2019: Escarpment 50k

Tom & Michele had offered up their home and company for the evening, which is very welcoming, especially when considering it's 33 degrees and sleeting when I leave Austin. The I-35 drive always sucks and today is more of the same, with 10 mph bumper-to-bumper stop-and-go traffic all the way through Austin and San Antonio, as well as a few places in-between. The 60 mile drive, as usual, takes me almost three hours. After a few beers, we watch a really bad western movie, and then I retire to a comfortable bed in a warm house. At about 2:00 AM, I wake to an enormous pounding on the roof. The rain's making one hell of a racket on the tin roof. I certainly love the sound of the rain, but as loud as it is, it simply lulls me right back to sleep. The rain wakes me again at 4:00 AM and I wonder if the race might be cancelled. The staff at Government Canyon State Park is pretty dang protective of the place, especially from rain and usage damage, so I'm not expecting the race to happen, but again I'm rocked back to sleep.

Tom's home is just 30 minutes from the park, so we wake later than I normally would, have a quick bacon breakfast, and roll out soon after. It rains on us while we drive, but reduces to a fine mist by the time we arrive at the park. The time difference between wakeup and departure is way too quick for my typical morning rituals, so I go searching for a means to finalize my proper early morning sequence of events.

Everyone is covered from head to toe, so much that I can't recognize anyone. The actual temp is in the 30s, but the wind and rainy mist makes it feel much colder. I have not run in long tights for more than a few years, but today is the day. I even have gloves, wool sweatshirt, and buff, which is of course foolish, because much of it will come off soon after I warm up running. I even know this before I start, but I'm too damn cold to remove it until I do warm up.

Somewhere way back in the odd meanderings of my mind, I begin to wonder if I should try to hang with Tom today. He knows this park pretty well, and I wonder if I might not get lost or confused at some of the overlapping points. I know I'd be better off tucked in with a guide who knows the park, but Tom's much faster than me. Thing is, I've been improving rapidly of late, and if not for the little bit of calf pain, I'd be feeling closer to perfect today. So, when the race begins, and Tom takes off, I take a moment to start my GPS, and another to lock it, so I have to surge just a little to catch up


The first section is easy enough to spread out and run, down a manufactured surface footpath to a road. Then up the road for a hundred yards and onto another manicured footpath, with numerous wide drainage paths cut across the path every 30 feet. Its pretty but forces the lot of us to hop down and pop up like a merry-go-round ride. I tuck in behind Tom, and we talk for a bit, but before long, I realize my energy buzz is a bit more hyped up than Tom's, so I go round him and slowly drift ahead, until I no longer see him.

The trail is muddy as hell from last night's heavy rain and the rocks add another technical level add-on to the slip-and-slide, such that there are times in which I could slide to the left, right, or even backwards. With my momentum carrying me forward, more typically I surf forwards when I slide out. Tom did tell me the first climb is about four miles long, but overall doesn't add much elevation gain, so when I get to the climb and start going up, I shorten my stride and try to keep my cadence consistent as I slowly spin on up.

Its on one particularly nasty slide-out, where I feel a twinge in my calf, which reminds me I do still have a calf problem and need to pay attention to it. So, I quit pushing so hard, back off on the cadence, just as two women go by, who I learn are both Claire. Soon after, Tom is back with me, and together we continue to climb until we reach the stump, which is the main intersection. Tom tells me this next section is all downhill, so I cut loose and let fly until we get to the first of a few rolling uphills. Yea, I forgot about the rolling uphills, Tom says, and then laughs. And so we roll along, with me sprinting ahead on the downs, and him catching me on each of the ups. Until the final downhill, that continues unabated for a while. Mind that this is not a nice cute smooth easy path, but a very rugged and rocky minefield of sharp jagged rocks covered in mud and slick from mist. Remember the mist? Well, I love this shit, and as much as I slide about, usually its forward, and once again, I lose Tom.

As I run into the aid station at the intersection at the bottom, I see Tony Maldonado heading out on the same loop I just finished as part of the 25k. Having finished the right side loop, I now head over to start the left side loop. It's a mud-slop jeep road for about a mile, before turning onto another fun rocky trail heading up. The pain in my calf seems to be moving up into the hamstring, which is interesting, but doesn't change the game-plan. I keep on spinning as the trail heads up, then down, cross a few dry creek beds, and then up some more. Eventually, I reach the same main stump intersection I saw on the Right Loop, and again, I turn left, moving opposite to the direction I took the last time.

Besides the rocky path, there are even a few flat open pastures of grass that can't be more than 100 yards across. Eventually, I complete the main part of the loop, and once more get back to the mud-slop jeep road. This time, I am heading back to the end of the loop. On a dry day, this would be the fastest part of the race, but today, it is by far the worst part of this course. My calf hurts worse here than at any other place on the course simply because I'm sliding out sideway and backwards on just about every stride. But, it does eventually end and I find myself back where I began, having finished loop one of two in 3:03. I consume a banana, and then dump my gloves and wool jacket, and head back out again. Tom runs in as I run out, not more than a minute behind me. Figured I'd see him again, and suspect he'll catch me again quickly.

Loop two starts poorly as I attempt to go the wrong way almost immediately, going back the way I had come. Thankfully, somebody sees what I do and calls me back, saving me from a completely bone-headed mistake. As I come back to the road and turn the correct direction for the Right Loop, I hook up with Claire again. We talk just a little and then she hooks up with somebody else, and I spin on ahead. It doesn't take Tom very long to catch me, and when he does, we simply hook up and keep each other motivated. At first, I just try to hang onto him as he surges up the climbs, but then later, he keeps me in sight as I sprint the descents. Together, we reach the stump intersection, and he's always close as I roll through the rollers and even on the long descent, such that I pass through the major aid with him right behind me.

We are now on the final Left Loop, and rolling along rather well all the way back up to the stump, and it's not much past this point that I lose power. All day long, my energy has been strong, even with the calf problem, but just now... I feel the wind go right out of me. I wonder if it's just a moment, and maybe I can reload with more fuel, but I have none. I screwed up my drop bag and didn't have the right bag waiting for me. It was still in the truck, so no more gels or Slim Jims. I tell Tom what's going on, and he offers me a few of his treats, but it's just not happening, so I tell him to go on. He wants me to come along with him, but I tell him to keep on. I'm not done, but just not where I was... so I'll be along.

Tom disappears way too quickly. I keep running for certain, but it's not the same. I am no longer surging, moving fluidly, or even feeling half decent about it. I got nothing, but I refuse to walk, so I keep falling forward, and I'm just glad we have no more big long climbs to do. I pass a group of boys just as I enter one of the open fields and slide out sideway... both feet... and feel as if I'm horizontal... sideways in the air... and still land on my feet. The boys just stare as if they've just seen an acrobatic trick. I curtsy, smile, then turn and start running again... and then I see Tom's shirt moving through the trees just ahead. It's all I need to move me, and slowly over the next mile, I finally pull myself back up to Tom... keeping in mind that Tom never did stop running.

He says something about me finding what I needed, but I know damned well I didn't find anything. I just refuse to give it up. We're on the final 2 miles of mud-slop road and if possible, its even worse. Tom's still moving well, but I'm staggering about, slipping and sliding, stopping and starting, but inch by inch and step by step, getting closer to the finish. And then Tom says, there's the road, and we're all but done. We cross the finish line together with exactly the same finish time, to learn we are 10th and 11th overall. But when we got to check the official results, we find that because Tom started 3 seconds ahead of me, I'm awarded the masters award by this technicality.This result is the exact reason why chip timing results are usually not used for official race results, so that a person can be beaten by someone who never passes them.

The last time I ran here was the one and done Ultra Canyon 50k. It was 13 years ago and I was 51 then. My time then was 4:47. I can't imagine running that time now, but I do recall the course was not muddy that day, and we did run the back valley trails also, but I don't know how any of that correlates to what I did today, and after looking at all the results, it reminds me that course back then had to be much shorter than what we did today. After talking to Tom today, he reminded me the old race was 47k, or 29.2mi.


2/09/19 Escarpment 50k 32.6mi 64 6:28:35 11:55

3/25/06 Ultra Canyon 50k 29.2mi 51 4:47:22 09:50

2019: Goodwater 16 miler


I kind-of sort-of not-sure, but thought maybe I just might could run a sub-3hr race today... if everything went well. You know, if the sun didn't pop out and roast me, if my left calf tightness holds off and stays just a minor irritant, if so many different things just go a little bit right for me. And I certainly expect my calf to be a problem. It's been bothering me the last few days. Something new that just sort-of appeared of late, but has been reliably irritating enough for me to not run the last few days. And so, I make ready to run, and climb into the chute with all the others. Its odd, knowing I feel pretty damn strong overall, but for the calf ache.

At 8:30 AM we begin, and I make certain my GPS is on, and then I lock it, just to make sure I don’t accidentally pause it or stop it, which happens when I fall or even just brush up against something. My little hesitation to make certain the GPS is where I want it has me stumbling out of the start chute initially, but then I right myself and begin to accelerate. I find a comfortable early race stride, and ignore the handful of runners who rush past me. The ground is already rugged as hell, full of rocks that'll trip you and cut you up, but also wet and slick. Thing is, I like it. This technical trail and sloppy wet condition is a combination that tends to spin me up and make me faster.

The herd spliters quickly, with the leaders disappearing into the twists and turns. I see flashes of color and movement out ahead between the bare trees. Peripheral vision and fractions of seconds create the flashes that mean little more than somebody is moving up there, which I am already well aware of. I scan the ground, subconsciously plotting the track I intend to launch my body through. I am not really paying much attention to the other runners except as moving obstacles to avoid. I get past one guy easily, but the next one speeds up as close on him, so I remain behind. As much as I'm scanning the ground, paying attention to all the rock land-mines, I can't but help watch the guy right in front of me too. After all, at this point, he's just another obstacle to get past. He's pretty fast, certainly running faster than I am. So why am I still right behind him? I realize he's sliding about, spinning on the slick rocks, and slowing now and again to avoid the rocks, while I maintain my speed over the rocks. Anyway, so I start talking to him. He tells me he's new to trail running. He misses a sharp set of S-turns, and I move past him and keep going. He falls off, but I know I'll see him again. After a few minutes, I'm alone, dancing with the rocks, sliding, skipping, hopping, and what-all-ever it takes to move down the trail without falling into it.

My left calf is beginning to hurt a bit, and after I kick an unmovable rock, and reflexively throw my left leg out full length, it hurts a lot more. Well damn it now, and I was doing so well. I change my stride: less length and higher cadence and it doesn't hurt so much now. And I start to walk all the short inclines, which I hadn't been doing until now. I'm extra cafefull of the slanted slick rock that looks like a good place to slide off. I seem to be able to keep up my overall speed with my new stride and cadence, so I lock it in.

When I reach the four mile aid, I stop to eat a gel that I have with me: a Sea Salt & Chocolate GU. I leave the trash at the station as my new friend runs past. I spin back up and go after him, but this section is not technical and he slowly runs off and leaves me behind. I sink a subconscious hook into him just for the motivation I need to keep on moving, not that I really care if I catch up. Truth is, I need him to stay up there in front for motivation, so the last thing I need is for him to start walking, and thankfully he does not. And so I begin to build up a fierce momentum that serves me very well.

The leaders pass me at the seven mile point, which means they have two miles on me, and I have just one mile to the turn-around, and its also the same exact time two guys who have been closing on me, blow by as well. I walk for a moment just to readjust and settle into not getting caught up in any of it. I just need to run my own damn race, and as much as I see what is going on, and who is how far, and the gaps between each, none of it really matters besides what I can do. I need to just wait until I get to the turn to check my watch and then I'll have a better idea of the time I am capable of today. Doesn't mean I can run it. But it does provide the information I need so I know what is possible.

I arrive at the eight mile aid at 1:25. Now I have to run back the exact same trail to the finish where I started, and I would almost have to match the same damn time I just ran to get here. Not likely! I eat another gel that I have with, and take one from the table with me as I turn and head back, and then I start sprinting. Not that I can hold this for very long, but there are no rocks or trip hazards for awhile, so I need to take advantage of this rare opportunity to actually run. My leg holds steady. No pain, but I can feel the edge of it. I keep on! I can see the flash of movement way ahead and I chase it, using it to move me.

The trail is muddy as hell in places, a few muddy creek crossings, some shoe suck, some ducking under, and bobbing about, but mostly its all about the endless sea of rocks. I kick one so very hard, and remain upright, but almost choke on the pain as it radiates up quickly and then slowly sloughs off. I start running again, and pick my effort right back up. Hell, kicking rocks is part of trail running and I never expected to avoid them all. Been doing this long enough to know I was bound to bang my body on some of these nasty little bastards.

Back to the mile four aid, which means I have four miles to go. I stop to eat another gel: the one i took from the eight mile aid. I leave the trash here and again spin back up. Partly to check and see if I can, and also because I just checked and I saw I have 45 minutes left to bag a sub-3hr. Thing is, thats the same amount of time it took me to get here coming out. Its highly unlikely I can run the same time now as I did earlier, but I'm going to give it a go.

And then I see my friend again, and its the last bit of mojo I need. I slip into a bigger sprocket and start spinning, Even when I can't see him, I can feel him. Little flashes of color or movement here and there. Finally, I catch him and realize its not him. Its a runner from the eight miler. But I keep moving and realize he's still up there. He'd just passed the same guy before I passed him, but he's still there, so I keep surging. Up and down, through mud, rock, and tree, and it all starts to blur. And then i see him and then I'm on him. He sees me and its no different than earlier, I can't close. A gap of a dozen yards separate us for five and then ten minutes, and then he just stops. What? No! I dont want him to stop. I need him to keep pulling me along. At this point, I dont even care if I catch him. I just want him to pull me right up under the sub-3hr time. But he does stop, and I roll right past him.

Now, I'm on my own, and with only one more mile to go. I see another eight miler ahead and as I'm about to pass, I bust my ass, roll over and slide. I slowly get back up, dust myself off, and try to rebuild some momentum. It's not easy. My friend is behind me, and I'm just now starting to feel every little thing I've done to myself since I started. But, I can still do it, I think. I dont have time to check my GPS. I just need to go. I reach the first road crossing, cross over, run like hell, reach the second road crossing, and now I can hear the finish. I pop out of the trees and right into the finish, and stop. There is no clock. I check my GPS, but cant read it. I sit down on a milk carton right at the finish line, unlock my GPS, then stop it, and then I see my time, and it is just barely under 3hrs. I've done it... and nothing seems to hurt anymore!


