by Bill (The Trailgeeze) Rumbaugh
Huntsville State Park
February 2, 2008
I showed up at the Lodge area of Huntsville State Park in plenty of time Friday afternoon to pick up my packet and leave my drop bags at the designated place. Looking around the headquarters and parking area, I ran into a few folks I knew and saw many others gathering from all over, renewing old acquaintances. I was told this is now the third largest 100 miler and about 280 are expected to toe the line at 6:00 in the morning. Some look familiar, but no names come to mind, is it because I’ve actually seen them at other events, or is it because they share so many common characteristics. Trim, fit-looking folks clear of eye with spring in their step, their moves smooth and fluid. Even their family members here to witness the event appear much more fit than average. Most wearing various items of clothing earned at other far-flung events, some recognizable, others not. Incidental conversations with several of them reminds me once again how friendly and unpretentious this scattered community is. If any of them held any trepidation about running 100 miles the next day, none of it showed.
For my part, I don’t feel prepared and am more than a little anxious about the outcome. I really want to finish this one, and it would be wonderful if I finished it handily under the 30 hour cutoff without serious harm being done. Hoping that once I head out down these familiar trails and get warmed up, that I will feel once again that this is where I belong. My longest run since the Bandera 100k 4 weeks ago was a mere 10 miles the previous weekend. Recovery has been slow and not quite complete from that punishing event. On the training trail that Saturday, I initially felt sluggish and wooden. Eventually, looseness returned and some of the usual running sensations, but it did take several miles. I have been away too long.
Those remarks were written the Friday before the race, but cutting to the chase here, I did finish in 26:49, a time I am quite happy with. I feel better after 100 miles at Huntsville than I did after 100k at Bandera, a testament to the easier terrain at this event. The buckle on my dresser helps, too.
Finishing a trail 100 miler has been a goal of mine for a few years. After returning home to Dallas on Monday, I commemorated the event with the consumption of my bottle of the 2007 edition of the Blood Flood and Guts Ale, a finisher’s prize from the Rockledge Rumble held last November. I had been saving it for a suitable occasion and this was it. So the RR100 is now officially over (except, that is, for the lingering recovery, something we all accept as part of the price we pay). Guess I am going to have to go shopping now, since my buckles outnumber my belts. The current edition of the RR100 buckle is quite a handsome piece, much better in my opinion than the original design. I’m glad to have it, and will definitely wear it with pride. Yes, there are more impressive buckles out there, and names which go with them, but this one will always be special. And like any 100, it was no pushover.
The course layout is available on the website for those desiring more details. For the average reader, there are two long out and back sections with an aid station at the end of each. In between is some single track trail. I did not use to be a fan of out-and-backs, but now I see them as an opportunity to see how the crowd is shaping up as things shake out. Also a chance to greet acquaintances, encourage others and be encouraged. Leaders, of course, like to inventory the competition, but that is not a concern here. The first out and back is on a jeep road and is easy running, mostly free from Huntsville’s infamous roots. There are some climbs, but for fresh legs, they are runnable. Later in the event, they become somewhat less runnable. The road is easy footing, with only an occasional puddle from passing rains a day or two prior. The aid station at the end of this section is called the Highway A/S, due to the proximity to I-45, and the attendant constant highway noise. The other out and back is at the end of an ATV trail, like a wide single-track. There was ample room for runners to pass from the opposite direction, though one or the other of them might have to duck to avoid overhanging branches while passing. The A/S at the end of this section was the aptly named Far Side. It seems to be out in the deep woods, though it is actually only about a half mile walk from the first of several wooden elevated walkways (runways?) over the marshy end of Raven lake. Late in the race, it seemed like forever getting there, though it was less than 3 miles between aid stations. Before and after the Far Side was the Dam Road A/S, ably manned by the NTTR stalwart crowd captained by Lynn Ballard, club treasurer. The last A/S, just under 3 miles to the finish is at one of the park’s campsites, Campsite #174. Huntsville State Park is the scene of numerous trail runs during the year and, near as I can tell, this A/S is used by all of them. A last watering hole before the final push to the finish. The major portion of single track is between the Dam Road A/S and Campsite. During other races this section (~4.4 miles) seems like a really long way. I have to tellya though, after experiencing the long out and back sections, this no longer seems like the grind it used to. Chastened by the long and uneventful stretches of the RR100, punctuated mostly by one hill after the next it seemed much, much less of a slog. I guess I have now experienced all possible permutations of this park’s trails, from 50k to 100 miles. It is mostly single track from Campsite to the finish, though much of the last mile is not through wooded area. There is also about a mile of single track before the jeep road en route to the Highway A/S. So there is a fair amount of single track and the rest of it is not that bad. Frankly, I can’t imagine a better venue for a first trail 100 miler. No altitude to sap your strength, no killer climbs to consume your energy, no rocks to beat up your feet, and though the roots can be a challenge, they are manageable.
