2018: Pace Bend Half-Marathon

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I like to think that I live in a good mental space with spirit and mind, while balancing todays world events and my finances... and I somehow seem to manage a somewhat even keel most of the time. But, today at this race, while running in humidity thick enough to swim through, my clothes soaked completely wet with sweat before I reach mile two, and sliding about in the mud, I let my sense of self slip down and merge with the slop. I typically revel in a nasty wet messy course and enjoy the non-normal-ness of it, smile and joke, and pick up pace. Today, I have the added pleasure of running with a dear old friend and running buddy, Hobbs, who is always in a good spirit, so I struggle to understand why I'm down here. Hell, life is good. Must be some perfectly wrong alignment of the moon and stars, or maybe it's just the rash that's beginning down in my nether regions that sinks my mood. Whatever it is, I need to escape.

Hobbs runs ahead, and I struggle to keep up, slipping into a walk on every climb and sometimes on the flats. Back and forth we go with a few others, and at one point, Hobbs rushes ahead... and I think he has finally given up on me, when I realize he sees a friend and goes to visit. We catch up to Cris, running with her sister in the marathon. We talk a bit, take a picture, then continue, and Cris comes with us to loosen her legs a bit, before dropping back with her sister. She then comes back up, tells us her sister says to go run with us for a while, so she does. We're now on the back-side hills, under the power-lines, and Hobbs begins to pull ahead again, and then he is gone. I tell Cris to go on and catch Hobbs, but she says she's ok right here behind me. We go in silence for a ways, and I always appreciate a friend who is ok with silence as a form of communication. With my current funk, I'm especially glad not to share my mood. But then Cris asks, how are you Joe? And she seems to ask that with more than just a standard greeting. Well, I don't answer right away, but then I do. I get started talking about my shoulder, then my hip, my eyes, and after about 15 minutes of bullshit about the litany of things that just don't seem to be working right, I catch myself and apologize. What the hell is the matter with me? Cris is always good with me and so she smiles and tells me, 'no worries', but it just makes me feel worse. That I actually verbalized all that funk, and let it out. We drop into the next aid station together and of course, Hobbs is there, sorting out his gear and refilling his water bladder. I should have known, of all people, he'd wait, even if I tell him, he better not be waiting for me. Go run your best race! He says, this is what I got and it's all good. 

And so we go out together, while Cris stops to wait for her sister. We're about halfway into the race at this point, soaked clean through, and I attempt to push myself a bit more, but can't seem to find what I need. The temps are actually cooler than it's been of late, but the all night rain has dropped a humidity blanket on the area, which cancels the temperature benefit. We walk the ups, run the downs, and mix walk/run on the flats. This is where I try to match Hobbs with his walking speed, and it aint easy. The boy can walk pretty fast when he wants to. With no sun reference, the only idea I have to where I actually am is with reference to my GPS milage, the occasional sound of a car on the perimeter road, or a boat from the river on the other side of the road. We are actually on a peninsula surrounded by the Colorado River, and the road rides the perimeter, while all this mess of trails remains mostly inside of both. I had marked this course each of the last few years, and know the system of trails reasonably well, but this year's course has been modified such that I am not exactly certain where we are and what is next. I recognize many of the landmarks, but am not all that comfortable with much more than the rudimentary aspects of my location.

The next aid station is exactly where I expect it to be, and while Hobbs is in a froggy attitude, my drag-ass mood has a desire to stop for a few moments to refill with ice, have some orange slices, and take a big drink of coke. Maybe some sugar will kick me out of this bog. With roughly four miles to go, I feel the energy of knowing it is almost over, and still I can't disconnect the anchor dragging behind me in the mud. I talk to Hobbs once more about cutting me loose and going on, and he tells me he's just fine where and how he is. This is where the mud gets even worse. As flat and easy as it appears to be, the mud is so slick as to cause each step to slide and spin out, so we attempt to use the grass on the trail side, same as everybody else has, and so even the grass is slick with mud. Hobbs seems to do better with this than me, with his best Wile E. Coyote high speed stationary run. We wind around the inside loop, under 3 miles now, heading back on the inner jeep road, and for the first time, the sun begins to burn off the humidity, split the clouds, and offer us some of the sun's rays and it's subsequent heat. Usually, this is not a good sign, but today, it is good to see and feel.

We make another big sweeping turn on the jeep road, and the new course once again deviates and takes us off road and up a singletrack, and I do mean up. More UP I was not expecting! Nice, but damn. Run turns to a walk, not that the walk is slower, and so we continue UP and over, back to the road, and then another trail, back to the road. Down under 2 miles now, we make one turn after another and I am so turned around. My GPS reads 13 miles and I know we must be close, but it's a good bit after that before I know where I am, and we cross the main paved road and head down to the river. And so it ends, and I am so done, as we cross over the timing mat and head down into the river, clean up to our necks.

I'm ok now, flushed the pollutants out of me, desiten on me, and beer in me. Hanging out with a few good friends as the rain comes in to finish the cleansing process. Wow! That was a mind-blowing, spirit-checking, washing-cycle of energy. I'd rather not do that again. I feel great now, but that entire race for me was one huge suck... and all of it was completely within me!

2018: Reveille Peak Ranch 30k

This was to be my 4th and final summer night trail races this year, and it seems as if I am just now starting to feel more acclimated to the heat than I have been in many years. Also imbedded into the madness of this challenge is the occasion of Jimmy and Adela's wedding taking place tonight on one of the high points mid-10k, which me and the rest of us in the 30k will go nowhere near. They certainly have my best wishes, but today, I am in for the 30k and will share a toast with them after I am done.

And so we begin, across the levee, into the trees and, up along the fenceline to the big gate in the big fence. All of this in the late evening fading light, with plenty of heat and humidity, which tend to define these night races in the midst of a late-August Texas summer. The 60k runners are already out ahead by 30 minutes, but they have an extra 3 mile section over the rock dome, so it's no surprise when they merge back in with us soon after our shortcut. We replace their 3 miles with a 30 yard shortcut under the new pond, and so from this point to the finish, I never know if I'm running with a 30k or a 60k runner, unless I ask. Even though we skip the major part of the dome, we still get to sample a one mile scramble that wraps in and out and through all sorts of rock and twisted trees, the terrain so rugged, constant attention to every step is essential.

Its at one of the higher rock points in this mess of mangled scrub when I notice the sunset lighting up the clouds underside as well as the big fat full moon peeking over the tree tops. What a glorious setting for the wedding they must be having at just this moment, while I am sensible enough to just get a peek, before returning my attention to what I'm running through. Hell, I'm already bleeding from the nasty little bastard branches that reach out and scratch me as I attempt to slip by. But there is no way to avoid it all. If not the mesquite thorns, it's the pencil cactus with their deadly little hitchhikers, or the Prickly Pear. But mostly, it's the rock... hard and sharp, and unforgiving. So glad I don't have to run over the 4 miles of rock which the 60k runners must do 3 times.

I come into the Rock aid station in complete darkness, with headlight on to the sound of raucous laughter. This station is so appropriately named, here at the edge of the rock dome. I get a hug and a refill before heading back out, down on a twisting trail towards the creek bottom. I can hear voices everywhere, and the way the trail winds about, the sound could be coming from anywhere. With the sun down and the moon up, I sometimes find the moon in a direction I'm not expecting, which only confirms... I have no idea which direction I'm heading in. Certainly I know the trail, but I am lost to the direction it twists and turns.

I cross over the rock bottom of the creek, and head up what I suspect might be the wrong trail, or maybe it's one of the new trail cuts that the owner has recently bull-dozed all over the old trail system. I'm with a few others and we're all reasonably certain this is not the correct trail, but I can see the right one just 10 yards over, but on the other side of scrub and cactus in which I have no intention of crossing. And so we continue for a few tenths before we reach a connector that drops us right back on the correct trail. Pretty certain we actually did more distance, but whatever it was, it was not all that far, so we just keep on going.

We cross over one of the main jeep roads, and pop into the next section that has its own unique set of characteristics. Used to be, this section was pretty simple, but that was before the new bull-doze trail cut endlessly over the old trail, making it an endless set of decisions. I marked this section last year, so I know what a problem it is to mark all of these endless crossovers, and it is a constant concern to remain on the proper track. I can see runners left and right, picking one or the other, and they all pretty much go to the same place, but each a bit longer or shorter, or who the hell really knows. Even when we get higher up on the bluff, the same situation continues, but now it's up into the rocks, looking down into the valley.

I think this is up on the High Fence Trail or maybe just a trail under the road by that name. Not sure exactly, because this entire thing is now a spaghetti bowl of trails. There are even a few more odd reroutes up in here that I have no idea why they were done, but they are not the same as what we did last year. Reaching the Flow aid station is a welcoming sight for more than a few reasons. I need a refill and could use something cold, plus this station is not all that far from the end loop, so it feels like I am actually making some progress. Again, one big huge flow of rock fills the creek bottom, which we dance across and into the trees, scrub, and rock combination so typical of Reveille Peak Ranch.

The trail is a carnival ride of ups and down, while spinning left and right, and all on skinny single track. But it's a short ride back to the big gate, which we pass through, turn left and head for home. The faster runners are coming out, passing us in the opposite direction, moving at a much faster speed than I am. I think I recognize a few of them, but running without glasses in the dark tends to blur everything and everyone down to smudges of ideas. And eventually, I cross the levee, and back into the pavilion area where I have my chair, cooler, and gear. I'm also surprised to find my wife. Joyce was at the wedding, and it's a pleasant surprise to steal a kiss from her. I told her I might be about 2 hours for the first loop, and so I am, dead strait up at 2 hours.

Jimmy and Adela are most likely married by now. Joyce heads for home as I head out for another loop of exactly the same thing... but different. Now, I'm more tired, more wet, and more chaffed. Even though I have changed all my sweat soaked clothing, my body will quickly treat everything I have on the same as it did the previous set. Fumi has also provided me another riceball wrapped in seaweed and salt, which has recently (Fumi's fault) become a new race fuel for me. I walk out, eating, taking my time to getting readjusted to the mood and rhythm of this madness I have adopted as my normal.

I fall into conversation with James Askew, and our discussion carries us along at a fast walk, through the big gate and on into the Road aid station. Besides a slice of watermelon, I have no need of anything else, and quickly skedaddle out, while James falls behind. Soon after, I find myself in another conversation with a 60k runner who is training for a 240 mile race, in which I attempt to match walking pace with. Our discussion winds around these new longer races of 200 miles and more, in which very few people do more than walk, or at least, thats what he says. I have no interest in the 200 milers though, feeling that the 100 milers offer enough of a challenge as it is, for me. His conversation and his pace are both too much for me to match, and before long, he has out-walked me and is gone, soon after we pass through the Rock aid.

This is where I get reconnected with an interesting pair of women. The same two I had a couple of sets of passing and getting passed on loop one, and in the same place on course too. The young one was Layla, and the reason I knew this is because the older one kept saying her name. How are you Layla. Are you ok Layla, and so on and so on. It was easy to see that the older runner had the younger one under her wing and was helping her run this race. I thought it was pretty cool, but they were pretty aggressive and much too serious to waste time visiting with me. I attempted a few times, but we never did find any connecting thread. Although, every time I did pass them, Layla would always say something encouraging to me. I found that they made me feel comfortable, if not somewhat familiar, being around them so much. After so many passes back and forth, I wasn't sure where they ended up until I saw them cross the finish just minutes after me. I suspect we were within minutes of each other the whole race, even though they were rock solid consistent, and I carried on like a rabbit, with my fits and starts. Still, I realized somewhere along here that I had only been walking the entire second loop so far, and actually doing quite well with it. Me and Layla and her friend were always within sight of each other, even though they were running, and I was walking. I'm thinking maybe I might be able to keep up with my best bud and walking champion Henry Hobbs.

And so we roll into the Flow aid, in which I top off my empty water bottle with water and ice for the final plunge. Out we go, into the trees and I just start thinking I have not fallen today. I'm certainly bleeding from the mesquite stabs, but I have in fact remained upright. If anything, my walking pace increases with the desire to get this bastard done. By now, Adam has long been done and showered, so he and Fumi are now patiently waiting for me to finish, so they can go home. I walk faster! I make the gate turn, turn left, and go faster. I do believe this is the fastest I have ever walked, but it's a salient point now, that I should not run. Walking is good enough and serves me well right now. Still, I keep peeking behind me now. I am not very competitive, and could usually care less how I fare compared to those around me, but get me near the finish and I hate getting passed late in a race. So I keep looking back, and then I see a light. It's a ways back, but as I get closer to the finish, it gets closer to me, until I feel rather certain I will for certain be passed. I try an old trick, for some damn reason I am not certain why, but I do indeed turn off my light. I have always liked running without lights, but with other runners around, its rather difficult. But for now, with just that one light back there closing on me, I have no worries about being night blind. I know how it is, chasing the light in front of you, trying to catch it, using it as a carrot to pull you on. Well, I have just killed the carrot. If he's to catch me, I'm not going to provide the bait. And I also quit looking back. So I finally relax and keep on walking... in the dark, without a light, make the turn, cross the levee, and as I near the finish, within 100 yards or less, I look back, and can see him running fast... trying like hell to reel me in while the distance to the finish makes for a near miss on his part. And so it plays out, that I walk across the finish without a light just moments before he crosses just behind me. I find out later, he is the same age as me and would have certainly knocked me out of the top spot for us old buzzards. Even the finish line crew miss me, as I walk right through them unnoticed and have to come back for the finishers medal and turn in my chip.

