Bandera 100K Race Report
By Deborah Sexton
As I prepared for my second 100K at Bandera I had two goals. One was not to be last. When I did it in its first year, 2003, I was last. If you want a really good laugh, that race report is still available here.
My second goal was to shoot for a time of between 18 and 20 hours. 18 being the race of my life and 20 hours being consistent with other races. The other neat thing was Jan. 7 was my birthday. I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate.
Well, meeting one out of two goals isn’t all that bad.
I went into Bandera in good shape for me. I’d lost 10 pounds, I was doing hills once a week, one-mile repeats once a week to try and get faster, and getting in solid long runs on Saturdays. Two weeks before Bandera, I did six hours out at Cedar Ridge Preserve and felt great. No injuries, no issues. But as we all know, no matter how well you train and prepare, some races just don’t turn out the way you hope they will.
The first section of the 100K course to me is the worst. This is from the Lodge (start/finish) to Nachos (about 5 miles). The terrain is littered with loose rocks and scree and there are several short steep climbs. Coming down a steep decline with those loose rocks really slows me down. So I got into Nachos behind schedule and discouraged.
From Nachos to Chapas (about 5 miles), however, is really runnable. Some terrain, but also long stretches of nice flat dirt trail, so I did a bit better coming into there. That’s Paul Stone’s aid station so I saw him and other familiar faces. I stripped out of my jacket and long pants as the day was heating up and I took off.
The next leg is the longest stretch in the race, 6.2 miles, but it’s mostly over flat fields on nice smooth trail with much less terrain than the rest of the race. So here’s where you can really make up time. And I did. I ran most of it. This brings you into Cross Roads.
Cross Roads is a little 4.7 loop. You leave Cross Roads IN and when you’ve completed the loop you are at Cross Roads OUT. It’s about half flat trail/half rocky hilly terrain. Coming out of Cross Roads OUT, my stomach started cramping.
In three years of ultras, including two 100 milers, I’ve never had any stomach problems so I was at a total loss as to what was causing this to happen. I always thought that I escaped this common ultra complaint because I was so slow. I was drinking about 20 ounces an hour and since it wasn’t hot, I thought that was plenty. I also was taking an E-cap an hour, which is my normal routine in 70 degree weather.
Running from Crossroads OUT to Last Chance, Letha and Mark Dick’s aid station, really sucked. I ran as much as I could, but I kept stopping to walk because it hurt my stomach more to run. By the time I got there, I was in tears. Letha came up to me and I sniffled that I wasn’t having a very good birthday. She immediately told me to get my waist pack off, asked me where it hurt and started massaging that area. She said she had the same problem at Western States for 5 hours. (Of course, she didn’t stop or cry about it.) She ran and got me some Zantac, which I took, and also gave me some papaya pills. I gulped down some 7-Up also hoping that would help. At this time, I was with Thorbjorn Pederson. Normally, he’d be way ahead of me, but he had been experiencing dizziness when he got to Cross Roads so they made him sit down and tried to make him drop. He resisted so they insisted on sending him on to Last Chance with a pacer.
He was comforting me and said we’ll go back to the Lodge together. On the way, we both decided we’d drop. He felt good but was concerned about the dizziness issue which had come up at his last three races. My stomach wasn’t feeling better, even an hour after I’d left Last Chance and I wasn’t willing to go another 10 plus hours feeling that bad. I told Thorbjorn I was going to call Linda Boggs, who had driven down with me, to come and pick me up. (She had done the 25K.) He suggested I should call from the top of the last hill we go over to get to the Lodge so I did that. The reception up there was great. So she would meet me at the Lodge. When Thorbjorn and I got to the Lodge it was about 8.5-9 hours into the race. So actually I wasn’t yet off my scheduled time to make a 20 hour finish.
I told the race official that I was dropping. She said, why don’t you go sit down and rest and then decide. I said, OK. So I parked in a chair and some nice young lady got me some more soda. I took off the waist pack and pulled on a jacket as I immediately started to get cold. Brett Mills and his gorgeous new girl friend, Sarah, were there. So we were chatting. Thorbjorn also sat down and soon we had a little circle of NTTR people to talk to.
I kept telling everyone, I was going to drop. My stomach hurt too much, etc. Sitting down, I actually felt almost normal, but when I stood up the pain returned. Then Dave Billman says to me, “What would it take to get you to go back out?” I flippantly said, “You would have to come with me.” And he says, “OK.” I’m thinking, “Oh crap, that’s not the right answer.” But he went to go change back into his running clothes (he had done the 25k) so I’m like, well I guess I’m going back out.
So after sitting at the Lodge for close to an hour, I get my stuff together, and go up to the race table and say “Number 30 out.” Everyone at the table cheered. And I found myself heading back out with Dave at around 5:30 in the afternoon wishing I was in a car driving back to the hotel. Thorbjorn also decided he wasn’t dropping either and he left with us.
So Dave got me from the Lodge to Nachos and from Nachos to Chapas, where he and Paula were working that aid station. My stomach still wasn’t 100% but better than it was so I ran all the flats and smooth parts and walked hills and rough terrain. I was on pace still for 20 hours. It was dark when we got to Chapas and there was a big NTTR party there. Tammi & Britt Starnes, Fred and Char Thompson, and others.
