2018: Tinajas 100k


You gotta help me out with this Joel. I want you to grab hold of it and pull as hard as you can. Damn Joe - thats F-ed up! Not sure if we can pop it back in, but I'd at least like to get it strait. It doesn't hurt at all right now, but once the shock wears off, I'll not be able to touch it again. He does manage to pull it a bit straiter, but the crook in my finger is still not right. Looks like Stonehenge: the tip of the finger laying partially on top of the next one down. I'm done Joel. Hell Joe, you don't need your fingers to run! Joel has a great laugh and usually laughs at everything, but he's not laughing now. The fact he doesn't makes me worry. I think, what I've done scares him more than it does me. Well, I need to have somebody who knows about this kind of shit to take a look at if right away. Pisses me off I have to stop to deal with it, but the race isn't in the same priority level.

I'd just left Cedar Chop, so it's not that far back. I ask for a ride from some people sitting in lawn chairs, and got an immediate response once I show them my finger. It's only a five minute ride and I arrive in the middle of friendly chaos. Quite a few friends have recently finished the Half-Marathon or the 50k, so they gather around to see why I'm here instead of out there.

Lar checks my finger, asks JoAnna and Henry to help, just to hold me still, while she pulls and turns just enough. We all hear the pop as the finger slides back where it belongs. Up until the pop, there was no pain, but at that moment my knees buckle and I start to black out as the blood rushes into the displaced joint. You're pasty white and look like you should sit. No, I can't sit. When I fell, I rolled into some prickly pear. There's a lot of thorns stuck in my butt cheek. JoAnna goes off and comes back quickly with some small surgical looking pliers and proceeds to pluck the thorns while I drink a beer. She says there's just as many in my shorts as in my butt, so I change shorts and she renews her hunt. In short order, I've been weeded and splinted, but I'm still dizzy so they give me a chair and I put my feet up while I finish my beer and try to clear my head. My timing chip has been turned in and I am done. DNF.


But, way before all this happened, I had a plan, and it had nothing do with all this. I was going to run this 100k, Lar was going to crew, and Joel was thinking about running with me. The 50k left at 7:30am. We'd start 15 minutes later, the 29 of us. I like to start in the back, but with so few of us, I was not far from the front either. 

I have a great love for interesting and rugged trail, so it's understanding that I have no fondness for boring flats. I used to think this particular peccadillo of mine was an emotional one, but lately I'm beginning to believe its physical. More of a repetitive motion where my foot-strike is the same for each step, and because I avoid flat routes, my body is no longer comfortable on flat surfaces. My back, hip, feet, and everything else just seems to whine at me every time I spend more that a few minutes in this detestable circumstance. Because the course is not exactly the perfect distance, we must begin with an out and back for a mile of the most lovely perfectly flat section of river trail. Most people would use this opportunity to run a bit, to get loose, to get some distance in the bank, and use this time to get ahead, but I tend more to a fast walk, almost run, sort of glide. Our small group, a collection of older runners, including a group of five over 60 clump together at the back. On the out-n-back, I get to see each and all, and realize that none of the local running studs have thrown in with us today. 

After the initial doldrums, the out-n-back-n-back again to the Spicewood Springs Trail, I find my cavalier attitude has me lined up with all the regulars I usually find myself with: Joel, Axel, Bill, Nancy, and Rich. This section is beautiful and calming, a flowing stream and waterfalls. Last year, when I did the 50k, I ran right through the water to get past all the runners hopping from rock to rock in a slow moving assembly line. Today, there is no need. Nobody's in the way and I'm in less of a hurry than usual, so I hop from rock to rock to cross the streams. Must be 4 or 6 crossings and its easy enough to keep my feet out of the water without much effort, so I do. I have some fun with the route selection and rock dance to the effect that Joel makes a comment about it. He says I have a good eye for a great line. For being a near-blind person I do rather well with seeing what I need to see. If anything, I actually pick up speed and pass through this section faster than I did the flats and lose everybody but Joel. The water music fades as we climb up out of the canyon and reach the intersection of Spicewood Canyon Trail. Joel and I get into a comfortable rhythm now that we're past the water crossings and its less hilly.

Lemon Ridge Pass is a trail of shattered rocks tangled up with a lot of trees, uniquely different such that it's not hilly and not flat. I scan constantly, to void tripping over rocks, or getting  poked by a branch, while finding course markers. The best possible landing pads for my feet are the big flat rocks, my rhythm and stride dictated by the distance between one and the next. As we constantly change direction and frequency of pace, my feet and Joel's paint a staccato sound in the air. I don't feel we are moving fast, but neither are we slowing down. Our steady crawl appears to be eating away at the distance as we pass a few others. Larry catches us right about when we pass a few 50k runners, near the park road crossing, which is odd, because he passed us earlier. Not sure what he's doing, but I know he's passed us a few times now. He hangs back to talk with us for a bit while we carry on a conversation about coaching, training, and the cost of running. And when we talk about the cost, it's not just about the money. At the Windmill, we stop to reload our bottles while Larry moves on. This next section, a combination of Windmill Trail, Dry Creek Junction, and Lively Loop, is mostly flat and boring jeep roads, albeit in a lovely pastoral setting. We cross paths with a few deer, rabbit, and armadillo while our conversation wanders as well. Once we turn and bump back into more of the shattered rock trail, I know we're close to the next aid, across the park road, and Gorman Falls aid.