My first lap was 2:00, and my 2nd lap, even though I walked the entire thing, was only 34 minutes slower than my first. I'm a full 15 minutes faster than my previous three 30kms, and though I feel I am finally getting used to running in the heat and humidity, I am glad we are done with these night races... and the summer weather

2018: Ute 100 - Crew

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Texas is still baking under a long stretch of 100 degree days, so I am grateful for the opportunity to escape for a few days into the La Sal Mountains. The occasion was offered to me by Richard and January to crew them at their 100 mile attempt at the Ute 100 just outside of Moab and within sight of the San Juan Mtns of southwestern Colorado, where I'd been only 2 weeks ago. It was much more docile to fly this time, and even fun to share company with R&J, as well, as Matias (also running), and Cyndie, who would be crewing as well.

I'd never been in the La Sals before, but I have been to nearby Moab, Arches NP, and Canyonlands NP. I flat out love this area for all the wonder of the huge natural red rock formations. Moab is an oasis in the middle of the desert, thriving on the mighty Colorado River that powers through her, adding water sports to the other outdoor sports (mountain biking, hiking, running, rock climbing) that boom here. It's a town with an edge to it, young, cocky, strong, confidant... reflecting that persona. And it turns out, the same sort of edge that the RD and his crew also wear. A fun and happy bunch, with a big sense of adventure, laughing and drinking, and certainly up for the sort of challenge that would take a group of ultrarunners traipsing around the high mountains for a 40 hour run. I think R&J are up for it too, and just as importantly, they like the feel and the atmosphere of the race organization.

We all fly in together, Austin to Salt Lake City, then drive to Moab, and beyond, to the tiny one horse burg called La Sal. Our cabin is well off the paved road, at Hang Dog Ranch, hanging over the edge of Hang Dog Canyon. The back porch offers up perfect sunrises and front porch, brilliant sunsets. The cabin has all the amenities we need, as long as we don't plug in the coffee pot. We quickly learn to disconnect the refrigerator beforehand.

Getting to the cabin, we pick our rooms and beds, toss our gear in, then head back to town for dinner and groceries. R&J were just here a few weeks ago, so we take their recommendation for a Mexican restaurant, then off to the grocery to buy the race day fare for the runners, as well as what we may want at the cabin during our stay. Its dark by the time we get back to the cabin, and we each go about hauling in the groceries, and making ready for bed. R&J take the two downstairs rooms. Upstairs has two rooms, one with one bed, the other with two. Earlier, Cyndie had announced, she's taking the single bed room, so I assume Matias and I'd share the other room with two beds. I had left my gear on one of the beds before we headed back into town. But, I must have missed the handoff somewhere along the way, because I now realize Matias and Richard are downstairs, leaving me upstairs with the girls. I was just about to take a shower when I put together that Cyndie thought my gear (on one of the beds) was January's, and January thought my gear was Cyndie's. I quickly walk in, collect my gear, and ask where I need to be. The single bed room was now mine, and the girls had the two bed room. I am so glad I realized all this before I hopped in the shower. 

In the morning, we find a couple of old but functional ice chests in the shed, as well as a few cooking tools to add to the crew kit. I brought a small camp stove and cooking pot with me from home, but need a few more accessories from town. Moab's 40 minutes back, and with a late check-in, we decide to wait a bit to drive back into town for dinner, race checkin, and the outdoor store. We still need to pick up a few odds and ends for crewing, cheap folding chairs, a tarp, propane, and whatnot. We have plenty of time, so Richard takes us on a drive into the mountains to help us figure out how to drive to the crew only station at Geyser Pass. The drive's ok, if there's only one car on the road, but a bit sketchy if there's car's going both ways, or the weather gets bad, or in the dark, but I understand the route. It takes us about an hour to drive up, and another to get back down, and we still have plenty of time, but I'm a bit nervous going further up and/or getting stuck, when the runners need to be in Moab in a few hours. So, we head home, and relax into it. 

The runners sort through their drop bags, run packs, hydration & food, shoes, clothes, poles, and so on. We have some fun with each other, play some cards, and sling verbal crap at each other with lighthearted ease. Cyndie's a bit put out when she realizes exactly what is meant by Hang Dog Ranch. She sees the big metal sign leaning against a barn wall, depicting a dog hung from a rope. She walks over there in one state of mind and comes back in another, fuming. A bit later, we gather up and head back into Moab. We stop for dinner, buy the outdoor goodies, gas the car, and then to packet pickup. The runners get their bags, bibs, and spot-trackers, then we stop for ice and head home, to arrive just as the sun sets.

It's not all that easy to get to sleep, with the excitement and nervousness running high. A few of us play cards, but we're all to bed by 9 or 10. There is no way that any of us got much sleep with a 2:00 am wakeup and a 3:00 am start. The drive from ranch to start is only 15 minutes, and we blend into the thick dusty air with all the others driving in. We park, walk some 30 yards to check in, then stand in the dark and the dirt, not seeing much of a damn thing. It's a new moon night, dust fills the air, and I can barely keep my eyes open, and I'm not surprised that the pictures I took here at the start are all too blurry to see. 10 minutes later, the RD shoes up, yells at the crowd of runners for a few minutes, climbs in his car, and starts the race.

I know their route well, even though I have never been on any of it. Fact is, when I was asked to crew, I started digging and searching everything I could find about the race and the route to learn what I could. I know they are to run a short ways up the dirt road, turn right and run more dirt road, and then turn left on their way to aid#1, which I am not allowed to crew. Makes sense to me. I am also not allowed at aid#2, and aid#3. Matter of fact, I won't see these guys again until mile 32 at a crew-only location that is a non-aid location between stn#2 and stn#3. What this means immediately is I can go back to bed. I have many hours before I'll see any of them one-third into the race. Cyndie and I head back to the cabin, where we wordlessly head off to our own rooms for the rest of the sleep we did not get earlier.

Up at 7am, a shower, and some cereal, we begin to prepare and load our crew kit into the car. Besides all our own crewing kit and coolers, we have all of the runner's roving drop bags that we had intended to take with us as an aside just to keep in our care in case they can use any of it. No big deal really, as it's just nice to have the in-case stuff. We also load 3 chairs, 2 coolers full of drinks, lunch-meats, cheese, bacon... all on ice. Another cooler is just for ice. We also have a tub just to contain all the dry foods, plates, cups, utensils, stove, propane, seasonings, and a load of odds and ends. It's crowded, but it's all packed in. The thing is, last night at packet pickup, the runner's had each received a new map with all the aid stations listed on it, and although I had seen the map, it wasn't until we got back home when I turned it over and realized the directions to aid#1 were changed completely. We had already explored the route around the East side of the mountains, which was the directions posted online, but now we are being told to go around the West side of the mountains, back towards Moab and up from that side. So, now I'm a bit anxious. With no reason to hurry, I'm nervous and eager to get started, especially not being certain of where the hell I'm going on the new route.

We drive out earlier than expected, but there is no way I want to miss them at the crew only station. This is a very important stop for the runners, and so we go. Back towards Moab, I follow the new instructions as listed, 11.7mi up 191 and then turn right onto an unnamed dirt road. No sign (unnamed, right!), but I turn right at the mile listed, and we roll down a dirt road 1.1 miles not knowing if we are even close, but in a short period, turn right again onto Geyser Pass Rd/La Sal Loop Rd/La Sal Mountain Loop. I have no idea why this road has three names, but it's paved, and we take it. Cyndie's driving, because she has no intention of navigating. I have, at least done some upfront research beforehand, albeit for the wrong routes. I have even printed out maps and bought a topo map from the website in which I have drawn both the run route and recommended drive route. 8.9 miles to Geyser Pass Rd is dead on, and now its dirt for another 6.3 miles. We keep driving until we see a woman in the middle of the road telling us to park. She tells us the crew access point is another half-mile up the road. Well, from everything I've read, it's this exact point where we are supposed to crew. So, we park, and figure to walk up and see exactly what we're dealing with. It's about 0.3mi to the spot where all the other crews have gathered. We turn back to the car, and then start thinking about what all we really need. We certainly don't wish to haul the ice chest or the tub, but we need at least 2 of the chairs. Don't need the cooking gear yet, but need to haul all 3 of the runners roving drop bags. So, we gather up a mixed set of things, but not all, pack it as best we can into what we have. Had we known in advance, we might have bought a small wagon, or at least a large pack, and we would have been more selective of the runner's roving drop bags. So we strap the packs on our fronts and backs, hang the chairs on a shoulder, grab a full gallon jug of water, bread plus pb&j, a few cold cokes, Matias' Monster drink, and all kinds of other odds & ends. It was a full load.

We hike up, get more than a few odd stares from other crews, assuming we're crewing for one very needy runner. We find a shady spot, spread the tarp, set the chairs, and lay out what we have in as organized a manner as we can. After checking the spot tracker, we see that Matias has gone through aid#1 forty minutes ahead of R&J, and is about the same again at aid#2. So, we expect Matias within the next hour. And so he is. He comes in looking a bit raw, dirty, wild eyed, and functional, if not a bit used. We give him a sandwich along with his Monster, then take off his shoes and clean his feet. They're filthy with dirt caked on, and it's some work scrubbing it off. Some Cheetos too, while we load his water bottles and send him back out. We figure we have another hour before R&J, so Cyndie heads back to the car with Matias' gear, while I go looking for a bathroom bush. For reasons of altitude, low humidity, stress, or whatever, I'm having some very odd bowel problems that are quite uncomfortable. Anyway, I go deal with it, and get back just before Cyndie does, and then go about cleaning up the mess that we made with Matias.

Forty minutes later, R&J came in, and we do a repeat for them what we did for Matias. Richard needs his medical kit to repair a blister, but eats while he doing this. He wants a coke and I give him one, but he wants another in his bottle, which I cannot do. We had not brought that many cokes up from the car. We explain about the car and the aid but don't want to go into detail about it. Hell, he has 100 miles to run and doesn't need to know about our issues. We're just the stinking crew after all. Richard is obviously having some problems with his shoes, so he changes into the other pair we had in his roving drop bag, and he tells us to toss the ones he removed. Cyndie is working January: feet, pack, water, food, et al. while I help Richard, and between us, we get them serviced and out in good time. We didn't know until they got up to leave that there was only one other person behind them. We're only at the first crew stop, but this trend will continue.

Again, we clean up all the mess after they leave. The goop from Richard's blister repair is nasty and adds rather nicely with the filthy baby-wipes, bits of jam, and everything else. I fold the tarp with all the mess on the inside, pack up all the rest, load it all up on our bodies and start our hike back to the car. We're the last of 2 cars in the lot. And now our next adventure begins, driving to another mountain lot somewhere up on another part of the mountain, following the directions I now have on the sheet of instructions in front of me. 6.3 miles back the way we came, then right and 2.7 miles to La Sal Loop Rd/Wilson Mesa Dr for another 4.7 miles. This would be aid#4, and just up the road from aid#8, which we'd have to hike into much later. The runner's still have to go through aid#3, which we're forbidden from, so we have a good bit of time to get there and sort our gear out. I had printed out a topo map of the area so I have a good idea of the lay of the land, which made no sense to me when we arrived, because the aid station is missing! We look around, find only cars, and a shit house.

I walk over to the road and find a man sitting in a lawn chair at the intersection. He says, the RD decided to combine aid#4 and aid#8, so they are now in fact the same aid at the same location, up the road a half-mile. No shit? Another flipping hike. I was expecting one for aid#8, but not for every damned aid station out here. So, we gather up our gear once again, and maybe just a bit more, but we cannot take everything. I badly regret not having ice cold drinks for these guys when they arrive. As well as the meat and jam, and other odd things that need refrigeration. Oh they'd be ok without all that stuff, but had I known, I would have made some other plans, a small ice chest, a bigger supply pack, and all that rot. Still, we have tons of time, so I take my hammock along too, and string it up as soon as we get there. We need to make some time for sleep or we'll get as punchy as the people we need to crew. I lay down for a bit, then give the hammock to Cyndie for some sleep too. Checking the tracker, I can see Matias as now an hour ahead of R&J, but they're all still hours out from us.

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Matias arrives with his eyes vacant, looking right through us, so we sit him down and offer up what we can. But, he wants nothing more than to be left alone. The medical person comes over, seeing his state, and starts asking questions, offering advice, basically gets between me and Matias, so I'm forced out of the way, until she leaves. I give him a cracker, tell him to eat it, but he doesn't want it. I tell him to eat it anyway. Nibble a corner! Here's some ice too. How about some Cheetos? We get him some broth. Basically, we run the array of options past his eyes and keep at it until he takes something and begins to eat. It's slow work and takes most of an hour before he's back amongst the living. R&J came in and we have to switch gears to help them. Richard's in great shape and positively bouncing, but January needs some coaxing. Midway through the servicing, Matias decides he's good but will wait for R&J. But it takes longer than he's willing to wait, so he takes on out, RUNNING down the road. Ten minutes later R&J are up and going too. And so we clean up the mess, take down the hammock, load up, and hike back to the car. 