The first two laps of 20 miles each went very uneventfully. It was during these halcyon hours that I felt truly privileged to be on this trail at this time. Things were going well and as Jay Norman often reminds people, “Remember, this is supposed to be fun” and it truly was. Not everybody can manage to take a Friday and a following Monday off work to go do something as pointless as run a long ways in the woods in a distant locale. After all, didn’t this get phased out in the early 20th century, long about the time of the model T? But here I was, breathing the pine-scented air, taking advantage of every aid station’s bounty, in the company of like-minded folks and feeling really good to be alive. I had prepared pace cards to keep myself informed of how I was doing and so far I was ahead of a 24-hour finish. I knew it would not last, but here I was, making decent time on a respectable trail. But you know the old trailrunner’s saying, “If you are ever feeling good during an ultra, don’t worry, you’ll get over it!”
Before I started out on the third loop (about 3:30 PM), I stopped at the canopy provided by Mark Hutchins where my stuff was stashed. Mark completed his first 50 miler at this event, by the way, good goin’ buddy! I made a minor adjustment or two and drank a tonic water while I chatted briefly with Fred Thompson who was awaiting the arrival of Char finishing her second 16.7 mile lap in the 50 mile event. Clouds were rolling in and I had heard talk about significant amounts of rain at some point. I wondered aloud if the clouds were going to be an issue. Another person under the canopy said that he had checked some weather source recently and there was no rain in the immediate forecast. Fred said that he thought they were “just clouds.” That was good enough for me, I headed back out in my short-sleeved shirt and regular shorts.
The third lap was still pretty decent, I was still feeing good, considering that I had a long ways to go. About halfway through the loop, the long shadows indicated that night-time would be upon us soon. At my first pass through the Dam Road A/S, I got my lights out from my drop bag, thankful that I had estimated the right place to put them, though my backups were in the bag at the Lodge area and they would have worked fine. On the way to Far Side, night officially fell. I turned on the lights and adjusted my running strategy to run only when I felt I could do so safely, which meant on the jeep roads but not the single track. So it became mostly powerwalking through the remainder of the third loop. I hoped I had what it took to run the road sections on the fourth loop. I knew that going back out on the fourth loop would be the challenge, since the end was still a long 40 miles away. If I was in a bad way, with the car not far away , the temptation to call it a day and slink off into the darkness would be waiting to ambush me. I did not lack for issues, but I had rationed myself a few ibuprofen and was managing the pain satisfactorily. After all, it’s a 100 miler, it’s supposed to hurt. But there was nothing serious going on, and I found that getting myself back out on the trail after a brief stop at the drop bag was not a big deal. I just hoped things would hold together.