Joel has been telling me about his coconut water and had been planning a refill here, but he made a bit of mistake in his understanding of the drop bags. We put all our own bags out except the one by Gorman Falls. Funny thing is: Gorman Falls aid is not at Gorman Falls! The actual Gorman Falls is down in the canyon by the Conference Center. And to further confuse, this aid is split in two, the nearside aid is three miles from here, and the farside aid another five. They did rename the nearside aid to Tinaja and the farside remains Conf Center, but at this point, Joel does not know where his coconut water is. I suspect it's the farside one in another eight miles. I give him a bottle of Gatorade out of my cooler, but it's a sorry substitute.

The Gorman Falls Trail and the Tile Slide Trail are a landmine of trip hazards and toe bumpers, but its also a bit of downhill, so its dangerous. Our momentum pushes us faster but I'm tripping more and ignore the danger. The constant cloud cover has been nice, but the heat and humidity are rising to the point that the rocks are getting slick and we begin to slide on the rock tiles. It is inevitable that I should bust my ass, and this is where it happens, driving me face first down onto some rocks, like a sack of something heavy. My natural instincts being what they are, I get my hands out in time to save my face, but I hit the rocks hard with both hands palms down. Besides a minor scrape on one knee, my hands took most of the punishment for my ignorance. Left thumb turns purple instantly, and the right hand receives a couple of poke holes, scrapes, and something that looks like a snakebite on the tip of my little finger. I like to think of it as a rockbite! Hurts like hell but no major damage.

I get up more embarrassed than hurt, but mostly it slows me down a bit, and forces me to think a lot more about the more difficult terrain coming up. The Overlook at the end of the Slide Overlook Trail is pretty and we quickly turn back up the out-n-back over the same jumble of huge boulders and busted rocks. Soon after that, we approach the next out-n-back down to Gorman Falls. Its nasty slick and we take our time sliding down the damp rocks, and then crawl back up the same trail to get out. Once out, it's only minutes before we cross the jeep road into the Tinaja aid, where there is NO coconut water for Joel. I don't believe I have ever seen Joel unhappy, but he appears to be less happy than usual right now.

The Tinaja Trail is one of the newer trails in Colorado Bend. It's a five mile loop that goes around and through a good sized canyon, with beautiful vistas, a gorgeous water tank (tinaja), as well as more than a few brutal rocky climbs and descents. This trail alone has more memorable settings and rock features than the rest of the park. It's a confusing joy to wander through something that beats the hell out of me this good, but it hurts so nice. We pass a few more people just before we top out in the area of Cedar Chop. We can hear people at the aid station we know we're not going to just yet. I'm all twisted up now that we're no longer on the traditional park trails. I know this park, and I know we're not on any trail that's on the park map. I also understand the race got approval to use some of the old abandoned roads, so thats what we're on now, the top end of the Old Gorman Road. It's not strait, but also not as crooked as every other trail out here, and it bends decidedly downward too. For the first time today, Joel and I actually get to running and running well. Even with all the rocks, we spin up to a descent stride, passing two people on the way down to the bottom, where we find the Conf Center and Joel's coconut water.

The River Trail is exactly that, an easy flat dirt trail with no rocks, but it begins with a 100 yard drop. The hills are all on the right, but on the left is the big muddy Colorado River, high and faster moving than I'm used to seeing it. Somehow or other, I've screwed up my GPS, so I have no idea about milage or time any longer. I must have accidentally stopped it while I was sliding around in the rocks by Gorman Falls. I start it up again, not sure why. So, we run/walk down the docile River Trail for some distance, then turn back up on the Dogleg Canyon Trail, heading to Cedar Chop. I've been seeing the signs all day for Cedar Chop, and now that I'm finally going to Cedar Chop, it's not on the Cedar Chop Trail. 

We'd passed Elizabeth running down to Conf Center, and she passed us back on the River Trail, so it's fitting that we pass he again climbing up again. She gives me a hug before we slip by, and minutes later, we see Michele Genereux going the other way offer up a kiss. My energy stores are topped out with all this renewal. If I can just use it wisely. Joel and I make the climb up to and past the intersection of the loop on top, scoop around the bushwhack back to the Cedar Chop aid. Just seven miles to the end of loop and checking the time, I realize we're actually doing quite well, with a potential seven hour first loop. We top off and head back towards the river. Can't be more than a few minutes, when we approach a confusing narrow slot through some scrub. I'm on the right, but forced to go left, onto some big flat rocks planted at an angle, and sure as shit, hit it all wrong. One foot on the ground and it slides out, throwing me face down once again. Thats the place where I jack my finger... and exit the race.

Lar is my daughter, and she's a PA (physician's assistant), and more importantly, my crew. What she has done to repair my finger is simply amazing, but after some time, my dizziness also passes and I get some color back in my face. I begin to think I might be able to get back in this thing. I talk to Lar about going on, with the understanding that she can tell me I'm done at any point. I'll see her at regular intervals, per each aid station. Henry goes off and comes back with my chip. I'm back in the game.