It's late, the sun going down, and we're in a hurry to get to the next place while we can still see. Remember, we're still in the high Utah mountains, on dirt roads, and obscure routes, in places we've never been before. But it's no big deal really. 4.7 miles back the way we came, right onto La Sal Loop Rd and then another 6.4 miles to ... It doest say where. You see, up until yesterday, we were not to crew at aid#6 and aid #7, which are both at the exact same place. They had just added these in as crew accessible, and none of us had bothered to even look at the route, or what we we're looking for. I could only assume we'd know when we get there... and so we did. The aid is right on the road, but everything is marked for NO CREW PARKING, so we drive past it, up a road on the right, past twenty or more cars to the end of the road and park at the end loop. And oh what a surreal setting, looking down into Castle Valley, with the sun setting, and the bad light, and the desert colors, and pastel color tint in the air. I immediately pull the camera and start snapping pictures. The light is so bad, that I expect nothing, but its too cool looking not to keep on. 

When the light finally fades to nothing, I pull out the tarp and start sorting and cleaning what we have on the tarp. The runners will be many hours once again, passing through aid#5, which we cannot go, and then on to us here at aid#6. With headlights on, we haul what we need one more time another 0.3 miles down the dirt road, and then further past the aid on paved road to a spot which we claim on the edge of the paved road we had just driven down. Cyndie decides to get some sleep, so she goes back to the car, while I set up and get as comfortable as is possible, which is not all that damned comfortable. Its dark now, and Richard has been asking for pancakes for a while, so I figure its time to set up the stove and see how it goes. I am no cook, but maybe I can work this out. I search around and find a good sized flat rock for the stove and another for the pan. I start with boiling water for some hot cocoa, which goes rather well. I then try my luck with a quesadilla, tortilla and cheese, but the tortilla is too big for the pan, so its more mess than it is edible food. It's a backpackers stove, so it's not all that big a space, and the pot is small too. This time, I trim down a couple slices of bread, and with some cheese, make a round grilled cheese sandwich which turns out brilliantly. Ok, now for the pancakes. Richard bought a pancake mix that only needs water, but I also put some butter in the pan for grease and non-stick, and then pour it in. So, this would be a pancake that is three inches in diameter, and it looks good, but there is no way to dig it out to flip it. I fuss with it a bit, and it turns into a mucky mess, with some burnt edges and well, it just looks like hell. So I take the pot off the flame, sit it on the rock, and let it be.

Cyndie comes back down to see my masterpiece and asks for hot water for tea, so I boil her a bit of water, just to feel like I'm doing something functional. Soon after Matias arrives out of the dark, coming down the paved road, and done in. Complaining about his stomach, he says he doesn't want anything more than to just lie down, and so he does. Lying in the road, he says he's done. Later on, he asks me why I didn't try to talk him out of it. I think I was done in too, but I also figured he was trapped there with us for the time, and if he changed his mind, there'd be no problem simply going on, regardless when he decided to go, that is, up until the cutoff time. I talk Matias into trying the ugly pancake, and he promptly spits it out. Soon after, he goes up to the car to get some sleep. Now that we have Matias with us, Cyndie rearranges the gear so the back seat is empty for him.

R&J come in 40 minutes later, and some 40 minutes before the cutoff, and as willing as Richard is, it looks like January is not there in her body. Still, we service them, minus the pancake, but do make them some hot cocoa. They leave for the Miner's Loop 30 minutes under the cutoff, are gone for two hours and come back with an hour under the cut. January looks a lot better, and we all have high hopes they'd be able to keep on. Once more, we take care of them, but just before they leave, I tell Richard, they need to be at the next station, aid#8 by 6:30 am, sunrise, and it stops him cold. He disagrees for a moment, pulls out his own chart, sees it matches what I said, then lets out a big exhale. Well, damn, that's not much more than 3 hours to get over another mountain plus the miles! Yea, that's about right. He asks if he should put on his cold weather gear and I suggest he wait until he has to. Still a lot of sweating to do before you get to the cold summit. And so they go, spinning up another mountain trail, while we go about our business of crewing.

At this point, they've passed a few people, so there are now a few people behind them, but all that is irrelevant. All that matters now is they arrive at aid#8 before 6:30am, and it's not going to be easy. This may be the one that bites them, I tell Cyndie. If they can get past this one, I think they'll be good to go the distance, but this will be no easy task. We clean up, load up, and hike back to the car. Matias had brought the car up a bit, so it's not as far away as it had been, but at this point we're numb to the whole process of humping and hauling. I evict Matias from the front seat, so I can once again navigate while Cyndie drives. Matias goes into the back seat to sleep some more, while we drive out. It's way into the wee hours now, our body clocks trying to put us to sleep, our stomachs rumbling, and my bowels still not settled one damn bit. Already half blind, struggling to check the map, and watch the roadside signs I can't see. The directions from the crew map are unintelligible. This is what is written: Head southeast on FR4650 toward Forest Rd 0063 .1 miles, then Turn left onto Forest Rd 0063 .3 miles. I'm not too good at math, but I would suppose these two distances add up to 0.4 miles, and I know damn well that makes no sense. But we're simply going back to where we had just come from, so I should be able to reverse the directions... I hope. I try, but my mind is not connecting the dots. I think we need to drive about 6.4 miles to Forest Rd, which I thought was Warner Lake Rd, and I know what it looks like, but now that its dark, I worry I'll know when I see it, if I see it. So, we drive, and I can't see any damned think in the inky blackness. But I do recognize when I get to the big sweeping turns just before Geyser Pass Rd, so I get Cyndie to turn around. From Geyser Pass, its 2.7 miles back, so we set the car trip odometer, drive 2.7 miles, and turn up the correct road. Now, we just drive until we get there.

We park in about the same place as we did earlier, and Cyndie is done in. She needs some sleep. I grab my hammock and a few other things (including my pillow) and start hiking up the road, while Cyndie and Matias sleep. There is nobody out, no runners, signs, crews, and I begin to wonder if I'm going the right way, even if there is no other way to go. Of course, it is the right way, and I arrive at a very silent aid station, and sling my hammock directly across the road from it, on exactly the same trees I had slung it earlier, such that I can lie in it and see into the aid station as well as up the road the runners approach from. I have a lot more clothes on now, with the temperature dropping into the early morning cold at high altitude, it's a tad bit nippy. Hammock up, I tuck in the pillow in just the right place, and climb in. A few moments later, I'm asleep. I wake now and again, as each runner comes in and the aid volunteers make some noise. At one point, I ask about the tracking device, and they tell me they've mislaid it. The last shift must have taken the scanner with them when they left, so they have no means to scan and thus track anyone. In this case, if I go to sleep and miss them, I'll never know until hours later, when they reach aid#9. Messes with my head, but what choice do I have. I get a few minutes sleep here and there that doesn't really add up to much, and when I see the time at 5:30am, I walk back down the road to fetch the rest of the gear. I wake Cyndie, sort and load the gear, cooking stuff too, and head back up the road. I'm setting up the stove when Cyndie arrives. Together, we make ready for R&J with the idea in our minds, that if they do make, it will have to be a quick in and out. Water's boiling, Richard's gels are laid out, January's pack is handy, the chairs are waiting, and we can do no more.

We are still waiting as the sun rises and the clock rolls through 6:30am. It is done, they are done, but they are not here yet. I take down and put away the hammock, and everything they might need to keep running, but leave the hot water on, thinking they might want some hot cocoa still. And so they do come in about 12 minutes after cut. They walk down the road together, come over to us and sit down.They remove their bibs and hand them to the aid volunteer, and relax into their chairs. Matias had come up the road too, from the car, so we're all there together again. Matias runs down to the car one more time to bring it up, so we don't have to hike down that damned road one more time. Initially, I drive, and I do slowly get us off the mountain, without missing a turn, or driving off a cliff, but I had my doubts. We get back onto 191, and about to Hole in the Rock before I must pull over and allow somebody else to drive the rest of the way in. I simply can't keep my eyes open and I'm terrified I've made it this far and will kill us all within a few short easy paved road miles before bed. I couldn't even tell you who drove the rest of the way. I didn't go to sleep, but I was not awake either. More of a ghost floating somewhere between the physical and spiritual planes

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2018: Colorado Bend 30k

Bombeam- the matriarch of the Sederholm clan, and my kids grandmother had passed away 2 weeks ago, and the funeral ceremonies were today, starting at 2pm, and then continued afterwards with a family gathering at her home. Joyce also knew I had registered for and had planned to ride with Adam and Fumi to the Colorado Bend race later tonight. With everything that was going on, I wasn't sure if I'd have the time to make the two hour drive for the 7:30pm start, or if circumstances would arrange such that it even made sense for me to leave. So, I left my bag of gear in the backseat of my truck, and made myself available to the family. As things evolved, I drove Lar and Shawn home, and then on to our house, when Joyce tells me I should go. Soon after, I call Adam and Fumi, who just happen to be driving nearby, on their way up the highway, and they decide to circle around to pick me up. And so, 15 minutes later, I'm in their back seat, heading up the highway. Fumi always brings a container of rice balls, wrapped in seaweed saturated with salt. Hearing my stomach rumble, I realize I had not eaten anything today, so I quickly eat two.

Two hours later, I'm at the back side of the pack, doing my typical walk/run beginning race shuffle. Jimmy runs with me along the river trail, and then we start up the skinny single-track Spicewood Canyon Trail, and he goes ahead. With no place to pass, everybody's tucked in real tight, and because we're going up, the conversation is light. It just so happens with the angle and the direction of the climb, that we find ourselves looking directly into the setting sun. Tripping and bumbling about becomes the norm, with the bright light in our eyes, and I can feel somebody right up against my back. I turn and say, beep if you want by. I can move over. They beep, I move over, and Amanda pinches my side as she squeezes by.

The trail meanders about, up & down a few dips and dives, with an overabundance of rocks, the dominant feature of this race. The trail squeezes between trees growing from the same root, and wanders like a drunken fire ant, but we're locked in together like sardines in a tin, right up to and into the Lemon Ridge aid station. My effort up to now is hard to define, being captured in place, I did as much walking as running, so I simply shifted between walk and run, as did the guy in front of me, and the one in front of him, and so on. All in all, it worked out to suit my race-start temperament to a T. When I arrived at the 3 mile aid, I was surprised to find my water bottle empty, which is rare for me.

Although we're now on top of the mesa, and the terrain much flatter, it does still roll, and the rocks are even more treacherous than they were. Some stop, as I do for refills and ice, while others skip directly on through, with the result of shattering the conga line into sets of 2 and 3. The breakout reorganizes into pecking orders based on each packs skill and ability. Some let fly and quickly fade ahead, others walk more than they run, and many like me, continue with a running/walking sequence based on each our own inner motivations. I begin to run faster, and hold pace for a few miles, crossing the road, and then begin to slip into uphill walks, but fly over the rugged landscape, enjoying the rock dancing and the play of the game. Mostly alone, I slide in behind a woman for a bit, until she stops to walk, and then another, and another. The conga line is gone. All restrictions to speed or rhythm erased, so now its all on me, and I need to be careful.

The sun has been slowly slipping lower, dimming the light by fractions, but I'm good in bad light. For 95 degrees, you'd think it was unbearable, but the slight now-and-again breeze takes enough of the edge off, that it oddly enough seems comfortable. Normally, all black is not wise during the Texas summer, but with most of the race being run in the dark, it seems to suit just fine, so I run in stealth mode black shirt and shorts, without a light, and the sun sinking fast. I usually keep the light in my hand to help navigate the rugged terrain, but when I make the turn onto a docile grassy jeep track, I place it on my head. Unfortunately, the soft and docile road quickly shifts to an angry hateful bitch just as the last few lumens of light dissipate, and I catch an edge and fly shoulder first into the rocks. I lie there for a few moments, evaluating all the body parts, sensing pain, and where. I move my arms and legs first, before siting up, collecting my headlamp, water bottle, and then standing just as two runner's go by. You ok, one asks? No, I say, and they keep going. I try to check and feel for anything that might be messed up, can't find any visible damage, but my right shoulder stings a bit. Funny thing is, it hurt before I started, so I don't think much of it. I start walking, and soon slip into the Windmill aid station.

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They top off my bottle with ice, I fill it with water, drain it, then refill again. I use some water to wash my dirty face and hands, take a slice of watermelon, and walk out. More rocks, twists, and one hell of a lot of low hanging branches that tug at my hair and poke my shoulders. This whole route is a tunnel of stabbing mesquite, cactus, and rock, making for an awful lot of ways to hurt. I've lost my mojo since I busted my ass, and although I can get running now and again, I can't seem to sustain it for long. A few pass me, and I pass them back. The long rugged downhill to Gorman Falls might have been more fun, but I get stuck behind a couple of guys who are moving well enough. I know I'd be going a lot faster alone, but I leave it be and slip into a cautions pace for now. I'm tripping a lot now but suspect it's more from the slower pace than anything else, but still, I stay tucked in behind. When we reach the road, there's a water cooler sitting on a milk crate, which confuses the lot of us. I'm pretty sure the aid is just down a bit further by the house, but it would be one hell of a bad mistake to miss water now with another 5 miles to the next one. The lead guy hesitates for just a moment and then turns down the road, but the guy in front of me goes to the water cooler to get water if there is any. While he's fussing with it, I simply stand there and watch for a moment, then wake up, turn, and head down the road.

