueces 50k, a 26 mile training run at Bandera with friends (probably one of the most enjoyable runs I’ve ever been on…), and then the Possum Kingdom 55k 3 weeks out from Miwok. With 3 good long races with a good amount of climbing, although not near the hills I would experience at Miwok, I felt like it was a solid plan. Stack on top of that, numerous strength workouts, core workouts, weekly mile repeat workouts, and stairmaster workouts, that was about all I could do, other than have additional time to get faster and maybe try to lose some weight. I alternated long mileage weeks with high strength weeks, doing strength routines 2-4 times a week. Maybe not the fittest ever, but I felt the strongest I’ve been and came into race week injury free.  Going into the race, in my mind, I thought honestly there was probably a 50-50 shot of making the cutoffs. Nevertheless, I knew the race would be enjoyable from a scenery point of view, and the training for this race had probably been my most enjoyable training phase in years, or maybe ever.

Miles and I had the same flight out of Houston, and after landing in Oakland found a pub in Berkeley to eat lunch and trade our race strategies, concerns, and plans for the next day. Soon enough it was time to head on to our places to crash, so I headed over to Wim and Gerda’s, and headed out with Wim to the course. He would be providing live updates on ultralive.net for all the runners (some possible 4,000 data entries…) and wanted to recon the course for cell coverage. At the Bolinas A/S, we ran into RD Tia Bodington, Stan Jensen, and Glen Tachiyama setting up the goods. I felt guilty standing around, and hauled one jug of water to the A/S. They insisted I not exert any more energy, and I asked if I could trade volunteer time for additional time to the race — no luck!

Race morning started early, waking up at 2-something for a 4:15 arrival for a 5 am start. Driving was uneventful there, and checked in and got myself in order. Looked for Miles at the start, but couldn’t find him.  I joined the mass of 400+ starters near the back, and waited for the final GO to start.  Soon enough, the minutes ticked away and we started… sort of. There was ~400 runners to enter the trailhead across a short bridge, which was only about 1 body wide — consequently, it took at least a good 5 minutes to actually move 30 yards. Then up the Matt Davis trail we went. First starting flat, then increasing grade as the endless switchbacks began, rolling up and up the trail. This was the 1800 foot climb, and although nice and cool, it was quite a workout. Halfway up, I could tell my arms were already soaked. I listened to the folks in front and behind me engage in conversation, as I had my hands on my hips and climbed the mountain, switchback after switchback.

Reaching the top in almost an hour and a half, I was already quite gassed; I could tell my heart rate was high, but what else can I do. We were greeted by the sound of some wild turkey’s, likely wondering what all the fuss was about this early in the morning. Dawn had begun, letting everyone see the gorgeous trail and Pacific ocean. It also meant I could actually start running on the rolling Coastal Trail. I looked off to the side across the ocean, and saw either fog or clouds and thought internally hmm, very unlike running in Houston, looking across an ocean and being up the same level as clouds….

photo 3

view from the Coastal trail

The thing about the coastal trail, is it’s only about a “quarter track” — there was maybe 12 inches wide to run on, and most times was inclined at an angle, requiring alot of concentration for foot placement, and avoiding what I read were the gopher holes in the trail. This flat section rolled on and on while everyone was still very crowded together with no real room to pass. Then we hit the forested area at Bolinas, the trail finally opening up to some sweet single track and increasing to jeep-road width and I can get some room.

After Bolinas, we were surrounded by beautiful huge trees, flat rolling trail going on and on through the forest, until the first big downhill. The 1000 foot descent was nice and I finally saw Miles ahead of me about 5 minutes at the aid station. Volunteers checked us in by bib number at each station, and I was number 123.  I considered it a lucky number and got plenty of comments on it as the day progressed 😉 Made a quick refill on fuel and headed back up the hill, still feeling good. I noticed there wasn’t that many folks behind me… maybe 20 or so. Yikes, I know I’m going to lag behind the folks out here but didn’t think I was that far back as I thought I was going a pretty good pace for me. Just stick to my own race.

Up and up the hill we went, and I passed a few folks, and returned to the flat section, where my stomach then went south. Probably had too many electrolytes, and even 15-20 miles into the race, this course was way more intense than anything I had run in my training. Thankfully there were some absolutely gorgeous views of the trees and coastline in this area. Finally returned back to Bolinas where I ran into Miles, and chatted with him.

photo 4

beautiful, lush trees

He said his foot was bothering him, and he would be dropping. I felt pretty awful too, but wanted to recuperate, so I spent a few extra minutes loading up on coke and salty chips. I bid the volunteers farewell and started hiking back out on the trail, and within a few minutes felt energy back in my body and started feeling well. Returning to the coastal trail was quite lovely aesthetically, but I didn’t really like the narrow trail. I caught up to Miles, where we reflected on how much this was just like running around the trails in Houston on Saturday morning — uh, NOT!! Once back to the Matt Davis trail, Miles went back to the start to drop, and I continued on, hoping that big descent would finally come. The forested single-track trail continued on and on as I headed to the Cardiac aid station. Not a huge descent at first, but finally some switchback and making it to the aid station, feeling pretty good.

After here, a nice descent to a very flat, runnable section on the road. Lots of cars out, and I paced myself to not over-exert too much this early in the race (not even at 50k yet). This stretch was a bit forgettable and finally I came to the Muir Beach A/S. Another top notch A/S, and I looked at my watch and knew I needed to hustle to Tennessee valley A/S where the first cutoff would be. With a bit of motivation, I headed out and made good time up the hill, passing a few ladies on the way up and topping out. The descent going down was FUN and I felt strong. It really does suck we have no hills around here to run; running these big descents among all this scenery was a joy. I was rolling and heard footsteps behind me. “Don’t worry, I’m not a racer” I chatted with the guy for a minute, before he passed and I continued down the hill to the bustling Tennessee Valley Aid station about 18 min ahead of the first cutoff, where there must have been 100 volunteers and crew hanging out. Wow, real busy, but thankfully everything well under control and orderly. Looked around for Miles, but no joy, and then headed up the hill.

