Bandera 100K - 01/05/19

So I was thinking of running the Rocky Raccoon 100 miler as a Western States Qualifier. But Marla was planning on running that as her first 100 mile race, so I looked at the Western States Qualifier list and saw that the Bandera 100K was also a Western States Qualifier and all that I had to do was finish under 17 hours. I looked at past races, and saw that the average finish was about 12 hours, talked to some friends that had run it in the past, and they all felt like I could go into it and run it easy and finish in 12-14 hours, even without much course-specific training. So I signed up for after payday at the end of November.

Well, the week before the race rolls around, and I get this email from Tejas Trails stating that the Bandera race has been moved to Camp Eagle up by Rocksprings (due to a wet field runners would have to park in at Hill Country State Natural Area causing the SNA to cancel the event). As it turns out, the Camp Eagle Course was MUCH tougher . . . bandera has a series of hills followed by areas of flat ground - Camp Eagle is all either up or down - unrelenting hills, rocks, cedar, hills, rocks, and more cedar. On the other hand, its closer to home, only about an hour and 15 minutes away. Nothing to be done about it, I've already paid for the race and still needed the Western States Qualifier - I'd just stick to the plan and run easy and see what happened.

The night before the race, we slept in the bed of the pickup (unbeknownst to us, we had friends from McAllen at the race, in a dorm-style room, with extra actual beds!). It got pretty cold - forecast was for 40, and I'm pretty sure it got down to at least 32 - there was frost all over the truck and everything exposed. Got up and got my coffee, then headed over to the start.
The course itself was a complicated series of loops and back-and-forth switchbacks. I had bad dreams about running up and down the same hill, but with the kind of roped off lanes like you have to use going into an airport security checkpoint. As it turns out, everything was well-marked, and there was never a point where I had any uncertainty about where I was a supposed to run.

Started off, and it was good to be running and warming up. I'm certain that I started off too fast, as I was up in with a bunch of people that were clearly more experienced trail runners than I was. Slowing down a lot on single track in the initial mile wasn't much of an option though, but I did let quite a few pass me when we got back out of the cedars into the fields near where we camped. I fell pretty hard within the first couple of miles going back up into the hills and switchbacks - went the entire 100 miles at Flagstaff without a fall, but fell within the first 4 or 5 miles here LOL. Cut my hand, skinned my knee. Oh well, that wouldn't be the last time I'd fall. Rolled into the first aid station ("crossroads") and refilled my water, and walked out up the first big, steep hill on the race ("power hiked"). Ran for a bit, then hit a section (red loop at lower right on map) where as far as I was concerned running was impossible - all I could do was scramble over rocks and under overhanging oak and juniper branches. Fortunately, this section was immediately followed by one of the most easily runable sections of the course as we followed jeep tracks up a valley/dry creekbed for a mile or so before the course climbed back up another relatively steep hill. Then downhill again, flat-ish area on a creek bottom, then up a low rocky hill. Then up a hill so steep that you had to pull yourself up using the fence posts as the "trail" climbed along the fenceline.

Climbed around to Windmill Aid station, another quick refill, and then back down the red course back to crossroads. Run, climb, scramble, run some more. After crossroads, started up the blue loop, mostly shaded and most of it on trails that were at least not too rocky. A couple of steep hills in this section, then a steep section on road climbing back up to the Windmill Aid station. Then downhill, ultimately turning out onto a dry creekbed, and then long switchbacks climbing up the hill to drop back over into the Nueces Canyon again. I'm running fairly well (where the course allows) but am getting kind of tired/beat up. Eventually, I rolled into the Wall Aid station. My mind is playing some cruel tricks on me about now - I'm thinking I'm not that far from the start, but its another 8 miles. Back to Crossroads again, then back to the start. 31 miles in. I'm wore out.

I'm certain that most of my problems right now stem from not having eaten enough during the run. I'm thinking DNF about now. But I'm not hurt, and I've got plenty of time (I'm only about 6 hours in now). So I eat, drink a DP, get a quick thigh massage from Marla, switch hats, and head back out. I'm actually feeling a lot better even if I'm running a lot slower. More time walking - I mean "power hiking" - less time "running". Having to take a lot more care with where I put my feet so that I don't stumble over the rocks (which are everywhere). Repeat the course. Funny thing - out on the "A loop" right after I climb the fenceline, there's a dead Aoudad (goat sheep) ram lying right by the course. I pull out my cell phone to take pix, and find the battery is dead. I had run right past it this morning and not even notice. I guess there's something to be said for running slower. LOL
Got dark on me about the time I got back to Crossroads for the 2nd time on loop 2. Grabbed a sweatshirt, trudged back out to Windmill again. I did a much better job of eating on the 2nd loop, mostly baked and somewhat mashed potatoes. Eventually made it back to Wall Aid Station. Marla tells me that I have plenty of time to finish under 17 hours. I tell her that I can walk the last 8 miles and still make it under 17. Which is of course, a good thing . . . since my running pace is pretty slow, and I am walking a lot of place where the trails are really rocky. Nonetheless, I'm still actually alternating running and walking pretty well. Except where I meet oncoming runners. I find that I don't like running single track and meeting oncoming runners - it takes too much focus to split your focus between not running into them and watching where to put your feet. Every time I meet someone, I stop completely. Fell pretty hard once between Wall and Crossroads - relatively open caliche road. Probably just dragged a toe. Back at Crossroads, I only stopped long enough to give Marla a kiss - didn't waste time on food or drink or anything else - just "powered" through aiming for the finish. My watch died somewhere in the last 4 miles - I didn't start the race with it on "ultra" mode. Ultimately got back to the finish line in 15:52:07. Yay, Western States Qualifier!

Picked up a nice Belt Buckle, too. 100 mile runners who get snobby about 100K belt buckles - well, bite me. This was actually a harder race than the 100 miler back in September if you ask me, and I ran it better, too.
Gear Check:

Shoes:  I ran in Altra Lone Peak 4.0s, size 10.5. Great Shoes

Shorts:  I ran in black 7" half tights from Tracksmith, incredibly comfortable fabric. 

Shirt:  I wore a blue Tracksmith Twilight Tank. Extremely comfortable. After dark, I pulled on my Nike halfzip sweatshirt.

Socks:  Injinji OTC 2 Compression socks.

Fuel:  I ate a few Hammer Gels, Coffee-infused MapleAid, bananas, lots of oranges, pbj sandwiches, potatos, pringles, Skratch Labs hydration + Lemon MapleAid tea drink mix, and Dr.Pepper at different times throughout the race.

Hydration System: I wore my Saloman S-lab Sense Ultra vest, carrying 2 one-liter soft flasks - one with water, the other with Lemon MapleAid Tea + Skratch labs hydration drink.

Hat: I ran the first half of the race in a Bandera trucker hat. It sweated through, so I borrowed Marla's Colorado trucker hat for the 2nd half.

Glasses:  My Oakely Flak Jackets with red Prism running lenses.

Watch: Garmin 920XT with tri HRM.

Watch Data (incomplete) - be sure to check out the course profile!