Habanero Hundred – My first attempt at 100 miles
Wow, so here I am. My first 50k was April 2017, the Dam 50k in the Virginia mountains, my heart’s home. It is August 2018 and I have poured so much into a short training period, combined with marathons, 50ks, and pacer duties 13-14 miles long. My training weather had been, well, cold for what I’d expect out of a summer. Highs were barely reaching upper 70s half the time, overcast skies plagued the forecasts, and rain only on the weekends I seemed to “race”. Humidity was not a stranger. But 80-90 degree weather was, and I needed that. I put on coats and sweats, thermal hats, all things that should be buried in boxes for the summer months. I had little aches and pains that I worried would turn into something worse, but never did. A quick few days of taper, and I was off to Texas.
A few days before my flight out, my husband got called to work duty out in California which would then overlap with our trip to Texas for Habanero. I was upset. I was already heading down a dark mental path, dipping into the depths of self doubt and loathing. I hated everything. I found joy in nothing and blamed myself for things that hadn’t even happened. I tore myself to shreds, and being alone I had no way out. This was not the time to have added stress. I discussed these feelings with my team, Team BU, and I calmed a little, but not until my coaching call did I really chill out. On my call, I realized I had no real plan for pacing or crewing other than having my Texas friends around. I was given the tough love by Scott, my coach. I know I needed to hear it but didn’t want to. Then all of a sudden he said he would come if he had to, to get this job done. I wanted to break out crying, but my mind didn’t let me believe the words at the time.
Well it was true. Arrangements were made. I regained so much focus on what was ahead. I got a few good nights of sleep thereafter. Having my husband’s plans still kind of up in the air, and especially with United canceling his tickets back, still gave me stress however. I made lists, and packed everything up two days before. I then drove myself off to Milwaukee’s airport by myself to meet up with fellow friend and team member Andrea, the same one from Zion. We had lunch with her kids, was given a good luck bracelet, and took off (totally forgetting to give her her stuff back from Hot Hilly Hairy). I arrived on time in Houston and was greeted by a mass of humid air, it had felt like it had been raining. I remained in my ironman finisher jacket, it was always so cold inside places that were very warm externally, and waited for a truck to pick me up. It was then I met Garner and his father, along with my husband in tow. It was an hours drive back to their place, and we got to talking and was a good time. I later found out his dad loved volunteering for Rocky Raccoon, a 100 mile race out in Huntsville, TX. I was super surprised and thought that was so cool.
After a good night of rest and a fantastic Texas lunch, we headed out to a fellow dance game community member’s house to hang out.
There was dance games and light discussion about the next days’ logistics. I didn’t play much, but had fun, in the least it was a good shakeout. Then it was off to Sealy, TX, where I found out was the place where the Sealy mattresses were made, cool fact. Upon arrival at the hotel, I unpacked my race items. And then realized my shoes I was planning on using were not in there…
I had given Rich a few larger, bulkier items to put in his suitcase before his trip out to California. But apparently they might have been left somewhere, anywhere from California to here. We checked the car, and called up Garner’s parents, and sure enough they were back north of Houston. That was quite the drive back 😦 I felt horrible. I was panicked of course, but at least I knew where they were. I had back up shoes, but they were mostly used up in miles. Not only that, but my salt chews and headlamp were inside those shoes. The boys, Garner, Rich, and Justin who had also rode with us, offered to head back and do a round up of the missing items. I appreciated it deeply, but I felt like that was all my fault and Garner had already done so much driving already. But off they went, leaving me by myself. I did appreciate the quiet time to myself, gathering my thoughts and decompressing after the trip out. I showered and readied for bed trying to get in bed before they got back. I got in bed around 10:30pm, had a slight bit of an issue falling asleep with my mind racing about the missing shoes and stuff. I had slept a little when the crew returned. They promptly went to bed. I appreciated that as well. I hope I didn’t freeze them with my obsession with keeping the room cool as possible so I could sleep.