I’d run this hill in the headlands 50, so I knew it wasn’t too bad. Up and up it went, until topping out on a long stretch to near the Golden Gate Bridge.  Another fantastic panaramic view on the windy saddle near the Golden Gate Bridge.  Eventually made it the aid station, still feeling OK. Another downhill ahead and down I go, passing another lady on the downhill before another short flat section. Immediately ahead you can see the climb beginning, where I can see a good 10 runners hiking up — I must be catching up to some folks. Trouble is, now I feel really hot and tired, 45 miles into this beast. Took some jelly beans with caffeine, which restored my energy just enough, but not enough to catch up to those folks as they soon disappear from sight. Damn, that hill was pretty hard and I felt like I was baking out there on an otherwise perfect sunny day. Somewhere in this stretch I amused myself by comparing the Kemah Bridge to the elevation profile of this course and how every race I’ve done previous to this pales in comparison.  The bridge would be mere noise in the data if comparing the elevation profile of the two.  The hill eventually crested out, which means now it’s time to run down down down, back to Tennessee Valley for another cutoff, getting there about 26 minutes ahead of the cutoff.

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approaching the Bridge View A/S, just like running the Kemah Bridge.

Coming into here, I would be 48 miles in, with only 13 miles left, I knew a finish would likely be in my future since I was some 25+ minutes ahead, barring the wheels coming completely off. Gerda would be pacing me, and she found me as I ran the downhill back to the A/S. It would be nice to have some company — although leap frogging back and forth with some folks, I had carried on very little conversation or run any long stretch with folks all day. I was very glad and satisfied thus far– I could still run the downhills, and strong! At the headlands 50, my quads gave out 40 miles in. Now I’m almost 50 miles in, and all systems, legs, body, mind, still feel good — it seemed like my training had worked (for comparison, I was ~ 2 hours ahead of my finishing time from the Headlands 50 miler). That was a great feeling, the satisfaction of knowing all the training and sacrifices I made for training actually worked for this monster of a race.  Now to change shirts, refuel, and finish this thing.

The next stretch I also had run before, which first had a not-too-bad hill, followed by some more lovely views by the coast. I passed a couple more folks hiking up, then running down the hill back to Muir Beach. I was ahead of the cutoffs again, and decided to take an unnecessary bathroom break since I thought I had plenty of time. They were out of Coke, then a random person volunteered up their can. Yes! Coke was like nectar of the gods, I must have drank a few gallons of it all day. Along with a few pieces of watermelon and more chips, and I was off.

This point, my body was just tired (go figure) — tired of calculating the cutoffs, tired of running, and mentally drained. Nothing hurt too bad, just kind of ready to be done now, less than 8 miles from the finish. This stretch was back to a flat section, but I just didn’t feel like running much. We headed up the road, and back up to the trail, walking way too much, to the final climb up to the Cardiac A/S. The Boston Marathon has Heartbreak Hill, and Miwok has the Cardiac Hill, on the famous Dipsea course. This climb went on and on, and I thought it would never end. If Gerda wasn’t present, I probably would have verbally exhausted all the cuss words I had, as I was pretty tired, sore, and more than ready for this climb to end. Darkness was coming, I had run all day long, and now here I was, in this beautiful forest, just trying to get up the hill. I mistakenly thought it was ‘only’ 700 ft or so; instead it was almost double at ~1400 ft, serves me right for not studying the course a bit more.  The beauty of the surroundings escaped me, as I was just looking for the clearing in the forest to indicate the last aid station. Finally it came and I took another short break.

Leaving it we had only 2.8 miles to go, and ~35 minutes to finish under 16 hours, and this part was thankfully all downhill, 1400 ft. It started off flat, then gradually increased in grade until we got to the dang steps. I couldn’t run down these in my present state, especially at dark, and it slowed me down too much. I keep checking my watch, and trying to calculate how much is left and figure out that I am quickly running out of time to finish under 16 hours. Upon departing the steps, I took off on the rocky single track through the dark until the next switchback or more steps. This cycle continued on until finally the rough steps ended. Time keeps ticking down and I run faster and faster through the dark down this dang hill. Now I’m running faster than I had all day long it seems. A volunteer, appears almost out of nowhere along the trail and tells me the last hill is up ahead named ‘insult hill’ and that yes runner #123, you’re going to finish this race! This ‘insult’ is a cramp in my leg, so I quickly down a couple salts and charge on. I take off to the right up through a break in the trail to a road, where we discover I went off the course. Damnit! Backtrack up the trail, discover the error in navigation, precious time wasted with not much left to break 16 hours, and I’m running even faster down the hill, leaving Gerda behind me. My feet keep turning over and over, throwing caution to the wind as I descend down some more steps, where I pass two ladies. “You’re downhill running is inspiring!” I appreciate the comment but didn’t have the energy or time to reply, and just keep on running, trying to get under that time for what I thought was the official finish limit and Western State qualifying time. I’ve been going for 16 hours and it would suck not to get a finish.

A clearing from the trees, and I can see a few lights below, I still must be a hundred feet or so above ground level, so I still have a ways to go. Keep looking at my watch, and realize when the clock hit 8:58 PM and I don’t see civilization yet, I am probably not going to break 16 hrs. Eventually the downhill ends, I meet volunteers by the road who direct me to the right, back to the Fire Station where we all started the adventure at 5 am in the morning, and finish, in 16:00:54, sprinting down the mountain the last 1.5 miles. No idea where I got that energy, or why I didn’t summon it an hour or so earlier! Tia tells me to turn my headlight off and puts the finisher medal over my head — the work is done, and now I can stop running!

 

San Francisco 50 miler Race Report

I “ran” for 50 miles in the Marin Headlands outside of San Francisco, and it took almost 15 hours so I thought I’d write a bit up on it.

On a run on Saturday with HTREx, a couple running friends, Wim and Gerda, from Houston who live in SF offered up a place to stay if I wanted a trip out (Wim would be running the 50 mi).  I knew it was going to be hilly, so I thought I would check out the race details.  Hmm… 10,000 ft of elevation change for all 50 miles… and the most I’ve done is probably half that.  There is a 16 hour cutoff (due to the fact it also was a 100 mile event)… so it seemed “doable” but needless to say, should be challenging for a flatlander like me: my only goal was to simply finish under the 16 hr cutoff.  And in hindsight, if I knew how hilly it really was, don’t know if I would have signed up, since there was no prolonged flat parts; basically running up and down hills the whole race, and not these 300 ft hills I’ve experienced in the hill country, they would be several times larger.

some hills up in here....

some hills up in here….

