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Bandera 50K Race Report
Hill Country SNA
January 7, 2006
By Marty Metzger
In our last two episodes, Kwai Chang Caine, was learning to run the trails without executing the "face plant" maneuver. "Be one with the trail, Grasshopper, yet leave no face prints in the sand." In the Rocky Raccoon episode, that meant stepping on, instead of over, the larger tree roots, which reduces the risk of tripping over them, and also massages the foot. In our Mudlands episode, the lesson was to run down middle of trail, boldly splashing through the middle of the puddles, rather than tip-toeing around the edges that were more slippery and lined with briars. Grasshopper also learned that splashing wet sand up one's shorts could eventually result in an unplanned outdoor vasectomy. Here at Bandera, `being one with the trail' sometimes meant that instead of wasting effort to step over and around the plentiful horse patties, simply enjoy the softer footing, but beware of the really fresh ones, as they can be a bit slippery. The bigger lesson, however, was about being one with the rocks.
At the pre-race briefing, Joe Prusaitis, the Race Director, proudly explained that he tried to make the course as difficult as possible, choosing the more difficult option at all intersections. He wasn't exaggerating. The park signs would indicate one direction for the "EASIEST" route, a flat dirt trail, but the event signs pointed the other way so consistently that we realized we really didn't both sets of signs. The other way was usually straight up or down a steep pile of loose boulders that didn't look like any trail I'd ever seen. At some intersections, the course marker said, "CHOICE" and pointed in both directions because the options were equally rough and ended up in the same place.
In many areas, there was no stepping around them and they WERE the trail. The big rocks were best because they didn't move, and it was fun to scamper over them. OK, maybe someone my size doesn't `scamper.' The smaller ones were much less predictable. On the first steep descent, before mile 2, one rock looked like it would move one way when I stepped on it, but it surprised me by moving the other way. My ankle rolled so far that I thought I would see the bottom of my shoe as the pain shot up my leg. I limped and then power-walked the next 5 miles hoping to shake it off, but it swelled up, turned black and blue, and another DNF became a real possibility. Then someone running past me asked if I needed some
ibuprofen, and I remembered, duh – I have some with me! About 30 minutes and 800 mg later, the swelling went down, the pain faded to tenderness, and I was able to jog a few short stretches that grew longer, faster and more frequent as the day went on. Note – running on ibuprofen has been linked to irreversible liver damage in cases of dehydration, so I forced myself to drink about twice as much as normal. In weighing the risks, I rationalized, "A DNF is also irreversible"
After crossing the finish line, I iced it down for a couple of hours and then went back to our campsite at NTTR's "Last Chance Saloon" aid station, which is 5 miles from the end of the 100K route. Mark, Letha, Steve and Julie were serving Gatorade Margaritas and had a portable hot water heater hooked and up to a canvas shower stall! There were TWO generators and when it turned dark, out comes a movie screen and projector, and we watched movies all night long in between the 100K runners that occasionally passed through. We even had about 100' of Christmas lights strung along each side of the trail as the runners approached our station. When the evening grew cold, 3 or 4 propane heaters appeared, and then a 4-wheeler drove up with a delicious brisket dinner. The occasional runner passed through and thanked us for really roughing it all night.
Yes, it's on the list for next year, but it'll be a tough choice between the 100K, or the 50K + aid station.