My alarm was set for 7:45am, for we had to get up and head out to Wal-Mart which was right behind the hotel, nice, for items I needed for the race I didn’t want to travel with. I woke a little earlier than this naturally, so that was nice, a good nights’ sleep for me at last. At Wal-Mart, which I usually don’t shop at, I gathered fresh fruit like grapes and clementines, and peach fruit cups, V8 fruit drink, sprite, Dr. Pepper, cherry grape juice, and Ice from what I remember. Once we had these items, and totally forgetting to buy batteries for my headlamp (which I found out once we arrived at the race location), we headed out to the race site, which was about 20 mins of driving north.
The race site was on the 7IL ranch, out on dirt roads. It looked very dry out there, and mildly flat. We found it by the texas flag and star on the sign and mailbox. The field of parking was huge, but already massively filled up…where did all these people come from?! The race had sold out a few days prior, a total of over 600 people, whereas last year being around 250 total people. This was across all distances, not just my distance of 100 miles. We took our massive amounts of stuff (tent, chairs, cooler, supplies, suitcase with all my stuff in it) to the starting area, which was staged so you could set up your own aid station tent there. It was similar to Hot Hilly Hairy in that respect, which I appreciated. It was already hot at 10am. We got setup, and I got checked in. We had to pay a $10 fee for each person there though to be at the ranch. I get it, but it was a bit annoying to add to the cost of the race. There was no real way to police it other than the wrist bands. I think it would have been better to just pay for parking per car.
So it was just us four there for the start. I got set up, drinking some fruit juice to stay hydrated and sugar levels up before the race, having a clif bar, sunglasses on, sunscreen on, big white hat on, ect. I sat down and tried to relax. I headed up to the start line about 10 minutes before the actual start at high noon. It was a very casual start, started slow and followed the large 100k/100mile crowd out onto the loop. Like HHH, I’ll go over the loop from my first loop perspective, and then just move on.
The loop headed out on a short uphill climb up from the start area to the right heading into a sort of woods. This was one of the very few shaded section, and it was very short lived. It was single track sand that wasn’t that deep. Kind of an alcove kind of feeling that was humid, trapping heat from the day inside. This lead to the first section of sand, deep sand that was like at the beach and it was dry, so it spread everywhere upon impact. It was nearly impossible to run along the sides with the sparse trees lining the path, but I would try and find the dying small plants that tried to root in the middle of these sandy sections and get a better footing.
A lot of people tried to run through it, but later on everyone just walked through it. The sections between the sand were pretty runnable, grassy mostly double track. It was still a bottle neck through here with all the people yet to filter through. A few more sections of sand like this happened. The heat coming up from the sand didn’t seem too noticeable at first, my only complaint came when my feet got hot on loop 2 which was annoying but manageable. I didn’t feel like the heat was radiating up at me. Around mile 1 or so there was a mini aid station that had ice and water, nothing else.
Most bypassed this first go. I saw my coach and Ralph for the first time, and was so blessed to have them there, emotion flowed from me all over again. Following the crowd back into the “woods” (unshaded, it was strange to have trees around with no shadows from them), there were more and some longer sections of sand through 1.5 miles in, then releasing us into grassy pastures. The trail was mowed down and hard to not step on hard, dried, out plants. The hills rolled here, gradually up and not so much down. I just don’t remember much down, it all seemed up. The trail probably went down during the sandy section and I just didn’t notice. This was probably the best part of the course, I would rate it a 5/10, and yeah that’s as good as it got. The grassy path turned into single track, and it was more like a tiny horse trail at that point, narrow and one foot swung in front of the other unless you ran on the grass, which I did a bunch, but it was less efficient there. I’ve learned to really dislike horse trails so much.
This trail lead to a big dip in the trail around the 2.5 mile mark, and I remembered this on because it meant I was close to the half way aid station that was on the other side of the weird loop. I arrived at the half way aid station that had gummy bears, goldfish, watermelon, oranges, bananas, soda (gingerale, coke, and orange soda), pickles, pickle juice, chips, and probably more. But the number one thing they had were gatoritas. These were some blue Gatorade concoction that was delicious. Usually Gatorade upsets my stomach, but these were probably not made from the endurance formula (which makes me feel sicky). It was hard to take the time to drink them. I missed them when they were gone. Typically I would take some watermelon here, orange soda sometimes, and ice in my hands, and I was on my way. This was the first time I tried ice down my bra. No matter how hot it was outside, which that day reached a real feel of 115°F I heard, and real temp of 99°F, the ice down there felt bad at first and then I never noticed it was there. It took over 3 miles of my time for that chunk to melt! Not worth it. So I never did it again. Ice just sat at my sternum anyway, I think if it could sit higher it would have been slightly better. I headed out for the second half of the loop.