 

Additionally, the course would have views of the Pacific Ocean, Golden Gate bridge, and surrounding Bay Area to add to the scenic value.  And I would get to escape the scorching temperatures down in Houston, even if only for a few days—the starting temperature was around 50 degrees, whereas the high back in Houston I’m sure was around 100.

 

Start line at Rodeo Beach

Start line at Rodeo Beach

Race started at rodeo beach… nice and beautiful view out to the Pacific Ocean.  It was a “low key” 50 mile/100 mile race as only about ~70 folks were signed up for both races in this 1st year event, put on by Coastal Trail Runs (awesome aid station support and course was well marked. Nice swag and definitely would consider doing another of their races again).  The race director set us off right at 7:00 am and I began the long hike as all the California speedsters blazed off past me up the first hill, I stuck to my pre-race plan of walking all the uphills, and doing my best everywhere else on the course.  The downhills are what kills your quads, and it would make no sense for me to waste my precious energy and strength running uphills (especially since I didn’t train for running them) when I hadn’t run a race like this before.

Course started off with a ~900 ft climb over about a mile and half.  Yeah, a little bit hillier than running around Houston.  I was enjoying the hiking and the getting to explore a totally new trail.  Some steps going up, and some relatively technical footing in some areas of the first section (but overall the course is not technical at all).

Came thru the Tennessee Valley aid station, got some PB&J, and headed out for the next scamper on the Coastal Trail.  Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, it was pretty gorgeous, and somewhere along this section, it felt pretty awesome and  I knew I was going to have a good time, regardless of the outcome.  I got out my phone to take a picture, and saw my friend Amy had texted me a good luck message.  Some friends were all back in Texas running a race in the evening, where the starting temperature would be around 100 degrees… here it was about 50 degrees at the start…I’ll take this any day…..

Coastal Trail sweetness

Coastal Trail sweetness

Don’t remember too much about this section other than some nice singletrack and wasn’t too hilly in this section.  Then you DROPPED into the Muir Beach aid station.  Man, that was fun running down that hill, like a 400 foot drop in less than a mile, and you could see the beach and water and some houses below.  That was a pretty awesome feeling.

descending to Muir Beach... just a *little* more scenic than running repeats on the Kemah Bridge.....

descending to Muir Beach… just a *little* more scenic than running repeats on the Kemah Bridge…..

Refueled at the A/S and then began the long climb back up, up, up, in the same direction you just came, but then taking the turn up the big hill.  This was a 1000 ft climb which seemed to never end.  The fog was quite thick in this area, and I could barely see the runners in front of me.  Started feeling the effects of the hills, but throttled back the pace when I felt like it.  Finally that hill topped out and began the descent back to Tennessee Valley on what was probably the favorite stretch of trail I’ve ever run. Went from desolate and shrubbery on the top of the hill to nice forested singletrack at the bottom of the switchback.  I prefer forested areas,  so it was nice to see some trees.

Refueled again at TV then headed out another LONG climb (~900 ft) through the fog. Still was tracking by a few people, but folks were pretty sparsely spread out over the 25 mi loop course.  This hill mercifully ended eventually, which meant it was time for a TWO MILE downhill. Whoa! That was pretty awesome running down for that long.  After a while, I took a little break to conserve my energy a bit, even though my body was still feeling pretty good.  Eventually the hill bottomed out and then there was probably the only flat section leading to the next A/S.  One of the volunteers commented on my Seabrook Lucky Trails shirt (didn’t expect to find anyone with any Texas connections out here) so I chatted away a couple minutes with them (I spent WAY too much time at the A/S’s this race, but I was in no rush as my only goal was simply to finish under the 16 hour cutoff).

Headed out of there and back out to the hills.  This is about when I started feeling it, the temperature felt like it was warming up, but in hindsight, my electrolytes probably got off a bit.  Didn’t help coming from Houston where the water consumption is much higher due to the heat, but I could tell I was still sweating quite a bit (and my shirt was soaked from running through the fog all morning….).  This area is where I started seeing some of the leaders retracing there steps (the 25 mile loop was run in reverse order on the even numbered loops), so these folks were HOURS ahead of me, and looking strong.  Sure would be nice to be able to train on hills like this all the time…  Started feeling a bit of a cramp in my hamstring, so took a little salt, and relaxed the pace a bit on what seemed like another brutal hill.

Eventually I rolled into the final A/S, where I was feeling a bit rough, but OK.  Dipped a banana in table salt, and chased it with a shot of coke. The volunteers enjoyed my sour face from that experiment and one of the guys had some connection to Texas running, so we chatted a bit as I tried to stabilize.  Left there, still feeling off, and hiking down the mostly road section to the last 4 miles of the loop.  Definitely the easiest section, and mostly on the road downhill.  And oh yeah, in this section you could see the Golden Gate bridge through the fog, which was quite lovely.

nice views on the way...

nice views on the way… Who says running is boring?

Eventually I made it to the halfway point after about 6 hours 20 mins, but was feeling a bit rough. Didn’t think I had drank that much, but maybe wasn’t taking enough salt. Sat down and refueled for a bit and there was a German Guy there.  He offered me some drink which “we didn’t have in the states”. It smelled like paint thinner but I took a few sips anyway. What is this? Oh, I dunno… it’s basically pure alcohol… it will relax your stomach. <Ummm… I think I’m done with that.>  Me and German guy then began hiking out of there up to the next A/S.  Soon, I felt like my ‘second wind’ hit me, as I guess my electrolyte balances got restored and felt like a million bucks again.  Returned to the last A/S feeling a million times better, and refueled, and headed out again.

Was pleasantly surprised I was still hiking at a pretty good pace at this section.  Passed by one of the scenic overlooks of the Golden Gate Bridge and the wind was gusting pretty crazy up there.  Tried to get a nice panoramic picture, but unfortunately it didn’t come out right on my iPhone.  Said goodbye to the bridge, and headed back down the hill.  This was another 2 mile downhill!  My legs were somehow still holding up, at least it felt like they were OK.  Made up some decent time and made it back to the short flat section and refueled.

This was somewhere around mile 34 where the mental game we all experience at some point in a race transitions from “Am I going to finish?” To “Yes, I’m going to finish!!” and was feeling a bit better.  Unfortunately another 2 mile uphill, which didn’t seem that steep, but couldn’t seem to increase my hiking speed any….problem is I’ve already run 35 miles and cover 6-7,000 ft of elevation change.  A Pretty Blonde Girl glided past me up the trail, and I asked her if she wanted to run a stretch for me.  Not this year, maybe next year PBG…..