2019: Bandera 100k


All day long, I'd been hearing about the Western States qualifying time, and all day long, I don't give a damn. It seems as if everybody out here but me is chasing this time. So, when I leave the final aid station, just five miles from the finish, one of the aid station workers tells me I have one hour and 30 minutes to beat it. He laughs when I tell him I couldn't care less, and Joyce laughs because she knows, and she knows that he doesn't. All in all, it's an inside joke sort of funny. Eli, who I've been running with for the last few hours does care. It is most certainly his goal, and he skips strait through the aid station. We had talked about it and I suggested he not waste time, when I was not as concerned about it. A few others do as well. Eventually, I get going, moving surprisingly well with the 57-miles under my feet, and I use Eli once again to motivate me. I don't expect to catch him, but I use the thought to keep me moving. I'm tired, bone tired, and just want to be done, so I use another old motivational trick my wife taught me many years ago: I plant the seed to go faster to get done sooner. Its dark under the trees, my light is on dim, and there's nobody but me for the moment. A few dips and rolls, and many turns, and then I'm heading up Texas Trail one last time. I love this section. It's my favorite kind of trail, skinny single-track, rock wall on one side, drop on the other, dodging through a narrow slot of trees and rocks, hopping roots, and skimming rocks. The final 180 degree switchback at one end and then again at the other, surfing a series of big rock plates, and then over the ridge to the clear open top. Another 180 turn and then I catch Eli on a descent, with just 3 miles to done. I yell his name as I approach, tell him to come along, but he says he's dawdling now, and does not hook on as I flit past him. There's another person just in front of him though, who I realize is an older man, and likely in my age group, and he does come along. I didn’t know it at the time, but Eli was confident at this point that he’d get the time he wants, and had slowed to wait for me. So when I blow by, he tries to pick up and catch me, but it’s downhill now and I have so much momentum going.

Anyway, now that it's a descent, and I have some momentum, I continue to push myself. Figure I'll just hold this edge until the unwanted anchor lets go, and he does not. I don’t even know Eli is just behind him trying to catch me too. The ground is full of rocks and it would be foolish to turn and look, so I don't. I just keep on as I am, and I can hear the other right on me, and I’m pretty sure it's not Eli. It's funny ya know. All day, I couldn't care less, just doing my thing, but now that I am almost done, last thing I want is to give up anything to anybody. It's silly, I tell myself, and then increase my speed again. Now, I'm positively humming, and it blows my mind that I can make myself go faster, when I was so used-up just a short time ago. Texas Trail ends with a few intersections and sharp switchbacks where I can see the other shadow just 30 yards back. Another turn, then down to the barn and open field down to and across the road, jump the rail, and then the river. The river shelf is one big huge rock sheet that is anything but flat. It requires a bit of bob and weave to avoid tripping, and constant attention to make certain to stay upright. I take a peek behind me as I leave the rock ledge behind and turn onto the narrow muddy singletrack at the other end. Yep, he's still there! Just around the corner, I sink one foot and then the other into a mud hole, and laugh because I'd avoided this damned mud hole so well every other time I was here today. Leaving the river front, I turn up towards the last steep climb under the suspension bridge. It's the last bit of 'In Your Face' climb and it doesn't last all that long, but it does slow me to a walk. My new friend closes on me quickly as I walk up and can only assume he's running. I think it’s the old guy, but it’s probably Eli. I top out just before he catches me and I take off running hard again just ahead of him. I increase my effort once more and then again, Maybe because I know this trail so well, I slowly pull ahead. I know where to turn before the turn, where to hop before the root, and so on and on, such that after a few turns, I have him once more some 30 yards back. And now I'm passing more runners. All are dragging it in a lot slower than I'm going, until I pass another old boy who sees my face as I pass him. I swear he's taking tiny steps until I go by and immediately he changes gears and hops onto my back, tracking on me, same as the other guy. Now there are two old-timers tracking on me. What the fuck? Who says these old guys can't get serious and race. What have I thrown into all of a sudden? So, hell yes, I increase speed, and again, and now I'm worried about tripping on one of the rockier and more rugged sections of the course, with just a half mile to done. So there is no back-off or relax at the end of this one. I swear I'm going as fast as I can. Wiped out and exhausted as I am, I am all in. I can't look back for fear of falling, but there's so many turns, I get a sense of my friends tracking on me as we fly by all the others who are walking... all the others who I never saw until right now within a quarter mile of the finish. Out of the woods, I dodge wide around a couple, barely avoid running into one of them. Up the road, I pass a few others, and then the turn up the boulder field cut through. I slip between a few others in a group of five or six, running uphill now, make the turn, cross the road, and now finally on the grassy approach to the finish. There are plenty of signs, but I lose track of them. None have reflectors, and I head off in the wrong direction. Somebody calls me back, so I turn and head left, and almost trip over something, not sure what, then get back on the proper approach, and fling myself towards what I think is the finish. I swear I can't see the route, and I can't tell where to go, but it has to be within 100 yards. I swing right, then left, and then I see it, and cross just in front of a dozen others. A good many may be pacers or friends, I can't tell, but the finish is sure busy when I roll over and stop. My two new friends come in very soon after, and so does Eli, with his WS qualifying time.

--------------------- six days earlier...

The weather forecast for Wednesday looks really bad, freezing cold and rain, so we decide to leave on Tuesday, New Year's Day, Jan 1st, just to avoid the worst of it. It's still damned cold, but at least it isn't raining. The long drive down Hackberry Road to Camp Eagle is eight miles of dirt and mud, and we're pulling a huge trailer, so it's slow but tolerable, but dark by the time we arrive. We have a pretty good idea for most of the 31-mile course, but there is just a bit that remains to be worked out, so its good that Rob and Bruce are already here and ready to work. I know the area where the extra distance needs to be worked out, but we need to go out with the measuring wheel to make certain exactly how it plays. And so Chris and Rob go to do this, but there's no need for all four of us to think through this, so I take Bruce with me to mark the first five-mile section of course. We get done just before midnight and find the others in Chris' room when we arrive. They have the route worked out and so there it is, we have a course. The storm does indeed roll in the next day, so we spend the entire day in the freezing cold and rain, marking course, or at least the major parts of it. We get done after dark and are all off to an early bed. Thursday's more comfortable even if it is still fairly cool, and then we finish the course on Friday, which is mostly just the ins & outs of each aid station. The chutes require a bit of brainstorming and I move a bunch of big rocks into the creek crossing on the road up to CrossRoads just to make it a bit more drivable. This may have been the first time ever that we carried McClouds and Loppers with us to clear course while we marked. We had some heavy work on the Armadillo Trail, which is the creek bed full of rock and debris. Could not move all the rocks, but we do clear a path.

The rest of this circus starts rolling in around midday Friday and I put on my jammies so Chris won't ask me to do anything else. My legs feel great, but I am a bit tired from being on my feet so much these last few days. I manage the TTCS (Texas Trail Championship Series) awards presentation at 5:30pm, and soon after, Henry and Joyce arrive. They'd both been stuck in the line of cars waiting to check in for 30-minutes or more, and so we haul in their gear just as it gets dark. Early dinner and bed, and then fireworks go off as I nod in and out of sleep.

I put out my drop bags just prior to 8:00 AM when 353 of us start the 100k. It's a cool 29 degrees, with frost on the grass, which I have not seen here in many years. It's the biggest start pack I've joined since Bandera last year, so I remind myself to chill down and relax as we smash into the single-track bottleneck and start walking. We walk a lot, run a little, until we get down to the river. After the river and back up to the trees, we again smash back into a walking single file. We aren't walking as much as earlier, but few are running as much as we'd like. The huge pack spreads out and runs when it opens up here and there, but it doesn't really open completely until we reach the Cross Roads aid station at mile five.

Cross Roads is one big beast of an aid station, which we hit three times per loop. The Rockhopper Trail Runners are driving the station, and there could not be a better group of people to do so. They know what they're doing and that's key for such an important station. Because of the cold start, I’d started with gloves and a long-sleeved shirt over a short-sleeve, so I ditch the gloves and LS-shirt. Elizabeth promises to shove them in my drop bag (#64) and thats the entirety of my stop. I keep on.

I leave Cross Roads going UP a slow sweeping curve of a steep, rutted jeep road full of rocks. But, that is the dominant feature today - the ROCKS. It amazes me to watch some of the trapped runners finally breaking free and RUNNING up this beast. I'm sure I say DAMN out loud, watching them run past me, as I slowly hike up. Actually I may be the slowest person HIKING up as large groups of runners spill past me, in various speeds of faster than me. It's a solid half-mile of UP. I hook in next to two others who's topic of conversation is comparing Ultras to Ironmans, of which I have no knowledge, so I listen in as I drift into their wake. The next little piece of artful trail-work was created a few years ago by Joyce and I, along with a few friends, and it's called the Bear. It's one of my favorite trails and I like to attack it, but once again, I find myself backed up behind a line of terrified and timid trail runners who are NOT going after it as I would prefer. It's only a half-mile long and when we dump out onto the perimeter jump road at the bottom, we finally reach the final sorting out of everybody into their proper pecking order of speed and place. We’ll be on jeep road for the next few miles, and it's enough for everybody to decide who they want to be. It starts with two dipsies, which are names I use for drop-downs and climb-ups. After the second one, we start the long uphill climb. Surprisingly, this is where we see the leaders already coming back at us, having completed the A-Loop. Must be five miles ahead of us already and hauling ass. But now they have to plow through all the runners behind us going opposite direction on the Bear. This should be awkward.

Once on top, and right at the split, it's a generous drop into the back valley. The jeep road we're on snakes down past the prospector cabin, dropping over ledges, and crossing a washed out dry creek. It was just a month ago when all of this was flooded, bringing tons of baby-head rocks into the field and making it difficult to run. The jeep road and the dry creek cross each other four or five times… and the flooding, left behind a deep flow of rocks that tends to shift and move when I put my weight on it, so each crossing is awkward. The wide open pasture is minus any trees or shade, but the jeep track is relatively straight and easy to follow. We arrive in the far back corner of the camp property, and the only option is to turn left at the 12-foot fence and cross the last and widest section of dry rocky creek. Escape from the back valley follows the fenceline straight up a narrow shady slot of rock ledges and downed trees, so I shift into granny gear. One slow step after another, sometime pushing myself up over a ledge, and sometimes pulling. This little twisted bitch requires some readjusting to get up and a bit more once on top, as it continues up the fenceline. I suppose this was once cleared for fence access, but little has been done since. Its become a graveyard of rock and cactus with just a trace of trail. Some more significant scrub has grown up here and there, which forces the trail to weave in and out, but for the most part, the fence rises strait away from us. It goes on much longer than I expect, with one false ending after another, until I quit looking, and it arrives unannounced. The Windmill turn precedes Windmill Aid by a couple hundred yards. This station is hit twice per loop, with less than three-miles back to Cross Roads, and another three-miles right back here, so in just a bit over five-miles, I'll be right back here again. Peter Vroljik is working the station, and he helps me with my drop bag and some aid station fare. It's just a few moments and I'm back on the road again.

The road leading out, like all the other roads here, rocky, but maybe just a little easier, and with a slight down tilt, it just screams to be run, so I do. I get my motor spun up, and roll on down to the split, past the next split as well, and then the road turns down a much steeper and longer descent. The same one we came up just an hour ago, watching the 100k leaders blow by. We're on our way back to Cross Roads, over the dipsies, and UP the road runner eating Bear. The Bear is so nasty, it requires the same effort going up as it does coming down, but once on top, it's a quick turn back to Cross Roads. Joyce is waiting for me, but I'm still feeling good, so I'm in and out quickly.

This section is an easy ride that does roll a bit, but not enough to slow me down. At its end, we turn onto Zip Line, which rises gently as it rolls in and out of each fold in the land. A good ways up, we turn left onto a flat bit of soft and muddy trail, and this dumps us onto Antenna Hill. It doesn't look like a trail belongs here, but the flags lead us through an area that contains the remains of a large overturned radio tower. Beyond the dead tower, we descend the Slope of Nastiness which makes no pretense of ever wanting to be a trail. Its all loose rock debris for 100-yards of crap, before rediscovering a real trail again, the old Wagon Trail. The leaders go flying past me in the opposite again, and I attempt some quick math to figure they're just six or seven miles shy of finishing the first loop. If I can trust my math, which I should not, I'm shocked how fast they're moving. At the end of Wagon, we dump onto Windmill Hill Road going up, and I mean UP. I crawl up alongside a handful of others all moving at the same miserable pace. Behind me, I can see the river, but in front, my nose is in the ground. Once we top the steepest part, the road is much faster and easier, even though it does continue going up. After the Zip-Line tower, we soon roll into the Windmill Aid, where once again, Peter helps me out.

If the course and I can reach some sort of compromise: to agree to disagree, then all would be perfect. The next section would be the best… if not for the rocks, so I need to learn how to coexist. The fenceline trail is mostly down, and even if it is full of rock, I can rock this downhill. And at the bottom, way down low, on the multi-tiered long switchbacks of Armadillo Trail, it begins with a creek bed of rocks made worse by last month's flood. There used to be a track, but it's gone. Used to be a visible path, it's gone too, and what is left now is an awkward and difficult route marked with flagging to offer a general idea, and not much more. This used to be a sweet ride that was easy to rock, but now… the creek bed rocks will kick my ass regardless what mind games I play. My ability to run any of it is all about dexterity and constant scanning to find the best track, and the best place to end my next stride. It's a problem to solve that is manageable only during the daylight. Next loop, in the dark, this will not go nearly as well… and I'm not saying this loop goes well. At the end of the creek, a 180 turns us slightly just above where we were in the creek, but on a much more runable trail, going back the way we came. And at the end of this trail, we again make another 180, and just slightly above the previous trail, we go back the way we had just come. Below us, and not all that far either, I can see people going in both directions. At the end of this trail, we make another 180, up and again back the opposite direction, until finally we escape the Armadillo onto the main road on top by the big cross. We pass the overlook, go another 100 yards, then turn around one last time, now riding the edge of the cliff overlooking the river. There is no further we can go without running on air, so we now head down along the cliff's edge, until we reach the main camp road (Hackberry Road) under the overlook and cross directly into the Wall Aid.

