Bandera 100k is now one of my all-time favorite trail events. The design, support, creativity, organization, terrain, and weather made it something I’ll remember and recommend. It is a tough, yet fair course in an unexpectedly beautiful area of the Texas Hill Country, just northwest of San Antonio. Throw in fun-loving volunteers (music and Texas beer among the offerings) and superior race management and that makes for a great stage for a 100k personal challenge/race.
In contrast to recent past posts, this post will not be brief or to the point, I can tell with the continued processing in my head that I WILL ramble!
I signed up for Bandera for several reasons:
• I wanted to train for technical and see how I’d do after much of last year focused on 24-Hour and non technical events.
• Since being hurt from 7/19-10/1 I was skittish about technical trails and want to “get over it”
• I’ve run only 2 other 100k’s (Hellgate 3x and GEER 1x) and am intrigued by this distance.
• Bandera 50k and 100k are part of this years Montrail Ultra Cup of which I am participating
• I hoped to run well enough to earn 1st or 2nd place to give me the option to run WS 100 this year.
• I worked in Bandera at the Mayan Dude Ranch during the summer of 1988 and spent several afternoons with my friend “young Judy” walking the dirt roads of the Hill Country Natural Area.
The Travel: Since I planned well in advance, I got a RT non-stop US Airways flight from Charlotte to San Antonio with flyer miles and reserved a cabin in Bandera for a very reasonable rate at the River Front Motel; the car rental came from Hotwire.com for less than 39.00 total for 48 hours! The greatest single expense was having to stay in a motel in Charlotte the night before my flight out Friday am. The NC High Country was forecasted to get (and did get snow on Friday)…if I’d left at 4:30am as planned-I doubt I’d have gotten down the mountain to catch my plane.
We both arrived in Bandera sporting VW bug rentals-not planned-just happened!
Jill and I shared a prerace evening of “safe” food we had with us (neither of us practice carbo-loading on purpose anyway!) -me: avocado/bread and watered down canned chicken-veggie soup and Jill: rice bowl with a packet of Tuna microwaved in our cabin and a couple tiny bottles of Margarita (Jill) and red wine (Annette) . We laughed and were silly, spoke seriously and looked forward to the freedom that a day of running 100k would bring.
What to wear? As most runners can relate to, I went back and forth (as did Jill) about appropriate attire for a 12 degree start that would warm up to 40+degrees. There were options for drop bags-which I did take, yet drop bags=time and time = energy and blah, blah… As it was, I wore ½ tights and was grateful to be able to switch out clothes at one of my drop bags later in the race. Though I must admit, for much of the run I looked like a yard sale with various layers tied around my head, waist or stuffed in my bra!
The plan: I didn’t have much of one! I wanted to run technical rocky trails the best I could and hope that would = a top position. The previous CR was 11:18ish and I had it in mind that compared to other experiences I could run between 10:15 and 11 hours given the terrain and temperature and mud levels. Though prepared with great Petzel light sources, I did not want to have to use a headlamp. I also knew that cold AM temps would disable me to some point because I’d look the use of my hands (even w/ snowboard mitts) until it warmed up…and nutrition lost until it warmed up would have to be adjusted for later.
The race: We started a little after sunrise at 7:30am. Two other races (25k an 50k started several 100 yards away at the same time) I think there must have been 600+ runners/crews plus volunteers as things got underway. It was around 13 degrees according to my rental bug’s dashboard.
The 100k runner pack thinned out quickly. I ran with and then behind Jill and a couple of other women before loosing sight of those three. Jill ran across the rocks like a long haired blond elf and she laughed that “I love this!” I verbally agreed! I wished her well and settled into a bit of a slower pace and I prepared for the day to unfold. It wasn’t long before I learned my clothing was too much…After only 1.5 miles-ish I pulled over and spent a well used 4 minutes taking off clothing an adjusting things. It was comfortable moving uphill in the sun and hand numbing cold in the draws (drainages).