The fourth lap started at about 8:30 PM for me. I knew it would be slower and that sleepiness would rear its ugly head at some point. So I drank an ice cold Red Bull from my stash near the Lodge area and took some imported chocolate covered espresso beans with me. The beans were a gift from my son’s fiancée and they were a tasty eye-opener. The number of them in the baggie were more than I could easily consume on the way out toward the park’s interpretive center, so I stuffed the remaining ones into my pocket and hoped they would not melt too badly. At the jeep road section I found that getting myself to run again posed no difficulty, and I made pretty decent time, considering. Pulled through to the Dam Road A/S and stopped for a bit of rice and beans served up by Ed Kopiak. I asked if Deborah Sexton was still around, since I did not see her. She had been there all day. Someone said they thought she was taking a break. I believe I first heard of the magical powers of chocolate espresso beans from her. So I was going to offer her the remaining quantity of them, since they seemed to still be intact and not melted. Miles later, I was sort of glad I had not given them away, because I really found myself needing them. Maybe next time, Deborah.
Nearing the Far Side A/S, a runner approached me and said, that they had “real cheese” at the A/S. Great, but most runners probably would not care that much and a reasonable synthetic or reconstituted cheese would probably be just fine. But maybe he’s from Wisconsin and it’s important to him or something. With the lights of the A/S in sight, another runner said that they had grilled cheese at the A/S. Of course. Now it made sense, I had just not heard clearly. So I had a couple of bite-sized pieces of grilled cheese sandwich while I refilled my bottle. Very tasty.
I noticed a runner in one of the chairs as I turned to leave. An older gentleman with a lot of white hair and a large white goatee (like Col. Sanders’ on steroids). Not far down the trail, he and another runner came up behind me. One passed, the white-haired gent stayed behind me and we began to chat. His name was Bobby Keogh. I asked him if he had run the Sunmart 50 miler. I had caught up to a man with his general description in the last mile, and had a brief conversation with him and found that he was in the 70+ age bracket. Wondering if it was the same guy. Bobby told me that, being from New Mexico, he would not travel that far for only a 50 miler since he had not yet retired and did not have the time. Hmm. After I told him of the other fellow, he mentioned that he was 58, 4 years younger than me! Oh, well. Insert foot and chew vigorously. He was evidently quite a runner and the unseasonably warm temperatures at mid-day had done him in. He would undoubtedly finish, but it would be without a sub-24 hour buckle. We discussed the RR buckles and he allowed as to how he liked the original design better, and had one each of the bronze and the sub-24 pewter, as well as a sub-24 hour buckle of the current design (so now he would have a complete set!). He talked of fell running in England and how tough the Brits were at that variant of trail running (shorter courses, but lots of mud, tough terrain, and hard running). Talked of famous runners he had run with on other courses. I was impressed. Said he was going to take a nap in the Lodge area and then go back out, take it easy and “enjoy” the 5th loop. He got ahead of me as I paused a bit longer at Dam Road. I was unable to catch back up to him, however. Don’t know if he actually did take a nap or not, but he did finish with a time of 28:29, about 5 minutes after Xy Weiss.
My stimulants had worn off by then and I found myself looking down in the general direction of the trail illuminated by flashlight beam, but not really focusing on anything in particular. C’mon! Gotta concentrate here. The roots are legendary for surprising the hapless runner and I did not relish the prospect of planting my face among them. Slapped myself a few times and it seemed to help a bit. Somehow I made it back to the Lodge area.
The fifth loop started around 2:30 AM, after another Red Bull. It had cooled off a bit and I debated changing to a long sleeve shirt but finally decided that I was more likely at that time to overheat in a long-sleeve shirt than I was to get too cold in my trusty short sleeve shirt. Only one more loop, I had done four of them, surely I could do one more. Let’s get this thing done. I had noticed a very light sprinkling from time to time on the previous lap. Did not know if it was collected dew falling from the pine needles high above or whether it was light rain. Crossing the dam and feeling the same sprinkles toward the end of the 4th lap, I concluded that, since there were no pine trees on the dam, that it must be light rain. Not enough to be a problem yet, just noticeable. I had decided at some point that I was getting pretty tired and that I would powerwalk the last loop. Maybe I could run the jeep road sections again but what would be the point. I felt that a finish was in the bag and any finish would be a PR, so why press the issue. I expect most folks had taken a similar approach by then, since only a small handful of runners passed me on the last loop.