Up to this point, I had not thought much about it, but the temp has been rising quicker than the sun. We had started at 29 degrees, and now its 69 degrees. After a short break, I walk out, and quickly realize, so is everyone else... walking. We're out in the open now, next to the river, minus the shade. Along the Nueces River, up the kayak launch site, around a few buildings, a copse of trees, and then into the open again, and I don't run a step. Across Hackberry again, and back into the soothing coolness of the trees. The trail changes directions every 20 feet, but its all in the shade and the coolness of it allows me to at least walk well. Once on top and back under the sun, it's a short hike over to Lise Lane, then down it, through the mine, and back up again, past Mi Casa, another old unshaded road (the old Wagon Trail) right back to Lisa Lane, but without actually going onto it. This is where we turn right up a rock scramble that was never a trail until today. It's only 30 yards up until we once again connect onto the new Wagon Trail, heading back to Cross Roads. This is where we saw the leaders a few hours ago running back at us. Back to Antenna Hill, the soft shady mud trail, and then Zip Line down into the cool shade, and eventually back to the Cross Roads aid, where Joyce once again waits. Joyce administers her TLC and I'm once more quickly out again. I'm only five-miles from ending loop one, and in a hurry to bag it, so I rush my exit, but unfortunately, can't get myself going much faster. And so I waddle on, doing the best I can with a mix walk/run. I pretty much suck right now, but I want to get this part done and back to the end loop, so I can get the recycle process started. Up and over Texas, seeing quite a few others already heading back out, and wishing it was me. I try to put on a happy face, but suspect my phony persona is more scary than friendly. Down to the river, back up the suspension bridge chute, and then finally into the compound and done with the first loop.

Direct to my room, just 30 yards away, I dispose of shoes and clothes, remove my GPS and hook it up to charge, and immediately into the cold shower, where I soak while Joyce hands me an ice cold smoothie. Out of the shower and dried off, I put on a clean set of clothes, and Joyce re-patches my toes and heels with the Kinesio Tape, then I reapply the Desiten underarm and elsewhere. I eat some avocado and potato while I finish the smoothie, lace up the same shoes. Last thing I do, is grab the lone trekking pole and head out. I'm almost gone when I realize I've forgotten my race bib, so go back to get it, then reset and restart.

Loop two begins much slower and less crowded than loop one. It's still way hot, and I'm still walking, even though I have plenty of room to run whatever the hell I like. Thing is, my legs are jelly. I figure I'll take it easy until the temp drops a bit, and hope to resurrect my energy. Besides one young woman who blows by me with external speakers blasting, I don't see anyone else going in my direction. I know there are plenty of others in front and behind, but iI'm in an empty pocket all by myself right now, moving slow, and seeing nobody. Into the trees, down the chute, along the river, back into the trees, and up over Texas, I see quite a few others heading to the finish, including Henry, Laura, and Jennifer. Joyce is waiting for me at Cross Roads, so I take the time to reload. I figure to be back here again in another hour or two, so I ask Joyce if she can walk back to our room to make me a smoothie, and also to bring the cooler full of cold drinks, as well as my camelback. I'll take the pack with me after dark just to carry an extra headlight, gloves, and jacket. I'm fine with the single water bottle and suspect I'll be fine for the duration.

Out for my second and final A-Loop, up into the beast one more time, I take my headlamp and a jacket wrapped round my waist. Somewhere along here, I hook up with somebody I don't know and we carry on for a ways. After the Bear, another guy hooks onto us as we march up the long hill while the sun begins to drop. We're marching along rather well now that the air is slowly beginning to cool. At the split, we turn right and I learn that I can run again, so I do. We all do. To the back valley and down into it, for the first time since this morning, I can feel the air cooling as we turn our lights on. We manage to stick close together across the valley, and up to the climb, but once the climb starts, I get dropped. The others rise quickly and even another comes along and passes me to take my place as I completely fall off. When I do top out, they're well ahead, but the sun is down, and the cool is back. I can run again, so I push to get my mojo rolling. Doesn't matter if I ever see these guys again, but I use them now for motivation, to get the blood pumping once more, and slowly I pull them back in, and then pass them. They of course, hook on and stay clicked into me as we make the final turn and roll into Windmill Aid. Now that I have my motor revved, I don't want to stop, so I drink a coke and head on out, and lose the others.

I start running immediately and then somebody pulls even with me. I think its one of them I was with, but not certain and never do find out, but Eli and I run side by side past the intersection and on down to the Bear. I already know how this goes and tell him to go ahead. I plan on dragging my ass up slowly, so he does lead, but I stay with him and we emerge on top together. And so we continue around the topside jeep trail and down into Cross Roads. I tell Eli to go on, as I plan to take some time with Joyce. She’ll be back with the things I asked for, and I need to make ready for the rest of the run in the dark. And she does have everything, so I suck on an ice cold smoothie while I put on my jacket for the first time. She loads my pack with an extra light and the gloves, which is all I need it for. I want to keep it very light, only what I need, and no more. Eli has gone on while I relaxed, but when I get up to go, I have the juice to do it.


Moving along the trail, I'm excited to know the jelly in my legs is gone, replaced with some power I can use. My stomach is good also, no bad vibes whatsoever, and the tape job on my feet is holding up too: no blisters, no hotspots. Damn, life is good and I can still run... after 40 miles. First person I catch is another of those with an external speaker, and he's blasting away with some pretty heavy head-banging rock. Well, I'm using everyone and everything I can now, so I use him to motivate me to run faster, if for no other reason than to escape his sound, same as he’s using it to motivate himself. The next person I catch is my good friend Jake Richter. He doesn't know its me, so instead of passing him, I run into his side. He gives me a hug and a hearty handshake, but when I pull ahead, he does not go. I keep looking back, but he still does not close the gap, so I eventually pick up pace and quit looking back. I would love to run with Jake and suspect I will, but not now. I begin to think about Eli again and use him for motivation, and start pushing myself to catch him. Zip Line to Antenna Hill and Wagon, I seem to be moving very well, and even on steep-ass Windmill Hill. On top, I start spinning quickly and smoothly, passing a few more, and then Eli. He's not surprised, but I am. I had hoped to use him for a bit longer, as its hard to chase the carrot you hold in your hand. He spins up to run with me and we roll into Windmill Aid together, for the last time.

I continue to push the effort and Eli hangs on, says he needs to stick with me. He wants to bag a Western States qualifier and figures if he stays with me, he just might do it. Says I'm his pacer now, and hopes I don't mind. I can't make any promises and certainly don't care what time I hit, but am motivated to get done as quickly as possible... but only just to be done. And I am running very well right now, so lets see how long I can hold this. Along the fenceline we roll, and when it turns down a bit steeper, I allow gravity to take me clean to the turn. I lose Eli for a little, but he's back on me by the time I climb the other bank and turn for the final approach to the Armadillo creek bed. As well as my motor is running right now, its just damn near impossible to run the bed of rocks for a lot of different reasons. And so I back down for a rather quick turn march, and just stay on it clean up to the turn. One after another, I run up behind somebody, talk for a few minutes, then ask to pass, and then we run to the next one. Everyone is walking. We are running. I ask one guy if he's ok, and he says his knee hurts. I ask him if maybe his whole body doesn't hurt. He thinks for a moment before responding, but then he agrees and starts to run, and so we run behind him until he starts walking again. We stay on this pattern throughout Armadillo, past the overlook, and down the steep cliff wall trail. Right after we pass another set of walkers, I catch my toe on a root, and begin to fall, but somehow manage to tuck a shoulder and roll, and come back up on my feet after a complete 360 rollover. The whole thing might have been brilliantly executed had I not been using a trekking pole, but I had to go back up the hill to fetch it. Besides the slight delay, nothing hurt and nothing lost, and we roll into the Wall Aid for the last time... where I find Boz and Jimmy hanging out at the food table (go figure). Not wanting to lose my edge and not knowing how long it will last, we leave quickly.

We run out the other side, down to the river, along the bank, around the buildings, across Hackberry Road, up the twisty new trail that Chris found just a few days ago to the top. We run all of it. And then down Lisa Lane, through the mine, and back up past Lisa Lane again to Wagon, we keep on rolling. Antenna Hill, wet muddy trail, Zip Line, and finally back to Cross Roads for the sixth and final time. But this is where Eli and I split ways, him going on and me taking another smoothie break while I visit with Tim, Scott, and Melanie while Joyce takes care of me. And so the story goes...

I ended up with a 16:44:42 and a qualifier I have no use for. My first lap was an outstanding 7:06, which I squandered with a 30-minute shower and meal, before going out again. My second loop was 9:08, once I remove the 30 minute hiatus. It was two hours slower than loop one, which was primarily lost in the first 10 miles of loop two, before the sun went down and I had the life-saving smoothie at Cross Roads. It was wonderfully cool (29 degrees) early and late, but damned warm (71 degrees) between noon and 5pm. The 100k had 353 runners of which 267 finished for the standard 75% Bandera finish rate, even though the race was run for the first time on trail other than Bandera. My thinking was and remains that these trails are much tougher and more difficult than Bandera, but my time and the current statistics say they are the same. Maybe it was just the good weather, or maybe I'm wrong. The 50k started 230 runners an hour after us, which I began to see just before the Bear, so we had cross traffic with both the slower 100k runners and the faster 50k runners on the Bear, which was awkward with two good sized groups going opposite to one another in here. I can only assume the 100k leaders had to do the same thing with the main 100k pack, who were mostly well behind them. I saw the 25k leaders as I neared Cross Roads at the end of A-Loop, so for me, they were no factor, but can only assume they played hell with anyone a half-hour behind me on the Bear, which was the only bottleneck of concern. There were 224 25k runners who started two hours after us to add for a total of 707 runners on the trails all at the same time.

2018: Dinosaur Valley 100k


Ya know, it aint like it was a last minute decision, but everything about this race was transitory. The original date I signed up for (Nov 3) was postponed to Dec 1 because of flooding. Then because half the course was still a mess, Libby sliced the 17mi loop down to 10mi. The remaining aid station on the course was moved in, creating an odd aid station split (2.5mi, 5.5mi, and 2.5mi). But that was all race stuff and fairly insignificant to me as a runner. I had no control over any of that. At home, my daughter's birthday is on the 2nd of December, but she decided to celebrate it on the 1st (race day). But then she cancelled her party. No, not for me to run. There's always something else. So, I told Libby I was in, then out, then in.... and so it went. And then I just forgot about it, because it just didn't make sense anymore. Besides, I was feeling a bit tired, and low, with a bit of congestion. Anyway, two days before the race, I get a text from my friend Laz, basically telling me he's bored and needs something to do this weekend. I ask him: You up for crewing Dinosaur Valley 100k? He says yes, and that's it, so I talk with Joyce to make sure I haven't forgotten anything else. It's a four hour drive from their home to mine, so Laz and Crystal show up at my home the next day at 10pm. We all get what sleep we can between then and the 3am alarm. At 4am, we head north, arrive in Glen Rose with enough time to have breakfast, but we have to wait a few minutes for the Big Cup Cafe to open up for us.

The Dinosaur Valley SP is subdivided by the Paluxy River just before it merges with the Brazos, and if you use the GPS, she gives great directions to the main part of the park. But, the start location and the entire course now sits on the other side of the river, so we need to drive around to the back entrance. We work it out, and arrive at just the perfect time to sequester the best damn parking space available, directly across from the start & finish. This will come in very handy all race long for a lot of different reasons. I wont have so far to walk to my gear, Laz can stay warm in the truck while he sits to wait, and then Richard & January move their gear to our location, so now we have a party.

There's a slight chill in the air, but it's going to get warm, so I'm not fooled into wearing any extra clothing. Shorts & short sleeves with a single water bottle. The 100mi, 100k, & 50k all start together at 8am. The half-marathon and 5 milers start later, and run the 5 mile shortcut as part of their route. Thing is, I have no idea who is in what race now or even later. Plus, the 100 milers start with a 5 mile abbreviated course as well. So, I never have a clue which loop, race, or iteration of anybody but me.

I figure out pretty quick I have no energy. We drop down a short hill to cross a creek, then up the other bank, and I have no strength to push myself back up. I run down and then I walk up, just like so many others, but I suspect they're doing this to be smart. But me? Hell, I just don't have it. So, here it is, right off, within site of the start and I begin to question why I'm doing this. The whiney ol bitch of a conscious skips direct from a whisper to a full on screaming tirade into my mind's ear. And it's not sweet and sensitive at all. No, it's a filthy mouthed sailor's angst she screams. Like so many trail races, people are chatting each other up, smiling, hopping about, and all that grand cheerfulness so typical at these races. They'd be shocked if they could hear the language of my conscious.

After the creek crossing, we turn left onto a jeep road that continues to climb. It's rutted here and there, with a few ledges, rocks, mud, and what have you... but it keeps going up. I walk with Crystal for a bit, but at the first little dip, and it aint much, I push off and try to tighten up the jello in my legs. It aint far, but its enough to motivate me. And so, it continues with me walking and running, but mostly walking. Thing is, when I make myself run, I try to hold onto it for as long as I can. The jeep road route goes for about a mile to the bench intersection, with a caution tape separating the cross-roads, suggesting I go left... onto singletrack. The reason I love trail running so much is because of singletrack. It sure as hell isn't because of jeep roads. If trail running meant jeep roads, I'd have stayed on pavement. But anyway, now here I am, onto singletrack and going downhill, and I instantly unleash the younger joe that lives inside of me. He's always there, but wont come out to play unless He feels like it, and this feels like it. I bound past a few people, shutting down the old whiney conscious as I do so. Yes, my legs still hurt, and no, I do not discover some new source of energy. I simply find a way to hide the pain inside the joy. I wish I could say this lasted the entire run, but Its just not how these things work. My negative-minded self conscious: she comes and she goes. She’s certainly there for every damned climb, but keeps her disgusting thoughts to herself on the down hills.

Loop one goes well enough. 2.5mi to Fenceline Aid, then another mile-plus some to the loop, 3mi on the loop, the same mile-plus back to Fenceline aid, and the same 2.5 back to where we started. The best part of the course is the balloon loop, along the river, on the edge of a ridge overlooking the Paluxy River, between trees, and no stinking jeep roads. A soothing balm for my soul is the sound of the river, merging with the wind that knocks about the trees. At one point, I recognize a familiar rattle under a bush, only to realize its the dry leaves being thrashed by a hard wind. I suspect the ratio of jeep road to singletrack is about 60/40, with the lions share of sweet singletrack being on the loop... so I love the loop.

I have no plans for a time, or a place, but I made a rough guess for Laz, so he'd have some idea when to expect me. The guess was about 2.5 hrs per loop, or 5 hours per set, which translates into 15 hours total. Of course, this is not where I'm at today. And I made the guess even worse by beating my loop one guess by 23 minutes. Oh sure, I still feel really bad, know I'm not running well, but I'm still way under the mark. And yes, I know this won't last. I'd recently switched my diet over to low carb, and besides cutting back on carbs, really had no idea how all this translated into anything besides loosing weight. I also know I need to eat what's necessary for me to run this 100k, so I have avocados, turkey rollups, and boiled new potatoes saturated in salt. So, my transition between loop one and two is all about avocado & turkey rollups with a few salt-saturated spuds… and certainly carbs!

