======= Loop One
It's way too early in this race to be running this fast, especially a 100 miler, and doubly because its Cactus Rose. My legs are already mud-splattered, one shoe coated in mud, the other drenched wet. Everything I have on is sopping wet from the humidity saturated fog, and we're only three miles in. Running in a tight pace-line across the top of a high ridge, I tuck in behind Jorge, and we chat a bit about what all has been going on since we last crossed paths. The rock ledges are slick with seepage from the recent flooding, the grass wet from the early morning moisture, and it's all ignored until we hear a yell behind us as Melissa falls and is quickly back up and into the line with not much of a delay. Neither Jorge or I even slow down, when I ask who that was, and Melissa replies, oh, that was me! When we make the end turn mid-way on the long Texas Trail, Nyleva steps off, and Jorge cuts loose, with me caught in the vacuum he creates. We pass by Tom and continue to roll from top to bottom. I ask Jorge if he's going a bit fast, and he says he just wants to avoid slowing me down on the descent. I know he's just teasing, but it does feel good to push the effort just a bit right now. Once the sun wakes up and burns off the fog, It's going to get hot, and I'd just as soon get some good cool miles in before the sun cooks me down to super slow granny gear.
We roll into X-roads for the first of many times today, and Jorge turns directly up the hill, while I go over to sign in, and to fetch my trekking pole. One of my many schemes and plans is to use the pole from here and back again after the 2nd return, to leave it for the next go round. I could use it for the whole race, but I don't want to carry it the entire time, so I’ve created this pick up and drop off point for a break. I refill my water while quite a few roll past uninterrupted. I wonder how many of these people know we need to sign in. Or maybe Chris has told them to skip the first check-point? The 100milers are mixed in with 75 milers, 50 milers, and relay folks, so it's hard to know who is running what. And it gets more complicated when I realize he has early starters for all of the races too.
There are 2 major aid stations on this 25 mile course: X-Roads and Windmill. After the first 5 mile section, which ends here at X-roads, we split the remaining 20 miles around two separate and distinct loops, called A and B. Both loops begin and end at X-roads. And they both pass through Windmill in an interesting play of course and terrain. To begin with A-loop, the ascent goes up a rather steep rock covered jeep road which I'm pleased to manage with a strong power-hike. Can't be much more than a few tenths, but it's still a tough little eye-opener. Once on top, the flatter terrain is littered with rocks enough to arrest any easy gliding rhythm, and so we dodge what we can and kick the rest.
A few years back, some of us cut a trail called The Bear. It was just a connector, no more, to simply get from one place to another. But we had a problem with the terrain and the scrub we cut it through and it ended up changing directions way too much for a short trail, going up, then down, and repeatedly changing about. And then the camp cut the end of it off, turned it strait down the hill without a single switch to what it is today. Well, as I approach The Bear, I know what it is, and I know just about everybody slows way down on it. They just don't know what to do with it, go up, down, jump, or crawl. Basically, it's a bear, but I like to do it fast!
The Bear dumps us onto a jeep road that is wide, flat and obstacle free, but in a couple of minutes, it drops into a culvert and out again, and then more flat easy running. The next drop down is a bit more rugged with a flooded-out wash littered with rocks. The flood was so recent, you can still see the waves and ripples of rocks in the raging washout. I drag myself across the rock flow and begin the one-mile hill, which pretty much matches the exponential curve of my personal health costs, gradually creeping up over a period of time. Its power-hike time and the reason I brought the trekking pole, to row my decrepit old boat uphill.
There’s a triangle of roads at an intersection near the top where we turn to the right. We come back to this same spot after we do a big balloon loop, and then follow the crooked string back the way we have just come from X-roads. But, now, our route takes us to the back valley. We run another race in this place (J&J) in which this back valley is an elephant's idea of terrible. But those trails have been watered down to a much more pleasant stroll down a grass covered jeep road that would be pristine if not for a few washouts filled with rock. Still, its nice and easy enough, until we reach the end. The climb up out of the valley is rather too abrupt though, going strait up a fenceline that is just plain nasty. It's one of those where its best to not look anywhere but strait down as you take one step at a time.