During my penultimate stop at the Dam Road A/S I felt it was time to get out the long sleeved shirt and the shell. A clean dry shirt felt surprisingly good. I had worn the short sleeved shirt practically all day up to that point. I tied the shell around my waist, topped off my bottle and headed out. The 1/2 zipper on the shirt helped to regulate the temperature, and when I got too warm with it all the way down, pushing the sleeves up over my elbows helped a bit. Quite a versatile garment. At Far Side, Diana Heynen offered some avocado. I had not tried avocado on a trail run, but I know RD Joe Prusaitis extols their virtues, so I thought I’d give it a try. But what to put with it. I eventually was handed a piece of meat loaf, cheese, and a quarter avocado in a part of a tortilla. May sound weird, but it truly hit the spot and there were no issues later. While Diana was preparing it, we chatted briefly about Bandera, an event for which she has the 5-time finisher’s jacket and knows it well. At that point in an event any calories are good, and I figured that snack was loaded with them. To keep the bonk at bay, I had also consumed a couple of packs of Clif Shot Blocks in the past 20 miles. A good variety of food was available at the aid stations but sometimes you just want something else and Shot Blocks are pretty reliable for me. Anyway, I came through Dam Road for the last time and thanked Lynn Ballard for taking on the formidable task of captaining the A/S and thanked his crew for their help in making us runners be successful this day. I don’t use the word “superb” very often, but in this case it truly fit and I meant it. A superb job by all.
Daylight was coming as I crossed the dam and with it behind me, somewhere in the woods beyond it began to rain a definite sprinkle. I untied and donned my shell and kept moving as quickly as I could. Within a few minutes the sprinkle stopped. The shell soon became too hot, so off it came and back around my waist it went. I was glad I had it, though I could have done without it for the brief time I needed it. Had the shower been any longer, it could have been a real problem without it, though. I think I estimated just the appropriate amount of gear and picked the right times to get it and use it. Having access to drop bags every 6 – 7 miles was a big help. The coming of daybreak staved off the sleepiness and there were no further issues.
The last few miles were relatively uneventful. I try to be efficient in my stride, a side effect of which is that I tend to be relatively quiet. I unintentionally surprised a young lady not far off the trail who was taking a bio break and did not hear my approach. She was a little embarrassed, I thought it was funny. Said she could not wait for the porta-potties at the Lodge, I know the feeling, and don’t we all. There are no prudes in trail running, something I personally appreciate. At the wooden bridges in the last 4 miles or so I was still moving fairly well for not running. I came up behind an older gent (probably about my age, actually) and his pacer. He had a pretty severe case of runner’s lean and I felt sorry for him. With his head off of vertical by a few degrees, I was concerned that he would veer off of the bridges a couple of times. It was time to pass and he stepped to the side, an unnecessary gesture given the width of the trail at that point, and I felt guilty for having made him think it was obligatory. Stepping to the side he staggered backward into some brush and brambles and I thought he was going to fall for an instant and I started to grab for him to steady him. He recovered on his own however, and I thanked him for allowing me to pass. I passed his pacer a few moments later and told him I hope they don’t hate me for passing them this late in the game. “No problem,” he said. I passed a few more folks as we all struggled down the trail. I had kept track of the time and realized that a sub-27 hour finish was possible if I kept at it, not that there was any particular distinction associated with it. About a quarter of a mile from the interpretive center I came up on Marc from Rialto, CA and rather than pass him, I told him that if we hustle, we can finish under 27 hours. He looked at me funny and I assured him that once we get to the interpretive center, it’s only about 15 minutes to the end, I timed it last lap. We had to be closing on it and it was about 26:25. He seemed to pick up his pace and matched mine, so we chatted awhile. This was his 5th RR100 and he had DNF’d 3 times. I think he really wanted the finish. A right turn at the interpretive center followed by a smooth downhill. I pointed out that my running was done for the day but if he still felt like it, this would be a good place for it. He agreed, said he’d see me at the finish line and loped on ahead while I continued to hustle down the trail as quickly as I could. He finished a couple of minutes ahead of me.