The 2nd half was way worse to traverse. The first mile after the aid station was pretty good, although mostly gradual uphill, it was the most runnable section of the trail. Wide double track in the fields out in the middle of the sun, no trees close. I passed by a dark patch in the trail. Just taking note. Crossed a gravel road, and then back to some single horse track. I really liked this part, heading towards a small pond/lake thing on my left, passed by some woods that shaded the path for a few feet here. I was keeping an eye on my heart rate during this first loop seeing how hard I could run in the heat. It was hard to run period in the heat, but I was managing it well. Turned around the path with the lake, and then the next sections of sand hit at mile 4.5 and continued until the mini aid station. These were much more annoying and longer. I gave up on running through them. I powered through them instead. These sections seemed hotter and more exposed and deeper somehow. I began to think “how am I supposed to keep doing this, this is just the first loop.”
There was a quick reprieve before the mini aid station that was more wooded on the side (still exposed sun though). The trail turned into more grass and took a sharper left turn uphill to the aid station there. I didn’t really stop here this time either and walked across the road (the 7IL main road) to the adjacent field. Me and another girl went right, and then was told from behind us we were going the wrong way. There wasn’t really any signage here, so it was not obvious as to what to do. A little extra distance never hurt anyone. The trail continued along a grassy field, more narrow single track here, and more uphill here. Breaching the top, the trail continued down into the last section of sand pits. This section was more wooded as well along the sides, but still exposed as ever. The sections were so annoying because you powered through the sand and then tried to run on the other side but as soon as you would start to run you would run into another sand section. I was so tired of sand and it had only been 6 miles. The course went back up a steeper hill (supporting my theory that most of the downhill was in the sand) and when you reached the top, you could see all the tents and the start/finish area. A sight for sore eyes every.single.time. The field at the top was very runnable and was probably the best segment to use for time, being slight downhill to the finish where it hit the gravel road there bringing you back to the start line. I would always cross the start line and then head to my crew.
Once I was at my crew, I switched out the shoes I was wearing (Altra Superiors) for my own Altra Lone Peaks (3.5) which I would stay in for a long time. I refilled myself with some juice, and got a few gels and off I went again. My first loop was around 1:30 which was in the solid target time. I don’t recall what the other loop splits were but I will include a graphic that you can view for that at the end of this report. The second loop I was dreading. I knew what I was up against now. I vaguely knew what I should try and run and what was a waste of time in the heat. I started planning. I arrived back at the half way aid station, running a little more than I had been before. I was fine, it was mile 9ish and thinking it was already mile 9 somehow comforted me? It was hot. Reaching about 3pm now. I had another fancy blue drink. Felt like I was wasting time, and had my pack refilled by Ralph. Having more ice water felt good. Off I went again. It was so incredibly nice I had someone there at the aid stations to help me. I always had someone to look forward to seeing and keeping me accountable IN the race. This was huge for me.
The second half of the 2nd loop was to be expected, I knew it would be harder than the first, but I plotted onward. I was hitting my target times despite having to power hike more than I thought I would. I kept my power hike mantra in my head when I realized I was moving slower than I wanted…”Walk with purpose”. Sonja embedded that in me along with Scott being able to bring that out in me in training. I know I am fairly new to power hiking, but this is definitely a skill, and one I wish to work on more in the future.