Once on top, there's a nice clean rock ledge that doubles as a perfect bench. I sit down every time I get here, to gather my breath, to appreciate what I have just done, and to be grateful it is now behind me. I'd like to think it’s all cake from here to the Windmill, but it’s not. It's an ignored old trail full of rock and prickly pear that doesn't see much activity besides us fool runners. It should be a strait line trail following the fenceline, but it's badly overgrown such that we zig and zag quite regularly to dodge the many natural obstacles. About midway is the remains of an old hunter's deer blind: just the chair and metal frame around it and nothing more. I would like to think it’s a landmark that means something in reference to my destination, but it's only a joke. If anything, it marks the place where the fog finally burns off.
The Windmill is the second of the two major aid stations. But more than that, it sits next to a swimming pool filled with clean cold water pumped directly from the earth under it. I don't need it right now, but I know it'll come in handy later. Jorge is signing in as I enter the tent, so I sign in behind him. I've a bag full of running gear and a cooler with cold drinks sitting in front a lawn chair, so I take the time to relax and drink an ice cold Gatorade before following Jorge. It's a short haul to tie the knot on the A-balloon, and begin the long descent back down to The Bear.
It sounds odd, but it’s easier to go up The Bear than it is to go down. And on top, I realize there's still more UP, which I didn't notice earlier. Doesn't take long until I'm on the rocky jeep road rolling into X-roads to finish A-loop, right behind Jorge again. With both Windmill and X-roads as double stations, I've a matching gear and cooler setup at each. These two stations are the crux of this race and I plan to take the time to use them. I may be rushing about between the stations, but it's a long race, and I need to take the time to manage myself correctly. Another Gatorade, a few cold salted potatoes, and I’m ready to roll.
B-loop begins with rolling swells, and slowly begin to rise higher, taking the trail further up. I'm glad to finally reach the end turn, but less excited when I find the flat dirt trail overloaded with mud. This in fact slows me more than the climb. Twisting my torso around branches and tiptoeing around water pocked mud holes, one after the other until escaping onto the Antenna Hill moonscape. The big dead antenna lying abandoned does little for the beauty of the place, but it’s better than the mud trail, and soon after drops down the rock scramble onto Wagon Trail.
From the base of the rock scramble to Windmill Hill, this trail is one I can run, so I do! But then, at the trail's end, sacrificing the shade of the trees for direct sunlight, I turn onto the jeep road going up. This is one steep road reducing me to a short stride and high cadence. Again, I'm thankful to have my trekking pole. Moving up a steep slope is a rhythmic thing of balance and strength, where momentum comes from all the moving parts being in sync: foot-plant, arm-swing, inhale, exhale, as well as trekking pole swing, plant, and push. So completely internalized, all I visually see is the general idea of the track I follow until I top out. And when I do top out, all systems switch from automaton to whatever the hell I was doing before I started the climb. There's a lot more road from here to the Windmill, but it's a gentle ascent if anything, passing by the big zip-line tower along the way.
I swap out my soaked and salted shirt, hanging it from a tent pole to dry out. Which reminds me of the salted potatoes sitting on ice in my cooler. They hit the spot while I relax in my chair. Its also time to swap my bandana for something with a sun visor. It's a rocky minefield of fenceline from here to the river, with not much more than a snippet of uphill. And when it tilts downhill, this heavy rock rolls. It's usually dry where the Armadillo creek meets the Nueces River, but I'm watching water flow over a rock slab into the river. It's a gentle flow, and shallow, with a series of stepping stones to dry cross.
