Thursday, September 13, 2012

6 weeks until Cactus Rose!!!

October 27, 2012
Bandera, Texas

Here's how the race director promotes the race:

"No Whiners, Wimps, or Wusses : A nasty rugged trail run
Bonus Points for Blood, Cuts, Scrapes, & Puke"

This will be my first 50 miler for the season, and the second year in a row that I do this race. This is one hell of way to officially start off my ultra season.  It is a little hilly.  The first 25 mile loop:

The second 25 mile loop:

So, as you see, miles 18 - 32 are pretty much spent climbing steep ascents, or trying not to fall down steep descents.  But, don't let it fool you - Lucky Peak at mile 48 SUCKS!!  That is the one descent that is so steep and covered with scree (loose pebbles), that a wipe out is highly likely.  At least if you slide down the hill, you get to the bottom faster.  I have seen people going down this on their butts because they were afraid to attempt to run it because of the steepness.  I usually just take a deep breath, curse the RD one last time (I do that alot on this course), and just try to move my feet as quickly as possible all the while hoping for the best.

I LOVE this race.  It is a bare bones, take care of your own needs kind of race.  There are aid stations, but they mainly consist of tables under a tent with jugs of water on them, and a cooler with ice.  You are expected to pack in your own food, medical supplies, change of clothes, etc., the day before to each aid station.  There is one manned station, and it is worked by Olga.  Olga is a legend at all of the Tejas Trails events.  She is tiny, blonde, Russian, and TOUGH. You do not want to piss off Olga.  She is also a veteran ultra runner, so when she gives you advice, you take it.  I hate tomato soup, but I drank some at last years race because she told me to.

This race is in the Hill Country State Natural Area, just northwest of San Antonio.  It is an incredibly beautiful area.  The climbs are pretty intense, but the views from the top make it all worth it.  Most of the time, you are running on a variety of sizes of rocks.  Some are small and slide under your feet, and some are just big enough to roll an ankle on when you try to plant on them.

Lots of spots like this.

Even with tough trail shoes, by the end, your feet are
very tender.

Here you see the rocks AND the sotol grass.
When you have to run through patches of this, its
like running through a carwash of razor blades.
No exaggeration there, folks.

These are equestrian trails also, so you will run across this a couple of times during the race:

Last year, I ran up on a horseman who was kind enough to gallop ahead to get out of my way, every time I would catch up with him. While I appreciated his courtesy, I didn't appreciate the clouds of dust I sucked in as a result.  I was very happy when we went our separate ways.

At the race briefing, the park ranger is very careful to warn us (numerous times) of the danger of this course. There are a few peaks that are so steep and treacherous because of the footing, that they won't even allow horse back riders up there to rescue an injured runner.  The only way out - by helicopter.  And guess who pays the bill for that....  Luckily, last year, this is the worst injury that I was aware of:

Favorite ultra quote, "If the bone ain't showin',
keep on goin'".
And that he did.

He was  a great sport though.  He finished the race, then walked back to the dude ranch he was staying at a couple of miles down the road.

As I said, this is bare bones.  Here's what the RD says about medical aid on the course:
MEDICAL: yes... Medical will be there. The park does expect some sort of coverage. Otherwise, I'd let you duct tape your own wounds.
 What wounds might require duct tape?  Well, earlier I mentioned the sotol grass:
This grows very thick in quite a few sections of the trail.  Every time I race on this course (this will be my 4th race there - Bandera 50k twice, and Cactus last year) - I wear full tights, regardless of the temperature.  Don't let that fool you, though, I am still sliced up when I finish.  This stuff will cut you right through your tights.  Last year, they actually tore a hole in my compression tights - imagine what it does to bare skin.  It makes the post race shower that much more interesting. As does digging out one of the barbs from these;
A couple of weeks after last years race, a friend who had run
it noticed a boil type spot on his leg.  When he examined
it further, he pulled out one of these barbs that had
been embedded so deep he didn't even realize it
until it decided to work its way out.

I mentioned the beauty of this course earlier.  I wasn't kidding.  Seeing the sunrise over these hills is a spiritual experience.

The first time I ran on this course, I couldn't believe this was just 7 or so hours from my house.  These peaks are breathtaking - literally and figuratively.  So, despite the coyotes that we hear all night before the race when we are camping in the park, the scorpions that remind you to keep your shoes on, the rocks, cactus, sotol grass, and the real possibility of running up on a rattle snake, this is by far my favorite race course so far.  Or maybe it is because of these things that it is my favorite.  It is pure, authentic, and unchanged for who knows how many years.  This race teaches you alot about yourself.  Last year it took me 2.5 hours longer to run this 50 miler than my other 50 milers.  I do a lot of soul searching along these trails.  Because the course is so spread out, last year I ran most of the second half of the race completely alone.  Not another runner in sight except when I would crest a hill and see a little dot running way ahead of or behind me.

There was no one there to encourage me, or give me advice. I had to find my own motivation to move forward, and I had to make the right decisions to allow me to do so.  I am really looking forward to this race.  I will be sharing the trails with local friends - Jessica, Brad, Bobbi, Teddi, Lane and Fred.  (Lane and Fred are twice as stupid as I am - they are doing the 100 miler!)  I am planning on running the race alone - it is what I prefer for ultras - but it will be great to know all of these people are out there working towards an amazing goal, and it is always a nice surprise when you get to cross paths with a familiar face.

So, the remaining of my training before CR looks like this:
This week and next - 50 miles
Rest week - 39 miles
Two weeks of 64 miles
Taper week of 36 miles
Race week of 62 miles

I am trying something new this season, shortening my taper from two weeks to one for 50 miles or under.  We'll see how it goes.  If I am feeling beat up for that second 64 mile week, I will shave a little off.  Better to go into a race slightly undertrained, than overtrained and injured.  In my opinion (of course).

Happy Running, Y'all!



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