Tuesday, January 22, 2013



Sunrise in Bandera, Texas

Bandera, Texas  January 12, 2013

Fort Apache at The Flying L Ranch
Getting to San Antonio was extremely easy this year.  Last year seemed to be the year of nightmare flights with cancellations, delays, running through airports and lost baggage but for some strange reason, all went well.  Must be good karma somewhere :)  Arriving in Texas was a nice relief from the last few weeks of full on winter in Vermont.  Sun, warms temps and no snow was found upon arrival in San Antonio.   After about an hour drive to the thriving town of Bandera, population 957 according to the sign and the "Cowboy Capital of the World", we checked into the Flying L Ranch.

Killer Armadillos???

It was time to put on the shorts and get in an easy end of the day run (no wind briefs required:) ) before checking out some local Mexican food for dinner.   The food was excellent!

Friday morning it was time to check out the course.  We had heard of torrential rains on Wednesday with nearly 4 inches of rain but the trails looked like they were in great shape and less dust than last year.  We were on a hunt to find an armadillo and went by a posted sign which read “Killer Armadillos” which had already been chomped on by some big critter.

Hiding behind a killer sotol plant.

In search of the armadillo
After a couple of miles up on the trail we decided to head back, still no armadillos in sight.  But there were plenty of spiked thorny sotol plants.  We passed by Meghan Arbogast and chatted a bit and then headed back to the Flying L for some lunch.   Later in the afternoon we returned for the scheduled race briefing and packet pickup.  No surprises and as usual some great swag to bring home.  Afterwards we were back to downtown Bandera for some carbo loading at Johnny’s Pasta, a local favorite!  Don't expect speedy service but the food is great, especially the cheesecake.

With a 7:30 AM start, there was no need to get up at 4:00 AM which was great.  After a quick breakfast we were on the road to the start.  Driving to the start line, there was a steady mist from the fog.  It was 61 degrees and dark with 100% humidity.  Haven’t seen 61 degrees since??  There was a long line of cars heading into the Texas Hill Country but the parking situation seemed fine, just slow moving, but glad we gave ourselves some extra time as I heard it became an issue for later travelers.  We got our drop bags to the appropriate areas and then hung out in the tent to stay warm and dry before the start.  Finally daylight was approaching and we all assembled over by the start line.  The mist seemed to have stopped but still the humidity was 100%.  A good day for Body Glide!

The Trail
7:30 AM and off we went.  A fast pace right from the start but I backed off a bit.  I thought I would try something new and go out a little slower and just try to be more consistent.  I was also trying out some different nutritional ideas.  Last year I had a few cases of the pukes which took it’s toll on me.  I re-evaluated what I had done last year in the eating and drinking departments and made some changes for Bandera.  One would be to pass on the peanut butter and jelly and stick with calories from fruit like bananas.  The other was using a drink much higher in calories with additional electrolytes which I seem to lose a lot of especially since I have a hard time swallowing electrolyte pills.  I saw the lead pack head off and gladly let them go.  I hung with Liza Howard for a while as we ran and chatted a bit.  By the time we got to the first uphill, Liza decided to back down and I was on my own in a big gap running by myself for the most part.  The first part of the course was great with some loose rock, rolling terrain and fun single track.  But the humidity was so bad that I was soaked right from the start and it never let up throughout the race.  Luckily there was a good cloud cover or it would have been really uncomfortable.  The hill section was fun but eventually we got to some lower trails which contained this awful mud.  It wasn't deep like we find quite often in New England, it was only surface mud but it was like glue and stuck to your shoes and wouldn't fall off.  The more you ran, the more it accumulated.  When I looked down, it looked like I had on a mud snowshoe as it was wider than your shoe.  And it felt like you were running with 10 lb ankle weights.  At one point I tried to roll my foot over to get it off only to have it grab my foot and twist it.  There was no way that mud shoe was coming off.  The only hope you had was that eventually it would build up enough that the weight would pull it off your shoe.  I hooked up with Andy for a while from Canada and we ran through this section complaining about how bad it was.  It was really wearing on the legs.  By  mile 20 or so I was starting to get twinges that resembled cramping in my calves.  Way too early in the race I thought!  After all, I've been heat training since March in Bikram Yoga and this can't be happening in 60 degrees.  I ran conservatively trying not to set off a bout of run defying cramps.

More Trail

By the half way point which was lap one of the two lap course, I was right on schedule where I wanted to be.  I was hoping to be a bit slower than last year on lap 1 thinking even if I run lap 2 one hour slower, I would still be ahead of last year where I cramped severely on lap two where was lying on my back in pain on the trail unable to move forward for a while.  On the turnaround I remember seeing Steven Moore and he commented how it shouldn't be this hard for the first half.  I totally agreed.  Never had I felt this tired from running 31 miles.  That mud/ankle weight running really took a toll on the energy level.  I was having a hard time imagining how I might run the next 31 miles but after refueling at the aid station and heading out, I felt better.  I knew I was now 50% done and what's another 31 miles?  If needed I could walk or craw as I wasn't quitting, not an option.  The rolling hills of the second half seemed much like the first, just slower going.