All my memories of the Armadillo Trail are of a pleasing gentle track, under the shade of oak trees, in the shadow between two ridges. It was always fun to dance from slab to slab, and stop for pictures in this natural cathedral of beauty. But, just one week ago, a deluge flushed rock and tree off the walls upstream, changing it into a field of rock debris and shattered trees. The long unbroken slabs of rock are now buried under a field of treacherous loose rocks, and the side trails are blocked, such that our only choice is to run through a flow of loose rock. It's hard to find the route. I can see confidence ribbons ahead, but not the track to it. The flags are not necessarily on the track as much as just a convenient twig nearby. Sometimes, they lead me to the wrong side of the creek. It's still serene and beautiful, but my feet can't see the beauty or feel the joy.
Escaping the evil creek bottom is more than just a little welcome. I can run again, making the turn, heading back the way I came, just a little higher upslope. Rock-dancing once again, getting my speed and momentum turned up, and still in the shade until the ridge top. We turn again and head back in for another in and out. Finally done with the long switchbacks and approaching the overlook, I hear the thundering roar of the Nueces River. Dropping over the edge and descending the cliffside trail, I pass the 100ft repelling wall, zag through the W, and land at the Lisa Lane aid station, where Joyce is waiting for me with a bright smile and a happy face, which is about all I need. It’s only three more miles to the end of B-loop at X-roads.
Lisa Lane is a short steep fifth-of-a-mile up-tilt to old Wagon Trail, which is just under the new Wagon Trail. We head towards the edge of the camp lodgings, skim under the Mi Casa porch, and turn up a short steep trail to reconnect with new Wagon. This is the point where the beginning and end of the B-balloon merge. From here to X-roads is bidirectional. Wagon to rock scramble, up this time, Antenna Hill, the mud trail, and down the long and winding trail back to X-roads. There is no reason to stop with just a half mile from here to the Pavilion, but I do slow to toss my trekking pole into my chair.
Past the clock, under the arch, and into the pavilion... in just under six hours. It's much faster than I expected, but exactly what I had planned. I successfully milked the best run I could from the best part of the day. I head over to the Trinity building, climb a flight of stairs, and into my room. I strip off my muddy shoes, socks, and shirt, leaving them at the door, and head strait for the shower. Joyce moves the race bib from one set of shorts to the other, while I hose down and re-lube. A minutes to rinse off the abrasive salt and caked-on mud, and then I sit on the couch for a cold drink and a spot of lunch.
======= Loop Two
One down and three to go. I'd have to run another six hour loop to return before dark, which sure-as-hell is not going to happen. 1pm to 6pm of loop two should be quite nasty for this heavyweight. I expect to be a lot slower through the hottest part of the day. Running the same loop multiple times has such an odd feel to it. Been there, done that, I see less, internalize more. Alone now, I hear every sound, try to identify, and make up some sort of monster for each. My inward-turning-vision, reconstructs memories to match the sounds. But worst of all is my sense of touch. All pain sensors are overstimulated exponentially. Hotspots on both feet, sour stomach, sunburn on neck, chafing in three places, hands swelling, dry lips, gritty teeth. How can I possibly have all these things wrong at the same time? Its bullshit, all of it. I need to quit listening to my body because he's a needy bitch.
And so it goes, up the initial mile into the trees, fast hiking, trying to settle the contents of my stomach. Down to the river, I attempt to spin up now and again, but after tripping a few times and sinking a foot into some mud, recognizing my dexterity is no longer up to speed, I settle down to fast march as best I can. After leaving the river's edge and passing behind the barn, I start feeling the hot spot on the tip of a toe, so I pull into a shaded bench to repair. I always keep a foot-repair kit with me, with pre-cut oval patches of KT tape. I stick one on the whiny complainer and quickly back into the trees. On autopilot, I slowly creep upwards through intersections and turns I never see. Shit, it would be embarrassing to miss a turn on a course I designed... and marked. The day is warm, but it's tolerable in the shade. On top where its horizontal and easier to run, I'm out of the trees and melting, so I continue to walk. On the down-side of Texas Trail, back in the trees, I try to spin up, but can't get anywhere near the rhythm I had on the last loop. Hell, I'm barely into the 2nd loop and I'm already into the 'Fuck this Shit' mode. Hell, I already knew this was the way it would play out. It's too hot for me, but I just need to suck it up. If I can just get through these next few hours without a total meltdown, I'll be fine.