The scenic views across the valley and hills across the way continued up and up, and eventually the hill got close  topping off through the fog, which was rolling past us like a wave, where I surprisingly found one of my host’s, Gerda, waiting at the top of a mini hill.  I guess her husband was already done, and she felt like coming up here to visit.  Soon that beast of a hill topped out, and got to enjoy another long downhill on a jeep road. That one was pretty fun to run and my legs still felt relatively strong, all things considered.  Rolled back in to TV aid station, refueled, and headed back out. Gerda asked me if I wanted a pacer for 8 miles…so why not.  I am an introvert, but you are still kind of starving for human attention after running for 10 hours and barely seeing anyone.  We started hiking back out of TV up the big 1000 foot hill. I knew it would end… but it was quite tough climbing up that one.  Some sections reminded me of Ice Cream Hill, except this one was like 3 times larger and longer.   More fog, and wonderful views on the top of the hill, then the descent back to Muir Beach.  At this point, my downhill running was rather “ragged” to put it nicely.  My quads had definitely lost some strength now, and running down was a bit tougher. And actually the ones that hurt the most were some stabilizer muscles connecting to my foot that I used on the downs, that probably had never been worked that hard….

 

the treat for climbing up the hills....

the treat for climbing up the hills….

Took a long break at Muir Beach, and headed back up the hill.  This was some more great views of the Coastal Trail, but my “running” was pretty much over at this point.  It was slow going, but still felt good all things considered. Having to run right above the coast of the Pacific Ocean doesn’t hurt either.  Was a flat section back to the last aid station at Tennessee Valley, but I didn’t feel like running it much.  I needed a nature break and was hoping to get to the A/S in time, where we then met Wim, Gerda’s husband, who also ran the 50 and was already done.  Chatted a bit, got the fleece jacket (the swag from the race), as the sun would soon set and I was already beginning to cool off.  I think I consumed 3 cups of vegetable soup at the TV aid station, which was pretty damn good.  Got my light on, and headed back out for the last 5 mile stretch to the finish.

First climb up wasn’t too bad, and I honestly didn’t even recall this stretch from the beginning of the race some 13 hours earlier in the day.  Soon the sun set, the temperature started to drop, the grade of the hill increased, and the fog thickened.  It was almost like driving your car in the fog, except I could only really see about 5-10 feet in front of me in some sections, and was a strange feeling to be hiking up the hill, but unable to tell what’s coming ahead or where the trail even is headed!   Started seeing a few more of the dozen 100 mile runners coming back for loop 3 in this section. Man, this would be TOUGH to navigate this in the night for the 100 mile runners… I’m glad I’m not one of them. One of them asked me if I was the 100 mile leader… Uh, no, dude, hah.  Finally the hill crested out, and that was a sweet relief, although judging by my watch, I could tell we had to drop 800 feet in a mile?….. so it has to start… sometime soon… right? The last hilltop was pretty neat – pitch dark, could hear the waves from the ocean crashing against the shore below, a foghorn blowing, and seeing a lighthouse light flickering every few seconds out to the night. Pretty cool feeling.

Eventually I returned to the steps, could feel the cool condensation on the handrails as I guided my descent to the finish…and the downhill continued to drop, drop, drop.  Not too long, and then down the last set of switchbacks, you could see the finish line that I started over 14 hours earlier.  Finished in 14 hrs 43 mins, was a beautifully epic run.  As tough as the hills were, I never felt like quitting and kept it at a ‘reasonable’ pace the entire day.  Second to last, but couldn’t care less….And immediately started consuming food to replenish the 6000 calories I expended.  Definitely want to come back to the Marin Headlands…

Rocky Racoon 100 2013 038

Hogs Hunt 25k

After running a 50k the weekend before, thought I’d entertain myself with another 25k at Huntsville State Park.  Weather started off nice, as I was shivering and chilly, somewhere around 46 degrees before the sun came up.  Since it was only 1 25k loop, I took splits between aid stations rather than for each loop.

Split 1: 41:21 4.51 mi 9:10 min/mi
Started off with Cees (was thinking early this maybe was a mistake?) but he left me once we got on the CCC trail. Was nice to catch up with him.

Split 2: 30:01 3.4 mi 8:49 min/mi
Didn’t stop long at the A/S before retracing steps along the CCC to the chinquapin trail and was feeling pretty good, surprised I was still moving this fast.

Split 3: 50:53 5.23 mi 9:44 min/mi
Didn’t feel like I was slowing down, but that’s what my garmin said. This part does drag on for a while, and had quite a bit more sand than I remember. Started to feel more like work in this area as I was really just waiting to get the long bridges which means you’re near the end of this section, and near the HTREx A/S. I think two runners blew past me in this stretch.

Split 4: 25:53 2.6 mi 9:56 min/mi
I just grunted for more water at the HTREx A/S as I was feeling a bit spent, and quickly got out there, and walked for about 30 yards, which is really the only walking I did during the race. Definitely was pretty hard to sustain a “quick” pace in this section, but just kept pushing. The last mile or so, there were two chicks who were probably not more than 50 yards back, so that was really my only motivation to keep going…. and to try to sneak in under 2:30. Which I did, with a finishing time of 2:28:10. Only my 2nd 25k (my first was 4 years ago at this course, which was my first trail run), but will always take a PR. It was a nice run, but I was glad it was not any further — legs and body were pretty drained by the end, especially from the previous weekend’s 50k. Chatted with the other HTREx buddies at the finish before chilling at the A/S for a bit and heading home.

2013 Hells Hills 50k

One of my friends, Adam, was planning to run the 50 mi, so as the weeks ticked by with decent training, I increasingly became more interested in running the 50k at Hells Hills.  I have sort of bad history with this race: 2011, I did the 50k and had a decent time thru 20 miles or so, then encountered some sort of foot pain that prevented me from running any more of the race and posting up a 7+ hour finish; then last year, the heat, a *nasty* rolled ankle, and plantar fasciitis (wicked 3 combo, by the way…) caused me to drop at the mile 45 aid station.  But I had decent, consistent training over the previous 6 weeks and didn’t have any real time goals, other than expecting to finish in 6.5 hours, maybe sooner if I got lucky.

