Monday, January 11, 2010

Bandera 100KM Race Report

Hello Dear Readers!

Well I have three words for this race: I DID IT!!!!!!

100 kilometers of running. That's 62 miles of blood, sweat and tears. Well, maybe not tears, but icicles since it was so cold (more on that later). Let's get started:


I got up at about 5:30 AM on Saturday. The race started in two hours and they said we had to be there by 7:20 AM to get our drop bags checked in. Of course, I was scrambling that morning to eat my pre-race morning meal. This consisted of a microwave breakfast of eggs and bacon and two muscle milks. Of course, I made as many trips to the bathroom as possible so that I would be "empty" for the race. I started freaking out because I was a little behind due to my last minute packing of my drop bag boxes. These drop bags are very important because during these very long races, you need to be prepared for anything. So in each box you want to put food (I had bottles of ensure in there) as well as extra clothes, shoes, lights, etc.

I got to my car and I was not too pleased to see that the temperature read 8 degrees! I knew then that I was in for a very cold race day. I have never run in these temperatures before so this was going to be interesting.

I boogied to the race site and averted potential disaster when just a few miles into the national park, there was a low water crossing that was frozen over. The car in front of me hit the ice (stupid southerners) and spun out and almost went off the road into the water. He did recover and I avoided getting hit with him and made it to the race site at pretty much 7:20 AM! Got my drop bags checked in and got ready to bring on the pain!

Race Start

The gun went off at 7:30 AM exactly and 147 100 KM racers got their cold butts moving! For clothes I wore CWX pants and shirt as well as another shirt over that. I also had a cool weather running hat and gloves. It was definitely cold starting out but we got warm pretty quick as soon as we started hitting the hills. For Hydration I wore my 70 OZ Camelbak filled with Gatorade.

The Topography

This is not a flat race. And it is a myth that Texas is completely flat. Here is the elevation chart for the race (click to make bigger):

There are six steep climbs (Sky Island, Ice Cream Hill, Three Sisters, Lucky Peak, Cairn's Climb, and Boyle's Bump). The course is divided into two loops each one thirty one miles a piece. So do the math, that's twelve steep inclines and declines. The last three climbs were the worst. What was surprising about this race was that the climbs didn't bother me as much as the descents. The descents are what kill my knees.

The Terrain

The terrain in this race is very difficult. In fact it is rated 5 out of 5 for difficulty. This is due to the loose gravel, boulders and rocks that exists on the ascending and descending portions of the race. For those of you who remember my first attempt at this race last year, it was this loose terrain that caused me to fall and DNF. The other thing that made this interesting was the constant scraping of the legs you get from the very tough cactus plants. Here are some pics so you can see what I am talking about (click to make bigger):

The day got warmer and warmer as I moved along and it eventually was comfortable. I ran along with my buddy Ryan (you may remember him from my previous ultra races). He had broken his elbow a few weeks ago but still raced the 50K. It's always nice to have someone to talk to when doing these things.

Aid Stations

There were support/aid stations every 5 miles or so. You can see where they are labeled in the elevation chart above. They had great names (Nachos, Chapas (everyone joked at me about that one since it is pronounced that same as my name), Cross Roads and Last Chance). The stations had all kinds of food. Grilled Cheese, Grilled Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches, Coffee, Cocoa, Candy, Crackers, Quesadillas, Potato's, you name it! The staff was great and I really appreciated all their support. Not only did they give us food, but they kept very careful track of who was where. Each aid station has to show who came in so that no one is left behind.

Video Updates

I tried something new this race. Every ten miles or so I got my cell phone out and taped a segment. It was a lot of fun and I did three segments before my battery went out. Here are the links to each segment:

Update at 10 Miles

Update at 20 Miles

Update at 30 Miles

The First Loop

So how did I feel? Well the first loop went just great. I took my time and was very careful on the climbs and descents. I ran the flats or anywhere where the surface was nice and hard and had good traction. There was no way I was going to repeat last years fiasco. I took in the scenery and basically enjoyed myself. I arrived at the halfway point (which was one 31 mile loop) in under 8 hours. It was still daylight at this point so I was really hoping to get as much in during the 2nd loop as possible before dark. I drank some Ensure and filled my hydration pack again. I said goodbye to Ryan and his buddies (since they were done) and went on my way alone.

The Second Loop

I was really pumped going into the 2nd loop. I knew that I still felt great, my legs and knees were fine and I started entertaining the thought that I was going to finish this thing! I knew what I was in for the 2nd time around and this helped my mental game since I knew that I could do the loop one more time.

