Blood, sweat and tears. The Bandera 100K - 01/05/2008
A 100K isn't something you can fake. You might be a casual runner and get away with doing a 1/2 marathon or even a marathon, but a 100K, and one in a place like Bandera especially takes everything you have - both emotionally and physically. Just the distance is enough to drive you crazy. A 100K translates to a little over 62 miles, which is broken into two 31 mile loops on the course. The terrain in Bandera is fierce. Rocks galore, climbs that kill your legs and scenic views that will take your breathe away. So, with the far distance and rough terrain, I knew I had to really put all my efforts into training properly. Getting my short and long runs in, including over 5 weeks of over marathon distance Saturday runs ranging from 30-50 miles each before the race.
So, here it goes...
It's 7:30 on Saturday morning. I'm at the starting line, surrounded by familiar faces. I'm thinking about all that has happened to get me to this place... Countless months of training, incredible support from my wife, friends, and co-workers, and tons of planning. I was, and still while I'm write this, am mourning the death of my wife's father who passed away on December 30th. His funeral was on the January 3rd and only what seemed to be hours later I'm about to run a 100K race. To say the the least the start was packed with emotion and anticipation for me. And I'm off... 100K / 62 miles to go!
I'm on cruise control. I know that feeling and stride I can keep forever. A gear I can switch into and just sail. Next thing I know it we're ascending a few small hills and some people are starting to slide around and it's crowded... surely this race can't be such a cluster f&*@! And within a few minutes it begins to spread. And BOOM from out of no where here comes Fagan, a friend of mine, flying by while hitting the down hill. I think 'well shit... if he's going at it like this, I gotta save a little face and go after him'. And so I jolt. Whizzing past some season veterans I hear 'just wait, we'll be passing those guys in a few miles', I shrug and think 'aw fuck you too', then it clicks - 'oh shit, I'm in the first 5 miles of this 100K and I'm running it like I'll be done before lunch'. BAD idea. The words of the other runners and my sensibility check in. It's time to loosen up and relax. I kicked it back into a manageable but fresh pace and decide to run my own race.
I start to knock out the aid stations, all within 5 miles of each other - Nachos, Chapas, Cross Roads, back to Cross Roads, Last Chance and Lodge. Then it's time to do it all over again!
Time passes, I get through the first 50K in under 7 hours. I check for some critical gear needed in my drop bag - a towel, new shirt, hat, and bandanna. But wait, a little before I got into the lodge, I noticed my hands were starting to look a little puffy and I was having a hard time peeing (sorry guys this is just the real deal). I have Robert my coach, a random (but awesome) volunteer from the aid station and Fagan surrounding me. I told them of my issues. Off the bat, here's the problem - I'm taking in too much salt (you take this to offset the loss of electrolytes while running, and I've taken some ibuprofen, which to Robert's knowledge messes with your kidneys which I interpret as my peeing problem. Solution: lay off the salt pills for a few hours and no more ibuprofen. I take all the advice get going.
From this point, you can start finally counting the miles down. My approach was by the aid station. You have 6 total - six fingers. Each time you knock one down you have whatever left to go. It sound caveman-ish, but when you're only holding 3 then 2, then 1 you get going.
Nacho's Aid station - mile 36.60
I'm ready for food, real food and they have it! A brisket taco, while running?!? WTF? Yes, and it was delicious. Every ounce of my body craved the protein. Nacho's aid station, I salute you.
Chapas Aid station - mile 42.04
Food worked. I need more. Hell, I'm eating at every stop from here on out. And wait, what's that I see in my drop bag I see, a Red Bull? Alright. A grilled cheese and Red Bull. I start feeling WAY better. My friend Diane has been running with me for a while. She tells me that that unless I say out loud
"Red Bull gives me wings"it won't work properly. So, I did it and boom I was fresh again! Did I mention, it's around 6pm now? I've been running for over 10.5 hours. Darkness is coming. Gotta get going.
Cross Roads Aid station - mile 47.89
2 cups of top ramen, a brisket sandwich and a Red Bull later, my headlamp is on, I've got my super 10-LED green flash light in hand I'm back on the course. I feel like that guy Survivor Man from TV. I'm tearing through this brisket while traversing through the woods in the dark. A very primal instinct is taking over. Food, running, and eventual rest are the only things on my mind, aside from the random Jimmy Hendrix or Michael Jackson song blaring away in my head. My head felt like a house party does at 3am, wasted but still moving.
Back to Cross Roads Aid station - mile 52.85
I've just traversed the 3-sisters, a chain of three steep climbs and long downhills. I've run over the distance of 2 marathons back to back. At one point in the day, I could run downhill so fast that it looked (or seemed) to me that my feet were just gliding across the ground as I took them each head on. Now, I walked, jogged, crept... whatever it took. It was dark. I was tired. I'm ready to finish. And speaking of finishing - I'm really going to do it!! So many times during this race I could only rationalize things by saying, 'it will be alright to quit by the next aid station' but by the time I got there I didn't feel like it, then by the time I crossed the lodge in the first loop I knew I could do this. And with that attitude and 3 red bulls, a coke tons of good food and support, I knew I was there.
Last Chance Aid Station to the finish, miles 57.10 - 62.00
I look at my hand. I've have two fingers out. With Last Chance out of the picture that leaves the final hit to the Lodge. One last section. More hills come and go. With the darkness and exhaustion I set into whatever pace I can and just go for it.
I see the ASHA group at Last Chance. They all give me some great support. I think how much I love these people, I scarf yet another gilled cheese down while drinking a coke and leave for the last miles.
I really can't tell you what the last section was like. It seems like a blur. I was so caught up in the finish it just seemed to move. I do recall an overlook I crossed at the top of a very scenic peak. Earlier in the day I crossed this right before hitting the Lodge and completing my first loop. The sky was so blue, the hills, trees and rocks looked so calm and peaceful. I thought of Caitlin's father. How he must be now in Heaven. Now, I can't say this has ever happened to me while being in a race, but I cried. Like a big sissy. I let it out for about a mile, all the while making sure no one was coming up on me to see what I looked like. It was raw emotion. I needed it. I left Caitlin the same day as the funeral to head home to take care of the dogs and house, then left for Bandera the next morning bright and early. I had mixed feeling about this and Caitlin and I had a serious talk which (with some calls to my sibs) ended with me running and getting this thing done. I remember, recall, and reveal in this brief moment and continue running. Just like in regular life, you can't just stop or you won't go anywhere you have to keep going, keep moving.
I twist, I turn, I anxiously await some light somewhere to signify I'm approaching my destiny - rest. Then I see it, like a flight path, the trail is illuminated with glow sticks all in parallel shooting me towards to the finish line. Just like every race, I pick it up - muster what else I have left and sprint. I cross, get my finishers belt buckle exchange some handshakes, hugs, congratulations and I'm done. Done with this race and training for a while. I've got my fix. It's time to rest and recover now.
I dedicate this race to my late father in-law Bill Thornton. I felt his spirit out there. Bill was a gambling man. I knew somewhere in Heaven he had a bet on me that day and I couldn't let him or Caitlin down. And I didn't. I finished.
Time: 15 hours and 45 minutes 51 seconds. Pics to follow. A big extra props to Rob, my brother for crewing for me during the whole race, and helping out the whole weekend. Rob, you're awesome.
What's next? Who knows, but I'm sure it will be hard. Stay tuned and God Bless.