 

Weather was nice and chilly at the start.  Kept rolling thru the first loop, probably too fast.  Had a bit of a wardrobe issues on the first loop.  My raceready shorts had my goodies in them, except they are apparently too heavy for my pants.  So, the first loop, my pants would start to sag down pretty quickly every so often, so I had to reposition them.  Again and again…. Ugh.  Nothing too embarrassing, but thankfully there weren’t any runners behind me a couple times….. This problem went away on the second loop — don’t know if I was carrying less items or what.  Kind of strange, since I don’t recall this issue happening before the seabrook marathon, and I KNOW I haven’t lost any weight… if anything I’ve put on a few pounds.  Anyway, back to the running.  I kept running pretty strong the first loop, maybe too fast, completing in ~2:51.  Maybe I can beat 6 hrs?  I knew it would be tough since my PR is 608.

Started on the 2nd loop, and it wasn’t ungodly hot thanks to overcast cloud conditions (and also a lovely, cool breeze). I had a nagging stomach discomfort all morning that hadn’t slowed me down too much, but was getting slowly worse.  And consequently, I couldn’t put down any more calories…which leads to my energy level crashing.  I shuffled it into the next A/S and spent quite a few minutes reloading on food, which helped me rebound nicely the last 5 miles or so.  I was actually running really hard the last 3, but the race was over, and I snuck in under 630, satisfied with my time and effort.  If it weren’t for my bonk around mile 19-25, I would have easily chopped off another 20 minutes (at least).   Ran with another guy briefly who was finishing his first ultra, always fun to see those guys cross the finish line.

Lessons learned:  keep up my hill training.  The treadmill worked wonders for Cactus Rose last year, and I haven’t gotten back into it since I haven’t “needed” it for a race.  But there are times on the 2nd loop where it definitely would have helped hiking up some of the inclines.  Also, I  need to work on my nutrition.  My GU Chomps just weren’t appetizing.  Maybe even liquid calories?  Probably would be easier on the stomach and less time eating too.  I really liked turkey sandwiches a few years ago, which seemed to work well for me… not sure why I stopped bringing them along….

 

Well, onto the next race…. 25k at hogs hunt this weekend? Possum Kingdom 55k?

2013 Bandera 100k Race Report

Bandera 100k

So close, yet so far

Drip…. Drip… Drip.  The sound of the rain landing outside my cabin’s window woke me up long before I really wanted to rise.  I held out hope the night before we might luck out and there wouldn’t be any rain Friday night, but sadly, no such luck.  Just the first challenge to deal with for the day.  I, my friend Jamie, and his wife, eventually rose and began our pre-race rituals before heading to the park.  We arrived at dark where it was still a light mist of rain, and you could see the line of cars behind, Field of Dreams style.  We got our drop bags together and posted up in the covered area in the lodge.  I couldn’t help but think, This is going to be a long day, and it’s about to get real. Anyone who knows me, knows I don’t like running in the mud.  Rain, I don’t mind.  But mud, or more importantly, going up and down hills, or just running through it for hours on end, is not exactly my ideal condition to run in.  My balance is poor and this course is not exactly for one who lacks good balance, especially when it’s wet.  Bandera’s technical rocky terrain is already challenging enough, the question is, how much tougher is 62 miles of this going to be now that it is soaked?

We started at 730 am on Saturday with some light rain/fog for the first few hours.  I was going OK, and thankfully the first few downhills were dry.  The first flat was already a rough surprise where I quickly learned not to run on the rocks.  That first little flat part had options for you to run in between or on top of the rocks. Well when they were wet I would just slide all over the place and I knew it would end my day early.  Quickly I figured out this race would be more about survival than really trying to achieve a good time.  One wrong footing here, and it could be game over.

The first section wasn’t that bad, but already I could tell my heart rate was running a bit high.  This would continue for the first couple hours.  Probably it was the dense humidity due to the rain, lack of sleep, hadn’t gotten over a cold…?  Who knows, but my body was telling me to slow down but it can be hard in race mode, and I wasn’t even really moving that fast honestly.  But working hard none the less due to the rough conditions.  Made it to the first aid station and didn’t waste much time.  This was where Timothy Olson, who came in to run a nice 50k and drink some beer, blew past us.  He had already run twice as far, crazy.  The second stretch, I don’t remember being too remarkable one way or the other, still wet, humid, and I was working hard but not moving terribly fast.

The third section, somewhere about mile 10-15, is where the mud started.  I learned Bandera has 3 kinds of mud: the slippery mud, cake on your shoes mud, and the shoe sucking mud.  This stretch had a bit of number one and number two types.  This section is really the easiest in terms of the hills and terrain, but the mud changed all that.  There was one open field where it was pretty much impossible for me to run since 5 lbs of mud would cake on your shoes, and then you’d have to try to scrape it off, only to just repeat the process….

Thankfully the mud field ended and I got to crossroads where I had a cup of Gatorade and swear it was the best thing I ever tasted.  No more mud, for now.  Around this time Jamie and I started hiking together.  He hadn’t run at Bandera before, so I told him the next section, which contained the Three Sisters, was “memorable.”  Jamie was having some issues with an injury, and my heartrate had been running high all morning, so I decided to hang with him for a while.  Hiking these hills was just what I needed, as I soon started to recover a bit.  We even took a couple brief breaks on the sisters (and in hind sight… maybe we should have just camped out up there all day?) to enjoy the view, where the fog had now retreated revealing the nice views.  I started feeling a bit better and decided to huff it back in to the crossroads aid station.  It sucks to leave your friend behind, but sometimes you just have to run your own race.

Feeling Better Now

Leaving the crossroads, I started feeling a bit better and could get in a decent amount of actual jogging.  There was a nice flat section, which contained the third mud, the shoe sucking kind.  Luckily I kept my shoes attached to my feet before ascending Lucky’s peak.  It was ascending this beast where I saw the young man who had one prosthetic leg (in case you need any motivation).  His story is way more compelling so I would suggest reading it if you have not, but suffice it to say it was pretty cool passing by him and I wish I could have seen him finish.