Somewhere between the 2nd and 3rd loops I believe, I stopped at the mini aid station and asked someone, not sure if they were even a volunteer or not but he was standing there seemingly helping others at the time, to fill my pack with ice. I think he mistook this information cause I meant my bladder in my hydration pack (I had forgotten to fill my pack with water at the start/finish, I need to be more clear on this duty with my crew), and ended up filling my actual pack with ice, and a lot of it. At first I thought this was ok, it would cool me down maybe. But I wanted to move on and didn’t worry about what had transpired. Soon though I was dripping like a waterfall down my backside and my shorts became soaked like I’d just gotten out of a pool…the fabric became super loose and moved around a lot, the water leaked into my socks. The water finally stopped once I came to the half way aid station. I felt horrible while that ordeal was happening, I felt just bad. I don’t know any other way to describe it. It was wrong. Words won’t do it justice.
After arriving back at camp, start/finish, my shorts were better so I didn’t think about changing them out at the time and they were drying ok.
Only a few hours until dusk, and man I could not wait. I had already gone to plan B. I didn’t know it was my plan B, but it became plan B fast. The initial plan was to try and maintain a sub 16:00 min/mi pace for as long as I could and bank time in the first half. This would give me about 2 extra hours of cushion for the cut off time. But nope. The heat was real. It slowed me down a lot, and I was super careful to not overheat. I managed it very well like I said, but it became “this race is won at night”. It was a scary thought, and I didn’t want to do it, but I knew I needed to save my good legs until nightfall, when I could make up far more time with the sun being down allowing my effort to count more. I let my pace slip a little more as I walked a bit more trying to save the legs for dark. But then things happened…
On my third or fourth loop, I noticed that I should have changed socks, but was stubborn and didn’t want to stop, not that I didn’t remember when I reached home base. Usually with me, I just plain forget everything I need once I’m back even though I obsessively think about it during the loops. This was an error, and I should have known better. I ended up changing socks once I made it back around once more, but on the loop after I had changed, I do believe (not sure though, every loop kind of merges in my head), I had to stop at the half way aid station…the blisters were there. There was no more ignoring them. Now I thought I had headed them off, as usually when I feel this way the blisters hadn’t totally formed, but after a quick look-over, the diagnosis was dire. I had some good maceration of my feet between the ball of my foot on BOTH feet. A quick spray of alcohol killed me on the inside. I squirmed. I hated all of this and my vision of being able to finish this thing was starting to fade for the first time. I got moleskinned up and covered with a piece of KT tape on top. I headed out limping, and it hurt so much, a very sharp pain, but was assured that the pain would subside and go numb. After about half a mile or so, I was able to run a bit. After returning once more to the base, I saw more friends who had come. I was so happy even if I didn’t look like it. I was dealing with so much mentally already. I had basically hit the marathon point in the race. Ditched my hat and glasses and went out again. At this point I had started putting ice down the back of my bra. It held well there although it was uncomfortable, it never had any negative long term effects (chafing, ect), as well as eating the ice that I held in my hands. As gross as it may seem, I got the idea from taking ice out of the back of my bra to relieve some pressure at one point and thought it would feel good to dispose of the cubes in my mouth instead of watering the arid ground below where nothing grew. The more I ate, the less I drank out of my pack. The sun was setting on the 5th loop. I was pretty sure I could make it back around before it got too dark to see.
The end of the 5th loop was really dark, and yeah, it was hard to see, but I made it back without much complaining. I was ready to take off running. Getting even to 100k (twice the distance from where I stood) was daunting now and looming over my head. I was still prepared to get to 100 miles at this point. I grabbed my headlamp, and made sure new batteries were in them, and headed out. Man I really loved the cold Dr. Peppers and what I brought all agreed well with my stomach. When I turned on the headlamp and was out by myself again, I could literally see all the dust and sand floating in the air. For miles, I dealt with sand and grit grinding between my teeth, and now it was visible. When I made it to the mini aid station back on the course, Ralph and Scott met me there. I was wondering what was wrong. They suggested since I was drinking from the pack that I needed to ditch it, especially since I wasn’t carrying anything important. I agreed although I really didn’t like carrying a plastic bottle… Memories of not having a hydration system or way to carry water at all when I trained for my first marathon and how hard that was zoomed to the forefront of my mind. Whatever I thought, and kept moving on. I started running more and more, and felt good! I remember hitting 1.5 miles and then it hit the fan…
WARNING: the next section might be considered graphic to some. If you don’t want to read it, please skip this paragraph.