Two hours later, with my fingers in a splint, I'm back at the same place and running again, maybe even better. Hell, I had a two hour break, a bite of food, and a splash of beer, but I have no idea where I am in reference to all my brothers in arms. I see Mike Riggs first and he's confused, but I smile and keep going. I see Rich next and he's having a rough day with heat and cramps. I see a few others and enough to know I'm at the back of the pack, but these are all guys who usually finish anyway, so it gives me enough of an idea that makes me believe I should be ok with time. Down to the river, up the River Trail, and then Lemon Ridge Trail. I feel good, but for the aches in both of my hands. It's a new sensation. Usually it's my legs whining at this point. This might work for me. Once my hand stops hurting, maybe I'll feel the other muscles under stress. I cut through Lemon Ridge with joy, cross the road and begin the final three mile Spicewood Canyon descent back home. My GPS is stopped again, so I restart it and I don't know why I even bother at this point. My reference to anything is way off track. I see a few guys who were near me when I went down hours ago, heading out on their 2nd loop, who are surprised to see me. Larry says something about breaking things, but I don't see Joel. I have no idea where he might be and I suspect he has no idea I'm still going.

Back at the start/finish, I sit for a moment while Lar assists. I get my feet cleaned, add another pad to my heel, fresh socks and shirt, eat a hamburger, and head back out on loop two with my hydration pack on. Bill was heading out as I came in, and Nancy walks out with me. We stay together until we reach the creek. She's tentative crossing the rocks while I drive right though, and maybe even pick up speed again, like I did last time, and I continue alone. Lar is on the job now, waiting for me at Lemon Ridge, where she assists with a refill and writes my time in the book. She tells me Joel is one hour ahead which I'm pleased to hear. I'm glad he's still going. I lose the sun near to where I cross the park road and get my headlight on. It also starts to sprinkle too, but after some thought, It seems to be more of a rain cloud I run through than anything falling out of it. Its 100% humidity and it makes the rocks even more slick and slippery than they already were.

For all this morning and day, I'd been using the rocks as landing points, but now its impossible. With both hands a swollen mess, I can't afford to fall again, so I slow down and start looking for the in-between spaces to land. Its awkward at best, looking to land on anything except a rock. It's so counterintuitive for me, hopping from dirt to mud to grass and there are places where there are no good choices, so I slow to ease through as best I can. I'm moving damned well and still feel good enough to run, but I cannot fall again. I crawl for a bit, run when I can, and its all insane. By myself, no lights or sounds anywhere near. I see more deer and armadillo, almost trip over a rabbit and then get buzzed by an owl. It's stimulating to see so much wildlife, not that I'm sitting on a park bench patiently observing. I feel as if I'm part of it, just another wild animal looking for food, running to the feed stations.

Lar is waiting at Windmill and so is Joel. When Lar showed up and told him I was still going, he just sat down to wait. Must have been 30 or 40 minutes ago, and he got cold so he put all his cold weather gear on. It takes me a few minutes to reload, and when I go back out, Joel is once again with me. It doesn't take him long before he has to stop and get all that gear off. Its still too warm when we're moving. I've been in shorts and tee-shirts all day, and expect to stay that way. We walk mostly, but do manage to run now and again. But even walking, we're moving pretty well. It seems to be working for us. This is a long section and it's exciting to finally get it behind us and over to Gorman Falls aid, where we walk into a bit of chaos. Somebody down at the Conf Center has been hurt and Jimmie Phares has run up from there to find anyone who can go rescue her in a truck. He gets Lar on it, and she starts calling everybody on my phone she thinks might help: Brad, Chris, Kyle. Eventually she talks to the Park and they send someone to get her. Lar's busy with the rescue, so I take care of myself and get going. Before I go, I tell Lar the next section is the longest and I won't see her for three hours, so she should get over to Cedar Chop and get some sleep. When I get there, I can walk up the trail to the road and wake her. No need for her to sit in the weather for hours.

This next section is the appropriately named Slide Trail where I fell earlier, the first time and I'm a bit nervous about it in this weather. Everything is slick as ice and we're sliding out regularly now. We cant avoid all the rocks and it's a constant worry for both of us. Joel seems more worried about me than I am. What we do just for safety is to slow way down. We're more than just a little careful. Coming into the Overlook out-n-back, we pass Tara Woodard, who Joel had been with an hour ago. She started the 50k very late and is now imbedded with the back-of-pack 100k runners. We visit for a moment, then head to our next major worry, the Gorman Falls drop-in. We practically fall into it. The slanted rock is slick, the guide wires too. We take time to articulate our bodies about until its done and get the hell out. Its hard to explain exactly what we do, but it's not easy. My hands are not much use and it's just stupid going down the ice chute in these condition, but I will not be denied. Soon we're at Tinaja aid where Joel completely loses his shit. He starts puking and after he empties his stomach, continues to dry heave.