I came down Lucky’s and eventually to the next aid station, with ~5 miles to go on the first 31 mile loop.  There were 3 or 4 chatty ladies in front of me, so I decided to hang with them for a bit for some company.  We climbed up Boyle’s Bump and they wanted a picture.  I obliged and told them my price was a 6 pack of beer but all they had were some electrolyte pills.  Anyway, I hung behind them for a bit, just to hear some other folks and have some sort of company.  Climbing up the next hill, the girl’s phone in front of me started going off.  No phone reception around the park… unless you are climbing on top one of these beasts.  Those girls lost me descending off of Cairns, which was really technical given that it was real slippery.  I started getting closer to the start/finish to end the first loop and was feeling pretty rough.  31 miles down and now 31 more to go.  I had spent 8 hours on the first loop, which was real slow, even for me.  I knew even in a best case scenario, it would probably take me at least 10 more hours to finish the 2nd half.

The 2nd loop

I needed some food and luckily Amy was done with her race and nearby to thankfully help me out.  I plopped down in a chair and started inhaling some food, garbage disposal style.  2 or 3 bowls of ramen, a honey stinger waffle, a couple cups of coke, banana, pretzels, and I don’t know what else.  Felt like I had been eating enough but apparently not.  While I was sitting down refueling, the winner of the race, Sage Cannaday, ran in and finished.  Dude had just run twice as far, twice as fast!  Damn.  Well, I guess I oughta get up outta here.  Eating and the long break helped, and now that I had only 1 loop left, it was a huge mental lift.  The enormity of the conditions and distance had been a burden the first loop, but with half of it done, I felt a lot better beginning the 2nd half and overall felt fine.  Just run aid station to aid station and finish it.

The first task at hand was getting in as much as I could before nightfall, where I knew I would slow down.  I was doing OK the first section, but definitely slower than the first (31 miles ago….).  Made it to the first aid station who had wonderful volunteers (they all were great) and refilled with at least 2 or 3 cups of ramen.  They said they would start charging on the next cup, and I had refueled enough, so I got out of there before probably just before dusk.  I am pretty sure I consumed more ramen in this race than I have in the rest of my life, combined.

Anyway, it was getting dark but my legs were still feeling pretty decent, all things considered.  I didn’t see too many runners around this point, but eventually caught up with another runner, Amy.  We hiked together for a while and came to the conclusion we’d probably like some company to descend all the nasty hills in the rain and dark, and decided to stick together.  So we hiked and hiked, and kept up a pretty good pace.  I wanted to run… but the combination of mud and the technical trails was just too hard.  It was real nice to have some company and chat away, one of the great things about the sport.

You know you’re an ultrarunner… if you don’t finish the race on the same day as the winner

I refrained from doing math (you try after you’ve been running for 12+ hours) but eventually figured we would finish on Sunday AM going at this pace—whoa!  No mind, we seemed to be in good spirits and good condition.  I even felt like running, just the conditions were holding me back.

In the section leading to crossroads, the mud field, we briefly got lost for almost a mile extra.  This was maybe the longest stretch, so by the time we rolled in to crossroads, I was hungry and really looking forward to it.  The temperature had cooled off from the mugginess from the morning, but right about now is where it started getting a tad bit windy.  We left crossroads after a decent break (some day I’ll learn to make quick aid station visits…) and headed back out to the 3 sisters.

Around this time is when the cold front rolled in.  We were climbing up these hills, and gusts probably 20-30 mph were coming through frequently, and the temperature was quickly dropping to the 30’s… felt like the windchill was getting into the 20’s. Temperature must have dropped 20+ degrees in less than an hour.  This area also coincided with where my heartrate started acting unusual. It would spike for a couple seconds, then go back to normal.  No other symptoms of anything, or any other correlation I could figure out. But it was a bit concerning after it kept repeating again and again, so I pretty much made up my mind I would drop when I got back to the Crossroads aid station.  Pretty much just like that…. My race was over.

The End

I told the medical guy, but he didn’t offer much of an explanation since there’s not much to diagnose.  I sat at the A/S to think things over a bit more, and now the wind was whipping up real good, sending the tarp surrounding our little oasis flying.  Amy was waiting there for me this time, and decided I should wait in the car since it was so cold out here and now I wasn’t moving any more my temp would drop too.   In the car, I went from an uncontrollable shiver back to a much better warm state (thankfully no picture of me in several layers of clothing/blanket and wearing mine and Amy’s cap… and very thankful she was there to help me out).  Could hear the wind all around the car… and now that I stopped, I knew there was really no way to go back out in the cold.  With only 9 more miles left it go, it was pretty disappointing to make it that far, to put in all that training, and struggling through the course all day, to end it like that.

9 more miles going up those remaining 3 hills in the dark…cold…wind, tired, to finish off a 62 mile race, it would have made for an epic story.  Hope I can return back next year and tell that story.

I guess I should have felt more pride about going the farthest I’ve ever gone, 54 miles, for the longest time, 16+ hours, 5000+ ft going up and down those hills, when most runners (and most sane people) probably would have quit after mile 1.  These 54 miles honestly felt twice as hard as the 50 miles at Cactus Rose (where I finished and felt like I had plenty left in the tank), so it certainly was a challenging day.  But I came there to finish 62 and get the buckle – guess I’ll just have to get stronger for next time.  And the likely issue was an simply an electrolyte imbalance/deficiency.  Now, in my professional life I can make the space shuttle fly and train astronauts… but eating in an endurance event is too just too complicated?? It makes no sense!  Hopefully one day I can figure it all out…. Not much reward if it’s easy, no?

2012 Cactus Rose Race Report

Coming into this year’s Cactus Rose, I hoped to learn some lessons from last year to help improve my finishing time and condition.  Namely, last year I had done a lot of running, but not enough hill work.  I think I also didn’t eat enough early on which cause a pretty severe bonk around mile 40.  After struggling through Nueces in the Spring (another hilly, and in my mind, tougher course) I was determined to add back in some weight training to my regimen which had been left out for the greater part of a year.  In addition, I also started going to a spin class once a week and also doing some treadmill hill work once a week (usually hiking at a 15% grade for a few miles, then running at slight inclines for a while before returning to a hiking grade for a 5 mile workout) both offered thru the work gym at Gilruth for free so how can you argue.  The outcome: I’d have to say that incorporating all of those definitely helped.  I was passing people on the uphills (even in the last half of the race) and while my quads were sore at the end, I honestly probably could have kept going—didn’t feel like they were holding me back (that’s NOT to say that the hills were easy—the last time going up Ice Cream Hill in the clockwise direction was a real *&%!).  No IT Band problems this go round.  So that was my main concern going in to the race.  My actual running training had been decent, but I felt slightly undertrained.  I had gotten in 2 50+ mile weeks, and really felt like I needed another one or two to be in tip top shape for this beast of a course.  I also hadn’t really gotten in enough running hard due to our heat which never seemed to dissipate (until, thankfully, race day).