A well supplied aid does indeed exist, complete with ice, water, food, and a couple of friendly volunteers to assist. I top the ice, then water, take another watermelon slice, and walk out. And now I find myself alone in front, walking up Old Gorman Falls Rd. It's all up, and I make no attempt to run, but do focus on a fast forced hike. I check behind me now and again to see of the others follow, but see no lights. I catch a young couple, pass them, and keep on going. In time, I reach the flat area on top, part of the Cedar Chop Loop, and stop to finish eating the melon. I'm putting away the remains when the couple and another guy catch and pass me. I pull in behind the guy, and together we pass the couple. After a bit, we talk a bit, and I get his name (Josh), and so we keep on together, sort of. I'm much stronger on the downhills, and pull ahead on the downs, but Josh is stronger and much more consistent all around, so he ends up pulling ahead everywhere but the downs. So, when we turn down the Dogleg Canyon Trail, I slowly slip ahead, and keep on gaining distance until I reach the River Trail. At this point, I slow down and Josh closes on me and passes well before I reach the last climb up Lemon Ridge Pass Trail.

About midway up to the final aid, somehow the plug gets pulled, and the energy quickly fades to cramps. Both calfs knot up and scream for relief, of which I have none. I'm carrying no fuel of any sort, but for a bottle of lukewarm water. And so I walk, but attempt to push the walk as best I can. I'm surprised that no more than one woman passes me, and that happens just as we come into the Lemon Ridge aid station. In bad need of some repair, I guzzle two full cups of cold coke, eat a pickle, reload the bottle with ice and water, and walk out. Wanting desperately to just sit and do nothing for a while, I know the only remedy is to find the finish.

With high hopes of getting my mojo going again for the final 3 miles down the Spicewood Canyon Trail, I'm disappointed to realize I still have cramping issues, so I simply push the walking pace. I can't seem to run, but doesn't mean I need to screw around either. I get passed by 3 individuals who can still run, but hold on as well as I can to make the rounds down to the Colorado River reasonably well. I cross paths with a half dozen 60k runners heading back out for their second loop. For some reason, the thought of them doing another loop, makes me feel so much better knowing I don't have to. Even this can't kill the cramps though, which in the end is irrelevant. I drop down to the river trail in good time and power walk the last half mile into the finish, where I find it difficult to stand up while a volunteer attempts to remove my timing chip.

2018: Ouray 100 mile - crew

  The Perimeter Trail - on the way to Chief Ouray Mine

The Perimeter Trail - on the way to Chief Ouray Mine

I knew of the Ouray 100, but the buzz was disturbing. I coached a friend for the 2015 race, so I studied up on it as best I could back then. The course that year was using the Shattered Windshield concept, which did a variety of different out-n-backs from numerous points, which I thought might be quite difficult to mark and manage effectively.

Fast forward a few years, and now it's Jake Richter who's asking me to coach and crew him for the race. Jake's aware of the problems, but he know's Charles (the RD), and really like's Ouray, so he plans to take his family on vacation there. With all that said and understood, we create a training plan heavy on hills, which is not easy with Jake living in Ft Worth TX. Through a variety of ways and means, Jake does manage to get himself in great shape prior to meeting me in Ouray a few days before the race.

I've crewed and run this sort of race more than a few times, so I have a pretty good idea what is about to happen, but no idea how Jake will respond. I do know Jake well enough to think he will manage just fine, but weather and altitude will take its toll and then we'll see what change he has left. I have quite a bit of my own running gear and a few bits of things to eat and drink, as well as camping gear, but will soon learn that Jake doesn't ask for or need much of anything he doesn't already have. He's self-contained, self-motivated, and self-less, so maybe I'm just going to sit and watch.

The 100mi starts on a crisp and clear Friday morning at 8:00 am at Fellin Park in Ouray, known locally as the hot springs pool and park. My hotel room is a short hike along the Uncompahgre River trail from the start, so Jake had stayed the night before, for a quick and easy stroll from room to start. This gives his wife the opportunity to sleep in at their RV some 30 minutes up Hwy-550 in Ridgeway, and me a short walk back to bed after he and the others take out. They cross the Uncompahgre on a pedestrian bridge, south on unpaved Oak St, left at Queen, then Pinecrest where they reach Ouray's Perimeter Trail. There's a neat little tunnel that exits onto a see-through bridge 50ft over a narrow slot in which the river roars through. It's a nice little wake-you-up for all the mountains will offer in the next few days.

I am more than likely asleep before Jake reaches Camp Bird Rd, where he will spend a good bit of time. Having divided the race up from aid station to aid station, and showing the profile in elevation change as it moves from one point to the next, displayed in the runner's race info, looks like a box of crayons. So, it begins with a steady climb, albeit on a well travelled jeep road from Fellin Park to Camp Bird Mine. I can't stay in bed long, my curiosity slaying the sleep in me, so I get up to check his progress on the website with the Spot tracking devices. He's doing ok, but this is going to take awhile. Before the race started, Rene Villalobos told me that for the first 50 or more, not to expect to go faster than 25 miles per 10 hours. This seems excessive, until you think about the 52 hour cutoff time, which would translate to finishing 12 hours under the time allowed, in 40 hours.

The first crew access point isn't until Ironton at mile 27, so I have a good chunk of day to work through before I need to drive 9 miles south on Hwy-550. From Camp Bird aid at 5.5 miles, they continue up into Silver Basin, then back again to Camp Bird for another 6 miles. Camp Bird is at a road split, and having done the right fork, they now take the left fork for another 2 miles to Richmond Basin aid. This is the kickoff point for the next part of the Shattered Windshield pattern that defines this course. First they go right up towards Chicago Peak, but only as far as the Chicago Tunnel, then back down only as far as to take the other split up towards Imogene Pass, off the jeep road and up to the summit, only to turn around and return back to Richmond aid for about 8 miles of mountain climbing and descending.

At this point, it's a strait shot from Richmond to Ironton, and only 6 miles, but it's just another long slow up and an even longer down. Of course, I could not and would not remain in town to sit and watch the spot tracker blips that would move only occasionally from the moment when it actually located and posted a new position. In such a fashion, you would see blips disappear only to appear many miles up the trail. It looks like he would sit and wait, and then sprint ahead of a dozen others, only to have each of them do the same. Instead, I drive to the grocery to buy me what I might need for a few days, put a few thing on ice in the cooler, and some dry goods in the cab. Then I make the short drive to Ironton, and as slow as I am to get there, I'm still there before the aid station volunteers, or the aid station, and nothing but jeeps and dirt bikes tearing up the lot. No matter where I park, I'm in the way, so I leave, drive down to Crystal Lake to make sure I knew where that is, and to get a few pics. Still in no hurry, I drive back up to Ironton in the rain.

A woman is there with everybody's drop bags and needing to leave soon. Still no aid station or anyone else to hand off to, so she asks me if I'd watch the bags. Sure, I' do it, so I help her unload all the bags in the rain, and then she leaves. I take the time, having nothing else to do, to sort all the bags in numerical order, and then spot the aid station around the corner in another lot. I go over to tell them about the bags, but they're busy and don't have time for the bags right then, and I'm going to just leave it, but again, with nothing else to do, start hauling all the bags to their new home, where once again I make sure they're in order, albeit sitting out in the pouring rain. Some of these were most certainly not waterproof and I hope it doesn't ruin anyone's race.

And I still have plenty of time. It's hours before the first runner comes through, and the rest come through separated by big chunks of time. From here the runners have an 8 mile loop over and around Red Mountain No.1 on Corkscrew Rd through Corkscrew Gulch and most of that on jeep road. And so the runners come in and go out, all to be sucked into the Corkscrew vortex. Thing is, they have to run this damn loop twice, ccw and cw, so they'll pass through the Ironton aid 3 times, and so I decide to pull up and help at the aid station while waiting. It starts raining and keeps right on raining, and tosses some hail at us as well. It's a good thing the aid was moved here, as the other lot is a mud pit, and this place drains rather well. Good call moving here, as spontaneous as the decision was. The entire aid is one big family and they've got everything covered, so I become the drop bag shagger by default.

Rene comes in first, followed soon after by Jake, telling me he had puked not long ago. All things considered, neither one of them looks too bad for the abuse they'd suffered through, the rain, hail, miles, and altitude. Jake doesn't need or want much besides cleaning his feet and changing his Injinji socks. I top his water bottles and meet his pacer, Dos, who has just showed up. Jake heads out while Dos and I create a plan. Once Jake gets back here again and we get him taken care of, Dos will drive into town and get some sleep. I'll wait for Jake to make his second round, then head in as well, to get some sleep. Then we'll drive together to Crystal Lake in the morning for Dos to begin pacing, while I will once again drive back to Fellin Park and wait. Jake takes just over 3 hours and we set him up by my truck to redo his feet again and eat a few quesadillas. He actually wants one of my ice cold Sprites from the cooler, and maybe I've managed to justify being here. It seems I'm the only means for him to get a cold drink, and somebody to handle his disgusting socks. I toss the abused socks into my truck bed where they begin to accumulate fungus.

Jake heads out for loop two, Dos is off to find a bed, and I go back to shagging drop bags, until just after midnight, when Jake comes back in. It's gotten quiet, the rain has stoped, and most all the runners have gone on or dropped out. A few more quesadillas and Sprites, plus the personal foot wash and sock change and off he goes, back over the mountain to Richmond, where we've had a few reports of running out of water and food. Jake and a few others are nervous about the water problem there and looking to get over and past it to Weehawken.

The return trip skips all the Shattered Windshield out-n-backs this time, and heads more directly to Richmond aid and beyond. Camp Bird station has picked up and moved down to Weehawken, so 6 miles to Richmond and another 4.2 to Weehawken. Once here, the runners turn left and head strait up the mountain to the Alpine Overlook and then back down again for another 5 miles. So this is how it goes, all these seemingly little out-n-backs to summits here and there to add distance and altitude over and over, until the runner is smashed to a useless fraction of what he was before.

From Weehawken, its more of Camp Bird Rd and then up Hayden Rd to Hayden Mountain and then Hayden Trail over the pass and down into Crystal Lake. When Jake left Ironton, he was dizzy from the multiple Corkscrew loops, so I had loads of time to get to my bed for some sleep. As it is though, I got to bed by 2:30am, and wake at 7:00am, with time to get some hotel breakfast. Dos and I get to Crystal Lake by 9:30am, with hours it seems to wait. There had only been 10 people through and Jake was far from the front end of this pack. We had barely made ourselves comfortable when the skies once again open up and pour. Retreating to the truck, we make ourselves lunch and watch from the cab. The rain turns to hail, and just keeps on coming, and figure Jake for plenty more of the same treatment up on top.

The aid volunteers are a bit confused about the cutoff, and are preparing to shut down at 11:15am when the actual cutoff isn't until 3pm. I talk to them about it, and not sure they're buying anything I'm selling, but, they do remain open. The lake is unbelievably beautiful and I take a few of those perfect mountain landscape shots with the mountains reflected in the water, until some ten year old girl starts tossing rocks into the water, rippling the reflection into oblivion. I put the camera away right about then.

  Crystal Lake before the little girl chased the clouds away.

Crystal Lake before the little girl chased the clouds away.

Some time after noon, Jake walks in through the rain, and with the aid station being small and full, we sit him up out in the rain. Won't make much of a difference at this point. He asks for more cold Sprites, so I run off to fetch them, while he once again cleans and changes socks. A bit to eat, refill the water bottles and gone. Before he goes, he tells me about Rene. Said he had fallen and cut his face pretty bad, blood, and black eyes, so Rene's moving much slower now. I want to wait for Rene, but I need to get back too, so I get on the road. There's a long wait at the one way light, where all the drainage of rain off the rocky mountain sides is pouring debris onto the paved road. It's a 30 minute wait before we can go, but as long as I can go, I'm fine. Hate to think I could be stuck here for many hours when the bigger rocks come down. Back to Fellin park eventually, I begin to wait again. Still plenty of daylight left of the day, but 8.6 miles of mountain trails tend to take awhile. I brought a hammock and was going to set up between the two big trees by the gazebo, but it appears that someone has set up their lawn chairs and waiting area right where the only place exists I could hang the hammock. Oh well, sometimes it rolls like that, so I think about my lawn chair, and realize Jake may have taken it into the aid station at Crystal Lake, because I no longer have it. I find a spot up in the gazebo aid station and immerse myself in conversation with whoever will listen.

Dos rolls up on us and we ask where Jake's at, and he simply points at the bathrooms. So, he's now through 75 miles, but getting close to the cutoffs, losing another half hour at each aid station. Jake says the socks he now has were a mistake. They keep sliding up under his feet, so we go through all 3 of the drop-bags that he now has here. No socks in any of them, so he sends me off to my truck bed to fetch the fungus-ed ones he took off last night. My truck is at the far end of the lot in Jakes' secret parking space that's always available. I run over, root out the black socks, run back, happy to please, and Jake say's it's the wrong ones. What do you mean, wrong? The blue ones he says. No shit? So I run back over again, find the blue ones, run back, and he seems pleased, and quickly puts them on, re-laces the shoes, and heads out.

This next section is only 6 miles, but it includes another out-n-back up to the summit of Sister Peak. Not sure if Dos is up for this kind of total distance,  so I pull him out and send Jake out solo. Figure to let Dos come back in at Silvershield aid after a break. We drive over to Silvershield and park as we watch the sun go down and the time run away, and I begin to realize I should have left Dos stay with Jake. The father & son working this aid station are two of the most pleasant people I'd met today. Cheerful to all and in the face of some angry runners who were just now realizing they are done. This section is much more difficult than any of us had anticipated. Jake's way late, and we're beginning to worry. A runner comes in with his knee ripped open. Says there's lightning on top and slippery as snot on the climb and descent. Another runner comes in with the same story, and another. I send Dos up the trail to see if he can find Jake, and two runner's drop to catch a ride out, just as Jake comes in. He's not very happy with any of it, the time, his condition, the course, none of it. He takes the time to clean his feet again, a quesadilla and a Sprite, and out he goes with Dos. 

