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Bandera 100K Race Report
Hill Country SNA
Bandera, TX
January 13, 2007

First Ultra
Report by Delbert Hirst

This past weekend I completed my first 50K (31 mile) ultra trail run at the Bandera 25K, 50K, 100K Race. The trail run is held at the “Hill Country State Natural Area” located about 45 miles northwest of San Antonio. It has been 25 years since I ran my last marathon (26.2 miles) in four hours and at two months shy of 55, out-of-shape, overweight and with bad knees it took me 17 hours to walk the 50K. The race started at 7:30am and I finished just after midnight. Last year, when I walked the 25K (15.5 miles), the part that I saw was beautiful and challenging; but I decided that if I wanted to see more of the park I would have to sign up for the 50K to see the rest of it. I am glad I did.

The first part of Deborah Sexton’s report does a magnificent job of describing the race so I don’t feel the need to repeat her words. I do want to add a few thoughts of my own. Since this was to be my first ultra, I had to think about what to put in my drop bag and at which aid station to place it. Should I do it at Chapas (15 miles) or at Crossroads (20 miles)? I decided on Crossroads because it would be getting dark and the temperature would be cooler. I know I could have left a bag at both places but I flew in on a plane and didn’t have a lot of extra space in my luggage. I have been having problems with silver dollar sized blisters forming on the ball of both my feet. They would always come after walking 4 to 6 hours. So naturally I was concerned about trying to prevent these blisters. I bought new orthotics, injinji socks (the socks with toes), REI desert gaiters, Blistershield and larger sized trail running shoes. My plan was to wash my feet with wet ones, reapply Blistershield and change socks at 10 miles and at 20 miles. The plan worked because for the first time I finished almost with no blisters. I did have one nickel sized blister on my right heel caused by my new shoes and one small blister starting to form on the ball of my left foot. Next time I want to try hydropel; maybe that will eliminate all of them. The gaiters worked well to keep out the debris and I wish I had started wearing them long ago.

I love the names given to all the hills: Cairn’s Climb, Boyles Bump, Sky Island, Ice Cream Hill, Three Sisters and Lucky Peak. While on Sky Island I yelled at friends below who looked like ants. I didn’t think they heard me but later found out they did. On the north side of Sky Island a deep canyon channeled the north wind up the face of Sky Island the way a venturi would. The wind was blowing a vertical column of fog up into the sky. I walked over and stood in the middle of it to cool off. I wished I could have stayed but I still had miles to go. Ice Cream Hill was my favorite vista. I had to say a thankful prayer for the beauty of it all. When you go as slow as I do you have more time to look around and enjoy the scenery. As my wife Karen says “It is all in the details”. I would stop and focus on the details as I looked down-stream and up-stream of all the canyons and creeks; and I would step to the edges of cliffs to see what was below. There would be hidden pockets of ferns and deep dark caves that begged for exploring. At one place in a deep creek canyon just below the Ice Cream Hill and Three Sisters trail intersection I could have sworn I could smell sweet pipe smoke but it probably was the cedar. And I certainly didn’t feel lucky about climbing Lucky Peak much less trying to scramble down the other side on the slippery rocks (Lucky Peak is the last very big hill before the end of the race).

When the cold front hit us the temperature dropped at least twenty degrees followed by a hard sleet like rain. I had a rain jacket, gloves and a warm cap with me so I was protected. The 100Kers passing me looked miserable because none of them were properly dressed for the weather. As night fell at Crossroads and because the temperature was still falling, I put on tights and another layer under my jacket but there were many other runners still running with only a windbreaker and shorts. I could tell they were freezing but that wasn’t stopping them from continuing on. Ultra runners are one tough breed. I remember climbing over the Three Sisters and thinking I was in Alaska. The cold wind, rain and swirling mist were blasting us as we ran the exposed trail. Deborah said, “In the end, the mud was not as bad as it could have been. A few slippery areas and some sticky spots but overall the course remained dry enough to be runnable in the usual places.” Hah! She should have run slower and been out there with us after dark after more rain had fallen. ;)

I can not say enough about the generosity of the volunteers at all the aid stations. I was treated like a King. They would untie my shoes, pull on my socks, hand me food and water while I sat down out of the weather. I hope I didn’t shock too many people when I pulled off my running shorts and pulled on my tights at Crossroads (I still had underarmour on). I loved the way Paula at Chapas keep waving at me to get my butt in gear to get back onto the trail….heck I was having too much fun. Refreshments were in abundance; I had a shot of Crown Royal at Last Chance (1/2 mile into the race), a beer at Nachos, peach brandy at Chapas, a can of beer at Crossroads In, another peach brandy at Crossroads Out and finally another beer at Last Chance. They made this Hash House Harrier feel well nourished. And of course “The Ladies” at Last Chance are the best and never to be missed. Heck, I’ll suffer through a lot more than I did just so I can park myself at “The Bar” for one last round and for one of those fabulous grilled cheese sandwiches.

 

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