The Beginning

Race week arrived and I also felt kind of worn out, kind of a stressful week and of course didn’t get a huge amount of rest the night before, but that never really happens anyway.  We were blessed with ideal running conditions (for me) starting around mid 40’s and peaking I suspect somewhere in mid 60’s during the day.  The first few hours were pretty uneventful –your body is fresh, the terrain is easy, and the mood is light.  The only downer was passing a woman who seemed to have dislocated her shoulder or something of that nature – sounded to be in a tremendous amount of pain but as she was helped along by another runner there was nothing I could do to help, thankfully they weren’t that far from the A/S to get to help.

Don’t think there are any switchbacks on this course

Eventually the sun arose which allows everyone to see the glorious hill country side.  Actually one of my favorite times is right before dawn, when the hills are black and the sky is a dark blue, just enough contrast so you can see the hills.  You also can start to run a bit faster and start to appreciate the hills and cactus, and actually this area is where the amount of both starts to increase.  I was running at a good pace and keeping conversation with some other folks.  Talking to another guy who was from Illinois but was visiting family and such in San Antonio who was a baseball fan, so we chatted about the Astros and other sports for a decent amount of time.

The hills continue on, relentlessly from this point for the next 10 miles to the end of the loop.  I though I was running slightly slower than last year, which I was a bit surprised, since I though I would be better trained for the hills, but not by much time.  I rolled into the halfway point around 6 hours (last year I believe I left around 5:45).  I took about a 9 minute break to refuel and everything.  One problem I had this year was spending too much time at the A/S – this also seems to be the problem when carrying a camelbak  as it takes more time to unscrew the damn thing and get everything situated in there.  And of course, this is a 50 miler so I was making a conscious effort to eat at every A/S and reload with things that seemed appetizing ( I consumed 4350 calories during the whole race if my math is correct).

Halfway There

Thus I headed back off in the opposite direction to tackle the hills I just covered.  Actually despite a slightly slower time, I was really enjoying the race.  Off I went back up the first two hills, Boyle’s and Cairn’s, which both have flat runnable sections on top. I was able to run both of these – however when I looked at my Garmin my pace seemed a lot slower than what I had anticipated.  I was also monitoring my heart rate to try to keep it below 150 for any extended amount of time which seemed like a pace I could maintain.  Nevertheless, I was happy as I was doing well on the hills and running the flats.  Rolled into Boyle’s and reloaded on some sunscreen via a friend of mine, and headed for the next dreaded section.  This section is probably my least favorite, and I think it was my slowest on the first loop – too much sotol cactus and the ups and downs are the most, I can’t remember a large amount of runnable sections.

Post-race — my legs got pretty chewed up by the sotol cactus. The thickest I’ve seen it there (and everyone else seemed to say the same thing too).

This sections contains Sky Island, the three sisters, Mt FUJI, and some other nasty hills.  I couldn’t increase my pace too much but at least no IT Band problems this year – around this point the previous year is where they started to creep up.  I didn’t remember going up Sky Island, but it probably sucked, lol.  Going up Mt FUJI was OK, definitely a chore, but I got off trail and got lost.  The thing is, I was off trail, saw the markers on the real trail about 20 yards away to my left.  I looked ahead and saw a trail.  Unfortunately this was not the trail I was supposed to go on, but on it I went and after a few minutes, I realized I hadn’t seen any confirmation ribbons and was going down this damn hill in the wrong spot. So I had to go back up (I wasn’t THAT far off, but still…) and find my way back.  Of course, the wrong way sign and such was obstructed by all the cactus and brush that I maybe could have seen.  Oh well, it was only a 10 minute or so diversion but not one you want.  I started back running on some of the flat parts up here and still felt OK, just longing to finish this section, which marks the end of the hardest part of the course, the middle 20 miles.

About to descend Mt FUJI

Rolled back into Equestrian finally, thankful that dang section was done. The hard part was over, just one sucktastic hill left with Ice Cream Hill (my Garmin says it’s only 250 ft but for some reason it felt twice as long and twice as far…), and 15 relatively easy miles.  My energy level kind of crashed when I came in here, so I downed a generous amount of food and hiked a food 5-10 minutes out to let the food settle.  This was mile 36 so I was pretty happy I had managed my energy level this well all day.  I Never had any cramping all day either.  The food settled in and I recovered before tackling Ice Cream.  Was hiking along with a couple other women and a guy too going along that one – it seems much tougher going in the clockwise direction than the other. It never seemed to end either.  My treadmill hills were 2 miles long and those seemed shorter, lol.  Anyway, we got down it but the women blew past me on the downhills. The main issue that slowed me down this race was I couldn’t run the downhills very fast (more so the 2nd half).  My quads weren’t really holding me back per se, but I couldn’t attack the downhills to make up time.  Not confident in my footing due to all the loose rocks, which supposedly was more due to increased erosion in the park (which I could believe).  Hiking the uphills, I could still pass people going up, but then would get passed going down.  Just another lesson I suppose.  Eventually this section ended, which also marks the end of pretty much all the super nasty parts, and all the dang sotol bushes too.

I wanted to make it a quick stop at Nachos, so I grabbed what I needed and quickly got out of there.  It seemed at this point, my energy level totally crashed again, this time much bigger.  I had eaten some PB crackers and a coke at the A/S, but this apparently wasn’t enough – legs and body felt REAL tired. Hiking for a good while out of Nachos, my stomach felt full so I didn’t want to eat anything, but after enough time I convinced myself to do so, and ate again to slowly regain some energy via some GU Chomps.  Only after I ate another Honey Stinger Waffle did I rebound to my previous energy state and my legs felt strong again.  Amazing how much a couple hundred calories can cause you to feel that much better, like elixir of the gods or something.  This down point probably cost me a good 20 minutes or so on my time, as I postponed eating anything extra.  By this point, there was only 6-7 miles left in the race, and since by now all my time goals were out the window, I didn’t have much motivation to really push myself to finish 10-15 minutes faster than if I just coasted, so coasted I did.  Passed some folks out for a nice trail ride in the late afternoon.