Soon, I was content to explore the Texas Hill Country…only a few part of the trails warranted power hiking-otherwise much was extremely runnable and super crazy fun down hills-lighting over rocks and roots. Mostly all single track. Dirt. Sand. Cacti. Roots. Horse-trodden grooved trails of frozen mud. Later in the afternoon as scarce few areas did have stick-to-shoe-mud…yet that was in the minority! Every now and then I’d catch a glimpse of the beautiful hills and scrub brush/trees around me, yet much of the focus for these trails/routes was on foot placement.
From my time out there, I’d have never guessed there were so many runners on the trails! It was an experience of passing companionship and solitude for me. The my obvious signs of human life I saw was the gust of dust from vehicles driving to and fro aid stations on the main park road. And most of this was at a distance and provided a vista conducive, with appropriate travel music to a Hollywood movie! I think RD Joe and crew did a splendid service to the ultra running community by so creatively weaving a diverse and challenging 50k (100k=x2) in such a small area!
The 100k was 2 loops. My first loop was exploratory…not meant to race-but to run steady. I thought I’d finish the loop in 5ish…and I think my split was 5:05ish, spend 6ish minutes at Aid Station (and back out at 5:11ish) I looked at my watch, but didn’t really register time.
With the next loop started-I felt good and was well hydrated and had the calories on board from attentive grazing at earlier aid stations and was ready to attempt to “pick off” some girls. At this point I was in 5th place. So I ran and because of the ability to see far saw “Girl 3” and "Girl 4” (I later learned these women were Pam Smith and Christine Tokarz) several times in the distance. I kept running comfortably and passed Christine 5 miles into the loop. I felt flat. Not bad. Not great. At some points running during miles 30-50 felt like a job. And then a privilege. And then flight! I fell 2x on flat ground. I think I was soo focused on the rocky stuff, I inappropriately let my brain check out on the little smooth stuff there was -and BAM! Was down again. I have 13 bruises in my hands, elbows and legs from Saturday’s adventure.
The 2nd time into the Chapas aid station, Meredith Terranova who had earlier in the day won the 50k, informed me that 4 of us were within 8 minutes of each other. VERY COOL! Thank you Meredith. I made myself eat more PB and J squares and cola and continue on, striving for positive attitude. At this point, around mile 42ish I was not ready to race-I expected my race would start at Crossroads 47.9 miles into the race. And indeed it should have!
Yet, when my time came to “race” at the deceided distance, my dorsal fin disappointed me. From this first time ever, the dorsal fin took a nap! I was happy to run how I felt- hard at times, comfortable at others-and I was pleased that despite my bruises I was unharmed. Even though I knew the others were within possible catching distance, the hunger for the hunt did not appear. When arriving at my drop bag for the final time, I put on warmer clothes and grabbed my lights. Less then 10 miles left. Bobbing along, shadows’ stretching in the late afternoon dirt, the run was solitary and beautiful. I felt good-just not like I was after prey…
Then the DORSAL fin appeared!
Complete results HERE
Later, after getting showers back in town, a group headed by fun Montrail teammate Sean Meissner (Sean placed 7th in the 50k and stayed around to assist runners for many hours afterwards)gathered together for Texas food and drinks. I wish I though to take a photo of the Nacho Platter which had to be about 5 pounds of food!
Reflection: After some sleep and pondering, I now have a bit more insight into why I was skittish about racing. I haven’t raced since May at the 24-Hour in Italy! After falling and dnfing at Highlands Sky in June, then getting hurt at Vermont and running just to finish-then taking 9+ weeks off to heal my tendon/nerve issues…then spending all fall getting back to running. Though I ran a good time at JFK 50 in November, my position was not earned from “the chase”.
I am rejuvenated after this brief trip to Texas, and looking forward to taking more sensible risks out there on the trails. Joe Prusaitis and clan did and excellent job. Joe and his crew of volunteers were splendid. These guys and gals were tough: serving up runners for hours and endless hours in the very unusual cold. A great big Thanks to everyone involved in hosting/organizing/arranging this event-the Texas Hospitality and challenge were Fabulous!
(Photo above: My dorsal fin was in hiding just like much of my face when I started the race in the dry cold! When the race started I looked like a bug because I also had on orange sunglasses...Yippeee!)