Loop two goes pretty much like loop one, except it's warmer, so I walk more and take a bit more time, such that my combined time for the first two loops is just under 5 hours. Makes my foresight look intelligent, but the truth is hidden in my lack of energy. I'll not run another loop under 3 hours, and actually, I'm surprised I did each of the first two under 3 hrs. And my angry conscious berates me constantly, telling me I should not be here, this is stupid, I am an idiot... and I cleaned this up from the actual words because her language even offends me.

Loop 3 is probably my best loop as far as feel goes. Yes, I feel much better than I had, even if my time is over 3 hours, and I've calmed the noise in my head. I'm not cringing at every foot strike. Life is good. Richard and January are both done when I arrive, having completed the 50k. They're relaxing, soaking up what they've just done before they drive home. They ask how I'm doing, and I tell them, I only have 50k to do, and that seems so much easier than 100k, so I'll be fine.

Going out on loop four is not easy, but I don't hesitate, don't think about it, don't want to. I do remember to take a headlamp, thinking I'll likely not finish the loop in the daylight. Its odd though, because I'm thinking the sun will set around 7pm, when I already know damn well it's dark by 6pm, so its a good thing I don't try to overthink the light, or I'd have gone out without one and then been in a stink. As it is, the sun drops while I'm on the balloon loop. I even stop to have a good look at the reflected sunset colors on the river. Along the way, I pass by an old couple sitting side-by-side on a rock ledge, taking a much closer look at the same setting. It's a picture postcard moment. Even with adjusting to the headlight, my time's just a small amount slower than the previous loop. I am surprised.

With two loops to do, I know its a done deal, because I have successfully silenced my whiney conscious. I can fast walk the rest of it. It’s dark now, cooler, and more personal. Its colder here at the start than it is everywhere else, so I put on a long-sleeve shirt for the first time, then a light jacket, and gloves. I walk out and start down the road, and then remember a few things I want to take with, so I do something I rarely ever do... I turn around and go back... for my pack and trekking pole. And I am so glad I do. After just minutes of walking uphill to start the next loop, I no longer need jacket or gloves, so they go in the pack. I'm also drinking a bit less, so I put my water bottle in the pack also. This allows for me to walk with trek pole in one hand and my light in the other.

I don't know any of their names, but by now, I know all their faces and their strides. I can tell as we approach each other in the dark, by the swing of their light, or the rhythm of their gate. Some of them, I give names I can remember, such as Kitchenware, Grumpy-puss, or the Old Twins, that made sense to me at the time. Funny thing is, I don't know their actual names. Some greet me each time, while others ignore whatever greeting I offer, but for now, they are each and all, part of one tribe. We are all still out here, doing a job, getting it done, staying in motion, with one simple intention: to get it done.

I've been alone for most of the day, and on into the dark, but I'm not the least bit lonely. And so, when I approach the high point overlook, and hear someone coming up on me, I don't even turn to look. But it's the high point with a bit of downhill from here, so I start to run... for the first time in a while. And I keep it going until it turns back up again. When I slow to walk up, I look back, but there's nobody there. I wonder at first if there was anybody behind me at all. I keep on, and after a while, somebody does come up on me. As he passes, he says something about my down-skills, and then he's gone... and I'm alone again, wondering the whole time if he was actually there.

Approaching the Fenceline Oasis this time, I can hear a party going on, people yelling and laughing and it draws me in. But then I realize all the noise is just before the station, off to the right, behind the fence. But there are no lights from where the sound comes from... just the party. Soon, after, as I approach and enter the aid station, the noise disappears and is gone. The people working the station are few and quiet, and are friendly, but certainly not a party. I ask them about it, but they don't know what I'm talking about. I can hear the party again as I walk out. When I finish the 5th loop, its quiet at my own little personal aid station. Laz must be asleep, and I don't want to wake him. In a few more hours when I'm done, he needs to be awake enough to drive us home. And I don't need much anyway. All I need is a fresh headlamp. My stomach has gone sour, so I don't want anything to eat. I'm there just a few moments, then silently walk back out again.

Final loop, number 6, and damn glad to finally be at this point. Walking now exclusively: fast, slow, hike, march, power, whatever you call it, it sure as hell isn't running. The friendlies are more friendly now, but the grumps are just the same, and there is one guy who has a light so bright, he removes it as he passes. With so much of the course being out-n-back, those with no headlight etiquette are sentenced to hell as they approach... and pardoned as they pass. Its best that my famous sarcasm is not spoken at this point, as it would most certainly be misunderstood. Instead, my inner rantings rage on, and they keep me awake. As I approach the fenceline aid, I can once again hear the party, and so can the aid station now. They tell me a bunch of kids are over there playing some sort of game in the dark. As I head out, some of them are close to the fence having a jolly time playing about. One of them says something to me and then realizes I'm not one of them, and the other kids laugh at him. After the loop, I'm sorry to hear nothing but silence. It's way late now, so I suspect they're tucked in by now, and I miss their laughter. My GPS dies one mile from the finish, on the final downhill, but it doesn't really matter at this point. I am done. Jake gets a good shot of me with my new buckle, and then Laz loads me up in the car for the long drive home.

There were only 16 of us in the 100k. 14 finished. I pulled down my finish time and splits from the race website. (1) 2:07, (2) 2:49, (3) 3:04, (4) 3:14, (5) 3:38, (6) 3:36 = 18:31. T’was a nice enough day, wind gusting cool at 10 to 15, but warm at 70 degrees midday, and warm enough at night that I was only cold when I stopped after the night loops to refuel and change gear. Mostly, I was just tired before I started, but I knew enough to run when I could and walk fast when I couldn't run. Laz was my crew. He drove me there & home, as well as crewed me between loops. I was never in a hurry and wasted plenty of time between loops. It would have been much worse without Laz. Crystal came with us, and she ran the 50k, so I got to see her twice each loop in passing (good for energy hugs), and I ran in with her at the end of loop 4 to see her finish. I'm not surprised to see I ran slower each loop, but was surprised it wasn't worse. It is what it is and I got what I got. I am pleased I am still able to do this, and none of it is taken for granted.


2018: Wild Hare 25k


For any number of reasons, I overheat way too easy nowadays, especially during the warmer seasons. But it's winter now, the time of year I typically ramp up the distance. Thing is, the Wild Hare race is s short multi-loop course, and the thought of running endless loops doesn't fit well into my thoughts. And also, I've run this 25k two years in a row with my wife and kids, for my only less-than-ultra distance trail race in the winter. So now it's just what I do this time of year. Joyce and the girls were planning to come with, but as things go, they’ve all cancelled, so I once again connect with Michael Langer for a ride.

It's a crisp overcast 42 degrees at 7am when we start. In the past, I'd gone out slow, allowing myself some time to warm up and get loose. But what I remember most about last year’s slow start was how many people I struggled to get past after I did warm up. After the initial half-mile loop around the pond, we enter the trees and then follow a twisted and winding trail that dips into short shallow ups and downs while simultaneously turning constantly in an area of spaghetti trails. From the moment we enter the trees until the half-way aid where we exit the trees, this is how it is. The trees have already dropped their leaves, so it's easy to see people in all the different trails around me, but I've no idea if they're in front or behind... and how far. It's not always easy to pass, which is why I've decided to do what I don't like doing... go out fast. I intend to push the pace until the half-way aid, and then back  down to a more rational effort... at least for me.

I remember the game of crack-the-whip us kids used to play oh-so-many years ago. One kid would lock hands with another kid, and that kid with another, until we had three or four or more kids who would then run around going as fast as we could, until we could not hold on any longer, and go flying off, whipped into a high speed tumble and fall into the grass, mud, or ice. It was a silly game, but that's what it feels like running this course, getting whipped around each turn, and using the turns to whip my self into more speed. If I use the turns correctly, it works brilliantly to maintain or increase speed. But, if I screw it up, I kill my momentum, and have to work to get the rhythm back. And so it begins to be a game of reading the terrain, finding the best approach, how to take a hill, and the best track to descend as well.

I am where I usually never find myself, between the really fast runners and the rest of the field, running what I want to run, passing nobody and not being passed either. It's much faster than is usual for me, but the effort feels comfortable, just not sustainable. With all the switchbacks, twists, turns, and all, I see numerous pace-lines of runners stacked up in groups of five and twenty, which is exactly what I wanted to avoid, and I have. They’re all on other trails away from me. 

I check my GPS watch when I exit the trees at the half-way aid and note that I’ve certainly arrived faster than I had last year. But it's now time to back down. I eat a pickle and follow with the juice before restarting. A good many of those who were behind me begin to stream past, including Zita. We're in the open now, a cattle chute that leads into the top field, which then drops down Gas Pass, with a tilted bike ramp at the bottom. This spins us to the right and quickly into a second field. With my more relaxed effort in affect, a few more people pass by. Around the field, and then to the mixing yard, where we rise up and turn only to head right back down the slip-n-slide chute to the creek. I walk up, while people run past me, but then bomb down, cross the creek at the bottom, and enter the third and biggest field.

In year's past, we used to run through the field. Now they’ve created two parallel trails at the edge of the field, one in the shade of the trees at the edge, and another further in, cutting between the trees, with a bit more roll to it. There's a creek to the right, the other trail just to the left, and with little room to work with, this trail is complicated, dodging about, rising and falling, and not so simple, but kind-of fun. At the far end of the field, the trail pops out at the oil rig, which we run around and onto another parallel trail on the other side of the field, laid out in a similar fashion to what we just did. Up a quarter mile and then back the way we came, just a few feet over.

At this point, we cross directly over the middle of the field, the only time we're in the open, and now we return next to the other long trail just next to the trail we came out on that was in the trees. It's a good place to see how far in front or behind you are with the others. I pass by the creek crossing, along the creek, and onto a beautiful old pine-needle-covered skinny bridge taking me back up onto the bluff. With the up-tilt constantly changing through here, so does my effort. Also, it's a very pretty section of course, big pines on the edge of the bluff, looking down into a picturesque winding creek, with pine needles and leaves covering everything. I slow a little partly just to take a look. It's the first time I get out of my focus on the run and smell the pines.

Its at about this point when I see Michael a few twists of the trail behind me, and coming hard. I do believe he wants to catch me! And I suspect he will. Once up on bluff, I'm in the area of the pond and it's connecting campsites. The trail once again wanders about in a similar fashion as it did in the first section of trees, but with slightly bigger hills, rises, and drops. As is my fashion, I walk all the ups, but quickly spin back down and run all the rest, around the pond, cut through the camping area, and then up to the barn, which marks the end of the loop.

Michael and I had setup our gear in the barn, so I stop to drop my water bottle and grab another pre-loaded and ready one. I decide to ditch my long-sleeve shirt for a short-sleeve, and as I change, Michael sprints by and keeps on going. I already knew he was going to do so, as he told me before we started. He wore a camelback so he’d not have to stop during the run. I take a pack of gels with me as I walk out eating, using the time to recover and reset before I power back up again. So far, the race is going as planned, and I hope to keep it that way. I'd like to keep running comfortably through the first half tree section, and then push it, if I can, for the second half, through the fields and final part. At least, that is the plan. We'll see how that goes!

I can see Michael on the other side of the pond as I circle round it, and as much as I'd like to chase him, I let the thought go. I also see Zita just before she enters the trees. Once I get into the trees, I start rolling again, striding out, finding my cadence, and enjoying the feel. There is another grey-hair I'd matched strides with on the first loop, who is always going uphill faster than me. We even talked about it. I seem to catch or pass him on the downs, but otherwise, we're evenly matched and usually stay tight through the flats, at least enough to talk a bit. But, he ends up pulling away each time, and it does nor surprise me to see him again. He turns and sees me, says hi, then speeds up, and pulls away. Again, I need to run my own deal, and just like I did with Michael, I put it out of my head and let it be. I need to stay in my plan.

Back to the Half-way aid, I check again to see I am still well ahead of my plan, and it's all I need to know to stay tuned in and relaxed. Through the top field, down the Gas Pass chute, and into the middle field, I can feel my legs getting tight, so I push harder to maintain the same speed. Back to the switching yard, I walk up and see Michael on the down-chute, which is not all that far in front of me. I yell out his name, and he looks at me, so I know he's gonna get after it now. Last thing he wants is for me to run him down in the last few miles. Well, I'm not racing Michael, but I certainly plan to push my effort for the rest of the race, so I just may see him again.

And so it goes, once I head down the winding drop chute to the creek, I get my speed and my buzz up, and continue to push across the creek and into the third field. Along the way, I pass by a few grey-hairs and wonder if any are in my age group, not that it should matter, but I can't help but think about it for a moment... and then the thought is gone. My legs are starting to hurt, so I go faster. Something I learned from my wife a long time ago: when she gets tired, she goes faster, so she can get done sooner. At this point, I'm passing people and people are passing me, and I have no idea who is in the same race as me, outside of the handful I started with. 

I see Michael just after the field with only a few miles remaining, and catch up to him with just a mile to go. He senses me closing on him, and steps off the trail so I can pass. But, I cannot do it. I tell him to go on. I have no intention on passing him. I tell him I just wanted to catch him, and so I have, so I tuck in behind him and continue. A few minutes later, somebody else closes on us and I tell them to beep if they want by. In reply, I hear almost the same damn thing I just said to Michael, and so the three of us finish the pond loop, and pass through the barn to finish all three of us with exactly the same damn time. I nailed my plan and ran better than I expected and exactly what my plan suggested I could do. Zita finished almost 2 minutes up, so we all ended up pretty close.


2018: Cactus Eagle 100 mile


======= Loop One

It's way too early in this race to be running this fast, especially a 100 miler, and doubly because its Cactus Rose. My legs are already mud-splattered, one shoe coated in mud, the other drenched wet. Everything I have on is sopping wet from the humidity saturated fog, and we're only three miles in. Running in a tight pace-line across the top of a high ridge, I tuck in behind Jorge, and we chat a bit about what all has been going on since we last crossed paths. The rock ledges are slick with seepage from the recent flooding, the grass wet from the early morning moisture, and it's all ignored until we hear a yell behind us as Melissa falls and is quickly back up and into the line with not much of a delay. Neither Jorge or I even slow down, when I ask who that was, and Melissa replies, oh, that was me! When we make the end turn mid-way on the long Texas Trail, Nyleva steps off, and Jorge cuts loose, with me caught in the vacuum he creates. We pass by Tom and continue to roll from top to bottom. I ask Jorge if he's going a bit fast, and he says he just wants to avoid slowing me down on the descent. I know he's just teasing, but it does feel good to push the effort just a bit right now. Once the sun wakes up and burns off the fog, It's going to get hot, and I'd just as soon get some good cool miles in before the sun cooks me down to super slow granny gear.