As I ran along I did realize I had made one potentially terrible mistake. I had three light sources for when the nightfall came. I placed lights in both of my drop bags, but as I started my 2nd loop I realized that I might not make it to cross roads (the aid station where my 2nd drop bag was placed) until after dark! I started to freak out and realized that I would have to buddy up with someone who DID have a light until I got to cross roads. Fortunately I met two awesome guys (Frank and Mike) shortly after my little panic session. Frank was from Chicago and Mike was from DC. Not only were they cool with me running with them, but they had extra lights I could use until we got to cross roads. Plus they were going at exactly the pace I was. Thank the trail Gods for them!

It started getting dark at around mile 40 and then the temperatures started to plummet again. I heard that it got down to 16 degrees by the time I finished and boy I felt it. My hands were really freezing even with the gloves on. I fixed this by taking the gloves off and blowing into them to try to get them to dry a little. This did the trick and I was pretty comfortable the rest of the race. When we got to Cross Roads at mile 46, I got my own head lamp and gave Frank back his extra one. We stood in the aid station shivering and took our time getting coffee, cocoa, grilled cheese, etc. till we got a little more warmed up. I asked one of the volunteers if there were still a lot of people behind us and she said 30 percent or so were still to check in.

At around mile 50 Mike started having to really slow down and we had to push on once we started the last three climbs starting with the Three Sisters (see map above). Frank and I were still doing really great and were jabbering away about all things (life, women, kids, jobs, you name it) to pass the time. I saw that my GPS ran out of battery at around mile 56, but at that point I knew we would finish well within the time limits so I didn't really care.


One thing that I wanted to share with you was at one point after mile 50 (I think it was during the Cairn's Climb, we started hearing coyotes. At first it was just one in the distance. I looked at Frank and said "Eh we can take on one little coyote." Then a little while later we heard what sounded like half a dozen or more coyote calls. And they were pretty close. I think Frank and I picked up the pace a little and we had some chills going down out spines (not from the cold).

When we got to the top of Cairn's Climb we had to stop and look at the night sky. Since this race is in the middle of nowhere, there was no light pollution. I haven't seen the sky so vividly since I was a kid growing up in the Adirondack mountains. It was truly a site to behold.

The Finish

Frank and I got really excited when we got to the base of Boyle's Bump. We knew we were basically done and picked up the pace tremendously. I think we ran the last mile in under 9 minutes! I crossed the finish line with a time of 16:53:29. This put me in 78th place out of 147 racers. Only 110 racers actually completed the distance.


Well there you have it. My first 100 KM running ultra. It was an awesome experience and I am really pleased with my results for a first timer. Thanks go out to Kevin at Tri On The Run for coaching me and of course my wife and family for putting up with my crazy training hours and constant complaining!

What's next you might ask? Well I think my next big goal is to do a full 100 MILE ultra. If I choose to punish myself this way, I will likely do it later in the year. There is a 100 Mile race here in Bandera that is basically this course done three times.

Stay tuned for photo's to be added to the website. Until then, Tri your best!


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Bandera 100 KM Ultra is Almost Here!

Happy New Year dear Readers!

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season. Mine was very busy with lots and lots of running! I am now just a few days away from the Bandera 100 KM foot race and I feel very ready for it. I took this race much more seriously than I did last year, so barring any falls, etc. I think I should finish fine.

The Weather looks like it is going to be clear and very cold in Bandera. Race will start at about 20 degrees and only get as high as 45 degrees. I am sure to get my racing clothes layered so that I don't freeze to death!

I bought another storage bin to use in the transition areas. That gives me a total of two. I will pack some extra clothes, shoes, food, medical stuff etc. so that if I need to make some changes mid-race, I am as prepared as possible.

The Taper is going very nicely. Did 5 miles yesterday mixed it up with stair climbing and elliptical. I did 4 miles on the elliptical during lunch today. Trying to keep things nice and easy on the joints. I have a off day tomorrow and Friday I will do some very light weights and only 3 miles.

Friday I will be driving to San Antonio and checking into the hotel and then driving to the race site for my pre-race meeting and packet pickup.

I plan on doing some video and pictures with my Droid phone during the race, so I have been practicing a little with it to make sure I can do it properly. I will post a videos after the race (assuming I survive!).

I will probably do one more blog update before the race to let everyone know what is what.

Tri your best!