With a very decisive pop, which honestly felt like a bomb had literally went off in my right shoe, I screamed loudly out in the dark. OUCH, it hurt like REALLY bad. I came to a complete stop. I went immediately to the dark place, the low spot, whatever you want to call it and I knew I wasn’t getting out. I was so far from the half way aid station. I cried a little right then, I didn’t want it to be over, I had so much more to give, my legs were fine, my energy was fine, nothing else was wrong! Little did I know, I had festering blisters underneath the maceration I had going on. I hobbled, hoping the numbing would return. It didn’t. I was blinded by pain. I could feel the liquid oozing out from my feet into the sock, soaking it, feeling the raw skin under it with each single step. My power hiking was useless, I tried so hard to make my way to the aid station. I finally made it but the medical there said there was nothing they could do and to try the main med at the start/finish area. A lump formed in my throat, and I let some emotion flow out, as my friends Garner and Justin watched me crash right then and there.
The next three miles were the worst as I struggled to even walk. Once I made it back to the main aid station, I called for medical. I sat in the chair and the dude went to work. He added some padding to relieve some pressure off that part of my foot, and taped it down with blue trail toes tape (actually stay on really well). He did the same for the left foot as prevention…I knew that was a ticking time bomb. I got new socks and shoes. I tried my old pair of lone peaks but my foot wouldn’t even go in. What made matters worse was on that loop, I was staggering so much after I had that incident I ended up stabbing my left 2nd foot second toe right in the cuticle with some sharp stick. I didn’t know I had a blister there as well, which was popped, drained, and also covered then. I put on the Olympus, which I had been scared to start out with because, 1. I wanted them for later for extra cushion and a change in foot feel, and 2. I was afraid the stack height with the sand out there would be too high to be useful and would risk turning my ankle.
I sat quite at while at home base gathering myself. I knew time didn’t matter now. I was past pace, I was completely aware what I would have to do if I were to finish under the cut off and that was simply not going to happen with the recent events. How was I even going to make it 100k? I was just at 40 miles now. 20 more miles of this?! I had 30 hours. Of course I could get in 20 miles even at a slow as molasses walk and tons of breaks, but was it worth it. Of course it was. I needed to be out there. This was still my race. There was no shame in reaching 100k. Was I still going to beat myself up about it? Yeah. That’s just who I am. I was beating myself up over my first 50k pace for over a year until I realized it was a really good time considering everything! I had switched shirts the previous loop, but it was then I realized how much chafing I had sustained. I had extreme bubbled up chafing lines along my shorts. I knew I was bleeding down there from a previous bathroom visit (no, not from the inside), but a majority of where it was the worse was in the crotch area where my body connected to my torso. I couldn’t even feel the chafing on my legs below that, it looked absolutely horrible though, and I was shocked when I saw it. My back was chafed, but I had taken care of that (from my water pack) prior with a piece of KT tape. I put on more body glide and 2toms and some diaper rash cream (which burned super bad but looking back after the race finish this save me a LOT of pain), and went off. I only had to do one more lap by myself. I was counting down the laps until I got my pacers in my back pocket to help out. One lap was a lot.
The second to last loop without a pacer, as a side note, the med lady was not there, and I did need something to reduce the chafing I was having under my arms. It was already far beyond help, but I was desperate. Luckily a girl there had her kit with her, and graciously gave me a small packet of trail toes. I kept that packet with me until the end. Even if it didn’t do much to help, it felt better having it on my person.
Scott was trying to make me eat. I had gotten in some mashed potatoes earlier, but it wasn’t enough for him. He said pick something from the table. I tried to get ramen broth. I knew I could at least drink, so I tried. But immediately as soon as I drank some I started to get very nauseous. I was going to be sick. I felt horrible and headed back to the tent where I drank some soda, and it almost immediately calmed my stomach. This was the only GI distress moment I ever had.