I drive back to Fellin Park to wait, and find the aid station abandoned. All the fixens, food, and drinks are here, but not a soul to administer to it. So, I start cooking quesadillas, cleaning up the table, and looking to see what else can be served up. Jake and Dos make good time, being just 4 miles and avoiding Sister Peak on the return, so they come in quick, get served up, feet fixed, another Sprite, and off they go, with not much time to spare. With roughly 17 miles to get, Jake's on the edge of cutoffs now, with precious little time to spare. He's also been on his feet for 2 days and 2 nights, nonstop mountains, with rain and hail, and how much more does he have in the tank. Most people have reduced to a crawl if they are sill going, so I'm beginning to wonder about his chances of finishing. I'm working with him right through to the final out, and acting as if anything is possible, but damn... can he do it?

He's on the 6.7 mile Chief Ouray Mine out-n-back now, and a lot of this trail is docile, but for the switchbacks up and over to the mine at the end. I hike down the river trail to the hotel room, to get Dos's shirt, to check the computer, and something else I can't remember any more. I send a text to Jake's wife, telling her the down-low, the time, and the potential, what he needs to do, and what he most likely will do. I tell her I'll let her know when he's near the finish after the next section, and then I hike back to Fellin Park. The clock hands are spinning much faster now, and Jake appears to be very slow moving on the spot tracker. After an hour and then another rolls past, I tell Brienn (Jake's wife), his chances are getting real thin. It looks like he's gonna miss the cut for the last section, won't even get on it. Brienn begins to question if I might have missed him, and he's already on the last section. I tell her its possible, just not likely. And then 6:00 am rolls by and he's done. But I've been talking to the RD and he seems to not care if people miss a cutoff, as long as they look good. It's not how I would do it, but he seems ambivalent about it, and I think Jake knows this too. 

I get tired of waiting at the park, so I walk up to the road to wait for him to come off the mountain. When he does, I ask if he knows about the cutoff, and he says, I'm going to talk to the RD... end of conversation. He marches in to the aid, finds the RD, and then walks right back out, and starts for the next section. I'm still in, he says. It's 7:05, more than an hour past the cutoff. I take his water bottles and do as I've been doing the last 2 days, I run to the truck and fill them. I then make 2 fast peanut butter sandwiches and hand them to him as he runs past me. Holly shit! This next section is a beast of 10.6 miles and most expect to do it in 6 hours, but he has less than 5. It's a pace he has not done once in the last 2 days, and highly difficult to manage after 90 miles and 2 days. Dos is only with him until he gets his food and water situated and then he comes back down the mountain minutes later. I have no time left, he says. I need to get home and a long drive. I feel bad, but I have to go. 

I text Brienn and tell her the state of things, and she bolts for her car. She is on her way and wants to be here when he comes back in. He will now most certainly finish the 100 miles, and that's a grand thing to do, but there's not much chance of getting back by noon to beat the 52 hour cutoff. No more aid, support, crew, pacer, or time. He simply has to get up a 5 mile mountain climb to the Bridge of Heaven and then back down again another 5 miles to the finish by noon. Brienn arrives with her 2 boys, and sets up her chair near the finish, while I bounce around. I can't possible set down, even though this will still take hours. I walk back to my room again, so I can get a better feed on the Spot Tracker, and watch with amazement as he moves quickly UP the mountain. I didn't honestly think he had a chance, but I can tell now that he's RUNNING UP the mountain. I can see him tag the summit, then start RUNNING DOWN the mountain. Thats when I quickly head back over to Fellin Park. No flippin way can he do this, but I hope! The RD is starting to gather up his notes for the awards ceremony, when Brienn spots Jake weaving between the cars in the parking lot. It's only 1 minute before noon when we see him, and now everybody's yelling. He bobs left, then right, he gets waved through a hole in the fence, across a railroad tie. If he falls now he won't have time to get up. He's stumbling, raw emotion on his face, the medical guy runs out and directs him to the exact spot he needs to be, where he stumbles between the cones and hits the ground just past the finish, with a second or two to spare. Pure pandemonium ensues

                        A Shattered Windshield course

                      A Shattered Windshield course

2018 Capt'n Karl's Muleshoe Bend 30k

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Not that there is much can be done about it, my preference for going out slow is beginning to slap me in the face. It simply takes my body 30 to 60 minutes to work out all the tightness, to get loose enough to stretch my legs and actually run. Thing is, the lot of us are packed into a single-track sardine tin with no room to do anything more than the person immediately in front. And that person is in the same situation as is the person in front of her, and so on and so on. I might be a bit more comfortable with it if they'd run the downs, but hell no, they gingerly walk the downs, and partially spin the ups. I simply have to get out of my head or I'll be doing like some of the other poor impatient souls and sprinting through the scrub alongside, tearing my clothes and skin on the lethal juniper branches. So, I start talking... to anyone who will listen. The woman in front ignores me, even though she knows I'm talking to her, she acts like she doesn't know. But four people up, somebody responds, not that I can hear every other word, but I make out it's Shelly, who I had coached a few years ago for Leadville 100mi. What I want, is to get out of my mind, and struggling to construct a complete sentence out of every other word from Shelly, it works perfectly to suffocate the internalizing whiny bitch in my head.

The merry-go-round course twists and turns, up and down, and round and round, in a pleasant sort of way, entertaining in its unpredictability. Starting late in the day, but close enough to night, I have my headlamp wrapped around my wrist, and a water bottle loaded with Tailwind in hand. Almost everybody else already has their headlamp on their noggin, but I generate a lot of heat and sweat from my head, and don't need the extra add-on. I finally get past the woman immediately in front of me, and soon after see others stepping trail side to escape the pace that for them, may be too quick, or maybe they just want out of the pace-line. Don't know, don't care, but glad to see some room begin to open up. Now I need to be careful, with room to run, I don't do too much. I no longer have the speed I used to, but I so much enjoy a bit of technical trail, and I find myself dancing around Shelly and a few others when they slow on some short bit of rocky descent. Since I slid past the speed regulator, my cadence has been increasing bit by bit. I feel good so far, but I'm trying to process what is too much when I go to pass another, but back off instead. It would have been no different from just up-clicking cruise control for another 3mph , but instead I drop down and tuck in behind. He's moving well, constant, steady, and I think I'm pleased with myself for successfully reigning in. Now, if I can just stay here?

Well, of course I can't help but chat Nick up, but as you would suspect, he rises like a leprechaun on the next climb, while I walk, albeit one with some purpose to it. Still, he's quickly gone. This course has more than a few inside-out loops, in which we run right alongside the trail we just turned off, to run next to it in reverse for some distance, and then reverse again. The one we're on now is the double or triple inside-out loop, where I can see lights flickering all about, and have no idea if they're in front or behind. This section of trail is more bushwhack, slipping up and sliding down over rock ledges, around trees, and it's hard to make out the direction in the fading light. Thankfully, I can read trail by brail, and with my bat-vision sonar engaged, I ride this lovely playground with a wide grin and some amount of joy. I also catch Ashley, that is until we turn back and the trail opens up into an easy ride and she drops me quickly. At the end of it, the trail once again gets rocky as we climb out of the hole we've been playing in, only to arrive on the other side of a trail block from where we fell in. Minutes later, we arrive at the second aid station. I'd skipped the first one, with a full water bottle and no reason to do otherwise, but now I need a top-off and some ice.

With the 10k starting 30 minutes behind us and a four mile shortcut, they now merge with us at this aid. I'm in a particularly froggy mood now, wanting to run, and needing to dodge, but it's really not much of a big deal. Every person hears me coming, knowing I'm moving faster than they are, and steps off trail to let me by without so much as a hiccup. I might have even preferred more of the slow-me-down, but the timing of the 10k/30k merger seems to be a smooth one. Me and those around me, who have been changing places with one another for the entire first loop if nothing else, are slowing down the 10k runners, but it's hard to say.

The last little loop-ti-do is not much more than a landmark to let me know I'm almost done with the first loop. It also reminds me how much of the insidious little pencil cactus there is alongside the trail. I know what they are and make certain to dodge every overhang, but I wonder how many of the others are caught unaware. Soon after, I'm back at the start/finish/turnaround in solid time. I sit and take a moment for a beer while Jeannie helps me with a Tailwind and water refill. I also change my shirt and would like to change shorts too, but there is nowhere convenient to make this wardrobe change, so I don't.

Off again to begin loop two without the limiting pace-line of runners, I might be going a bit too fast. I pass a guy standing mid-trail, then another walking, and for some damn reason, it only makes me go faster, like a thief, stealing what precious little energy they have and using it myself. Another couple of guys slide behind and I realize one is Nick, and he asks me what's got me powered up. I tell him it's beer, an ice cold beer that has cooled and refreshed me, and I should have brought one along. And so I continue, and I think that Nick has tagged along, but it's the other guy instead. Rick from Houston chats me up and we get into a discussion about race directing and the philosophies used to run a small business or a family being much the same. And so we talk for another mile or more before he goes ahead on the same climb that Nick dropped me on the last loop.

This is where I hook up with Ashley at about the same place I hooked with her on the last loop. We do all the inside-outs and by the time we escape, we're best of friends. I was explaining to her how of late, I've been spending the night alone in the woods with strange women and never even getting their names. It's about now when I realize my clothes are soaked through and starting an irritating rash in a most vulnerable location. So much so, that I'm finding it difficult to run or walk without the burn, like dragging a wet rope across my groin. It's about here I catch and entertain Cyndie, January, and Richard for a few, but moving faster than they, I run just a little and then start fast walking again to go ahead.

I ask for Vaseline but get Trail Ties at the second aid for some rash relief. And with my fingers now polluted, I ask the volunteers if they'd mind handing me some watermelon instead of dipping my own disgusting fingers into the tray. I also top off my water bottle with ice and get a cold-water spray on my hands and face. What royal treatment for a peon, and I'm both thankful and relieved. But, the relief is short lived, the rash fix doesn't last and once again, I'm walking cowboy funny. We're just about to the final pencil cactus loop-ti-do when Shelly and friend catch us and Ashley says she needs to run it in, that I find myself alone once again. It's just as well, with the irritation making me less than good company at this point. With all three ladies moving ahead, their lights disappearing in strobe flashes between the trees, I continue to walk, and walk poorly. With less than a half-mile to go, more and more lights begin to appear all about, some 60k runners starting another loop, some 30k runners pushing to get done, crews waiting near the finish, and the general chaos that always surrounds any finish area. From almost total darkness, firefly lights are now flitting all over the place, welcoming me to the finish

2018: Capt'n Karl's Pedernales Falls 30km Night Time Trail Race

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Hot Damn, but it's hot! 97 degrees at 7:30pm start time. Got maybe 90 minutes of daylight left, but a hell of lot more heat yet to come. Don't want to think about the humidity, but it's way the hell up there too. Even with the sun low and in my eyes, I didn't want the ball cap. The visor would have been nice, but only for an hour. I figured on the bandana instead, partly to soak up all the sweat, and partly as a headlight pad for my noggin. Didn't want to deal with a hydration pack laying against back either, so a single water bottle is the entire list of all my gear. I have enough weight already without adding more. What I need is a radiator to suck the heat off my body, and I damn sure don't need anything else on my body to generate more.

Besides minimizing the gear, I also have a slow motion agenda so as to minimize the amount of heat I generate from within. Won't be doing much more than an easy glide until the sun goes down, and then I suspect I won't be going much faster even after. I'm thinking about a finish without badly overheating, and not much else. Walk the ups, run the downs, and take what I can muster when the trail is horizontal. 

I leave out from the start near the back of the pack and hit a bottleneck rather quickly. The next quarter mile is all military grade start and stop drills, then slips into whatever speed I wish at the out and back. Down a short bit, back up the same way and then around and onto the back fence line. The sun's in my eyes so bad, I can hardly see, and have to use my hand to block the sun a few times, but then we turn left and it's all fine from here.

I can hear the headquarters area when we finish the start loop, and soon after the 10km runners start busting through us. Some of it's ok, but when a pace-line of five or ten go by, it gets a bit old, waiting for them to pass. I feel as if I should just plow back onto the trail and force them to go around, but that would be harsh too, as there's no place to go around. What would have done it better for me, and the others as well, is another fifteen minutes or more. I suspect our 30km fast guys did the same damn thing to the slower 60km runners.

At some point just out from the first aid station, all of us merge together much better, such that we're all running about the same pace, and there is much less conflict. The first aid station is at 4.5mi and I'm under an hour, but just barely. There's a dozen or more runners buzzing around the tables, filling water, eating a bit, chilling.

Must be three quarters of a mile roughly to where we finally lose the 10km runners. Might have been much nicer to give each race an hour gap instead of the 30 minutes we had, but thats just the race director in me thinking. Soon after the 10km spin off, we get to the beginning of the big balloon loop, where Axel stands guard to make sure we all go to the right. 