This is my bedtime, he says. I'm not sure he's even talking to me, but nobody else is here. He has his head on the table resting on his arms. Its time to go, so I get up, make a lot of noise, and he gets up too. I love this section, but in the dark, there's nothing to see, nothing to stimulate. I've seen Joel like this before and I hope to be able to help him. I tell him, we don't need to move fast, but we must keep moving. We've plenty of time, but cannot waste it. I try talking to him, but he's walking comatose and his response is null. All I get out of him is the need to sit, so we sit. A rock here and there,  a few minutes each, I empty the debris out of my shoes, wait a moment, then get up and go again. It goes like this all the way up to the pond, back round the other side to the place near Cedar Chop, and back again down towards Conf Center. We ran this descent the last time, but we walk now. I wish we could run it. We both have the legs for it and maybe it might help too, but the rocks are too slick. One of us would bust it for sure.

Walking into Conf Center ghost town is weird, the porch light's on, but nobody's home. Joel finally gets his coconut water, but he can't drink it. I feel like hell, suspect he feels even worse. He needs to lay down and sleep until the sun comes up, but doesn't have the time, and neither do I. Come on Dude! Time to roll the rock down to the river and out of this hole. He doesn't get up right away as I walk away, but he does eventually get up. At the steep downhill, his momentum pushes him down the hill a bit faster than he wants and I think he's gonna run into me. Hey man, you want me to get out of your way? And he laughs. It's a glorious laugh and I just love to hear it. So he's still in there. Moving down the long flat and easy jeep trail, I get my fast march on and I hope he hooks on, but he does not. It's a slow shuffle accompanied by constant and irregular dry heaves. My stomach aint no daisy either, and I've been holding it together, but his dry heaves are starting to turn my stomach. I decide to stay just far enough ahead so I don't have to hear it, to avoid harmonizing tummies. I march ahead, then stand and wait, watching his two lights shimmy towards me: the big bright 300 lumen headlamp and the dozen parallel waist lights. It's an interesting visual, next to the river, with all the lights from the houses on the other side reflecting on the water, and I can hear the fish jumping out of the water when I stand completely still. I want to run, I need to go, but I don't want to leave him down here alone, and oddly enough, all of this is beautiful in a long lasting sort of way. The sounds from the wind and the water, the lights and the shadows dancing together, and a couple of good friends just trying to get this damned 100k finished.

I stop and sit on a rock long enough for Joel to get next to me. I wait and listen to the voices on the other side of the river. Some people who are probably relaxing over beers and watching the river, same as me. This time, Joel lies down and goes to sleep. I sit and watch for about 10 minutes, then wake him, tell him its time to go. I don't think he'll do it, but he gets up, and starts walking again. I can still hear the voices from across the river, until he dry heaves again, and the voices stop. We stop two more times along the river and he sleeps each time for some five minutes each. By the time we reach the turn to Cedar Chop, I'm checking my watch more regularly than I usually do, trying my damnedest to figure out the timing. But I've messed up my GPS so badly, I've only a rough idea of time and distance. I think we have plenty of time... but not at this pace. The climb to Cedar Chop is not any bigger or nastier than anything else we've done today, but it feels like a big ass mountain right now and suspect its even bigger for Joel. Again, I move ahead, turn to check, and rarely get any further than to see Joel's light behind me. It all seems to go on and on, until finally I start thinking about Lar waiting up there for me, and I decide to go ahead, if for no other reason than to wake Lar and get myself resettled. She should be sleeping in the truck and it's not right at the aid station, so I need to find her and get back before Joel gets there. I push the button and go, a fast march and minimal run all the way up and around to the aid. Nobody's there, no lights, nothing. I grab my bags and head up looking for the parking lot, but I'm unsure which way to go. I head up the trail that says half-marathon, but after a few minutes, it curves the wrong way and I know its the wrong choice. I head back to the station and head another way, but still cant find the road. I come back to the aid again, go another way, and this time I find the jeep road and soon after the parking lot and Lar. She wakes quickly, sets me up while we watch for lights back down the direction of the station. She asks what I need, but I need nothing more than to keep going. I grab another of my spare lights out of my drop bag, dump the dying one, when we both see the lights near the station and head for it.

Joel is in the tent and so is another, both sunk down into chairs. Joel's lights are off, his eyes closed... but the woman in the other chair has her light on bright and looking right at me. Please, I ask, you're killing me! She doesn't react, maybe doesn't understand, still looking at me. I can't see a thing. Your light? I say, and then she understand and covers it with her hand, but leaves it on. Joel says, go on Joe, you don't need to wait on me any longer. You need to go. There's a lot I want to say, not that my conversational skills are all that grand, but now I have nothing. I want him to go on, but I don't want him to hurt. I want him to finish, and want for him to get some sleep. I'm a mess and he's a mess and I don't have a flippin clue how to solve this one. The only person here with any real sense is Lar and she tells me, you go on. I'll take care of Joel. We'll do what needs to be done, whatever that is, but you go.