We roll into X-roads for the first of many times today, and Jorge turns directly up the hill, while I go over to sign in, and to fetch my trekking pole. One of my many schemes and plans is to use the pole from here and back again after the 2nd return, to leave it for the next go round. I could use it for the whole race, but I don't want to carry it the entire time, so I’ve created this pick up and drop off point for a break. I refill my water while quite a few roll past uninterrupted. I wonder how many of these people know we need to sign in. Or maybe Chris has told them to skip the first check-point? The 100milers are mixed in with 75 milers, 50 milers, and relay folks, so it's hard to know who is running what. And it gets more complicated when I realize he has early starters for all of the races too.

There are 2 major aid stations on this 25 mile course: X-Roads and Windmill. After the first 5 mile section, which ends here at X-roads, we split the remaining 20 miles around two separate and distinct loops, called A and B. Both loops begin and end at X-roads. And they both pass through Windmill in an interesting play of course and terrain. To begin with A-loop, the ascent goes up a rather steep rock covered jeep road which I'm pleased to manage with a strong power-hike. Can't be much more than a few tenths, but it's still a tough little eye-opener. Once on top, the flatter terrain is littered with rocks enough to arrest any easy gliding rhythm, and so we dodge what we can and kick the rest.

A few years back, some of us cut a trail called The Bear. It was just a connector, no more, to simply get from one place to another. But we had a problem with the terrain and the scrub we cut it through and it ended up changing directions way too much for a short trail, going up, then down, and repeatedly changing about. And then the camp cut the end of it off, turned it strait down the hill without a single switch to what it is today. Well, as I approach The Bear, I know what it is, and I know just about everybody slows way down on it. They just don't know what to do with it, go up, down, jump, or crawl. Basically, it's a bear, but I like to do it fast!

The Bear dumps us onto a jeep road that is wide, flat and obstacle free, but in a couple of minutes, it drops into a culvert and out again, and then more flat easy running. The next drop down is a bit more rugged with a flooded-out wash littered with rocks. The flood was so recent, you can still see the waves and ripples of rocks in the raging washout. I drag myself across the rock flow and begin the one-mile hill, which pretty much matches the exponential curve of my personal health costs, gradually creeping up over a period of time. Its power-hike time and the reason I brought the trekking pole, to row my decrepit old boat uphill.

There’s a triangle of roads at an intersection near the top where we turn to the right. We come back to this same spot after we do a big balloon loop, and then follow the crooked string back the way we have just come from X-roads. But, now, our route takes us to the back valley. We run another race in this place (J&J) in which this back valley is an elephant's idea of terrible. But those trails have been watered down to a much more pleasant stroll down a grass covered jeep road that would be pristine if not for a few washouts filled with rock. Still, its nice and easy enough, until we reach the end. The climb up out of the valley is rather too abrupt though, going strait up a fenceline that is just plain nasty. It's one of those where its best to not look anywhere but strait down as you take one step at a time.

Once on top, there's a nice clean rock ledge that doubles as a perfect bench. I sit down every time I get here, to gather my breath, to appreciate what I have just done, and to be grateful it is now behind me. I'd like to think it’s all cake from here to the Windmill, but it’s not. It's an ignored old trail full of rock and prickly pear that doesn't see much activity besides us fool runners. It should be a strait line trail following the fenceline, but it's badly overgrown such that we zig and zag quite regularly to dodge the many natural obstacles. About midway is the remains of an old hunter's deer blind: just the chair and metal frame around it and nothing more. I would like to think it’s a landmark that means something in reference to my destination, but it's only a joke. If anything, it marks the place where the fog finally burns off.

The Windmill is the second of the two major aid stations. But more than that, it sits next to a swimming pool filled with clean cold water pumped directly from the earth under it. I don't need it right now, but I know it'll come in handy later. Jorge is signing in as I enter the tent, so I sign in behind him. I've a bag full of running gear and a cooler with cold drinks sitting in front a lawn chair, so I take the time to relax and drink an ice cold Gatorade before following Jorge. It's a short haul to tie the knot on the A-balloon, and begin the long descent back down to The Bear.

It sounds odd, but it’s easier to go up The Bear than it is to go down. And on top, I realize there's still more UP, which I didn't notice earlier. Doesn't take long until I'm on the rocky jeep road rolling into X-roads to finish A-loop, right behind Jorge again. With both Windmill and X-roads as double stations, I've a matching gear and cooler setup at each. These two stations are the crux of this race and I plan to take the time to use them. I may be rushing about between the stations, but it's a long race, and I need to take the time to manage myself correctly. Another Gatorade, a few cold salted potatoes, and I’m ready to roll.

B-loop begins with rolling swells, and slowly begin to rise higher, taking the trail further up. I'm glad to finally reach the end turn, but less excited when I find the flat dirt trail overloaded with mud. This in fact slows me more than the climb. Twisting my torso around branches and tiptoeing around water pocked mud holes, one after the other until escaping onto the Antenna Hill moonscape. The big dead antenna lying abandoned does little for the beauty of the place, but it’s better than the mud trail, and soon after drops down the rock scramble onto Wagon Trail.

From the base of the rock scramble to Windmill Hill, this trail is one I can run, so I do! But then, at the trail's end, sacrificing the shade of the trees for direct sunlight, I turn onto the jeep road going up. This is one steep road reducing me to a short stride and high cadence. Again, I'm thankful to have my trekking pole. Moving up a steep slope is a rhythmic thing of balance and strength, where momentum comes from all the moving parts being in sync: foot-plant, arm-swing, inhale, exhale, as well as trekking pole swing, plant, and push. So completely internalized, all I visually see is the general idea of the track I follow until I top out. And when I do top out, all systems switch from automaton to whatever the hell I was doing before I started the climb. There's a lot more road from here to the Windmill, but it's a gentle ascent if anything, passing by the big zip-line tower along the way.

I swap out my soaked and salted shirt, hanging it from a tent pole to dry out. Which reminds me of the salted potatoes sitting on ice in my cooler. They hit the spot while I relax in my chair. Its also time to swap my bandana for something with a sun visor. It's a rocky minefield of fenceline from here to the river, with not much more than a snippet of uphill. And when it tilts downhill, this heavy rock rolls. It's usually dry where the Armadillo creek meets the Nueces River, but I'm watching water flow over a rock slab into the river. It's a gentle flow, and shallow, with a series of stepping stones to dry cross.

All my memories of the Armadillo Trail are of a pleasing gentle track, under the shade of oak trees, in the shadow between two ridges. It was always fun to dance from slab to slab, and stop for pictures in this natural cathedral of beauty. But, just one week ago, a deluge flushed rock and tree off the walls upstream, changing it into a field of rock debris and shattered trees. The long unbroken slabs of rock are now buried under a field of treacherous loose rocks, and the side trails are blocked, such that our only choice is to run through a flow of loose rock. It's hard to find the route. I can see confidence ribbons ahead, but not the track to it. The flags are not necessarily on the track as much as just a convenient twig nearby. Sometimes, they lead me to the wrong side of the creek. It's still serene and beautiful, but my feet can't see the beauty or feel the joy.

Escaping the evil creek bottom is more than just a little welcome. I can run again, making the turn, heading back the way I came, just a little higher upslope. Rock-dancing once again, getting my speed and momentum turned up, and still in the shade until the ridge top. We turn again and head back in for another in and out. Finally done with the long switchbacks and approaching the overlook, I hear the thundering roar of the Nueces River. Dropping over the edge and descending the cliffside trail, I pass the 100ft repelling wall, zag through the W, and land at the Lisa Lane aid station, where Joyce is waiting for me with a bright smile and a happy face, which is about all I need. It’s only three more miles to the end of B-loop at X-roads.

Lisa Lane is a short steep fifth-of-a-mile up-tilt to old Wagon Trail, which is just under the new Wagon Trail. We head towards the edge of the camp lodgings, skim under the Mi Casa porch, and turn up a short steep trail to reconnect with new Wagon. This is the point where the beginning and end of the B-balloon merge. From here to X-roads is bidirectional. Wagon to rock scramble, up this time, Antenna Hill, the mud trail, and down the long and winding trail back to X-roads. There is no reason to stop with just a half mile from here to the Pavilion, but I do slow to toss my trekking pole into my chair.

Past the clock, under the arch, and into the pavilion... in just under six hours. It's much faster than I expected, but exactly what I had planned. I successfully milked the best run I could from the best part of the day. I head over to the Trinity building, climb a flight of stairs, and into my room. I strip off my muddy shoes, socks, and shirt, leaving them at the door, and head strait for the shower. Joyce moves the race bib from one set of shorts to the other, while I hose down and re-lube. A minutes to rinse off the abrasive salt and caked-on mud, and then I sit on the couch for a cold drink and a spot of lunch.


======= Loop Two

One down and three to go. I'd have to run another six hour loop to return before dark, which sure-as-hell is not going to happen. 1pm to 6pm of loop two should be quite nasty for this heavyweight. I expect to be a lot slower through the hottest part of the day. Running the same loop multiple times has such an odd feel to it. Been there, done that, I see less, internalize more. Alone now, I hear every sound, try to identify, and make up some sort of monster for each. My inward-turning-vision, reconstructs memories to match the sounds. But worst of all is my sense of touch. All pain sensors are overstimulated exponentially. Hotspots on both feet, sour stomach, sunburn on neck, chafing in three places, hands swelling, dry lips, gritty teeth. How can I possibly have all these things wrong at the same time? Its bullshit, all of it. I need to quit listening to my body because he's a needy bitch.

And so it goes, up the initial mile into the trees, fast hiking, trying to settle the contents of my stomach. Down to the river, I attempt to spin up now and again, but after tripping a few times and sinking a foot into some mud, recognizing my dexterity is no longer up to speed, I settle down to fast march as best I can. After leaving the river's edge and passing behind the barn, I start feeling the hot spot on the tip of a toe, so I pull into a shaded bench to repair. I always keep a foot-repair kit with me, with pre-cut oval patches of KT tape. I stick one on the whiny complainer and quickly back into the trees. On autopilot, I slowly creep upwards through intersections and turns I never see. Shit, it would be embarrassing to miss a turn on a course I designed... and marked. The day is warm, but it's tolerable in the shade. On top where its horizontal and easier to run, I'm out of the trees and melting, so I continue to walk. On the down-side of Texas Trail, back in the trees, I try to spin up, but can't get anywhere near the rhythm I had on the last loop. Hell, I'm barely into the 2nd loop and I'm already into the 'Fuck this Shit' mode. Hell, I already knew this was the way it would play out. It's too hot for me, but I just need to suck it up. If I can just get through these next few hours without a total meltdown, I'll be fine.

Its time for some pickle juice when I arrive at X-roads, and some Gatorade to wash down the salted potato. I take up the trekking pole I left here from the first loop and march back onto the A-loop. Round the top to The Bear, down the nasty little ankle-biter, and back onto the one mile road going up. I'm in full-on roast mode now but switch to convection once I roll into the back valley. The sun has dropped just enough to provide some short shadows on one side of the road, and although that side is littered with rocks, that's the side I ride. The feet don't care much for my choice, but my head thanks me for the bits and pieces of cooling shade. The back valley is a blur... not from speed... but from the daze. I slither through and arrive at the mad scramble going up. As nasty as it is, it's one redeeming value is it's shaded. The increased amount of foot traffic has smashed the slanted earth into a slick slide of mud and mess with even the rocks coated in the slippery snot. I spin out a few times, but manage to keep from falling, and slowly make my way to the top, where I once again sit on my rock bench for a breather.

The fenceline visual is a mind-blowing forever of deceptive distance, so I try very hard not to look up. Besides, I need to pay attention to all the handicaps on this obstacle course, dodging this way and that, past the hunter's chair minus the hunter, and on and on and on. I go positively ecstatic, even blink an eyelash, when I see the turn for Windmill. Well, its time for me to go swimming. I remove shoes and socks before rolling off the wood platform into the tank of ice cold water. Not sure how to describe the feeling besides orgasmic. Joy melts the stoic, bringing me back to life... maybe just a little! I probably spend more time here than I should, but the brain is turned off and I suck so bad right now, I'm certain I just don't give a shit. I drink entirely too many ice cold drinks from my ice chest, creating a witches cauldron in my gut, and slowly waddle on. The route back is the same as it was before, but done with a lot less gusto. Young Joe ran loop one, but old Joe is here now. I feel like I'm 82.

Ending A-loop at X-roads is such a landmark, I should be thrilled, but I just don't have the energy. I once again drink way too much ice cold fluid, and begin B-loop. There's not a whole lot of us out here, but more than a few know I am responsible for creating this course. Some of them let me know how much they enjoy the course (ha), and some of them cuss me as they pass. That's one of the things I like so much about ultra-distance running: people are reduced by their deprivations to base honesty. It also needs to be understood that I take a good cussing as a compliment. And maybe they appreciate the plain fact that the designer of this evil course has at least put himself in alongside them. Anyway, the constant feedback has been stimulating, especially from the people I don't know. Overall, the consensus has been that A-loop kicks B-loops ass, even though B is longer than A. I'm not arguing the point, but right now, I suck equally on either side. Although, I'm beginning to find some satisfaction with my ability to keep going.

The out-n-back section of B-loop is a mixed mess of connector trails, rock scrambles, abandoned antennas, and one flat but very muddy trail. This one bit of trail is such an enigma. It’s mostly flat, free of rocks, shaded, and gorgeous, but the muddy slop holes along its length reduce the gold mine to a piece of shit. Its potential simply pisses me off. Back to Windmill Hill, I match strides with a couple of ladies hiking strait up into the setting sun. The sinking of the sun is the rising of my energy, so I once again find enough oomph to put in a few surges from walk to run clean up to the Windmill. The shirt I hung here to dry earlier is dry now, but its coated with salt stains, so I pull it down and shove it in my drop bag. A few more cold drinks, another potato, and I remember at the last moment to take a headlamp before moving out.