This section of trail takes advantage of the Juniper Trail, which I like quite a bit. Even though there's not much elevation gain or loss, this trail rides right on the rocky edge of every arroyo in the area. Rock hopping from one to the next, dodging trees, and endlessly turning. The sun goes down, as the humidity ramps up, but the heat just keeps right on burning. The wind does reach into the trees a good bit and wash over us like a caressing hand, but it still isn't enough to keep me from getting soaking wet from my own sweat.

I hook up with Penny and Amy along here, tuck in behind, and listen to their girl talk for a few miles. Penny's rolling along really well, Amy hangs on, and I eventually let go, but not until after the unmanned second aid at 8.4mi in 1:53. There's another dozen people buzzing around when we arrive, but I can't figure out exactly why. The coolers are low to empty and one guys is filling a cooler with a large water jug he's pulled in from the back side. I get what I want and escape ahead of the crowd. Time for a gel, which costs less than a few seconds. Soon after, Penny and friend are gone.

I roll up on Don along here and slow to walk with him for a bit, while the pack I left behind now washes over us. We have good company for a bit, but then I go bye and start up the climb to the park road. I catch Rich up near the road, and figure to visit with Rich too, but he doesn't seem to be in much of a mood to talk, so I stay mum and walk just ahead for a bit. Slowly, I begin to pull ahead walking, and then catch up to Amy. Looks like Penny has tossed her as well, and good for Penny, to keep rolling. 

The next aid at 11.7mi in 2:50 is the corral in full hum, with dozens of people all about. I get a drink of coke, refill my water, and scarf a few orange slices, before rolling back out, with Amy in tow. Down the hill and back onto Juniper Trail, heading back home, we pick up Roni. The three of us roll along walking more than running, but a fast walk more or less, until we come up on another dozen people standing around a down runner. And there's Penny again, taking care of a young man with heat issues. They have more than enough people wrapped around the laid out runner, and one more will just be in the way, so I skim on bye, but Amy stops to reconnect with Penny. Roni stays on with me, and we keep on going, and although it's difficult to run, I try to keep pushing my forced walk. Eventually, Roni falls off as well, but she's in the 60km and I'm in the 30km, so she's being as careful as me in her own way.

And so I continue for the duration on my own, with s few passing by, and me passing a few as well. I pass sets of runners on the trail side, and a few lying on the ground, each trying to deal with the heat, and some not doing very well at all. I stay on track, keep going, and eventually get back to the same aid I was out just after the balloon loop at 17.2mi in 4:00. I get some ice cold water and keep marching, but I'm now stumbling about, tripping a bit, and wondering how much more of the heat I can stand. No way could I have done the 60km today. So glad I'm only in the 30km and starting to feel really bad for all the guys doing two loops. But damn. As wet as I am, I'd be big time dealing with underarm and crotch rash real soon, so its good I only have another 2 miles to go.

The last two miles are so slow, knowing I'm close, wanting to run, and suddenly realizing a big part of this last bit is mostly uphill. I do drag my ass in and not soon enough for me at 18.4mi in 4:39. I cross the timing mat and go sit down on my cooler. Fumi walks over to let me know the real timing mat is further up and I haven't crossed it yet, so I get up and walk a bit further to find the real finish at the second timing mat. What the hell was that all about? NO matter. I am done, and add another few minutes for stupidity.

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2018: Jemez 50km

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Its a skinny little trail where we stack up like lemmings on the other side of the horse stables. Fine dirt powder rises from the dusty trail, stirred up by a couple hundred sets of feet. No room to pass, or even step aside, so we each and all, go at the pace of the person immediately in front of us, which is mostly just walking. Can't be more than a couple hundred yards before we drop into the valley below, where the trail opens up and people begin to pour past me. Not that its me in particular holding anyone up, as much as its just all of us squeezed into a bottleneck that has just released. With so much open space available now, people have become impatient with the line of lemmings, and finally cut loose. Adela was with me for a bit, but then she's gone, then Marcia, and the rest, or so it seems.

Before I even started, I knew this was going to be a slow and easy run. Its just the way its been lately and I see no reason why it should be any different today. Especially between 7000 and 10000 ft of elevation on a rather hot and sunny day. I usually start rather laid back and easy, because it takes so long to get the generator cranked up, but also, this course does a fair bit of climbing. We get about 3 miles of sissy trail, and then it begins the 9 mile climb, or maybe more. Sure as hell feels like it.

I've run this course 5 times already, but they've all been in the other direction, so I'm a bit turned around and confused, especially in reference to the up and down location and distance. I guess I never really knew that all this part was one big long up, until now. As the trail climbs the mountain from 7000 ft to 9000 ft, so do the temps from 55 to 80 degrees. I think about running, but it after all just a thought. I walk! Funny thing is: aint all that many people behind me, so I never get the taste of how slow I'm going.

To go from Rendija to Cabra is to climb out of a canyon, not that its a nasty climb, but it is up. Big boulders, single track, and trees fading to scrub as we head north of Los Alamos. Actually, we never do see Rendija. I won't find out until later, the aid station isn't even in the same place it used to be. Typical New Mexico look and feel, which my spirit is particularly attuned to. I like it here much more than any reason I can figure out. It just suites me. Cabra is an aid station and also a reference point for a change in terrain. Its wide open here, partly because its higher up, but also because this area was burned out a few years ago. It begins with a wide dusty jeep road that turns into a single track trail. All the green is from young trees only a few years old, and it's enough to hide the worst of the burn, but not all of it.

Guaje Ridge is where I expect it to be... at the top of the initial climb. But as is my trend today, I'm not even close to right about this being the end of the climb. I had packed a trekking pole to use for the climbs, but forgot about it until I reach Guaje. But then I compound my mistake, thinking the climb is almost done, and keep on it. Over the next 3 miles, I keep questioning myself if I should stop and take the damn thing out, but don't. Now I figure it'll be foolish to take the time if the summit is just ahead. Three more miles and a lot more time and I'm calling myself stupid at least a hundred times.

The landmark I'm looking for is the pipeline road, which I also thought was downhill, but I'm wrong again! How can I possibly have so much of this so wrong? It's up and down, but appears to be mostly up, until I'm within half-mile of Pipeline aid. As much as all this climbing at altitude has knocked me off any suggestion of a fast run, I'm still enjoying the beauty of this magical place. The high desert mountains covered in pines has a humidity so low, I can only dream of it back home. But even the low humidity is causing me problems: my lips are drying up and starting to crack, my throat so dry, I can't drink enough water.

My memories of the trail between Pipeline and Ski Lodge surprisingly match the pastoral setting exactly and the shade from the tall trees are a welcome relief. I can see the ski runs on Pajarito Mountain a long time before I arrive at the aid station. This is the big one: the monster climb and the last climb of note in this race, so I'm impatient to get to it, and aware of the challenge. I need to get some calories in me, so I have a few bites as well as some orange and watermelon slices. I've been carrying an empty water bottle in my pack just for this next section, so I have that and my standard bottles filled with cold water. I even remember to pull my trekking pole out before I start.

On the wrong end of the laundry chute going up and being particularly lousy at climbing, I do the best I can, which I'm certain is pitiful and sad to watch, but I never give up. I can see a number of small colorful spots on the slope above, on the route I'll soon be on. The damned thing goes strait up: no turns and no switchbacks. One baby step after another in a nasty old granny gear trudge. There's a rare few people who go up surprisingly well, but at this point, I've been on the ass end of the race, so it surprises me there are actually still more behind me.

There's a bike race going on at the same time as our run race, and they're using the ski lift, so we get a good look at the lift-chairs filled with bikes and people, just above our heads. I want so bad to go back down and hitch a ride to the top, just as they're doing. It just doesn't seem right: them having a race going down while we have a race going up. I know I chose the wrong one. There's a place we cross each other and I wonder if anyone might have had a collision or near miss yet. I suspect most everyone at this point is near braindead and a bike coming down at speed might be a problem. A woman in black slowly marches past and stops a moment to say something and then passes. All she says is: "Those are the biggest damn feet I've ever seen".

There's another woman, who seems to match me on the climb. She takes as many breaks as I do, and seems to stay just a bit below and behind. When I finally do top out just under the lift, I take a moment to repair: empty my shoes, fetch the other water bottle, and eat a bite. Valerie comes up on me just as I get up to continue, so we continue together. I hadnt hooked up with anyone today for a lot of different reasons, but mostly because I'm just too damned slow today, so it surprises when she hooks on. As fast as I walk, she walks. When I slow down or take a sit break, she does too. Mostly she stays about 10 or 12 steps behind, but every now and then, she gets close enough to talk, so I get a few snippets of information. The route for the remaining part of this climb wanders about, but eventually does reach the landmark ski chair in an open meadow. The chair marks the high point, which I am so damn happy to finally see, because it's now time for some down. I don't really get into much of a running motions so much, but do manage an odd stumbling fast falling walk for the next 6 miles down off the back side of the mountain.

At one point, we're in a huge open bowl of a valley with mountains all the way around, and its breathtaking. Somewhere along here though, we find and follow some of the ugliest jeep rut roads, full of dust, and reflecting the heat from the cloudless ski, and I once again begin to melt. I stop to sit under a tree in the shade once, but get up and go again. Its not long afterwards, we reach Camp May, where its time to lube up. My crotch rash is getting to be a problem, but I have the Desiten and the time to make the repair. Watermelon and orange slices seem to be the thing today. They're nice and cool, even if they're light on calories.

The next section is a mess: road crossings, neighborhoods, swingsets, and all sorts of odd connectors. We even pass through a part of the Los Alamos lab area, drop into a deep cut, cross a road, and climb out the other side. I wonder many times through here if I'm actually on the trail. It just seems so odd, this route we are on. We do a bit of bouldering here and again, going up and down again and then we think we might actually be lost. There are no flags, the trail no more than a trace, crossing over a very rocky area, with lots of easy options, but I just keep on following the meandering trace of trail, hoping I have chosen correctly. 

My stress level goes way up right about now: I'm not sure, the sun is up and cooking, I need to sit down a few times, and even lay down once. I must be looking pretty bad, as I watch Valerie pass me for the first time. We do find a flag to confirm we are going the correct way, which makes me feel much better. A short time later, I take time to lube again, and again, Valerie takes lead. I'm quick about it and catch back up, and I tell her she doesn't need not wait for me. But she defers, saying she's ok and willing to stay as she is, and so we continue.

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The trail has a bit of roll along here and I'm fine on anything down, but the tank is empty: any up and I hit bottom. We connect with the 50 mile return point, where a course guide woman sits and watches to make certain all of us go the correct direction. It's just before the trail drops into a dry creek bottom and climbs back out the other side. Soon after we stumble into Quemazon for some very welcome relief, where I consume generous amounts of orange and watermelon. This is teh decision point for the 50 milers and one of them sits here now trying to decide wether to go on or drop to 50 km.

This landmark seems to breathe new life into me in some deep emotional way I would have never expected, but I no longer feel as bad as I have been the last few miles. Maybe part of it is because we're down to the final 5 miles, but heading out, I get going and realize I'm starting to put some distance on Valerie. Mostly I stay ahead, but do stop at intersections to make sure she's still on. I still aint running, but my walk's in full power mode now. Maybe it's just me smelling the barn, but we're on the edge of town and I can see houses and the water tower by the finish. I keep pushing, busting at the seems to be done. Its all down now and we drop into a creek bottom where we find Rendija... and a beer. My goodness but it tastes good. 

Leaving for the final bit, I'm once again confused because Rendija is not where it usually is. So there also isn't the climb up and out that I expect. Instead, we march down along a dry creek bottom, and I just hope were going the right way. I get faster with impatience, because I don't know for sure, and if I go faster, I might learn sooner. Eventually we reach the trail split and the climb up and out that I've been looking for and relief washes over me. I now know for certain we're just two miles from done, and I'm ecstatic. Valerie continues to lose ground, so I wait now and again. We've been together for many hours today already and we havent really had much to say to one another, so I figure I'll slow and maybe have a visit now that we're almost done. But when I slow to wait, she slows too. I speed up and she does too. Well ok: maybe she just wants to leave this just as it is and I can respect that, so I pull ahead once more and remain there.

At the tunnel finally with just 1 mile to go and I don't slow. Reaching the split for the rock drainage climb up and out to the finish, a guy's sitting on a rock. As I go bye, he says: "There she is". You mean Valerie, I ask? He asks if I know her. I tell him no, but we've been together pretty much all day. So I climb up and get to the top of the chute where a few more people and a few kids are waiting for Valerie. It's all her peeps! I watch one of the kids hug her as I turn and head to the finish. When I get there, I stop and wait. I can't cross just yet, so I wait. Valerie walks up with one of her kids and as she crosses the finish, I turn and cross with her. I'm sure I ruin a dozen or so photos, but what the hell. I figure I have the right. Anyway, I'm done. Time to get these damn shoes off!

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2018: Texas Switchback Half-Marathon

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I'd run these trails a few years ago, biked them too, and had a pretty good idea of the terrain. So today's race for me was a refresher, yet there's no way I can know the route or what exactly was going to happen next. Mostly, I just want to check on my old friend Erik Stanley and see how his Trail Roots race is run.