Traumatized, emotional, hurt, angry, confused... I stumble out, not sure which way to go, figure it out, come back, leave again, and start running. I forget to fill my water bottle and its empty, don't realize until I attempt a drink. Go back? Ah hell no. I can't do that. I just need to suck it up and go. The only damned way I'm gonna feel any better is to be done. I run faster, then faster, then I slip, almost fall, and settle myself down. I can't afford to fall again. The splint on my hand is gone. All the moisture and everything else and its just gone. I see a light coming towards me and its Axel. He stops to talk and I ask if its possible he has any extra water. He fills my empty and wishes me well. I thank him and then take a big deep swallow. It's interesting how thirsty I get when I realize I have no water, when otherwise I might have run for hours and never taken a drink. Such amazingly contradicting impulses that drive us. Nothing but darkness after the trail angel Axel, down to the river yet again, and then Lemon Ridge Trail. I should feel exhilarated knowing I'm on the final trail, and feeling lots of different thing, but not exhilaration. Leaving Joel behind has simply removed that emotion. I am sure I'll be happy to be done, but it would have been so much more awesome had we shared the experience of finishing. My mind is spinning and I can't slow it down. Every thought lasts seconds, and another, and another. My light is almost completely dead before I realize its even dimmed. I'm stumbling about because I can't see. I have two spares, pull out a good one, put the dead one away, and continue a bit more gracefully than I was just moments before.

Lar is waiting at Lemon Ridge, and again I don't need anything at all. Actually I dump everything out of my pack except the spare lights, and fill my bottle with Ginger Ale for the last three miles. I ask about Joel. She gave him a ride back to his van. I feel bad about that, but I'd also feel bad knowing he was out there alone. Nothing good about it either way. I need to stop thinking. I tell Lar I'll be done in ninety minutes and head on, walking mostly, with an occasional downhill run, but mostly just falling towards the finish, I cross paths with another armadillo. I start thinking about all the wildlife I'd seen today and it's a lot more than I usually see. I gave the GPS to Lar back at Lemon Ridge. It had already powered down, which seems funny to me. I've outlasted my GPS again. Now thats something to tell the grandkids. My mind wandering so much I begin to worry my legs don't wander as well... over a cliff or worse. Lar has been awesome. JoAnna plucking thorns out of my ass. Joel and Lar fixing my finger. Sliding down into Gorman Falls. How'd I get out of there, hugging the metal poles to keep from falling? I wake out of my mental meander when I hit the final jeep road. Just walking now, I reach up to turn off my light and realize it's already off. Don't remember turning it off, but sure as hell don't need it now. No run left in me and don't care, so I slowly wander down the last half mile.  When I see the lights at the finish, there is no buzz of excitement. I'm just glad I can finally sit down. When I walk in, there's nobody there. Without my light on, I suppose nobody saw me coming. Doesn't matter. I cross the timing mat, done, walk to the tent. Somebody sees me and gets up, so I sit in the chair they exit, and remove the chip. Brad hands me a buckle and offers a handshake. I reach out, then pull back. I should not be shaking hands or fist bumping for a while.

2018: Rocky 50


This race was not in my plans, not even a week ago, when I was running a 100k. But Daran called and said she was flying in to run the 50mi and wanted me to join her. She even talked Lauren into going, and she hadn't run anything beyond a marathon. Granted, Lauren made a point she was just running for a bit and had no intentions to run the whole thing. 

And so we began our day with bibs 1, 2, & 3, pouring rain, and loads of mud. I tell Daran to get after it if she wants to hit her sub-12hr desire, but I have no plans other than to do as best my body can, starting on already tired legs. I figure, with Lauren running, she can hang with Daran for a bit, while I have time to shake out the rust. They’re both gone before we’re 2 miles in, and thats about when I run right out of my shoes. I'm slogging through a long mud hole, when my foot slips completely out of one shoe. Before I have time to react, I'm out of the 2nd shoe. In stocking feet, I turn around and go fishing in the mud and the dark for my submerged shoes. They'd already filled with mud and water, so it takes a moment to pull 'em out, rinse 'em off, and put 'em back on, while many others splash by. This time I pull the laces just a bit tighter, double knots, and continue to plow right through the middle of the mud bogs.

It’s dark under the pines and heavy rain clouds, but it’s not cold. The rain jacket is a waste of extra weight. I thought it might keep me a bit warmer should it keep raining, but the rain backs off, so it's worthless. After the initial mile long strait away, its endless turns. At the long bridge, we go strait across, leave the park and enter the National Forest. Right turn, up and down a few rolling muddy hills, then back into the park, followed by two more rights. And this is pretty much how it goes for the next 2 miles, turn after turn, mud followed by mud. By the time, we approach the Nature Center aid, the sky is getting light enough, that I decide to ditch my headlight, jacket, and buff. I shove the non-essentials in my jacket pocket and hang the jacket on the aid station tent. If my timing's good, maybe I'll use the light and jacket again later.

I connect with Joel in the early morning light as we slip & slide down to Amy's Crossing. This is the beginning of the long 3 mile out-n-back to the Highway gate on a very muddy jeep road that rolls a good bit. With the sun up, albeit under a heavy cloud cover, we get a chance to see who are all the other people in the race. I walk each wave to the crest and run down the other side as it rolls underneath, maintaining my casual easy rhythm from Amy's Crossing to the Highway Gate aid station. Lauren surprises me by coming up from behind, when I assumed she was in front with Daran. She had to make some adjustments at Nature Center, so now she is with me. At one time, this road was a long bed of rock. But nature has reclaimed the road and turned it back to dirt, and today it is mud. Granted, there are bits that are firm and clean enough to run, but mostly it's a lot of dodging about from one messy slog to another.