I park and eat some soup and I’m still thinking, I really don’t want to do this. I ask, “Who’s going to run with me to Cross Roads?” All Britt Starnes keeps saying is, "You’ve got five more minutes and you’re out of here." I’m thinking, I’m not going if I have to go alone. But there was a lady in the aid station waiting for her husband, Kevin. Dave and I had passed him on the way. He had twisted his ankle but was determined to finish even if he had to walk. So she said, “If you want to wait, you can go with Kevin.” So I said, “Fine I’ll wait.”
So Kevin came in, and we set off together at a brisk walk. We talked and had a nice time all the way into Cross Roads. This is where Linda Boggs was meeting me to pace me in. This was the original plan. Linda had run the 25K. She had never run on a trail before at night, nor had she ever run farther than a 30K. So she was about to get to experience a trail (oops, I mean trial) by fire. I shined my flashlight in the car so she knew I was there. We both ate some stew and I told Kevin to go ahead and we’d catch up as he was walking and I planned on running as much as possible.
Linda and I finally got our butts out of the aid station. The aid station volunteer told me there were five people behind me so I thought OK, all I have to do is finish and at least I won’t be last. As we come into the end of the Crossroads Loop, we see two flashlights. It’s Robert Heynen and Joe Prusaitis. Robert says, “You’re late. Where have you guys been?” The reason they were looking for us was those other five sorry wimps had the nerve to drop making me the last person on the course. I was not having any birthday luck! I whined, “What! I’m going to be last again!” And then I thought, you know my car is right over there in that parking lot. I could be in bed in less than an hour.
But Linda had been sitting there since 7 p.m. (it was now like 11:30 p.m.) waiting to pace me. So I slogged on. I couldn’t let her down. We took off for Last Chance. Now I had a new problem. A section of my left leg right above the ankle was hurting like hell. Every step was shooting pain up to my knee. We started out doing quite a bit of running. I thought by the amount of effort I was making, we must be doing at least a 12 minute mile. But Linda cheerily looked at her GPS and says, "Great, we’re doing a 20 minute pace." I just groaned. It really sucks to be so slow.
It was such a welcome site to see the long strings of Christmas lights at Last Chance. But by now, I was seriously concerned about my leg so I didn’t even stop. Linda got my bottle refilled and I waved to Letha and Marty Metzer as I kept right on going. I had to finish as fast as I could and get off that leg.
The last five miles felt like 20. I ran as much as I could but by the third mile, I couldn’t stand the pain anymore and I told Linda I was going to have to just walk. We finally caught up again to Kevin. The three of us stayed together for about a mile but with about a mile left to go he waved me ahead of him and dropped back. The one mistake I made was not eating anything at Last Chance and I could tell I was starting to bonk. I ate a raspberry Hammer Gel (use Hammer Gel because they sponsor this race, plug, plug) and I felt a little better.
We got over the ridge and went down, down, down through loose rocks and scree. I finally did fall flat on my butt skidding down a decline. We were both so completely over the rocks and crappy terrain and just looking for that dirt jeep road that went into the finish. Finally after an eon we got there. We got down the road and when the finish line people saw us they started clapping and cheering. Linda and I put our arms around each other and both started bawling. Linda is saying “We did it.”
Those volunteers are such heroes. It is now 6:30 a.m. in the morning. They have been up all night waiting for me to come in so they could cheer. Joyce Prusaitis hands me my buckle and gives me a big hug. I ask her, “Are you glad you didn’t have to come and out find me this time?” (Last time, the only reason I finished was because Joyce came out looking for me and the other two guys I was with. We were so lost.)
We get into the tent and there’s Sarah Brown bundled up in a sleeping bag fast asleep lying across two chairs. She had finished around 11:30 p.m. I was just so happy to sit down and not have to get back up and run anymore.
Linda, as a first-time pacer and doing her first night trail run, was absolutely phenomenal. She led the way and kept giving me instructions on the easiest path to take. At one point, she was actually picking up rocks off the trail and throwing them to the side so I wouldn’t stumble on them. I finally said, “Linda, we’re never going to finish if you keep trying to clear the trail of rocks.” She was encouraging and supportive every step of the race, and I can tell you that if she hadn’t been with me, there’s no way I would have finished. She saved my life.
A super big thank you also to Dave Billman, who could have been comfortably sitting at a chair at Chapas talking and drinking beer, but instead sacrificed himself to get me out of the Lodge and back on the trail. I had no plans to go back out but he tricked me and of course I am forever indebted.
A special thanks to Kevin who was such a gentleman and allowed me to pass and not have to be last again. He ended up coming in about 10 minutes after me with his bad ankle.
When I got back to my room, I took off my pants and my leg above the ankle was blue and very swollen. I stuck ice on it and when Paula called me later she said Dave had gotten that at AT and it was compartment? syndrome or something like that. Needless to say, I am limping around today and you will not see me at Northshore on Saturday.