On the fenceline heading down, with the setting sun at my back now, I watch the shadows getting taller, mine included. The late evening half-light creates some deceptive misperceptions of where to put each foot. On a steep and rocky descent, I should be more careful, but I can run again, so I turn loose just a bit and let the physics of my body-weight pull me downhill. I catch a runner before the river, and then another, and the three of us together struggle to find the best route through the debris field that used to be the Armadillo creek bed. Both of these guys are faster than me, but there aren't many who can run here, partly because of the rocks, and partly because it's just hard to know the right direction, especially in the dark. All of us with lights on, we make the turn out of the creek, and they both quickly sprint ahead, leaving me as they found me, alone and doing just fine in my slow and methodical way.

The multiple sets of long switchbacks are quite enjoyable after what we just went through, so I roll along quite pleased to mix walk and run once again. Up and through the overlook, hearing the impressive river roar and seeing the scattering of lights from down in the Camp Eagle compound, it feels good to know I'm once again approaching Lisa Lane. Joyce again welcomes me in, knowing full well how poorly I do in the heat, and soothes my soul with her care. I head out for the final section while she heads back to our room to make ready for my next arrival. The smorgasbord of bidirectional trail varieties between Lisa Lane and X-roads is much the same, including the mud that never dries, and somewhere in here, I connect with Stephanie for a nice chat for the final few miles through X-roads and the Pavilion.

Fifty miles is done in a surprising 14:09 and I feel almost as good about that as knowing I survived the heat of the day. Back to the room, shoes and clothes discarded at the door, and back into the shower. It's a hot shower this time though, as I need to avoid the body confusion of hypothermia. The re-lube and reclothes occur while still in the warm bathroom. Joyce and Henry double-team to zap me a hot potpie, fetch cold drinks, and get my pack ready for the night. I won’t be cold for long, but need to start in jacket and gloves just to escape first flush of restarting in the dark.


======= Loop Three

I have just finished 50 rugged and brutal miles and I'm only half way. I need to not think about this, and yet I do. I simply need to keep moving and eating, and that's about it. I'm surprised that I managed the chicken potpie ok, but I'm still not back up to speed. I manage a slow run now and again, but I struggle to avoid rocks and mud holes in the dark. I take the headlight from my head and hold it in my hand, but still bumble about in the dark. I do feel better now that its night, but the handicap of running in the dark is slowing me. I usually do pretty well in the dark, but maybe not with a 14 hour add-on. Same trail, same rocks, different loop, and alone again. Its quiet out here on the other side of the ridge, but once I cross over the top, I can hear voices and see splashes of light everywhere. There is nobody close, but in this bowl of a valley, light and sound carries a long way. And so I go on down, around and into X-roads where Joyce is geared up and looking to pace me. What a pleasant surprise! She had made some comment about possibly coming out with me, but I didn't want to put any pressure on her to do so. But here she is and ready to roll. She wants to know if I'm running or walking, as she knows how I run rough terrain and is concerned she might be a handicap if I'm rocking it. But, I’m not rocking anything right now. Walk is the best I have right now so she says she's comfortable hanging with me for the night. I knock down a bottle of ice cold chocolate milk, another potato, and up we go.

Joyce is in a talkative mood and I listen without responding. I'm exhausted, with scarce little energy for moving the jaw muscles. She's hyped up a bit with being out here now after a full day waiting around for me, so she quickly moves ahead. I can't match her pace and rhythm. Eventually she figures it out and backs off. By the time we top out, we're synced up and walking side by side. When we approach The Bear, I ask her to let me lead. I know the best track by now, what to avoid, and the angles. Her shoes have lousy traction and she slides out a few times, so I get a little distance on her while she attempts to get through without a mishap. On the jeep road, we go through the same sequence of events once again, her getting a long lead, then backing down next to me and matching my stride. Still chatting away, I'm hardly paying attention when I realize she's asking me questions and waiting for answers. I think about it for a moment and then tell her: She can talk as much as she likes, but I'm not answering any questions. She stops talking after that, and tells me later, she was trying to think of what to say that was not a question. And so we continue together into the back valley.... much quieter. But, the fenceline climb out of the valley begins to knock the words right out of her... and she starts talking again.

At the Windmill, I sit down to pour more cold drinks into me, seasoned with potatoes and another chocolate milk. My stomach is still sour, and I had hoped the chocolate milk would help. It seems to at first, and then it doesn't. We stroll back down to The Bear, up and round to X-roads, and I wonder if Joyce plans to continue. X-roads and Lise Lane are both good places for pacers to pop in and out, and if she's done, this is one of the places for her to exit. But, she says she's staying on, so I figure her to pop off at Lisa Lane a bit later. By now, my stomach is in an uproar, and close to puking, so I don't drink a thing. Figure I'll drink water for a while and damn little at that. Good news is that it's still night, and my stomach might tolerate a lot less fluid for a bit. Back to the B-loop multi-direction and all its entertainment, Joyce has some fun saying, left side, right side, over and over again, providing directions to the best side to go through each mud hole. I take the lead on the rock scramble, no longer following ribbons so much as instinct and memorization. And Windmill Hill requires no explanation. Strait up the road to the Windmill, we visit with Klapthor as we pass.

Loop three is taking even longer than the Loop two, and I begin to realize I'll roll in at sunrise. We make our way down the fenceline once more, and I offer Joyce my trekking pole to get down the last rock flow into the creek and across the stepping stones. Even with jacked up senses, my balance is still better than her's with her slick-bottom bowling shoes. I lead through the creek-bed maze to the end, but let her take charge at the turn. As has been her pattern, she spins off well ahead before backing off. Switchbacks lead to the overlook and then Lisa Lane... and Joyce remains! Says she's finishing the loop with me. Up Lisa Lane we go, along wagon, up the slot, back to the scramble, the mud trail, and slippery rocks back to X-roads.

Henry ran the 25 miler yesterday, got a full night's sleep, and now he's up and waiting for us. I skip the shower this time, sleepy, and worried about going hypothermic. I try some sausage, egg, and cheese for breakfast, and get some small amount of it down. I discard my pack and Joyce hands me a fresh water bottle. Says the one I've been using stinks. My stomach feels a little more tame, now that I've left it alone for a couple hours. I'm only drinking water and Ginger Aid now. Not even touching the pickle juice. Its daylight now, but it's hard to get going. I stumble out of the room. Down the stairs, and head out one more time... alone.


======= Loop Four

Finally, on the goodbye loop, doing the last part of everything, and saying goodbye as I go. Last time up Boot Trail, along the river, onto Texas, and I start feeling pretty damn good. Might be the breakfast or might be the sunrise, but I seem to get some of my edge back. And yet, I'm a mess. My feet are thoroughly jacked up. A few blisters and a bit of swelling keep me conservative even if my total body energy level is up. Stomach is also back under control.

When I arrive at X-roads, Henry is there to crew, sets me up, and off I go for my final A-loop ramble. There isn't any running on the climb, but once on top, I make good time over to The Bear. Same again down on the road, where I get to running again, then fast hiking on the mile long hill. Into the valley and to the other side is nothing to get sentimental about, but I'm damn glad I never have to look at that shit again. The final hump is memorable. I stop at the bottom, three times on the climb, and one last time on the rock bench at the top. This is one bitch I do wish to say goodbye to, so Adios Bitch!

Back to the Windmill is meaningless because I still need to get back here one more time, and for the first time, I'm in a hurry to get through. Back down to The Bear and goodby-ing every slick rock and twisty turn brings a special joy for each and all. Arriving at X-roads, I once again find Henry and also Joyce, geared up yet again. She says she wants no more, but figured if I could keep going, then she could too. First off, the A-loop is done. And so we head out for the final go-round of B-loop. Same shit as last time, all of it. What more can be said. We do it, and I'm dragging low as we approach the Windmill.

It's my second noon-time of non-stop running and it's starting to heat up again, so I figure its time to go swimming again. I drop the old beat up rig into the water tank and it is so flippin cold, it's awesome. The ice bath on my whole body is more invigorating than a six-pack of Red Bull and twice as healthy. I climb out, and get to rolling downhill with a lot of momentum. We run clean down to the river, then power hike the Armadillo creek bottom better than I expect we should. Out of the creek, we start running again, make all the turns on down to Lisa Lane, where Henry and Lise wait. And Joyce keeps on rolling with me, counting up her miles for 50k of surprise bonus pacing miles.

Onto the last of the last section... finishing B-loop and cruising better than I dared to expect round the last of everything I've already seen way too many times. We make the final turn where the X-roads aid station used to be. My last time down the road back into the Camp Eagle compound, across the road and the basketball court, through the arch and the finish clock to finish at the Pavilion. The second 50 miler takes me 5 hours longer than the first one. Damn that was tough.


======= And Before

All of central Texas was under flood warning, rivers and streams were flooded. Some bridges had washed out, towns and homes underwater, it seemed that everybody and everything in the area was affected in some way. A few races had cancelled, a few others rescheduled, but Chris had it in his mind to find a fix, especially for the people who had flown in from outside the country. So, he asked me to help him figure it out.

Option A) The race is traditionally held at Hill Country State Natural Area, which was certainly dealing with its own flooding, but the weather had softened somewhat as we got closer to race date, and we hoped. Too much of the lowlands were mucked up and impassable. No go!

Option B) The original course was not happening, so we laid out a 12.5mi point-to-point such that an out-n-back would net 25mi, and four sets of out-n-backs thru the upland hills would work, and looked kind-of exciting. But this too washed out. The parking lots were all flooded. No place to park.

Option C) We already had a 16mi loop at Pedernales, but we knew there was more trail potential, and also the connection to Flat Creek Crossing Ranch next door. I had previously laid out a 31mi loop through both properties and knew we could slice it down with some work, but neither property was available. Nope.

Option D) Camp Eagle is a place Cris has connections, and they were available too, but we had just run the J&J100k there 4 weeks ago. Another long race would be tough to stomach so soon after, and also, we did not have a 25mi loop. We had a 20mi loop... and there is no way I'd run anyone through 5 loops of that back valley meat-grinder. Do-able, but not attractive. At least we have an available option.

Option E) Camp Eagle again. I took all the old courses we'd used in the past and tossed em in the trash. I needed to start over and rethink this. And so it evolved that by re-using a couple of the longer trails, making them bidirectional, and creating two separate loops within one big one, came up with a 25mi loop and it looked good. Aid stations were double-use sites, which were great. Aid station splits were 5mi and under. I wondered if the self-serve concept would work with this format. It would be easy to go the wrong way. On a better day, one without flooded out creeks and road crossings, we might drive to all of them. Also, the suspension bridge was gone, washed out, and the trails below the dam was a river. And we have yet to talk about the 8mi drive into camp? But we still needed to check a few things. Chris and I showed up at camp on Tuesday before the race about mid-day. We had no time to lose, so we immediately went out to mark and measure at the same time. We had it all down except for a few places along the riverfront, around Lisa Lane, and under the overlook. We even went out and measured late one evening to finalize the beast. One of the unexpected problems was the creek bed full of rocks called Armadillo Trail. This was in pristine shape for J&J, but now it's a mess. Also, the river had chewed up the entire river-front trail. The back valley had multiple rock flows across the verdant green. And then there were the endless rocks on all the trails, many of them clear of rocks just a week before. Of course, it was raining and nasty the entire time we marked and measured. Chris knew I was running the 100 in a few days, and he worked with me so I was mostly on the ATV while he did what needed to be done on foot. Pam came in after we were done marking and helped with everything else: stepping stones across the creek, tents, chutes, signs, and so on and on. I got one day off before the race started, and that seemed to work out ok.

2018: J&J 100k


Michael dropped me off at 2pm and I checked into my room. Chris would not arrive until late and I was tired, but bored, so I changed into running gear, turned on the GPS, and headed out. I'd helped lay out the new course, but this was all done from the comfort of my home, many months ago, but the math done in the computer does not always ad up the same way in reality. Mostly, I just walk, following the first 6-mile section of the new course, using my GPS to cross-check the numbers I used from previous distance measurements. The GPS is nothing to count on, more of a confirmation that I am close to right. I'm not in a hurry, so it takes awhile, and I get done in time to zap myself a pot-pie dinner, read a bit, then bed.

I wake at 7am, shower, and eat breakfast, before Chris is banging on my door. We plan to get going by 8:30, but thats not what happens. We talk a bit, gather what we need, and finally get to it... late. He's borrowed a camp mule loaded with an ice chest full of drinks, marking equipment, and a few other odds & ends. We drive to the new Zip Aid, where I ended my walk yesterday, and start there. We go all day, and get done by dark. Kenton's there waiting for us when we arrive at our rooms.

The next morning, the three of us get going again, and finish much earlier, but it's still a full day. It's only Tuesday and the course is pretty much marked, with the exception of a few odd ins & outs to do, which Kenton deals with, while I back off a bit and rest my feet. I sit up to read a bit, but sleep in on Wednesday morning, and skip out from all the banging about Chris and Kenton are up to. He's sorting out the trailer into piles of equipment and food, but I want none of that, and hate to watch people work while I laze about. I get bored, so I go figure out the 50k split off, and then take some tools out to Prospector to clear the drop down trail over the cliff. I get to bed early that night, and sleep in again, but Thursday is a total chill day for me. All but a short walk-a-bout to get the 50mi split worked out, after which, I hook up my hammock and get some mid-day sleep, or read, when I'm not sleeping.

Race day, Friday, finally comes round and again I sleep in, and remain in bed as long as I can stand it. Must be 9am when I bust out, and decide to go look at the new cut-thru Chris did over on the Gorilla Trail, off Armadillo. Its just a 3-mile out n back, but I'm soaking wet from the humidity and sweat when I return to my room. Since I arrived, Its been comfortably warm and overcast, with the threat of thunderstorms, but no rain. Looks like the thunderstorms and cloud cover may be swapped for light rain and heat. And so, it's going to be warmer than I prefer for a race of this distance. I'm going to have to push the pace early to use the dark to get as far as I can before the melt-down. I figure to stop in my room after each loop, same as last year, with it being right next to the loop end point, it's clean and simple. I put a few changes of clothes in the bathroom pantry, so I can shower off the salt after each loop, and change into clean dry clothes.

Joyce arrives a few hours before start, so we talk about my tentative expectations, and what I've done to set my self up. We both know Heat is my Kryptonite, so we have cold drinks and food in the cooler. Not much else I can do, but get as far as I can before everything goes to hell.