I crossed the mat at 26:49, got my buckle and a handshake from Joe Prusaitis and a big ol’ hug from Antje Spethmann as she took a brief break from cooking mass quantities of breakfast food alongside Sammy Voltaggio. I had completed, on my first attempt, something I did not know I could do.
Besides your body, your emotions are completely whacked after an effort like this. Many of you know about this phenomenon. As I headed back up the sidewalk to retrieve my stuff, people I did not know were calling out their congratulations from either side. I tried to acknowledge each one, but probably appeared a little brusque and taciturn. The truth of the matter is that I was looking at the handsome buckle I did not know for sure that I would ever own, and reading the word at the bottom that says, “FINISHER.” There is only one way to get one of these. I was a bit choked up, and unable to respond as appropriately as I would have liked. I hoped they understood.
So that’s the story. What follows is for the interested reader. Some disjointed snippets from here and there that would have made the narrative even longer and more tedious. Optional reading, but then so was the rest of it!
Texas Trilogy: There is an award, first started in 2003-2004 which recognizes runners who complete the Sunmart 50 Miler, Bandera 100k and Rocky Raccoon 100 Miler in the same season. It was named The Texas Trilogy. I first heard about it from Rochelle Frazeur, a recipient from last season. There was a listing of those who had completed it, back to the inaugural year shown in the RR100 website given above. Some familiar names are listed there. I thought it was a ‘bragging rights’ sort of thing, but I was pleased to find Friday night of the RR100 that there is an actual award which goes with it. The award looks similar to the picture below (from the website – I don’t have a picture of mine). It’s a “rustic chic” hat rack. Have not decided where to put mine yet, but it’s really nice to get a memento. Even if it ends up in the garage as repository for dog leashes and what-not.
Weather/course conditions: The weather was unseasonably warm (just like every other event I’ve run this season.) The highs stayed in the 70’s, though, so it was bearable. The night time temperatures, even with the sprinkles, were in the upper 50’s, so there was no need for multiple layers. I took many more clothes than I used, but you never know. I do know if you ever get chilled to the bone, it makes for a looong day (or night), something to be avoided at all costs. The sun was out part of the day, but the course is so shady solar radiation was not a significant factor. The course has good drainage in most places due to the sandy soil. The places where it tends to get boggy have wooden footbridges across most of them now. There were a few puddles on the jeep road, but they could be stepped around. There was one area near where the singletrack merges with the Dam Road that was a little soupy, but it was shallow enough that I never got any water in my shoes. It was cold and damp last year. Conditions this year were close to ideal. We were lucky. Even so, out of 252 starters, there were 168 finishers, only a 66% completion rate. I believe this is due to (1) a lot of people who run this race come here from other states and have been training in the cold and so are unprepared for the warm temperatures, and (2) it is viewed as an ‘easy’ course, so it attracts a lot of first timers, who for whatever reason don’t finish.
Flora/fauna: It is winter, so there were not a lot of critters about, nor was anything in bloom.
On the way back from Far Side on the third loop (after dark), I was chatting with Ann from Broomfield, CO, whose husband was also running the 100. We ran through a low-lying area, where a footbridge had been built by the side of the ATV trail. The frogs were croaking so loud that I actually had to raise my voice to be heard. Thassa lotsa frogs.
I did see a couple of cardinals during the day, always a treat. On the 4th loop near the dam, there were a couple of owls in a hooting contest. They sounded big and close, but of course there was no seeing them. Sounded just like the movies.
As loud as the highway is on the part of the trail that is close to it, the noise fades pretty quickly as you move away from it. This allows the sounds of nature to reclaim the surroundings. This is a good thing, since we like to think the trails we run are out in the boonies.