And the mud sections seemed much better as the mud didn't stick and accumulate like it did the first lap.  It was more packed down and dryer but by now, the energy level had been sucked out from the first lap so I was moving forward but not at any stellar pace.  I continued to get cramp twinges but nothing that locked me up which was good.  I couldn't swallow electrolyte pills any more but at each aid station would pour the contents into my water bottle with my own drink mix, GU Brew Roctane, which contained a fair amount of electrolytes and calories.  At one point early on I did run out of my drink mix and had to resort to plain water which set me back a bit on the electrolyte level and did take a bit to catch up.  I know when I'm getting low as in the first stage my ears plug up and then stage two the vision gets blurry, stage three my voice changes.  Luckily I only got to stage one and after a while got that under control or so I thought.  Then at about mile 49 I took a swig of fluid and it went down the wrong way which immediately set off a case of the pukes.  For some strange reason, mile 49-50 is when  I've been getting this.  I did my thing and continued on.  I felt ok and gradually resumed drinking which was a big improvement over other races where I couldn't even take on water.  But I was being a bit conservative and did't drink nearly enough.  At one point I even tried to swallow an electrolyte pill to help balance out the body only to spit it out as it would have set off more pukes.  So I had to back off my running at times to control any signs of cramping and then pick it up when I could.  As I came into the Crossroads aid station for the final visit I had my headlamp there but decided I was doing ok and didn't need it.  If I continued at my current pace, I would make it in just before sunset.  But the lack of drinking enough fluid eventually caught up to me a few miles later where cramps kicked in so bad that I had to stop a number of times to get it under control.  At that point I was thinking maybe I was better suited to be a golfer and maybe running wasn't my thing.  With the cramping I was loosing valuable time and darkness was fast approaching. I knew if I got to the final descent I would be fine as it was more open but it took forever to get there.    So by the time I was there it was pretty much dark.  I could feel the worn trail underfoot which is how I followed the trail.  The new reflective strips they have now are great to see the trail...if you have a headlamp.  With no headlamp, no reflective capabilities.  Finally I was at the start of the last downhill section and could see a headlamp following me.  This would be a challenge to stay ahead.  I booked it downhill best I could, feeling the trail as I went.  Finally I hit the last jeep road which I knew was not far from the start and was pretty much flat and non-technical so I took off to stay ahead of that following light.  Finally I could see the lights from the finish and cruised in darkness over the line.  DONE!  About a minute later, that trailing headlamp came in and it was Liza.

Kristin cruising the trails
It was great to be finished!!!  Then I had to find the rental car in a dark parking lot in the back fields to find warm and dry clothing.  Not an easy task but eventually found the car and put on the down coat, hat and mittens.  With a warm set of clothing I was off to the finish tent to enjoy some cold beverages with friends and wait for Kristin to arrive.  And it wasn't that much longer when Kristin finished with a new PR for Bandera!  Most of the runners had much slower times than in the past but Kristin cranked out her fastest time yet for Bandera.

In the end, I was slower than the previous year but in the USATF standings I was 10th overall for the men which I was happy with, first in age.  But even better I won the master division for the Tejas race and brought home the prized burrow trophy!  Full results can be found here:  Results

The Burrow Trophy

Steve and David trading stories 
Liza relaxing at the finish tent

The next day was recovery and after a short walk about in San Antonio, it was time to hydrate along the River Walk.

Kristin enjoying a Margarita on the River Walk:)

Sotol Damage

Of course there was bodily injury due to the sharp sotol plants.

All in all, a great time in Texas again.  If you are ever looking for a break from the winter, consider Texas for a fun winter run. Here's a link to the Tejas running series.  Thanks to Joe and Joyce and all the volunteers for putting on a fabulous event!

My New Bandera Cactus

And I successfully managed to smuggle home two more cactus plants of a new variety to add to my collection.  It must have been interesting when the TSA checked my bag :)

This one's for Serena :)

The Gear:  I received a new pair of Pearl Izumi Trail II's just days before the race.  No break in period required and they were awesome!  Plenty of support to run 62 miles and enough cush to handle the Texas rock.  Combined with a pair of Drymax trail socks, the feet were totally happy! And to add to the accessories, a Headsweats Race Cap to keep the sweat out of my eyes which was much needed :)

The Buckle

Success is not the key to happiness. 
Happiness is the key to success. 
If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.