The last lap by myself was on pure adrenaline, and grit. I ran a bit here, and was the last time I really was able to run, or what I called running at this point. It was the night, it was fresh, it was cool (well about 90°F with saturated air…the night was near 95% humidity as it is there in Texas). It was so energizing. Despite being loaded down in raw pain, I enjoyed being out at night. I never had bugs bother me, night or day, which was nice for a change. I came out with no bug bites! This loop was pretty forgettable other than it being the last one by myself. I rolled back around, hiking my best hike so ready to have someone join me. I didn’t take much from here on out. I was out of everything inside, and pushing beyond what I had left which was just nothing. I was going to get in 100k, the things I was experience were superficial. The only issue in continuing on past 100k was not making the cutoff and risking damage internally from changing my gait and form for long periods of time, compensating for things I should not have to be compensating for. It would not be wise to continue. Scott was up to bat.
He was so excited, and I so didn’t want to let him down. I tried to run, but my body was ripping apart as I went along. Scott was in high spirits, I know I was not. I was fighting every bodily urge to quit right then and there. We kept moving. I decided with my two pacers left (I knew it was over for me, and these miles I was putting in right then and there were just extra, bonus miles I was trying to collect past my limits), I would show them the course from my perspective, even though it was still dark. I would share what I liked and what was difficult the best I could. I really enjoyed the conversations out there, keeping my mind turning over. I so wish I could have given him a challenge to run with, share the love of the race, but there wasn’t any left. Everyone who supported me weighed on me, and I knew people wouldn’t be disappointed, but they would be sad for me. The overwhelming emotions I dammed up behind strong walls. I put everyone aside as much as it hurt me to do so. I needed to focus on there here and now. I needed to be present in the moment.
We made our way around. I greatly appreciated not being bugged about water. I was drinking to thirst, something I was low key nervous about doing too much of. I ate so much ice. I continued to cool myself, although not as often, and ate the ice which kept me happy in that regard. I would focus on sucking on the ice cube until a slight pressure from my jaw could crunch the hollowed ice piece easily. At the half way aid station, I sat because I needed release from now holding my arms up above my body, tensed up due to pain everywhere and balancing myself as I moved to avoid hurting myself as much as possible. I now had severe chafing under my arms and on my arms.
Relaxing felt so good. The sit breaks were good. Moving again was not. I forced myself to get up every time and every time I began to walk again hurt so bad. I was literally a stiff corpse as I moved, trying not to upset my skin or anger my blistered feet. I had bouts of determination where I needed to move faster because of the fight in me, usually happening in the sand pits. Finally, after a grueling few hours, I made it back to camp. It was Ralph’s turn.
Ralph was a great guy, all around solid. He was the husband of Susan from Team BU, and although I was sad Susan couldn’t come it was great meeting Ralph. Ralph let me talk about how I felt, what was going on honestly without judging. This loop was hard. I began telling him all about the loop course. But this time I had to keep stopping needing to release the tension I was holding every so often, taking deep breaths and regaining focus to move forward. At one point I really was literally blinded by pain as my left foot quivered on bursting at the seams from its own blisters. I knew I was close to another rupture. I just wanted to make it through this loop. I almost started to doubt I could make it. And then civil twilight hit. It was close to being over…
Cue in Rich and Scott, waiting for us about a mile from the start/finish. It was like a small family. I held Rich’s hand and didn’t let go. I’m sorry if it ended up being the death grip, I don’t know what I did exactly. I was still holding back so much emotion. I walked my best walk with them. The sun was rising. It was over before it started it seemed. I came over the final hill one last time. I hit the gravel road and my feet screamed, and I held it back. I knew it would hurt. I was breaking as I went. With Rich still in hand, I rounded the corner to the finish for the final time. I barely made it over the timing mat, and I felt very blessed to be done and let this healing begin. I fought for every step for the past 4 loops, that’s over 25 miles, and the fact that I look back and think about how long that is baffles me. That I was in serious pain for that long. I was awarded the 100k finisher buckle. I accepted it as I freaking earned that with what I went through with myself. I headed back to our tent area where I sat down and cried my hardest. I could finally let it all go. It felt so good to let it go, but I knew the people who supported me all rushed into my head, the loving people around me helping, Scott, Ralph, Rich, Fano, Sandy, Justin, Garner… I wanted them all to know how hard I fought and tried so hard to make this all worth it to them at least. I thought about all those who helped Scott and Ralph make that trip possible. I wanted to share what I went through somehow to show I tried my very best and gave more than I had to give for so long. The emotions rolled out. I got it all out. It felt good. Finally.