Returning from the Highway Gate is much the same as it was going out and reaching Amy's is always a good reference point, mostly because we leave the nasty ol jeep road for the easier to run single-track. The forest floor is covered with a prodigious amount of pine needles, which softens each foot strike and confuses the sounds around us. The tree cathedral has the feel of something majestic or magic. Joel, Lauren, and I talk a little, but mostly we skim along the forest floor, dodging roots and mud holes, and careful with each very slick bridge. My effort is easy, comfortable, unforced, and I wonder if it's the same for the others. I wonder if they aren't going slower than they should just to run with me. I'm still feeling last weeks race and want to be careful so I can continue for the entire 50 miles, so I'm being much more conservative than usual. Typically, I'd be pushing much harder right now, early on, and fresh. But, I skipped the fresh start already.

We pop out on the Dam access road and make the turn onto the perimeter road leading to DamNation aid. This part of the jeep road is nice and clean, no mud, relatively strait and slightly downhill. My GPS matches the expected distance at 9.6mi and its 8am, so we're doing well for not pushing the pace. The next long out-n-back is another 9mi or a pinch under, but I call it 9 for simplicity’s sake, so I expect to be back here in another 2 hours. This next section used to be a big loop, but now its one long out-n-back on the same single-track, all the way to the big bridge. It's a twisty-turny snake of a route, riding the crooked edge of the lake's perimeter. My favorite part of the course is beautiful in its remoteness. There's more roots and bridges here than elsewhere. With over 4 miles to the big bridge and all the variety between here and there, it's stimulating enough to keep me spun up. The old route was voided when the bridge at the first turn was picked up and destroyed during last winter’s tornado, pieces strung between swamp and canopy. We’re forced to the right where we pass another two misplaced bridges, sitting in locations that make no practical sense unless you knew they'd been picked up and moved by a monstrous wind tunnel. After the meaningless bridges, we cross two new bridges that allow us back around in a loop to where we had meant to go before the original bridges had blown away. Feels as if I'm in a giant toddler's sandbox. Back on the main perimeter single-track, including mud and roots, we keep along the fenceline until we get to the old cutback.

It's a half-mile hump over to the levee, then left onto the twisty-turny muck and mud, sand and root. I have some fun here, picking up my effort a bit, just because all this makes me feel better. Daran passes us going the other way, an hour ahead looking strong. Joel and I are talking and carrying on about a whole lot of nothing, but I notice Lauren is starting to lag behind a bit. She never intended to run the entire race and we did talk about the easy way out by the long bridge, so I can only assume this might be on her mind. At the aid station, Lauren tells me she's taking the quick way back, so I tell her the specifics and she heads home and done. Joel and I turn back. Somewhere along here we connect with Ian of Fort Worth, so the three of us head back, and make good time until I trip and go flying. I land hand first on a root and roll up on my back. I think I can roll over and back onto my feet, but end up with my feet strait up and my back in the mud. The boys help me back up, but the hard banging about on my knee keeps me from going right away. It’s only seconds before the knee-throb settles out and I can run again, but then I begin to feel my hand. I have a poke hole and some blood on the meaty part of my palm at the base of my thumb. It begins to throb as I run and worse when I hold my water bottle in that hand, so I take a few Tylenol and that does the trick. I stop hurting completely.

The three of us are having a raucous time joking and laughing about everything from me busting my ass to the mud stomping through each bog, which carries us all the back to the giant's sandbox and DamNation. We’re 18 or so miles in and roughly 4 hours, so even with the goodbyes and falls, we seem to be on a decent time table. We're 7 miles from the end of loop and I'm feeling pretty good about that. Running from landmark to landmark is working well for me today, avoiding any thoughts of the bigger distances. Hell, I'm just running to the next aid station and then decide what to do when I get there.

Its easy going from DamNation to Amy's, then up the root chute to Nature Center for 3 more with less than 4 miles to the loop end. Having gone through this section in the dark early this morning, I'm curious to see what it looks like: the place where I ran out of my shoes, the route through the National Forest, and all the turns. I know so much of it already, but the inside-out route is a half-loop inside another half-loop, so hard to tell what's next. The strait-line wide-cut jeep road through the National Forest is simply a rolling bog of mud, and the bridge is slick with all the mud drug in off the trail by hundreds of muddy shoes. The final long strait-away from the long bridge to the finish is kind of nice knowing it’s the shortest route to the finish. Joel and I are without Ian now, and we talk about hooking up again before heading out on loop two. He heads off to the left while I head right towards my truck and personal aid station.