Its time for some pickle juice when I arrive at X-roads, and some Gatorade to wash down the salted potato. I take up the trekking pole I left here from the first loop and march back onto the A-loop. Round the top to The Bear, down the nasty little ankle-biter, and back onto the one mile road going up. I'm in full-on roast mode now but switch to convection once I roll into the back valley. The sun has dropped just enough to provide some short shadows on one side of the road, and although that side is littered with rocks, that's the side I ride. The feet don't care much for my choice, but my head thanks me for the bits and pieces of cooling shade. The back valley is a blur... not from speed... but from the daze. I slither through and arrive at the mad scramble going up. As nasty as it is, it's one redeeming value is it's shaded. The increased amount of foot traffic has smashed the slanted earth into a slick slide of mud and mess with even the rocks coated in the slippery snot. I spin out a few times, but manage to keep from falling, and slowly make my way to the top, where I once again sit on my rock bench for a breather.
The fenceline visual is a mind-blowing forever of deceptive distance, so I try very hard not to look up. Besides, I need to pay attention to all the handicaps on this obstacle course, dodging this way and that, past the hunter's chair minus the hunter, and on and on and on. I go positively ecstatic, even blink an eyelash, when I see the turn for Windmill. Well, its time for me to go swimming. I remove shoes and socks before rolling off the wood platform into the tank of ice cold water. Not sure how to describe the feeling besides orgasmic. Joy melts the stoic, bringing me back to life... maybe just a little! I probably spend more time here than I should, but the brain is turned off and I suck so bad right now, I'm certain I just don't give a shit. I drink entirely too many ice cold drinks from my ice chest, creating a witches cauldron in my gut, and slowly waddle on. The route back is the same as it was before, but done with a lot less gusto. Young Joe ran loop one, but old Joe is here now. I feel like I'm 82.
Ending A-loop at X-roads is such a landmark, I should be thrilled, but I just don't have the energy. I once again drink way too much ice cold fluid, and begin B-loop. There's not a whole lot of us out here, but more than a few know I am responsible for creating this course. Some of them let me know how much they enjoy the course (ha), and some of them cuss me as they pass. That's one of the things I like so much about ultra-distance running: people are reduced by their deprivations to base honesty. It also needs to be understood that I take a good cussing as a compliment. And maybe they appreciate the plain fact that the designer of this evil course has at least put himself in alongside them. Anyway, the constant feedback has been stimulating, especially from the people I don't know. Overall, the consensus has been that A-loop kicks B-loops ass, even though B is longer than A. I'm not arguing the point, but right now, I suck equally on either side. Although, I'm beginning to find some satisfaction with my ability to keep going.
The out-n-back section of B-loop is a mixed mess of connector trails, rock scrambles, abandoned antennas, and one flat but very muddy trail. This one bit of trail is such an enigma. It’s mostly flat, free of rocks, shaded, and gorgeous, but the muddy slop holes along its length reduce the gold mine to a piece of shit. Its potential simply pisses me off. Back to Windmill Hill, I match strides with a couple of ladies hiking strait up into the setting sun. The sinking of the sun is the rising of my energy, so I once again find enough oomph to put in a few surges from walk to run clean up to the Windmill. The shirt I hung here to dry earlier is dry now, but its coated with salt stains, so I pull it down and shove it in my drop bag. A few more cold drinks, another potato, and I remember at the last moment to take a headlamp before moving out.