I took a breather, and headed to the shower with the massive amounts of help getting lifted and being able to walk. I was mostly out of adrenaline, but I had nothing to block the pain now underfoot. Searing pain forced its way up my bones from my feet. I had to go in alone since it was more so a public shower for women only (mens on the other side). This was going to be hard. I’ll save the details, but there was no hot water, probably for the best. My feet were a little swollen, not sure if from the miles or the trauma or both. Cleaned up, I felt better but all I wanted to do was sit. We all said our goodbyes and headed out on our separate ways. I tried to eat lunch but my mouth wouldn’t have it, the skin being stripped as soon as I tried. I did have some soup.
Now my opinions about the race:
The idea behind it was fantastic. A Texas race in the middle of August, in the middle of the day, hot and humid. A challenge in itself. What I was not totally aware of was how much the sand would impact my race and how much sand there really was. If I had known more about the course, which I tried to learn before totally committing, I probably would have changed my mind. The race director wouldn’t really give up any details, defaulting responses when asked, and as for someone who isn’t local to Texas in general, this wasn’t a positive in my book. “Soft non-technical trail” didn’t cover the half of it. Being allowed to DNF at 100k was a positive however, and still made me feel like I got something done out there. Sometimes the mini aid station was out of ice, mainly after sunset. This wasn’t a game changer for me, but I could see how this could be an issue. The aid stations ran out of fruit after most people in the shorter distances had finished, and this limited my aid station options. As a race that raved about how good their aid stations were, this was disappointing. I did appreciate the very nice volunteers, all of which were the absolute best, and they did their best to come up with solutions to problems they didn’t need to handle or solve. For this large of scale operation and how simple the looped course was and access to aid stations being fairly easy, I kind of expected more. I always heard the RD also yelling at a lot of people, which gave me a negative vibe. I probably will not be back for these race series.
For what I could have changed?
I think being more aware of the sand and not being afraid to get my feet wet could have helped my long term hurting. Maybe if I would have rinsed off more often, I would have rinsed the sand off and prevented some of the chafing. I was afraid of water logged feet, although I have run great distances before with wet feet and not had any feet issues. Something in the formula wasn’t quite right. My nutrition was spot on for me, and I never felt I needed more or less. Everything I tried worked with the exception of the ramen soup. I should have changed shorts after I felt so bad after the ice age melt down my backside. I should have worn the Altra Olympus sooner even if just for a loop to try them out versus being stubborn and waiting to change it up after it was too late. Spraying down my arms with what was in my hydration pack would have been helpful, but I was managing heat fine.
Where do I go from here?
I am not done. I am surprising not sore at all, I don’t feel like I ran more than a half marathon at best the day after. I know I power hiked a lot, but I did run and through some serious conditions that would test my stabilizers and they were all fine. I am seriously impressed, probably due to the training, which I hope is true, but I am also kind of sad because of how different it is from Zion and now I don’t feel as accomplished with the same number of miles and WAY more effort expended on my part. I shouldn’t think this way, I should think of it as my training paying off and now I am ready for the next step. I have since decided on doing the Cloudsplitter 100 out in Virginia. It has over 26k feet of gain in 103 miles, but my heart is there, in my mountains. It won’t be hot. I hope it will be beautiful out in October. But I have a gut feeling about this one. Nothing is ever handed to you and ultras are always a risk and a journey, they go hand in hand. But I know to feel satisfied I have to do something I feel like beyond difficult, and maybe this is what I was meant to do all along. So I hope I have the support still out there by the time this next one comes around and haven’t worn out my welcome.
There it is though, my first official DNF, at 100k, 63 miles out of 100. The story continues, until next time.