The half-marathon pack is somewhere above 150 strong when we start at 7:30am, and even with a wide area to spread out, the bottleneck comes way too soon. It takes me way too long to warm up, so I'm mid-pack with another 100 people when we get stuck as soon as we hit the single-track. The race has just started, so the only thing I can figure is a tortoise or two are blocking our progress. I'm used to slow, but standing still during a race is new for me, especially just minutes into the race. The pack around me is starting to grumble and some try to surge around the hangup, only to be squeezed back into place by the abundant prickly pear. We open up and surge again, only to stop again, surge, and wait some more, then surge and wait... and finally I pass the first bottleneck: a woman walking up the middle of the trail, oblivious of all the chaos she's causing. Then I pass the 2nd, the 3rd, and finally we're set free to abuse ourselves as it suites each of us to do on our own terms, with only 15 minutes of official time delay. No big deal really, but I tend to roll with this sort of stuff. There are a few around me that had worked themselves into a big energy surge by the time we break free, and they sprint off with willful abandon. I hope they have enough sense to spin down before they burn themselves out. Oh well, but we will see. All I can do is the same as everybody else: take care of myself.

It was 75 degrees when I drove in at sunrise, and I suspect nothing less than an increase of temp to go along with the abundant humidity: the hallmarks of a really nasty Texas summer day. As has become my standard method when the weather and my clothes reaches this point of sweat saturation, I power down and tend more to a walk than a run. I save my better running moments for the downhills and cool shade areas, if any! I can tell, most of this crowd appears to be more road runner than trail, because most of them are running the uphills. They scamper around me as I walk the ups, which is no concern of mine, but then they clog up the descents with their tentative concerns, as I attempt to bomb through them, and this is just too much. All in all, it makes for some interesting looks from the dozen or so I tend to go back and forth with. They pass me on the up and I pass them on the down, with the result being we simply stay all together through the balance.

Another odd thing, not many are carrying water bottles or hydration packs. Standard operating procedure for me is with a water bottle in hand, and so it is right now. The aid stations are close enough from one to the next, that a single will do, so I skim the aid at mile 3, while all the others around me stop for a drink or two. So the aid station serves as simply another downhill for those around me. 

It's a rugged course, rocks everywhere, with quite a few hills, and a few really nice rock chutes that switch down along creek bottoms. These are quite a bit of fun to run, whether they're up or down. This place is typically used as a mountain bike ranch, with more than a few structures made just for a bike. I can avoid most of them until I get to the mountain bikers jungle gym section of chutes and bridges, where I'm herded over the first big one, but find a way to skirt the edges of the other 5 or 6. But all this jumping about stirs up an awful rumbling in my tummy, to the point where I have little option but to go off into the woods to visit the bears for a bit. I can hear a good number of runners pass by, while I slowly try to relax and unwind.

When I get back at it, I've lost my herd, but I've had a bit of a rest, so I spin up a bit and run for a while, wondering if I'll find a new pack. Seems as if I'm between packs now as I'm alone mostly. There are a good number of people around I keep seeing, but the course is such that we're on drastically different sections of the course, yet within a stones throw of each other. Its hard to know who is in which race, going on who knows what direction, and how far form anything. There's more than a few trails on this course that are so typical of mountain bike ranches, ,that go a long way in one direction only to switch back and go a long way in the other direction right next to the same trail, and then reverse again. It seems the designers of mountain bike ranches do not wish to ignore any of the real estate whatsoever. Reminds me of how I mow my lawn, making certain I hit every blade of grass.

Rolling into the 2nd aid is a bit confusing. I see people coming in to it from different directions and going out in different directions. I ask which way I need to go, but the two ladies are overwhelmed and don't understand me. One of them glances at me for just a fraction of a second and points at the water cooler. Wasn't what I asked for but I figure I might as well top off. The trail in and out of here are not much of what I'd call a trail per se. It's just flagged and easy to follow, but no more than a clearcut through scrub on the edge of where flat land tips off the edge of a hill. I'm used to this kind of shit, so I catch and pass a few people in here, who are struggling with the terrain. The thing about it is it's very irregular, rhythm destroying, and awkward: run a few, hop a few ledges, walk a few, and repeat. There's no way anyone can hold a rhythm in here, but hell, thats the way I run all the time.

Again, we go a long way one way, reverse for a long way, then again, and again. The last reversal drops us onto an old pot-holed paved road that eventually reaches up and touches the aid station I was at a while ago, but didn't understand. Now I understand, but I had to see both sides for it to make sense. This time, I'm at mile 9. Again, I don't need water, so I roll off the right side and continue.

Theres a bazillion intersections all over this course, but Erik did a great job using caution ribbon to herd us through all of it as good as he did. The course is one twisted up mess of intersections and caution ribbon that I see from one side of the caution, then the other, and sometimes yet even another. There are runners and voices everywhere, but they offer no confidence I'm going the right way. I find another chute that spins me up, but before I reach the bottom, I pull up to an intersection that seems to want me to go left, but a sign that tells me to go right. Yea, I know this is real simple, but I'm at boiling point now and ready to be done, so I'm second guessing everything. I just stand there and study on it, think a bit more, and as simple as it is, I'm stumped. My body wants left, the sign says right, so what do I do? I go right, but it just doesn't feel right.

There's lots of great deep shade now, and as much as I'd like to sit here and just chill for a bit, I don't. The trail goes up and comes down, so I walk a bit, run a bit, but keep at it, now that I've got past my mental hiccup. Coming to the river, I can now hear the finish line noise, but know I still have a mile or more remaining. I'm about to pass a kid, but I'm going so slow, he gets tired of waiting for me and decides to keep on, and runs ahead. And he does stay ahead for spurts, but I'm hell bent on getting done and stay on him for long enough that he steps off again and this time lets me go by.

The final bit along the river is soothing to my soul, hearing the water first, then seeing some people playing in it. I'm under a bluff, between the river and the plain, a wall to my left and trees between me and the river, offering their cool shade. Such a beautiful and calm setting is a wonderful way to finish out this race, and the tunnel we pass through on our way up to the plain is cool looking as well as cool temp-wise.

Nothing left but for the field now, but even this is another of those same old back and forth affairs that insists on once again mowing all the grass. The finish line chatter pulls on me while my body demands I stop and the ensuing argument turns into a bog war where I indecisively just slog along. There is of course always one last hill and I know it well. I laugh when I see it, because it only makes sense that there is always one last battle before the war is over. No choice but to up the beast and get it done where there is always somebody at the top telling me what I already know.

Damn but it's hot today. A sunglasses, sun hat, and bandana kind of day. It does get up to 90 degrees and everything I have on is sweat soaking wet. Tom's at the finish and like the good friend he is, offers me an ice cold beer. I am done. Life is good

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2018: Pandora's Box o Rox Half Marathon

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It's going to get hot today! So glad I'm not doing the marathon or worse yet, the double marathon. One time around this 13 mile loop is as much as I can handle today. Another benefit is I can drive in late and park after the sun rises, so I can see where I'm driving and parking.

There's a ton of us in the narrow start chute between the pavilion and the lake. We bump and stumble into each other as we use the skinny land ridge between the lake and a smaller pond, along the shore, past the adult playground, to a stop where we bottleneck into the trees by the campsites. Its just a momentary delay before we bust free and a good many of those behind us, take off to sprint on down the road. Around the lake and over the solid steel bridge that is constructed to look like it's old, with wood shingles.

The road of little rollers for just a bit longer until we enter the woods proper into what is locally know as the "L". It's a long section of land that connect the lake to the main body of the property we're using to do this race. As much as I'd like to think of this section as being easy, Its got a slight tilt to it. Its also full of cattle and prickly pear. The cactus roses are in full bloom by the thousands today, as well as the small barrel cactus. Its all bright yellows and deep purples surrounded by the red and orange Indian Paintbrush and others I don't know as well. This brutal piece of landscape disguises all her thorns in a field of uncommon beauty.

The shorter distance is not my strength or my specialty, but once it warms up to these levels, I drop down into a field of runners I have no chance against. They wash around me, passing me for a few miles, before I find my equilibrium, and reach a place where I hold my place. I go out slow and easy, which is not a good choice in a short race. There is no getting even in a distance where I find my balance just before I finish. Still, this is where I have evolved to.

Once past the gate, I quickly realize the new order of things in the trail route. Chris has been forced into some major changes by the ranch owner due the addition of a new retention pond. We do a set of unnatural switchbacks, going from main road to single-track trail to bulldozed jeep road and back again. I follow the pack as they loop back over some rocks, then down to a main road where an aid station is. The route out is a deceptive track over solid rock and suddenly we are on the dome. The dome is a one huge single big granite rock that is littered with more rocks on top of it, some the size of houses.

We wonder about until we route back onto the old course and now I know where I'm at. Its still nothing more than rock, but it's a wonderful playground of obstacles and hurdles. I'm reminded to never fall on this stuff as I watch a woman bust her tuchus not just once, but twice in a matter of minutes. This granite is like sandpaper to the skin and it doesn't take much to leave one hell os a nasty scrape. After her second touch down, I decide to call her Touchdown, but I never do see her again. I suppose she decided to back off after her second slide out. There are another two guys who I keep bumping into, one wearing grey, the other blue, so I call them together, the Civil War. Of course, all of this is done out loud, and they like the name. The next half hour, they shift into a sporting discussion of the civil war, about who kicked who's ass and the like.

The dome is huge, covering a 3 mile section of the course, that is fun for a while, but I can't imagine coming back for a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th loop over this unforgiving granite. The route over the rock was most likely created by fire ants searching for food, as there is no rhyme or reason to it. I have run here many times and have a good idea of what's next, but few of those around me have a clue. I watch those in front of me miss a turn now and again, and a whole group of lemmings head up a dead end box slot, before returning back the way they came. I stop at one point to look around and see people all over the place, many of them on course, but some who I know are most certainly not.

Tom's doing the double and started 3 hours before me, so it's no surprise when we match up, him on his 2nd loop, and me on my first. We chat for a good bit around the dome, but he stops for water at the Rock aid and I continue without him. The marathon started 15 minutes after us, but they are just now merging with us, and a group of them almost runs me over as I leave the aid. It's a narrow slot through the rocks here and no room for more than one at a time, so I get brushed aside. Soon after, the same guys slow down for a rugged descent, so I go around them in my typical downhill fashion. I need to pay attention, as these guys will be right back on me as soon as the course settles out, but it's not going to be right away. This section is a rock-n-roll kind of place, with a good mix of single-track and wide open rock, that I like to push a bit. Also, I think the rude dudes that pushed me back there have me spun up a bit, so I use it now.

I marked a good part of this course a few days ago, and the creek was dry then, but a good hard rain last night has done more than just raise the humidity, its also put some water in the creek. I hop over the water and enter the next section of the course, which leans more to shady single-track than it does to what we just did. There is more rock, but we are done with the main part of the dome. This used to be a really sweet section, plain old single-track, but the owner has created a weaving wide cut that crosses over the single-track again and again, basically smashing the single-track into a poor afterthought. It looks like a new construction project gone bad. I used to mark this with nothing but confirmation flags, but now, its loaded with directional arrows and caution chutes to make sure the road is crossed correctly each and every time.

I like to call this area, the Switchbacks! It slowly drifts up as it goes left and right, until eventually up on a high overlooking bluff that looks back down on the land we've just run. Some of the rocks are stacked up to give the impression of windows presenting a vast panorama of natural green wilderness in a lovely viewing area of natural rock benches. My wife had decided to come out to the ranch with her horse and I wondered if I'd see her while I was running. She had done this separate from me, towing the trailer and horse from the stables, and I wasn't sure if she had made it here or not, so I'm pleasantly surprised to see her now up in this high bluff area. Her horse is pitch black and Joyce leans more to bright colors so they are quite the dazzling look above the rose covered prickly pear and scrub. I steal a kiss and use the energy to get down to the Flow aid by the creek, where we meet again. 

From this point on, about 2 more miles, Joyce tracks on me without being on the run course, staying just one jeep road over at best. This next section is brutal rugged up and down through cactus and scrub. I hurry by a tree with a swarm of hornets to get as much distance as quickly as I can at this point in my depletion. Soon after a few more rock ridges, I'm back to the "L" and heading home. I can see Joyce over on the road in my peripheral vision, but try to stay focused on keeping my ass off the ground. Tom finally catches back up to me and together we head back to the lake and pavilion, crossing the final slow between lake and pond to the finish.

Badly overheated and sweat soaked, I immediately head up to my car to change into something dry, swap the shoes for sandals, and get an ice cold drink or two. I'm sitting by the car when Joyce shows up to leave her saddle with me, then she goes off to cool down her horse with a water hose, before walking her up to the trailer to make ready to head home. Both Joyce and I had a great day in drastically different ways. Life is good!

2018: Wild Canyon 50k

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Caprock Canyon SP has all the mystique and majesty of any western topography filled with bison, red rock canyons, and thunderous weather changes. Today is no different, with 20mph winds blasting us from the East and a storm approaching from the West. In a gale, Jimmy attempts to put up his tent while I try to sling my hammock. Jimmy's having a problem hammering his tent pegs into the ground behind a wind block, and I get one side of the hammock up but can't get to the 2nd tree. The hammock parachutes out instantly and pulls me off balance. I give it 3 or 4 tries but when the rain and hail comes on the 5th try, I quit. I wait for the hail to stop, then go find my tent and put that up instead, under an overhanging tree next to a dirt bank serving as a wind block.