On the fenceline heading down, with the setting sun at my back now, I watch the shadows getting taller, mine included. The late evening half-light creates some deceptive misperceptions of where to put each foot. On a steep and rocky descent, I should be more careful, but I can run again, so I turn loose just a bit and let the physics of my body-weight pull me downhill. I catch a runner before the river, and then another, and the three of us together struggle to find the best route through the debris field that used to be the Armadillo creek bed. Both of these guys are faster than me, but there aren't many who can run here, partly because of the rocks, and partly because it's just hard to know the right direction, especially in the dark. All of us with lights on, we make the turn out of the creek, and they both quickly sprint ahead, leaving me as they found me, alone and doing just fine in my slow and methodical way.
The multiple sets of long switchbacks are quite enjoyable after what we just went through, so I roll along quite pleased to mix walk and run once again. Up and through the overlook, hearing the impressive river roar and seeing the scattering of lights from down in the Camp Eagle compound, it feels good to know I'm once again approaching Lisa Lane. Joyce again welcomes me in, knowing full well how poorly I do in the heat, and soothes my soul with her care. I head out for the final section while she heads back to our room to make ready for my next arrival. The smorgasbord of bidirectional trail varieties between Lisa Lane and X-roads is much the same, including the mud that never dries, and somewhere in here, I connect with Stephanie for a nice chat for the final few miles through X-roads and the Pavilion.
Fifty miles is done in a surprising 14:09 and I feel almost as good about that as knowing I survived the heat of the day. Back to the room, shoes and clothes discarded at the door, and back into the shower. It's a hot shower this time though, as I need to avoid the body confusion of hypothermia. The re-lube and reclothes occur while still in the warm bathroom. Joyce and Henry double-team to zap me a hot potpie, fetch cold drinks, and get my pack ready for the night. I won’t be cold for long, but need to start in jacket and gloves just to escape first flush of restarting in the dark.
======= Loop Three
I have just finished 50 rugged and brutal miles and I'm only half way. I need to not think about this, and yet I do. I simply need to keep moving and eating, and that's about it. I'm surprised that I managed the chicken potpie ok, but I'm still not back up to speed. I manage a slow run now and again, but I struggle to avoid rocks and mud holes in the dark. I take the headlight from my head and hold it in my hand, but still bumble about in the dark. I do feel better now that its night, but the handicap of running in the dark is slowing me. I usually do pretty well in the dark, but maybe not with a 14 hour add-on. Same trail, same rocks, different loop, and alone again. Its quiet out here on the other side of the ridge, but once I cross over the top, I can hear voices and see splashes of light everywhere. There is nobody close, but in this bowl of a valley, light and sound carries a long way. And so I go on down, around and into X-roads where Joyce is geared up and looking to pace me. What a pleasant surprise! She had made some comment about possibly coming out with me, but I didn't want to put any pressure on her to do so. But here she is and ready to roll. She wants to know if I'm running or walking, as she knows how I run rough terrain and is concerned she might be a handicap if I'm rocking it. But, I’m not rocking anything right now. Walk is the best I have right now so she says she's comfortable hanging with me for the night. I knock down a bottle of ice cold chocolate milk, another potato, and up we go.
Joyce is in a talkative mood and I listen without responding. I'm exhausted, with scarce little energy for moving the jaw muscles. She's hyped up a bit with being out here now after a full day waiting around for me, so she quickly moves ahead. I can't match her pace and rhythm. Eventually she figures it out and backs off. By the time we top out, we're synced up and walking side by side. When we approach The Bear, I ask her to let me lead. I know the best track by now, what to avoid, and the angles. Her shoes have lousy traction and she slides out a few times, so I get a little distance on her while she attempts to get through without a mishap. On the jeep road, we go through the same sequence of events once again, her getting a long lead, then backing down next to me and matching my stride. Still chatting away, I'm hardly paying attention when I realize she's asking me questions and waiting for answers. I think about it for a moment and then tell her: She can talk as much as she likes, but I'm not answering any questions. She stops talking after that, and tells me later, she was trying to think of what to say that was not a question. And so we continue together into the back valley.... much quieter. But, the fenceline climb out of the valley begins to knock the words right out of her... and she starts talking again.