One runner, Sherry from Alabama, fell on the course not far from the Dam Road. This was early in the 3rd loop while there was still some light. She was wearing one of those short/skirt combination thingies and her leg was cramping so badly that she could not get up right away. She felt a stinging sensation on her inner thigh. When she investigated what happened, she found that she had been stung by a scorpion in a pretty inconvenient place. I was at the Dam Road when she came in, though I did not realize it was her. I heard one of the volunteers call for assistance on a scorpion sting. I had chatted with Sherry earlier in the race. When she caught up to me I asked if she heard about someone being stung by a scorpion, she said, “Yeah, that was me.” Whoa, and she’s still running along pretty well. I was impressed and told her so. The stung area swelled up, and with the unaccustomed rubbing with the other thigh, quickly blistered. I asked and she told me that she had taken some Benadryl and lubed the area with Vaseline, about all you can do, but that was after the damage was done. She thought the blistering was just the stinging from the venom. She went on to finish in 28:33. Tough runner.
Elite Runners: Anton Krupicka and Jorge Pacheco promised to be an interesting duel, and of course NTTR’s own Scott Eppelman and Ryan Loehding could not be counted out as dark horse candidates. Anton the shirtless, last year’s winner, was sidelined with an illness and did not show, much to the disappointment of most of the ladies I’m sure. Jorge, who has won the event 3 times now, ended up finishing more than an hour ahead of his closest rival. He already had the lead by a few hundred yards when I saw him on the first out and back. He passed me near the Far Side A/S on my second loop. Another runner said to me, that if I hurried I could still catch him. Maybe, but there’s this little matter of him being ahead of me by a lap at that point.
People: I recognized several names from the Ultra List in the “Who’s In” page of the website and hoped to meet a few of them. Also some pretty well-known folks. I suppose I could have met or chatted with more of them had I memorized bib numbers and adjusted my pace more as needed, but then that borders on the creepy and I didn’t want to go there.
Davy Crockett: Yes, his real name. He posted that he would be wearing his coonskin cap as long as temperatures permitted (I don’t think it lasted a full lap). He has run the Grand Canyon numerous times and documented them on his website, with many pictures. I saw him in the lodge as we waited for the race to start. He was rather easy to identify. Introduced myself to him and thanked him for the advice and info he had given which helped me in my Grand Canyon crossing last Spring. He seemed to remember.
Rich Limacher: Quite a witty person, whose posts to the List have been all too infrequent lately. I came up behind a guy on the way to the Highway A/S whom several people (mostly women) greeted as Rich. When the crowd thinned out, I asked, “Rich, what’s your last name?” “Limacher” “So I’m in the company of The Troubadour, then.” So it would seem. I remembered NTTR’s Lisa Butler to him, and he recognized her name right away. I told him we had exchanged emails a few times and told him about the content. He seemed to remember. I asked about his rare postings and he said he had been on sabbatical. I believe he is a professor of something, I look forward to when he gets back in the groove and resumes his postings. I would have liked to chat more with him but we got separated at the aid station and I never saw him again. Part of this is that you never really get a good look at a person’s face during these running conversations. Then if they change clothing items, well, there’s no way to identify them. There are so many average-sized graying men at ultras, we all tend to look pretty much the same. Rich finished in 29:45. There are worse ways to spend part of a sabbatical.
Xy Weiss: Too short of a conversation, unfortunately. Bright, articulate proprietor of the famous Dirty Girl Gaiters, all profits go to various charities. She is an attorney, the successful clothing business is a side deal for her. She told me that most of the charities are running-related, or benefit various trail maintenance organizations. She said that you can do a lot more with customer service if you don’t have to worry about making a profit. Makes sense. With a clothing manufacturing business at your disposal, you can also dress to the nines for the trail. I had seen a picture of her at Javelina Jundred wearing Cho Pat straps which matched her well-coordinated outfit. When I saw her name on the list, I was curious as to what she might be wearing to this event. She had the short/skirt thingie (all the rage among lady trail runners these days, unfortunately), matching visor and gaiters all in matching chartreuse leopardskin. A coordinated top and shell. She was running well in the first couple of laps and I commented a time or two as we passed on the out and backs that she was looking foxy, which she did. I later noticed two leopardskin drop bags in the Lodge area. Now whose could those be?