You guys got room for one more?

Made the last stop at Equestrian, where again Olga told me I looked pale.  She told me this at the Nueces race too.  I’m not sure what it means !  I felt fine and just wanted a tiny amount of food, so I downed some M&Ms and cup of Gingerale and got out of there.  Hiked/jogged a decent amount of the last section, which only contains Lucky’s peak.  Didn’t seem too bad going up, just the footing going down seemed worse this year.  Chatted with some other folks as we were finishing up the last few miles.  One guy mentioned it was relentless.  I agree: this course requires relentless will, relentless attention to the rocks, relentless forward motion, relentless hills, relentless rocks….

No más

My legs still felt pretty good so I decided I wanted to break away and picked up my hiking pace up and over Lucky’s.  Going down was pretty slow, and seemed a lot more technical than before.  Once I made it down I hit the jeep road where some folks greet you cheering as you make the final turn up the last rock bed.  There is the “option” to keep going for the full 100 miles once you’ve done 50, and while the course didn’t knock me out and my legs actually felt OK (relatively speaking), 50 more miles would be foolish.  Finished around 1313.

Lessons learned:  My hill training worked.  Didn’t feel like having too weak of quads was an issue.  I think doing my weights once a week and the treadmill once a week helped my uphill hiking speed and prevented any inuries from going down (24 hours after, other than some moderate soreness, all systems seem to be OK).The only thing was my running on the flats seemed too slow, so maybe have to get in a few more mid-distance tempo runs (which I knew I was lacking).  Nutrition:  pretty good.  Didn’t bonk until a minor one at mile 36 and a major one around mile 40-43.  I probably just forgot/got behind eating one round or two but it’s hard to remember every dang thing.  Maybe need to set an alarm.  I had no problems with water intake (actually, maybe too much water) but never felt water-logged or cramped.  Mental: felt pretty good.  Despite not meeting my time goals I really enjoyed the race.  A little low around mile 20-30, but I managed to press through it.  Really felt like sitting down during my bonk at mile 40 but somehow managed to press through that one.  Other:  I took a lot of pictures.  I didn’t realize but I took almost 30 pictures during the race(!! ?).  I can’t quantify, but I’d have to think that while it did give me some rest time on the hills, it probably set me back a good 15-20 minutes between taking my phone out of my camelbak and putting it back in.  But now I have some nice ones and won’t have to do that again ;).  Overall slightly disappointed with my finishing time but enjoyed the race.  Had I not taken pictures, gotten lost, or been totally on top of nutrition, pretty sure I could have push between 12-12 and half hours.  Guess I will have to find out next year 😉

What’s Been Happening

I haven’t had a blog post in a while… so how about an update.

Training:  Since I had some trouble finishing some of my races this year (although at least partially due to biting off a bit more than I could chew…) I decided I should probably make some changes to prevent those sort of things from happening again.  First was adding back in some weights, specifically, squats.  I’ve done them weekly for the past few months, and even added in a 2nd day the past few weeks without getting sore.  At the least I have to think it means my legs are getting stronger, as I’ve been increasing the weight slightly every so often.  I don’t know if it helps a huge amount with running, but when I ran Rocky Raccoon in 2011, I had a great time and at the time, the only real difference in my training was I was doing weights.  So adding this back in was step one.  Step two, I also went and bought a 35 lb kettlebell on the recommendation from a friend.  It’s a pretty solid cardio workout, and it’s actually kind of fun throwing it around.   I haven’t made a kettlebell only workout, but more used it as a warmup for a jog or as a supplement to other weight routines.  I think it’s probably comparable to sprinting for the same amount of time, in my case, I have been doing the basic swing for 2 minutes, and by the time I’m done, I’m gassed– my breathing effort feels pretty similar to sprinting for 2 minutes.  I think I might have noticed a bit of improvement just by adding these two training items in (in addition to averaging about 30 miles per week the past month, which is plenty far enough in the Texas summer).  My “medium distance runs” of ~10 miles are a bit easier now — in the past summers I would always be forced to walking due to the oppressive humidity but even this past weekend I was actually able to run the entire distance.  Some of my evening runs have also been easier, with even having enough gas for a little sprint at the end, which I think has never happened the past two summers.  We did a group run at Huntsville State Park a few weeks ago, but my nutrition plan was WAY off, otherwise I think I would have finished just fine.  So, I think whatever I’ve been doing is working so far, but I think I may even increase the kettlebell workouts.  Step 3, is adding in some hill work via a treadmill.  I’ve never really used one but since I can use it free from work and we have NO hills around here, I think I should try it out.  Step 4, will be going to the only ‘hill’ around these parts, which is the Kemah Bridge (which I have avoided during the weekdays due to the traffic health hazard….).  Doing repeats there will be part of one of my distance runs on the weekend.   It’s not a huge hill… but it’s better than nothing.  So, the combination of all of those, should make me alot stronger for Cactus Rose 50 this year, which at this point is the only race I’m registered for.  Once it cools off, it will be MUCH easier to run around here too…
Racing:  Well I don’t really “race” but I will be running a 30k at Colorado Bend State Park this Saturday night, so it will be interesting to see how I feel.  Maybe I’ll do the 60k 3 weeks later, but maybe I won’t — I don’t really like driving back that far by myself after running ALL NIGHT…. and 60k is a long way to run… especially in Texas in the summer.

De-forestation:  The Memorial Park Conservancy, or whoever they have hired, have gone ahead with the next step of ‘fixing’ our beloved Ho Chi Minh mountain bike trails by bulldozing large parts of the park.  They have been removing many trees the past couple months, but only the past week did they actually start totally bulldozing trails to the point where many trails are not recognizable anymore.  I’m not a forestry expert, but I can’t really understand destroying everything there.  I guess there is an ‘invasive species’ problem, but what’s the point if the Park will totally be unusable for years to come?  None of the bikers will go there anymore, and there won’t be much of anything to run or even walk if this kind of work will continue, and it’s a shame since it’s a great spot to connect with other runners in town.  Perhaps it could have been managed alot better if the city of Houston had more parks to actually manage, since they have almost none and probably don’t know any better.  Who knows… hopefully something good comes of it.

Well that’s all I got…. maybe I’ll add a race report after this weekend…