I have discovered a new joy in camping the night prior to trail races, regardless the weather, but there are circumstances that need to be dealt with. Today, it is the wind, but we get it done. Once the tent is up and loaded with pad and bag, I settle down to read a bit and enjoy the storm as it rages. Bill and Nancy show up and go through their own processes same as we did, but eventually they also have a set of tents up. By the time the sun sets, there a dozen tents and a few others sleeping in their cars in the overflow parking area next to the lake. By dark, I've put away all the distractions and settled in to sleep. Nothing quite like the white noise of rain on a tent roof and wind blasting the tent walls to rock me to sleep.

I wake to the sound of coyotes yipping and checking my phone clock, find I'm 30 minutes shy the 5:45 alarm. My stomach reminds me to visit the bathroom before all else. I have everything already pre-set and ready for the day's adventure, so I pull on my shorts, shirts, socks, and shoes... and gather up the little I'll need for the first 15mi loop. Basically, its just a water bottle with tailwind mix and a pocket with toilet kit, foot repair kit, and a few gels. I have another complete change ready for loop two, as well as all the other what-ifs, dependent on how things go.

It's not raining when I visit the bathroom, but a rain cloud settles into us by the time I get back to the tent. It's a comfortable 50 degrees even with the rain, so its right on the edge of too cold and too hot, depending on the wind. Everybody at the start seems undecided whether its rain jacket weather or not. Some are completely covered in layers and jackets while others are in t-shirts and shorts. The spartans appear to be way too cold shaking in the wind while the multi-layered appear a bit too warm. I can't decide, but by the time we move out into the rain cloud, I simply leave the jacket on.

Jimmy went out yesterday to have a quick look at the trail and told me it looked to be a bulldozed jeep road, and so it is. Its wide, flat, and manicured enough to drive a jeep for a good part of the Eagle Point Trail. The dirt trail is a bit sloppy in places due the rain which makes for a bit of slipping and sliding. Jimmy goes on ahead, while I keep reconnecting with the same guy over and over, until we start talking and swap names. Paul's a triathlete from Lubbock in his first 50k, and after a good bit of random discussion, he clicks into my odd rhythm of mixed walking and running. We pop onto a paved road and run down it, until we see the turn on the right side for a bit of lively up and down on the Lower Canyon Trail. This rolls us into the Double Aid Station

By this time, I am way beyond wanting the rain coat and leave it here. While I'm sorting this out, Paul refills his water, but Nancy and Bill pass us along with a couple from Puerto Rico. Back on more paved road, I naturally tend to slow down while everyone around me goes faster, such that I get rapidly left behind. Paul looks like he can roll along and I suggest he take after the others, but he says he's hanging with me. Damn but I hate the road and I'm on it way too long, but this road ends at the South Prong Tent Camping Area and we spin off the right side to the Upper Canyon Trail. Its another bulldoze jeep road, but at least its dirt. It rolls along, up and own, left and right within a rock throw of a big mountain wall on our right, and a very shallow South Prong River. Eventually, we cross the river a few times and then hike directly up the middle of it, hoping from sand bar to sand bar.

Then I see the Bison and a handful of others, all standing and talking, trying to figure how to get around the big animal. I am not one to idly sit and wait, so I immediately go off into the brush on the right. I figure I either get around him or get him to move, and so he does. He moves towards me, off the path, into the prickly pear and scrub. The others get past him and I back up and go around the same way they do. We're not far from the base of the big climb and I end up in front of this small pack before we arrive, so I start climbing first. It's an extremely steep and rugged 2500ft ascent that requires both hands and both feet to push and pull from one rock to the next. Oh hell yea but this is the stuff. I wasn't too terribly excited about the course until just now. Paul stays on me, but we pull well ahead of the others, going from ledge to ledge, rock to rock, up into the clouds where the wind coming over the summit begins to hammer on us once again. The climb takes the wind right out of us, and also it exhilarates to the point that we begin to run and keep running across the top and down the rugged descent into a slot on the other side. 

I would have run right past it, but Paul sees the unmanned aid and stops for water. While we're there, our Puerto Rican friends catch us and pass by. This is still the Upper Canyon Trail but it's completely different from the South Prong side. This has the look of New Mexico with hoodoos and striped red rock mesas. Each time we drop into a depression and top out, we see another one just like it again, and again. Suddenly, it's hailing  marble sized ice pellets, popping us on the head and shoulders, and heavy rain mixed with the hail drenches us. I start looking for any sort of cover and find a steep drainage slicing in from one side that offers just a sliver of cover, but not enough. Paul stands with me for a moment, but we're just going to get cold standing there so we decide to suck it up and deal with it. Five minutes later, we're back to the Double Aid where I pick up the rain jacket I left here a few hours ago.

The rain stays with us, but its on and off, so I'm glad to have my jacket back. We return the way we came down the Lower Canyon Trail to the road, and Eagle Point Trail.  When we get to the out-n-back to Honey Flat, the route follows the edge of the bluff, with numerous splits going off in so many different directions, were it not marked, I'd have no idea. Onto the road, pass an aid station that I have no reason to use, back onto another trail, another road, another trail loop, then back the way I came. Back to the beginning point of the out-n-back, we go left and find the road just down from the start.

I tell Paul to have at it. I plan to go to my truck first where I'll change out all my wet clothes and eat some lunch before going after loop two. And so I do: change all of my soaking wet everything for dry everything, except shoes. I make myself a turkey and cheese sandwich, drink a coke, and head back up. This time, I have a small pack with a few odds and ends, but no rain jacket. 

I head out alone this time, with cloud cover and wind, but no rain. When I run, I feel I run well, but I still walk the ups. The wind and the running traffic have dried and pounded the mud into a path that is easy to manage without any sliding. Where I not already tired, I might have run this 2nd loop rather well, but the wear and tear of running abuse keeps me going pretty much the same as I did the last time around. When I reach the climb, I take a short break. After all, this is all I have been thinking about since I began loop two. I drink the pickle juice I carried with me and chase it with a bit of cold gatorade I'd also brought. Not sure if it was the juice or just my excitement, but I take the climb quickly and easily.

On top, I take another breather before rolling down the other side. I stop at the unmanned aid again, but not for water. This time, I just want to wash the salt off my face and out of my eyes. I start pushing a bit harder now, wanting to get done. The endless ups and downs that all look the same beg me to keep my head down and not think about it, but I can't stop. Each time I top out, I hope to see the aid station, without seeing what I want. So I try to not think about it, but it's not any better than telling myself to go to sleep, and not sleeping.

The aid station does come to me, but it seems a lot further than I thought it should be, and I quickly continue to the next section. For the first time I start thinking about how long this is going to take, and then I see a big old Bison just ahead on the trail. He's looking right at me. I stop when I first see him about 30 feet out, but then I take a step towards him, and he rumbles a few steps towards me, not that his feet are noticeable. His entire front end looks like a huge black mass from horn to beard, and I'm not sure I can make out his hoofs at all. I take a step to his left and he goes left, so I stop and make a move to his right and he doesn't react, so I keep going right, through the prickly pear, thorn bushes, and tall grass. Finally past the big animal, I stop to take another look. He couldn't care less what I'm doing, and thats just the way I want it too.

Ten minutes later, I get to the out-n-back turn, and follow the Bison track. This is the flattest and easiest part of the entire race, and it is my nemesis. I try to push myself to run, but the wind pushes back. I cannot get myself to change now what I have been doing all day. I walk some and run some, all the way out and all the way back. The final turn and then the road and I still can't force any change, and so it is that I saunter on in to the finish for pretty much the same time I ran on loop one. If nothing else, I am consistant

2018: TNT 20mi

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Henry and I are just having fun getting in another run, so there's nothing serious about our agenda. If we hadn't run Hells Hills last weekend, I suspect we might be a little faster, but not much. I'd run this race eleven times already and know the trails well, but this trail is a first for Hobbs. We did talk about it, but seeing it with his own eyes is a lot different than hearing about it. There's only twelve of us in the 20 miler, five guys and seven girls. So when the lead three guys take off immediately, Henry and I know right from the start: we'll be last and 4th/5th too. One of the girls appears to be tracking on Henry and I, or more correctly, we may be blocking her way.

So, we're trolling along, running the one and only flat trail until we pop into the hills, and then switch to a walk/run, running the downs, walking the ups, and let me tell you: Henry can walk faster than some people can run. Candace and I get to talking and I learn this is her first trail race and Tim (the RD) is her coach. I figure she's a load faster than either of us and cant imagine she'll stay with us for long, but we'll see.

Turning onto steep leaf covered Arroyo Trail to begin the roller-coaster going up, then down, then up, down, and repeat. Sidewinder snakes into sweeping switchbacks, then winds about until we pop up onto a road. Twenty yards of pavement then a rapid descent on Speed Run to Edge Trail and back to the River Trail past a paved parking circle and pavilion, and back up to an unnamed set of switchbacks. And thats pretty much how it goes: up and down.

Never far from the river, we pass through Twin Bridges to the infamous Bamboo Chute near Drain Pipe. This little beastie isn't all that long but does take what wind I have and a bit more. I'm careful not to grab any of the busted and shattered bamboo as I climb this nasty tunnel of pain. The green mess is all around: under foot, across my path, and drooping down as well. Escaping the jungle into a large open field big enough for a soccer match, I stop to catch my breath before beginning to wade the healthy green spring grass, a paved road loop, then round a copse of trees to the double aid.

The Highlander / Hail Bopp loop is just a pinch under 2 miles and loaded with big hills. There are little ones too, but mostly, it's a lot of butt dragging in a short bit of time. We get turned so many different ways, I lose any reference to direction or location. Beginning with Highlander and finishing with the Bopp right back to where we started the loop at the double aid. Mariela and Adelaide catch us just as we come into the double aid around mile four and then the 5 of us yoyo with each other for the rest of the loop. The girls go ahead, but we catch them waiting for us, unsure of course direction. I smile as I pass and then hop on, and so it goes. 

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I'm really good at remembering trails and routes, but all of these hundreds of intersections, drops, climbs, turns, and such all start to blend together until I have no earthly idea of anything other than following the faint blurring wet flour arrows soaking into the ground. Passing Rinky Dink for Baseball, Cedars, and eventually Outback to the Powder Monkey. Weber Run falls into Torquer, and then the Vortex which can only be taken at a run down to a paved road. Ascending Colorado to another paved road or maybe even the same road, but how the hell would I know.

Life is good until I swallow a bug, a big one, and it gags me. I start coughing and spitting, trying to clear my throat. The others are offering advice, but I can barely see from gagging. I pour my drink down my throat, but It does nothing. Maybe the tailwind just powers its wings more. I figure if I guzzle a beer, maybe I can get it drunk, but you can never know for sure. If it's Irish, it might start singing too. I even bust my ass and roll up like a pillbug, but that doesn't help either. Jumping to Johnnie, then Kidney, and back to Johnnie, Its all ups and downs. After so long, it all looks the same and feels the same and if not for the occasional paved road, I'd think I was going in circles. A bit of Rio Perdido, then Act of Faith until popping up to Tar Hill, then it's a Picnic until another paved road where we find the 8mi station where I smash a banana down my throat and guzzle a coke. Between the two, I finally clear the bug.

We're in an area with a lot of awesome downhills now, so Henry and I manage to stay in front on the girls. Pipeline to Shyst and no matter where we turn, its all Shyst until we arrive at California 56. This might be a dream, but nothing changes except we're closing in on the end loop, marked by another bamboo grove and another paved road. Root Canal used to be our end route, but Tim decides to punish us further with Jacob's Ladder instead. Can't imagine who thought it was a great idea building a set of concrete stairs strait up a 100 foot wall with 100 steps: not sure exactly, but it feels like forever. They had a problem creating a form for the steps, each one a different height, and some so tall you have to climb to the next level. When we arrive at the base, there's a crowd of people, but the girls go up front and we never see them again. It's a short slide down Sturgis Rd to my truck and cooler, but I was out of breath well before Jacob's summit, so its rather difficult to run. 

At the end of the loop, Henry and I work out of the trunk of his car as our personal aid station. We have a cooler with cold drinks, extra clothes, some food and water, and a hell of a lot more gear than we could ever use today. We take a few minutes to get situated before we head out for another loop of the same damn thing we just did. The temp is in the low 50s and its windy as hell, but real comfortable in so many different ways. No soaking wet sweated thru clothes, no chaffing, no dry mouth, and oh but its almost perfect.

Going out on loop two, I realize my body is getting a bit tight and maybe it's not going to go as smooth as it did last time. We were not in much of a hurry last loop and now it seems we will go even slower. Now that this has become our current status, we do pick up our pace now and again, and then drag along now and again too. We didn't realize Marcia had come through right behind us at the turnaround, but she buzzes by rather comfortably soon after the double station. We seem to be doing ok, but my calfs are getting tight and starting to cramp. 

We're starting to have problems following the course now that the flour arrows are beginning to fade. All us runners plus the mountain bike traffic are slowly rubbing out the arrows, and that's the only course marking being used. I feel sorry for the 3-loopers who have another round to go. The almost invisible flour arrows will only add to their difficulties.

Henry has some pickle juice and asks if I'd care for some. Says its great magic for healing cramps, so I give it a try. Can't be more than ten minutes before my calf cramps are gone and I'm simply amazed how quickly it works. But now, Henry's quads are cramping and he's already used it all. We ping along with our irregular walk/run for the rest of the loop and get it done, although our 2nd ascent of Jacob's Ladder almost rolled Hobbs up. We end up finishing in 4th & 5th as well as last 2 men and 2nd and 3rd masters

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