Nicole Strong: A brief comment or two with a gal in blonde pigtails led to a conversation enroute to Far Side on the first loop. In exchanging “whereya froms” we learned I was from Dallas, she from Phoenix. She asked if I knew Tom Crull. Of course. I can’t tell you how many people have asked me that same question. All of them women. Tom, you sure do get around. Anyway, Nicole was from Ft. Worth until a couple of years ago and often used to train with Tom. Was familiar with the North Shore trail, Rockledge Rumble, etc. Asked me to say hi to him for her, which I did. She talked about several well-known trail runs which are fairly close to her AZ home. Pleasant trail company.
Two guys from Ft. Worth: One of them told me his name, but unfortunately, it didn’t stick. I noticed one of them wearing the same brand/model of trail shoe that I wear, a little unusual. We chatted about that for a bit. The guys looked familiar and I asked if I had seen them at Bandera. They said yes. He said that the farthest his buddy had run before Bandera was a marathon. And now they were running a hundred miler and appeared to be doing pretty well. Holy cow, talk about big steps up the ladder. I expect that they finished, they seemed to be running well and had no obvious issues. At that rate, it may be Badwater for them this summer!
I have not had problems with blisters, thankfully. Some people do, others don’t, I’m one of the lucky ones so far, at least. Looks like I get to keep all my toenails, too.
The trails at Huntsville State Park are legendary for their roots. My meager trail running skills combined with a cautious approach after dark and more than a little luck got me through this one without a face plant. A minor blessing, but one appreciated nonetheless. I’ve left my mark on most other trails I’ve run. I saw and heard many others performing a close inspection of the trail during the event, it is, after all, a part of the sport.
I have often become nauseated during runs, mostly the ones in hot weather. My stomach started getting a bit tilted midway through the second loop but later righted itself, and there was no trailside ralphing this time. I did see others, however, a fairly common sight. When that happens it’s usually for the best, so I look upon it as more of a minor inconvenience than anything, not a big deal.
I have been using Succeed! capsules for electrolytes and they have worked reliably. Take one per hour. This time I wore my heart rate monitor on my left wrist as usual, and my Timex Indiglo watch on my right wrist. It beeps on the hour to remind me to take my capsule. One per hour works about right for me. Who cares if wearing two watches looks geeky. It is also handy to have the analog watch to tell time of day by, and I can set the other to monitor heart rate, elapsed time and split times. Sodium aids in suppressing cramps and also digestion. I had no significant problems with either, so S!-caps did their job.
Fuel at Bandera consisted of Ensure for the major part of my calories. A nibble here and there from the aid stations was a minor source. I used Clip 2 in the first half and Amino in the second half. This worked at Bandera, but it was a different event. The time between aid stations was longer there, partly because I walked most of it. I tried the same strategy at RR100 and had problems. I was drinking an Ensure (250 calories) at each drop bag stop, about every 1.5 to 2 hours. I was also drinking about 2 pouches of Clip 2, each of which contains about 150 calories. This is roughly 550 calories per 1.5 to 2 hours, which is pushing what the human body can assimilate. Normally mine does not get that many calories on a continuous basis. I had not done the math and did not know what the consequences were. Just after the second Dam Road stop on the second loop, I found out, and it was the first of a couple of trips to the bushes. Immodium is one of the things I carry with me in my kit as well as toilet paper, I was glad I had both. By the time the loop was done, I was out of both, glad that I had extras in my drop bag. I adjusted my caloric intake, reducing it considerably, and changed my drink to Amino that was about half strength for another loop before I went to straight water for the remainder. The adjustments and Immodium worked and there were no further problems. But lesson learned, count the calories and don’t push what you can absorb. Probably 150 per hour is OK for me, your mileage may vary. The body is using its reserves anyway, since the rule of thumb is 100 calories are consumed per mile regardless of pace. So you are going to burn more calories than you can take in, regardless, not a bad thing in moderation.