Lauren’s here now and helps me with what all I need, bringing quesadillas while I change clothes, and patching my feet after I wash all the sand off. Last thing I do, is take my pack. When I head back over to the station to find Joel, I can’t find him. Somebody runs over to check the shitters and another looks in the tents, but I tire of looking and waiting, so I head out. Same trail we did earlier forward and reverse, so its all very familiar, except for the runners going in every sort of direction. At Nature Center, Jon Perz, waiting for his wife to come in, walks with me for a little. I turn at Amy's and head up the mud road. I don’t see Daran, so she’s cruising, at least 3 miles ahead. I do finally see Joel. He's ahead of me with Ian again. He must have left long before I did, so I was looking for nothing back at the start. I did take 30 minutes to get my feet and all else right, so a good many people had passed by while I was fussing about. I begin to catch and pass some of those people who had been behind me, all but Joel. He and Ian are going faster or at least, even with my effort, because each time I see him at the out-n-backs, the difference is about the same. As much as I’m disappointed we aren’t running together, I’m happy he’s doing well, and he’s also providing some motivation.

Back to Amy's and into the single-track woods, I realize its near 3pm, so we've got another 3 hours of light, enough to do the big Far-Side loop for certain. I make the turn at DamNation without picking up anything other than some Ginger Ale. I also hear for the first time that Daran’s having some problems: IT band, shoes too tight, or something of that sort. I begin to wonder how she’s dealing with it and start looking for her, hoping she’s ok. I snag my arm on some saw briars, which paints in blood some lovely calligraphy on my forearm. The blood mixes with the incoming mist, creating some gnarly looking red tattoo of red swirls. I get through the sandbox, the levee cutover, and then the single-track before I see Daran. I’ve closed on her some, but she’s still a good ways ahead, walking now, but in good spirits. She keeps on walking while I keep rolling in the opposite direction. I reach FarSide at 4pm, seeing Joel and Ian just before arriving, still maintaining the same gap. I turn for home and the final 11 miles feeling pretty damn content. I certainly wasn't confidant today, but it's beginning to look like it might happen.

Rolling back into DamNation is a wonderful feeling of accomplishment, the last time I need to see this landmark today. I love this aid station and I'm glad to be done with it. The Rockhoppers who manage it, are the most wonderful of people. Its 5pm and even in my depleted state, I suspect I might reach Nature Center  before sunset. It's all the motivation I need, however trivial, to put my mind in a mode to not relax just yet. The further I get before dark, the less trouble I’ll have to muddle through afterwards. The new goal: get as far as I can with whats left of the light. Within my own mind's view, I'm working hard, but from outside perspective, I'm sure the effort appears rather pathetic. I know I'm not moving fast, but it could be worse. I tick off the landmarks as I goodbye each one: Amy's, the root chute, and then Nature Center.

Its 5:50pm when I pass Nature Center for the last time. More than a little pleased, I make the first turn, then the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. Its 6:10 before I turn on my headlamp. Five minutes later, I enter the National Forest and slog through the muddy hills to the bridge leading into the park. The last mile is sort-of strait away, but more than anything else, its the most direct route to the finish. I feel as if I'm running now, and willing to bet it doesn't look like running. I make the final cut through to the powerline, s short riser, then I see the finish and hear it too. I cross in 6:45pm. Having already cared for Daran and got her comfortable, Lauren now takes care of me. Daran had finished 30 minutes earlier with Joel in between the two of us. Life is good!

aid    miles  runtime mile-gap time-gap /    miles   runtime mile-gap time-gap
nc     3.92    0:51        3.92         0:51        /    29.29     7:17     4.10         1:18
hg     6.68    1:28        2.76         0:37        /    32.05    7:56    2.76         0:39
dn     9.63    2:06       2.95        0:38        /    35.01     8:41     2.96         0:45
fs     13.95    3:09       4.32         1:03        /    39.38     9:49    4.37         1:08
dn    18.32    4:16        4.37         1:07        /    43.77    10:57    4.39         1:08
nc    21.26    5:02        2.94        0:46        /    46.79    11:48    3.02        0:51
s/f    25.19    5:59        3.93        0:57        /    50.66    12:45    3.87        0:57


2018: Red Dirt 100k


Jimmy and I arrived with enough daylight to put up a tent and a camp-hammock, knock down a light dinner, and tuck into bed by dark. It was cold, high-30s, with a bit of wind, but no rain. Nippy enough to appreciate the foam pad between my sleeping bag and the hammock. I set my alarm for 5am, with enough time to dress and lube, and have a light breakfast. I'd been having problems the past few months with my shoes and was going to try another new solution today. Yes, I'm taking a brand new pair of shoes out of the box and putting 'em on my feet. Good with Drymax socks, an extra thick long sleeve tech-shirt, a fleece half-zip, a wool cap, and gloves for the cold, but still enjoying my standard run shorts even in the 30 degree start. Only going out with a single water bottle with a pocketful of odds & ends: toilet-kit for my ass, repair-kit for my feet, and gels for my tummy. Not to forget, but I almost do - a good headlamp on my noggin, reloaded with brand-new fresh batteries. I plan to leave the light in my mid-loop drop bag to use as a backup on loop two. There's one drop bag station besides the start finish on the 50k loop, and I have it fully loaded with tons of extra clothes for cold and wet conditions. The weather forecast leads me to believe I may not need it, but Its better looking at it than looking for it. Its funny when everything goes right and all the drop bags come back completely unopened, but it aint so funny when I need something and I don't have it.