At the Windmill, I sit down to pour more cold drinks into me, seasoned with potatoes and another chocolate milk. My stomach is still sour, and I had hoped the chocolate milk would help. It seems to at first, and then it doesn't. We stroll back down to The Bear, up and round to X-roads, and I wonder if Joyce plans to continue. X-roads and Lise Lane are both good places for pacers to pop in and out, and if she's done, this is one of the places for her to exit. But, she says she's staying on, so I figure her to pop off at Lisa Lane a bit later. By now, my stomach is in an uproar, and close to puking, so I don't drink a thing. Figure I'll drink water for a while and damn little at that. Good news is that it's still night, and my stomach might tolerate a lot less fluid for a bit. Back to the B-loop multi-direction and all its entertainment, Joyce has some fun saying, left side, right side, over and over again, providing directions to the best side to go through each mud hole. I take the lead on the rock scramble, no longer following ribbons so much as instinct and memorization. And Windmill Hill requires no explanation. Strait up the road to the Windmill, we visit with Klapthor as we pass.
Loop three is taking even longer than the Loop two, and I begin to realize I'll roll in at sunrise. We make our way down the fenceline once more, and I offer Joyce my trekking pole to get down the last rock flow into the creek and across the stepping stones. Even with jacked up senses, my balance is still better than her's with her slick-bottom bowling shoes. I lead through the creek-bed maze to the end, but let her take charge at the turn. As has been her pattern, she spins off well ahead before backing off. Switchbacks lead to the overlook and then Lisa Lane... and Joyce remains! Says she's finishing the loop with me. Up Lisa Lane we go, along wagon, up the slot, back to the scramble, the mud trail, and slippery rocks back to X-roads.
Henry ran the 25 miler yesterday, got a full night's sleep, and now he's up and waiting for us. I skip the shower this time, sleepy, and worried about going hypothermic. I try some sausage, egg, and cheese for breakfast, and get some small amount of it down. I discard my pack and Joyce hands me a fresh water bottle. Says the one I've been using stinks. My stomach feels a little more tame, now that I've left it alone for a couple hours. I'm only drinking water and Ginger Aid now. Not even touching the pickle juice. Its daylight now, but it's hard to get going. I stumble out of the room. Down the stairs, and head out one more time... alone.
======= Loop Four
Finally, on the goodbye loop, doing the last part of everything, and saying goodbye as I go. Last time up Boot Trail, along the river, onto Texas, and I start feeling pretty damn good. Might be the breakfast or might be the sunrise, but I seem to get some of my edge back. And yet, I'm a mess. My feet are thoroughly jacked up. A few blisters and a bit of swelling keep me conservative even if my total body energy level is up. Stomach is also back under control.
When I arrive at X-roads, Henry is there to crew, sets me up, and off I go for my final A-loop ramble. There isn't any running on the climb, but once on top, I make good time over to The Bear. Same again down on the road, where I get to running again, then fast hiking on the mile long hill. Into the valley and to the other side is nothing to get sentimental about, but I'm damn glad I never have to look at that shit again. The final hump is memorable. I stop at the bottom, three times on the climb, and one last time on the rock bench at the top. This is one bitch I do wish to say goodbye to, so Adios Bitch!
Back to the Windmill is meaningless because I still need to get back here one more time, and for the first time, I'm in a hurry to get through. Back down to The Bear and goodby-ing every slick rock and twisty turn brings a special joy for each and all. Arriving at X-roads, I once again find Henry and also Joyce, geared up yet again. She says she wants no more, but figured if I could keep going, then she could too. First off, the A-loop is done. And so we head out for the final go-round of B-loop. Same shit as last time, all of it. What more can be said. We do it, and I'm dragging low as we approach the Windmill.