At Bandera, I carried a handheld bottle and had a single bottle belt carrying a second one for reserves. Found I only used the reserve bottle rarely, so on the second half I emptied half of it, 10 less ounces to carry. My arms and shoulders were really tired by the time it was over, from carrying the handheld. At RR100 the aid stations were close enough together to just have the bottle belt, and it was adequate. I don’t think I ever completely drained it. My arms and shoulders were in much better shape afterward, even though it was 38 miles longer.
It had been suggested that I use my road shoes for this one, since the trails were relatively benign. I started in them, but some issues developed with the toes on my left foot and I changed to my trail shoes at Dam Road the first time through. The greater cushioning that the road shoes had was welcome, but I had not experienced the toe issue before, since I normally only run in them on treadmills. It’s a good idea and worth considering, but have your trail shoes available just in case. I equipped my road shoes with the Velcro patch to accommodate gaiters for this, also a good idea.
I’m pretty much a night owl, so it was a bit of a surprise to find I was extremely drowsy around 3 to 4 AM. The Red Bull helped, as did the espresso beans, but they wore off, and there was nothing to sustain the caffeine intake on the trip to and from Far Side. I have heard of runners weaning themselves off of caffeine a couple of weeks prior to an event so that it would have more of an effect during the event. Others take NoDoz tablets. Probably some other measures can been taken that I haven’t heard of. Next time I need to not underestimate this effect and take some preventive measures. As expected, the arrival of daybreak chased away the cobwebs from the brain and I was recharged.
I had prepared pace cards so I could keep track of where I was and how I was doing. This is actually quite a handy thing to have, it’s surprising how many runners don’t know the distances between aid stations or back to the S/F area. I printed one for a sub 24-hour pace (14 minute miles) and laminated it to a 16 minute mile pace card. Much to my surprise, I held a sub-24 hour pace for more than half the event. With the coming of night and slower pace, I fell off the 14-minute miles and started to refer to the other side of the card with the 16 minute mile pace on it. I stayed ahead of that pace for all but the last two aid stations, again, a pleasant surprise. I had printed up two slower pace cards, one for a 30-hour finish and one slightly faster. I never had to get them out of my drop bags.
Aftermath: After Bandera my right shin hurt pretty badly in a localized area. Both ankles had swollen more than I had ever seen before. After a week the swelling was gone but the shin pain remained. Made a rare trip to the doc to be sure it was going to be OK to run RR100, which was my main concern. Obviously he gave the green light, though he said RR100 would be “dicey.” A week after RR100, my left ankle and shin still hurt as well as my right foot. All are slowly getting better. The swelling (mostly on my left ankle) was gone by Thursday, similar to Bandera. Neither is a concern, more an annoyance than anything. I have a follow up with the doc on the 23rd, an opportunity to discuss any lingering concerns. The old bod just does not bounce back as quickly as it once did, but I view it as part of the price, and worth it.
Aid Stations: Much deservedly good press has been written about the aid stations at this event, and there is little I can add. I cannot imagine better support at a long run. It must be a logistical nightmare getting so much food and drink out to these remote sites. Staffing by other experienced ultrarunners who know what you need and who “show you no mercy” as Joe said, is major plus that I can’t stress enough. There can be no doubt that NTTR’s Dam Road A/S was the jewel in this crown, seeing each of the runners (both 50 and 100 milers) twice per loop. There are a lot of towns with smaller populations than this number (2,298 counting only the finishers, it was many more before the drops). It was a beehive of organized activity every time I came through. Something I especially appreciated was the individual attention given. I felt like I was squandering a valuable resource because I did not need much help, and there were so many other runners. But there were enough volunteers to go around, and it really worked well. I felt like royalty. I’m proud to be part of an organization which pulled off such a fine job. Lynn, and the long list of helpers, ya done good!
Closure: I’d have to say that I feel pretty good about this one, though I did have many doubts going into it. If you are contemplating your first hundred, I hope this has helped answer some of the questions you might have about the experience.