And so I start at 8pm with a small group of 100k runners. Twenty-three of us wander off into the night, while most of the others left behind are in for an early bedtime in preparation for their early starts: 50mi at 5am, 50km at 6:30am, 25km at 7:30am, and 10km at 8:30am. Boot Trail begins with switchbacks and then crosses the powerline onto the down chute. The sounds of voices ahead and behind filter into my thought process, recognizing Nancy and the Bills behind me, while a woman and man are laughing somewhere ahead. Under the suspension bridge, we cross the main road toward the river. With the moon reflecting off the water, the Nueces River is always gorgeous, daylight or dark, and the sound of water going over the falls provides the musical background symphony that soothes and relaxes. The trail we run is one long flat rock ledge overhanging the river some five feet up, with enough undulation to force me to pay attention to the path instead of the river. What a wonderful way to begin a long arduous race. We cross the road at the low water road crossing, up a short steep scramble, cut diagonally across another road and head for the barn. Directional arrows I put here a few days ago lead us between buildings, around others, alongside a fenceline, and into the trees. Its time to go up.

Not only do we loose sight and sound of the river, but our firm footing becomes a nightmare of baby-head rocks. Each of us rolls out awkwardly now and again as we attempt to push our bodies up the short hill. With so few starters, I'm surprised to have a trailer attached by the name of David. I tell him I'm a slow up-hiller, and expect to bounce about with my pace and rhythm, but he says it suits him. He attaches a psychological bungee and then pulls himself right up next to me, over and again. And so we begin to talk in short bits and bites as we wrap around and enter Texas Trail. This must be the easiest and most docile climb of any on this course. We mix running and walking for the length of the climb, but then crossing the top and down the other side, we get to rolling a little quicker. The sky is still a heavy overcast with openings now and again so the moon can peek through to watch our progress. I’ve always liked this skinny down track between rock and tree, even though a few spots of mud and slick-rock keep us from going faster. We track onto Moon Trail and then Boot Trail, a longish rolling traverse, where David and I catch Gilbert, as we all three come into the Zip Aid Station.

From this point, the three of us create a bond for the next 10 miles and longer. Up Zipline Trail, across Antenna Hill, and down a rock and cactus ankle-breaker. Gilbert leads every climb, I lead every descent, and David holds a steady balance between us, as we three change place and distance. Onto Wagon Trail and up a very steep jeep road called Windmill Hill, Gilbert moves ahead on the climb while I relax a bit and enjoy a game of hide & seek with the moon. It's a beautiful night, but a bit humid. The zip-line tower with the ghost-like apparition of a monolith slips behind us, followed by the turnoff before the windmill, and then down towards Bear Trail.

Used to be, we ran UP the Bear, and it's a beast of an UP, but now, not only are we going DOWN, but the tail has been halved. With its tail removed, we drop off the Bear directly to the long perimeter jeep road. We catch Gilbert in the middle of Bear standing still, confused by two trail markers in two different directions. I know we go down, but I take the time go up just to check the other flag first. Its on another trail, the UP Texas trail we were on over an hour ago, so I move it around to the other side of the tree so nobody else will be confused by it. Even though we are going DOWN, the Bear is still a Bear: rugged, twisty, and confusing. It sucks the gumption right out of your soul, but it's short enough to not destroy you.


Once on road, its easy to relax a bit, even though we're going up. Thing is, it's too dark to see the UP or how far UP there is, so we simply march along the road, while we talk. Gilbert, of course, surges ahead. He cant help himself on the ups. I on the other hand, settle into a fast hike, that conveys me up the road in relatively good time, or at least it seems like it. We roll on up with little effort and good spirit to the turn, and then across and down towards the back valley. We start running the down-side and catch Gilbert quickly. While the three us are together, I tell them about all the nastiness waiting for us in the Elephant Legs. A profile of the back valley route traces out like the lower half of an elephant, with each ridge and valley reaching to the back property fenceline, columns of rocky ridges separated by arroyos, each with the trace of an old jeep road. Chris and I hung the confidence flags here a few days ago, through the graveyards of baby-head rocks and cactus, but there is no trail to speak of.

First, we stop at the Prospector Cabin Aid Station to reload and refuel, before dropping over the cliff edge to start down the rocky face hugging the wall. As has been my fate of late, my foot slides out on a slick rock, throwing me on my back where I slide across a rock and scrape one of my elbows in the same damn place I cut myself a year ago. It doesn't start all at once, but the blood does eventually find the offended skin, and begins to flow out of three or four cuts. At the base of the cliff lies the jeep road that bisects the length of the back valley. It's a lovely pastoral grass road, flat and flowing, but the thing is, we don't use much of it. It's more just a landmark to mark the inverse side of the back fenceline. We go to the back fence, then back to the cross-valley jeep road, and repeat for each of the three elephant legs. That's right: our elephant only has three legs.

Gilbert leads us up the first leg, climbing the steep rocky ridge line that keeps on going for much further than it seems it should. Rocks of all size litter the area and they’re hard to dodge, especially in the dark, even with a headlamp, partly because the ground is a riot of obstacles, with seldom an encouraging track or flat space. And even the flat spaces are usually found to be mud. Gilbert's light blinks on and off as he passes ahead between tree and scrub, but we catch him on the descent off the ridge into the arroyo, and together we rush quickly along the slot back to the valley jeep road. We can see the lights from Prospector Cabin over our heads and the voices of people in it. It's the sound of cold drinks, comfortable chairs, and civilization. We turn away from it... running along the flat grassy road, looking for the next slot. This leg begins with the arroyo and jeep road between humps, back to the fence line, where we turn and start UP again. A whole field of baby head rocks tilts upwards and slows David and me, but Gilbert flies up and gone. It's a slow motion affair, but my desire is no more than to keep moving, however slow. Granny-gear with no insult intended for granny. It's a high cadence, short stride, constant spin, and no stopping allowed.

I have my trekking pole out, and use it to assist… to plant, pull, and then push. Just one pole is all I need. I need the other hand for my light, or the water bottle. It is enough. I switch hands every so often. I roll over the top, start down, and then up again, until eventually we summit. I want to stop and rest, but don't wish to lose Gilbert either. He's been a great motivator to keep going until we catch him. And so we do literally roll over the top, turn and head along the ridge. The ridge stays high for a ways, but then turns and drops steep down. I love this kind of stuff, so I slip, slide, and stumble down rather quickly, catching Gilbert near the bottom, but losing David. There's no transition between legs two and three. We simply turn and head along the next arroyo for the third and final leg. It's a grand old march, which I have good rhythm for, and push along. Gilbert surges ahead and up while I dial in my best effort. Midway up, Gilbert's light blinks out as he goes over, and I look down to see David starting up. The rocks are brutal, rolling out form under foot, one of them spinning round and popping me in the shin. I make sad little headway moving up. David is on me by the time I top out, but Gilbert's gone. On the long strait-away leading back into the valley, I can see both their lights, front and behind.

We close ranks along the short connector that leads to the last nasty climb... the one leading out of the valley. This climb, like the others, is not easy. It's steep, full of rocks, and a few dead tree cross bars, which we climb over or around, and like the other climbs, we slowly ascend and escape along the boundary fence. One would think that after suffering the beast in the back valley, it would get easier, but it is not so. Even up here where there's much less elevation change, the terrain remains brutal, reaching out to cut and slash any mis-step. And so I stumble up to and onto the turn leading to the windmill. It's an exhilarating moment for me, knowing I have escaped and that I'll soon be submerged in the cold water tank at the windmill.


All together again, we approach the tank, with me leading by just a few steps. There is no hesitation as I head up the steps, removing shoes and socks as I go, dropping them on the deck and then dropping myself into the water tank. It's hard to describe the feeling, being tired, overheated, scraped, cut, and bloody, to drop down and immense my body in this cold comfortable womb. A sensual satisfaction that touches every pore instantly and all at once. I almost feel embarrassed for the pleasure I don't share with the others, as they look at me, and wonder if I'm insane for doing what I have just done, and I look a them as if they are insane for remaining out there unknowing. Usually, when this extreme a pleasure is shared, it's called sex. But why do they avoid it? There must be many reasons, but for me, this is the crux of my expectations these last few miles... to get here!

I do get out of the tank, and I'm actually amazed they have not taken off yet. I quickly re-sock and re-shoe, and head back down the trail... towards Gorilla and the Wall... dripping a trail of joy behind me. The long fenceline has been called the Gorilla for all the years we've run UP it. But now, we're running DOWN, and the gorilla is a pussycat. Across the dry creek, and up the other side, but not far, then down to the Nueces River. There is something so naturally soothing about coming up onto a river on a hot day or night, especially when coming from Hell.

Across the suspension bridge, different from the one we went under earlier in the loop, and quickly to the Wall Aid Station. Gilbert knows these people and is swapping tales with them as I reload my water and start going again. The next climb has us all three march up rather quickly, maybe because we're near the end loop and we can now match Gilbert's energy going up. Across the top and down the other side into the rock creek bed called the Armadillo Trail. Gilbert and I are matching each other's energy right now, but David falls off when we do the descent. Its at least a mile up the dry rocky creek bed, and our legs fairly hop from rock to rock, following the yellow and white lines... to the sweeping turn at the end, one last short climb before we finish the loop. We're close now, and we know it, so the buzz is on. We turn directly up to the top of Lisa Lane, then roll over the top and down the other side. Left onto an old jeep road leading to the Ski Hut, we slide under it, past the mine, across the road and into the Pavillon, just under 6 hours at 2am.

I head directly to my room, where I leave my muddy shoes, socks, and shirt outside the door, then wake Joyce by simply entering. I move to the bathroom and step into a cold shower to rinse off all the salt coating my body, soak for just a moment, then dry off, apply a fresh coat of Desitin, and re-clothes, before I sit down to the food Joyce has waiting for me: cold coke, egg & biscuit, and a sandwich. I can't consume it all, but a bit of each is what I do, and I'm out the door in ten minutes, and surprised it isn't longer.

All the loops are the same, so I'm back out the same way I did six hours ago. It's the exact same route and same hills, but now, I'm not running as much, walking more, but still walking with effort, pushing my body to be efficient, waste no time, keep moving, even on the ups. I lost both my buds, so I'm solo now. I know Gilbert is ahead of me, but have no idea where David is. I suspect he's come in and gone out while I was in my room, so he's up there somewhere. Boot, Moon, Duck, Texas, Moon, Boot and so into Zip Aid. I hear a few voices now and again, out there somewhere, but never do see a body or even a light. I get some ice and oranges at Zip and go on. Zip, Antenna, Wagon, and Windmill over to the drop down on Bear to the jeep road which once again goes rather well. Way up on the jeep road, where I can see for a long way off, I see nothing. The twenty-three of us in this race are spread way out by now, but its 5am, so the 50-milers have begun, and are now on course. I wonder when I'll see the first, and I wonder about my buds and where they might be? Am I close to either one? My mind spins riddles around times and distances until I shut the thought down, knowing it's foolish to do math while running an ultra.

I stop at Prospector to get more ice and oranges, and look out over the wide expanse of the Elephant. Nothing but darkness. No twinkling of lights anywhere. Down I go, with one thought in my mind: to push myself to get into and out of the back valley before the sun rises. I have one hour. I know I'm going to melt when the sun hits me, and hope not to be climbing one of these nasty climbs with the sun punching me in the head. And so I go, with forced effort, still walking mostly but not a sissy little walk, but one with some punch to it. I power up the first leg, down into the arroyo, up the slot and on into the next. 22 minutes! I get up the next one rapidly, climb the up with some effort, across the ridge and heading down the next, I see a light. I come up on one of the Kansas girls (Theresa) I met yesterday. She was behind me on the first loop but must have gone out ahead of me while I showered. Anyway, here she is, and she's very slow and careful going down the steep drop, which I am not. 20 minutes! Up the next arroyo, over the top, down the other side. 18 minutes. Quickly now to the last nasty climb, the one that pops me out of this hell hole. The sky is getting light now, so I don't dawdle. Over and up the to the top, hell-bent on summiting as soon as possible. I reach the top, but feel the energy suck as I push the effort, scrambling along the fenceline, moving forward, and finally reaching the windmill, where I once again plan to take a dunk. I need to cool myself down. On my way to the windmill, I cross paths with Chris Prairie and then Gilbert, who asks if I'm going swimming again. I reply affirmatively. He goes on, while I ascend the platform, then struggle to remove my shoes and socks. Just doesn't seem to come off easy and I'm stumbling about in the process, but I mange it and drop myself into the water tank once again. The bliss is overwhelming. I close my eyes and soak in the wonderful coolness all over my body. I watch the sunrise encased in water.

Leaving the tank, I cross paths with Kansas coming in, then get on down the trail. Chris and Gilbert are both long gone, no lights, as far as I can see, but when I arrive at the Wall, Gilbert's there. We leave together and recreate an exact duplicate of what we ran the last loop, including coming into the Pavilion side by side once again. Loop two took just under 7 hours, which is still much faster than I expected. I'm back at my room, leaving more filthy clothes on the growing pile outside my door, another shower, dry off, Desitin the bod, clean clothes, and try to eat, but this time, I struggle to get anything into me. It's not good, but its where I'm at. The sun is now up but low and overcast.

Going out for the third and final go round, I'm slower again, less run, less push, and less oomph. One foot at a time, same as usual, but there is no smooth easy glide any longer. It's a struggle, but I understand the struggle and the effort it takes and simply do as best I can with what I have left. The course is all mud, bugs, horseflies, and sweat bees. It starts to rain, a soft mist really, a light dusting of moisture that lasts just long enough to ramp up the humidity to kill-joe level. The river rocks are slick from it and causes even more slowdown. Texas Trail is muddy and I'm careful on the rock ledge where I busted my ass last year. Beyond that, I'm sliding-out and spinning randomly, sometimes in mud, and sometimes on rock. There is simply no safe landing for my feet, regardless the surface. It's an odd conundrum, regardless if I can actually push or not, I want to, but I can't. The excuse to back off becomes a reality of circumstance.

My thoughts tumble about like strobe dream snippets, such that my eyes are backward looking into my ideas rather than the reality of the rocks and cactus I trip over. I seem to be out of body, everywhere but where I am. It may be that my mind has gone on vacation elsewhere to avoid my body's infected discomfort. I reenter the current reality only when I arrive at Zip Aid and probably only because Joyce is there. I can tell from the look in her eyes and my too-slow responses that she is concerned. All I want is some ice cold water and nothing more. I take a second water bottle with me for the first time today, knowing the aid stations will take longer to reach. Chris is in the station, and says something to me before he moves out, and I leave right after he does, hoping some company may make this loop more tolerable. But he's so quickly gone, I can't see him on any of the long look-aheads. Oh hell, and oh well, I keep on trudging.