It's my second noon-time of non-stop running and it's starting to heat up again, so I figure its time to go swimming again. I drop the old beat up rig into the water tank and it is so flippin cold, it's awesome. The ice bath on my whole body is more invigorating than a six-pack of Red Bull and twice as healthy. I climb out, and get to rolling downhill with a lot of momentum. We run clean down to the river, then power hike the Armadillo creek bottom better than I expect we should. Out of the creek, we start running again, make all the turns on down to Lisa Lane, where Henry and Lise wait. And Joyce keeps on rolling with me, counting up her miles for 50k of surprise bonus pacing miles.
Onto the last of the last section... finishing B-loop and cruising better than I dared to expect round the last of everything I've already seen way too many times. We make the final turn where the X-roads aid station used to be. My last time down the road back into the Camp Eagle compound, across the road and the basketball court, through the arch and the finish clock to finish at the Pavilion. The second 50 miler takes me 5 hours longer than the first one. Damn that was tough.
======= And Before
All of central Texas was under flood warning, rivers and streams were flooded. Some bridges had washed out, towns and homes underwater, it seemed that everybody and everything in the area was affected in some way. A few races had cancelled, a few others rescheduled, but Chris had it in his mind to find a fix, especially for the people who had flown in from outside the country. So, he asked me to help him figure it out.
Option A) The race is traditionally held at Hill Country State Natural Area, which was certainly dealing with its own flooding, but the weather had softened somewhat as we got closer to race date, and we hoped. Too much of the lowlands were mucked up and impassable. No go!
Option B) The original course was not happening, so we laid out a 12.5mi point-to-point such that an out-n-back would net 25mi, and four sets of out-n-backs thru the upland hills would work, and looked kind-of exciting. But this too washed out. The parking lots were all flooded. No place to park.
Option C) We already had a 16mi loop at Pedernales, but we knew there was more trail potential, and also the connection to Flat Creek Crossing Ranch next door. I had previously laid out a 31mi loop through both properties and knew we could slice it down with some work, but neither property was available. Nope.
Option D) Camp Eagle is a place Cris has connections, and they were available too, but we had just run the J&J100k there 4 weeks ago. Another long race would be tough to stomach so soon after, and also, we did not have a 25mi loop. We had a 20mi loop... and there is no way I'd run anyone through 5 loops of that back valley meat-grinder. Do-able, but not attractive. At least we have an available option.
Option E) Camp Eagle again. I took all the old courses we'd used in the past and tossed em in the trash. I needed to start over and rethink this. And so it evolved that by re-using a couple of the longer trails, making them bidirectional, and creating two separate loops within one big one, came up with a 25mi loop and it looked good. Aid stations were double-use sites, which were great. Aid station splits were 5mi and under. I wondered if the self-serve concept would work with this format. It would be easy to go the wrong way. On a better day, one without flooded out creeks and road crossings, we might drive to all of them. Also, the suspension bridge was gone, washed out, and the trails below the dam was a river. And we have yet to talk about the 8mi drive into camp? But we still needed to check a few things. Chris and I showed up at camp on Tuesday before the race about mid-day. We had no time to lose, so we immediately went out to mark and measure at the same time. We had it all down except for a few places along the riverfront, around Lisa Lane, and under the overlook. We even went out and measured late one evening to finalize the beast. One of the unexpected problems was the creek bed full of rocks called Armadillo Trail. This was in pristine shape for J&J, but now it's a mess. Also, the river had chewed up the entire river-front trail. The back valley had multiple rock flows across the verdant green. And then there were the endless rocks on all the trails, many of them clear of rocks just a week before. Of course, it was raining and nasty the entire time we marked and measured. Chris knew I was running the 100 in a few days, and he worked with me so I was mostly on the ATV while he did what needed to be done on foot. Pam came in after we were done marking and helped with everything else: stepping stones across the creek, tents, chutes, signs, and so on and on. I got one day off before the race started, and that seemed to work out ok.