Each and all of these short sections seem to take forever now. It's forever to the end of this short ascent, then left onto the muddy track over to Antenna Hill. And the drop down on the rocks, as long as it takes, I'm surprised to see that the route is now easy to follow. This is my first time through here in daylight and its easy to see the track that I could not see on either of the other two loops. The half-mile Wagon section feels like 10 miles, and just when I know Chris is long gone, I make the turn onto Windmill Hill and see him up near the top, just 100 yards ahead. He turns to look at me, then hurries off. I'm out of the trees and into the direct sun for now and expect to be in the oven for the duration now. The open climb allows a trace of breeze to scatter the bugs that seem to be attracted to my particular combination of stench. The mix of blood, piss, shit, sweat, salt, sugar, and fear has marked me as old, weak, and slow... an easy kill. For the wildlife, I am an ass dragging cornucopia of delight.

All night, I used my trekking pole as an aid to go faster, but now it has become a crutch of necessity, to keep me upright and arrest my descents. And so I push/drag myself up Windmill Hill, hoping to hang with Chris, for no good reason, other than the thought gets planted in my head. But he is gone! I can see a long way up the jeep road, and even the dust from the route he has run is gone. I keep on walking. I realize I've been hanging my head. My neck aches. I have the trekking pole in one hand, the two water bottles in the other, and maybe its more than just the distance and the heat. Maybe it's the odd balance from the two water bottles. Maybe I'm just looking for reasons, but I have certainly crashed.

I make the turn off the main jeep road, the middle road turn, and now at the top of the Bear Trail, I fairly sprint into the shade of the trees such that I leave all the rocks and cactus standing still. More shade equates to more humidity so there is no advantage that is not counterbalanced. Makes me laugh out loud. The raving lunatic laughing as he slides down off the tree covered ridge to the perimeter road and more sun, along with all his collection of biting flies. I take the bandana from around my head and unroll the corners while leaving it tied, so that I again push it down onto my head with the knot on my forehead and the flaps covering my neck and ears. If nothing else, it drowns out the irritating buzz in my ears.

For the first time, I ascend this long jeep road in the daylight and can now see just how far and high it goes. It aint hardrock, but the sight does my reeling senses severe damage. It's only a two mile climb, with a few dips to keep all of it from being constant up, and it drags on, and on. And when the turn does eventually present itself, even the descent down to Prospector Cabin seems to go on as well. I finish the one water bottle, and open the other only to find it too warm to drink. Go figure? I carried two bottle, but two water bottles is not the answer. I simply need to run the section faster with one. There is not much to say or remember about any of this, my mind being numb, my thoughts transient, but when I arrive, Chris is there. He starts talking about how I'm running him into the ground... chasing him?! He gets up from a stool which I then claim, directly in front of the ice cold water cooler. They give me a tall glass with ice in it, which I fill from the cooler. I try to tell Chris I'd rather just run with him than chase him. I couldn't care less if I catch or pass. Mostly, I'd just like some company to share in the misery. I think I say that, but more than likely I just think it, while I pour, drink, and refill the tall class of ice at least three times. Jonathon is there for aid support, and seems to be humored by what I say, what I do, how I look, and all that. Somebody asks if I want some salt caps. I ask if they're cold? What? Do you want some salt caps? I don't want anything unless its cold, I say! He tries to give me the salt, but Jonathon laughs and tells him Joe doesn't want them. Says they aren't cold, so he doesn't want them. I ask Jonathon to tell Joyce, it's gonna be awhile. Chris gets up and leaves, says he has to put some distance on me. I get up moments later, peek over the edge and can already see him climbing the first leg. My sense of time is jacked up. I could swear he just left. Did he jump off the ledge?

Over I go, down the slip-n-slide. Looks like a herd of elephants has been through here since my last trip. The ribbon route is ripped up and torn down. Trees and rocks are broken, the earth ripped up. I just remembered, all the other runners have been through here since my last trip, The 50-milers thrice, 50km twice, and 25km once. They've created a trail where there was none, dragging their asses through the rocks. We should have run them first. Would not have been near as hard finding our way with all they have done, dragging all their behinds over rock and ridge. To hell with the flags! I can follow their trail of destruction. The first leg up is so slow and methodical, but it comes to me, and the drop down some relief from the sun, dropping into the trees of the arroyo leading out. Leg two has some small amount of shade, but none on the climb, or the descent. Leg three piles on to an already beaten man. This is where I begin to question why, but I stumble on, up, and back down into the valley of the beast. Doesn't matter how bad I feel. I need to drag my own ass out of this valley. Just one more hill. The one that gets me out of the belly of the elephant, and I stop numerous times. There's shade on this climb and I struggle with wanting to sit in it and get out of it, but mostly I just want to lie down and rest. The irritating flying pests are all over me, but mostly when I stop, so they too chase me up and out. Once out, I would like to think it is done, but there's still some distance from the top of this climb to the Windmill and the water tank that I crave so much.


At first, it's a mental chant, but then I realize I'm mumbling it silently: Windmill. Windmill. Windmill! Tripping, stumbling, I weave between the cactus, rocks, and scrub, and I have no idea how far, how long, but I know the landmark will appear to direct me to the tank. I trip on the steps, knees down onto the deck, I roll onto my back and remove my shoes, socks, then roll over to drop into the water, and sink to the bottom. Precious relieving womb of water. I rise up and allow my head to poke out and remain so for a minute, then longer. My senses return slowly. I feel better. I can think clearer. I start to get out and decide to stay longer. I'm badly overheated and need to cool my body core down.

Not sure if its 10 or 20 minutes I remain in the tank, but I get out and head back down the trail, a new man, a back-from-the-dead man. Down the Pussycat Trail and I arrive to find Joyce waiting for me at the Wall. I sit and drink another three full glasses of ice cold water before I head back out... with Joyce. We walk, talk, and move along relatively well compared to what I did back in the Beast's belly. Near the top, I pull up and sit down when a blister pops. I ask for a moment until the pain subsides, then up again, we continue. Down to the dry creek, then up the mile long rock path, the sweeping turn at the end of Armadillo, one last little climb, then over and down into the compound where we come into the finish. The first place 50 miler passes us as we cross the road.

After looking at my splits, I'm surprised to see that each loop was almost an hour slower than the previous. I am not surprised it's slower. I'm surprised it isn't a lot slower, especially the last one. I am happy to have pulled this one off as well as I did, with as bad as I felt. Gilbert had finished an hour in front of me and David an hour after.

lp1: 20.7mi) 5:53:47

lp2: 20.7mi) 6:56:59

lp3: 20.7mi) 7:56:32

100km time: 20:47:18


2018: Sky Island 50k


I had run this race last year, but only the 25k, so I knew the Primitive and Lodge Loops just fine, but I had no idea what the Skyline Loop was about in the 50k I was running today. The course description ran something like this: Skyline Loop (7.5mi), Skyline Loop (7.5mi), Primitive Loop (12mi), Lodge Loop (4mi). Well, this left a few details out that sure as hell confused my as I ran. Anyway, this is kind-of how it played out.

We started at 6am in the dark, just outside my hotel room at Indian Lodge in the Davis Mountains State Park. Michael and I had driven in yesterday, picked up our packets, had dinner into town for dinner, and got to bed early. It was a pleasant enough morning, but figured it to warm up, so I dressed for heat. I hate road races as well as any portion of a trail race that includes road, and I knew we'd be starting on a road, but at least we'd get that out of the way.

Because of the overcast skies, It was too dark to see anything but the roving spots of light on the pavement. Seventy-one of us ran down the road, and I knew only a few, including Michael and Bill. The thing is, I don't know the first part, where we start in the dark, so I have relegated myself to that status of lemming. For that reason as well as many others, I start in the back. I do have a rough idea where we turn off the road and up the mountain, but it's so dark, I can't see it, so I follow the rest of the field past the turn and on down the road. Fortunately, somebody up there figures it out and the whole herd has turned back, reversed field, and came back to me. I stop and watch as they pass me, then stop and gather around a sign that says second loop, this way. They're loudly discussing its merits, when a few people take off into it, and then the rest of the pack follows hot on their heels. What I figure is that it's roughly about a mile of road from lodge to trailhead, with a few tenths of bonus. And so I move onto the back of the buss with Bill and start up onto the Skyline Loop.

It's a nice steady climb, switchbacks, and single-track. Everybody's certainly moving faster than me, so whenever I hear footsteps behind me, I step off trail, wait for them to pass, and then start back up. Besides, they're all running and I'm walking. No way am I going to run up this mountain, especially with so much course more waiting. The night before, Michael and I had driven up to the summit to catch the sunset, and this same spot is where we run through before heading over to the other side. It's not all down though, so much as a bit of ridge running, fun stuff, over and around boulders, through a gate, and more. Now that we're going down, I quickly catch up to a ten person train which won't let me pass. I'm trying to get them to let me by, when somebody else comes up behind me and asks me to pass, and as I let him bye, I tell them I'd like to get by too. Anyway, not sure what he says or how he does it, but he gets a few to step off and as he goes to pass, I lock onto his heels and stick close to him so as to pass along as his shadow. Once he gets a few to move, he gets all of them to move, and so he and I get to pass the entire pack. I don;t know it at the time, but Michael is in that pack, but he's trapped behind as we go ahead.

I reached the Skyline Ridge Aid Station, refill my water, and go up a bit further before passing through the point on the trail where I'd come back from a 2 mile loop. This is where we enter the Fort Davis National Historic Site. We keep bombing down until near the bottom, and he pulls ahead, while I slow down, which is exactly the wrong thing to do right now. Basically, he's gone ahead and the pack is a ways behind me, such that I find myself alone with no idea which way to go. I'm in the middle of the old historic fort, buildings everywhere, and not much for signage I can see. I approach one sign which says, 'Enlisted Men's Quarters', then another that is a bathroom. The fort signs are easy to see, but not the race signs. I bumble about for a bit before I just stand and wait for the next group to show up. They can see much better than me, and I follow them through the old fort and out the back side. I'm looking for them, but can't see any of the signs.

Out back, we start up a rocky trail that goes up until we reach the intersection I was at just 2.2 miles ago. Its not a big loop, but I sure wasted my descent in the fort. Back at the aid station and it's 7.2mi, which confuses me somewhat. I though the entire lop was 7.5mi, but I neglect to add the milage on the road from the Lodge, plus bonus. I keep on going down, which is fun, fast, and easy all the way back down to the sign we saw where we huddled earlier. I stop to get some rocks out of my shoes, when Michael comes in from behind, and thats when I figure out I had passed him earlier. We're at 9-mi here and the 7.5mi loop thing sticks in my head, but nothing to do but keep going. At least I now know the loop. The sun came up on me during the descent, so its all sun and wind now.

Michael follows me on the climb and catches me at the aid. It's 11.5mi now and of what the hell, if I can figure this out. I should just give up on any idea of milage. Michael and I stay close down to the fort, and now I can see the signs I couldn't see in the dark. The flags and all the other signs for the fort that I tried to follow on the last loop. A fellow named Al passes me as we start the climb out, saying something about missing the cutoff, and I ignore the though, but stay close to him. He powers up the climb as I stay near him through the aid station and down the long fast downhill. I start thinking about the cutoff and realize it just might be close. The cutoff is 10:30am at the park entrance which should be mile 16, but they neglected to figure in the road miles, so its more like 17.1. It seems so insignificance, but for us back-of-the-bus guys, its a problem. As it is, I arrive with a few minutes to spare. Al is there just ahead of me, and Michael comes in right behind me. But, I need to go to the bathroom, and its back in the building next to the aid. I rush over to find it, and a woman in a pickup wants me to answer a few questions, which I just dont have time for. So, I rudely ignore her and step into the mens room and lock the door. I'm well into my business when the lights go out, dropping me into pitch black darkness. Oh hell! I cant even find my ass and or paper and the timing is perfectly wrong. I do my best, then waddle over to the door to turn the timer back on, then settle in to finish. All this shit simply takes much longer than I anticipate, and when I escape, I check my watch to see its strait up at 10:30, the cutoff time, so I slide on through the gate and keep on running. I guess, I'm the last one who made the cutoff.

Well, I'm on the Primitive Loop now with no cutoffs between me and the finish, so I relax and start down the grassy highway access to the ditch under. There is one guy who ran through the aid just ahead of me and I pass him on the other side of the highway. He doesnt seem to be in any hurry and neither am I, but I do move ahead of him. I pass by a whole lot of emergency rescue vehicles, and know something bad is going down up ahead. I see them coming down the switchbacks as I start up. Its a woman on a flatboard being carried down by a whole herd of medical people. When I pass by, the trails ahead appear empty. I was hoping to see all those guys that were at the gate when I went off to the bathroom, but they've put some distance on me. I do catch Michael just before the Primitive Loop Aid, and the other 3 guys are there when I come in. While I stop to reload my ice water, Michael skips on through and keeps on going.

Its only a 5.5mi loop, from aid back to aid and its the easiest part of this whole race, so I get after it. I start walking, and Al tucks in behind me, but we lose the others when we start to run. When we catch Michael, he stays with us for awhile, but then we lose him on one of the climbs. Al and I continue, jabbering away the whole time, catching and passing a few others before we get back to the aid. Another reload and out we go, downhill now, chasing another guy we had caught just as we entered the station. Each time we get near him, he starts running hard again, but our constant easy downhill roll finally has us roll up on him just before we hit the bottomland. Off the hill, we switch to a fast walk, and keep on down to the underpass and back up to the Gate Aid.

My GPS says I'm at 29mi, so I suspect the last section is a but shorter than advertised. It has to be less than 3 miles from here to the finish, and I need nothing from the aid, so I cut on through the aid while Al reloads. I'm surging now, speed walking, and surprised when Al catches me. he had to have been running hard. The next turn starts up the beginning of a load of nasty UPHILL, lung-sucking, climbs. I'm familiar with this from last year, but its knackering the hell out of Al. I keep my breathing smooth and comfortable, short steps, constant spin, and try not to stop while I see Al sitting again. I slowly move up and away, as the climb continues. I make a few more turns, hit the first summit, over the top, down, and begin the next UP. About midway up, I look back to see AL has been passed by that fellow we passed earlier. We had talked about the idea of energy theft on the Primitive Loop, where when you pass somebody, you take some of their energy, and if you get passed, they take some of yours, so I know what he's think right about now, and it aint good.

I keep on pushing, pass another guy on the next summit, but dont want to look back again. I just need to hump on in. I keep surging, walking fast, and pushing over one rise after another, until it finally turn down and I let it go. This last half-mile is a deep rocky ditch with lots of ankle biters, but I'm good with it, and roll on down and round the last few turns and into the finish. 8:16 run time for a 50km aint nothing to brag about, but I'm quite pleased with it. Total distance turns up a perfect 31.2 miles.


2018: Pace Bend Half-Marathon


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


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.


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


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.


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.