Early on in the dark, I can’t see much, but I do feel I'm on a hilly beach. Running on sand is much the same as running on hills, to the point that I sometimes suggest beach running to simulate hill running. Adding sand to hills is like doubling down on hill running. Even in the dark, seeing nothing but the moving spots of light, I am already getting my ass handed to me. I had started about mid-way in the starting pack of 40 odd runners, but I quickly slide back to caboose position as I walk up one hill after another. I match up with William Sprouse, who is surprisingly consistent. I walk up and run down, pass and get passed to the point that we tend to balance into each other's rhythm. After a bit, we each modify just a tad to the point that we end up walk/run together for another 10 miles.

After the first station, the sand finally gives way to bigger hills and sticky mud. I love the hills but not especially glad to see shoe sucking mud. It builds up and gathers pine needles in huge clumps on each shoe. Its slick in spots, causing as much slip and slide as the sand did, but in a completely different exertion. Hard to say exactly how different, but my lateral muscles are getting a monstrous dose of work way too early in this race. My brand new shoes have a big deep tread that helps minimize sliding, but assist in gathering a lot of ground crap.

William's in the 100mi so he's actively looking for the turn to the add-on miles. He cant recall where it's supposed to be, and is getting concerned he might have missed it, so we both make a sport of looking for it. I'd read it was soon after the 2nd aid, and we're past the 2nd aid, so his concern begins to creep up as the miles do. The lead 50k runner passes by and says we’re not quite to it. He’s right and soon enough, Edie’s son is there to manage the splitting of ways. William runs off to the right while I continue on alone, the closing of one door and the opening of another. I don't know if I would have connected with the ladies had William not split off, but he does and we do. I can hear their voices for a while, like swamp birds chattering away, such that I can hear the pitch and pattern but not the words. At first, I did think they were birds, but then they fly in and carry me along with them. Truth is, after William leaves, I have less motivation to run, and with nobody to hold me accountable, I just kept walking. That is, until the birds pass me. Cy Nguy and Keilynn Hopkins sound like two best friends out on a stroll, so I glom onto the high energy wave wafting behind them, hoping they won't notice. I say nothing for a while and they keep on as they had been, but eventually I get sucked into their orbit. Cy stops to do something, leaving me as the receiver for a moment. By the time Cy comes back, I’ve been assimilated, snd so I continue on with them as if I'm part of the family. The topics range far and wide, but it's all fun and light conversation, laughter and smiles. We stop to take pictures, then a short go-pro video. Everyone who comes by is intrigued and curious what we're doing. They don’t seem to think we're in the race so much as maybe just three travelers out for a rousing good time.

Surprising the number of hills we've been through to this point. I had not expected so much variety, and happy to see it. Not much I like about a flat course, so all this is moving my mouth into a smile. With all the tall pine trees, I’m surprised there are no roots on the trail. Maybe because the ground is so soft and wet, the roots have no cause to grow to the surface, but after running in Texas for so long, it’s rather nice to not dodge any roots or rocks. It's easy to shift from my shuffle-slide power-walk to a run and back whenever the trail transitions from up to down, so I have some fun playing with it.

The aid stations at Edie Couvillon's Paix Running races are always well stocked and managed by experienced runners, so its hard to overstate how uncommonly friendly they all are. They not only help me, but I can feel the warmth of their whole attitude as they do what they can to help me along. I'm a lover of Cajun cooking, so it's a real treat to see what all they have to offer up, besides the quesadillas and grilled cheese. Suffice it to say, there was nothing I went without. I leave my headlamp & hat at the 3rd station in my drop bag, and continued on with my new friends. Our next favorite spot is known as Spa-21, a water crossing of large rock slabs that make for a pleasing water collection and drainage. Keilynn wants a photo of us together here, so she positions the camera and then we go back onto rocks for the shot. As I implied earlier, we’re certainly not in a hurry.

spa 21.jpg

For the first time, I begin to see rocks, first one, then more. It's not enough to bother about, but is notable in that it reminds me I had seen none before Spa-21. We run a bit, walk a bit, but the talk never stops for very long. We roll through the 4th station and I begin to realize I'm a bit wet from sweat. It's been nice and cool all morning, and as lazy as I've been running, I'm still working a sweat, it seams. I'm still wearing the jacket over my shirt, but I'm without gloves or hat and perfectly comfortable. It starts to sprinkle a bit of rain over the last few miles to the finish, but it's not enough to change the comfort level or my wardrobe. More than anything, it's refreshing. I finally find a water crossing I cannot cross dry, so for the first time today, I get my shoes and socks wet. Usually this is no big deal, but because of all the sand, the combination of water and sand is a rather nasty method to produce blisters. The last mile or so, we're back into the hills and beach sand again, and we'r back to where we started in just under 7 hours. We make plans to head out together again as we each head off to take care of our own needs.


I go to my truck, which I'd already pre-set as my mid-race aid and changing station. My pack is already pre-loaded with rain jacket, food, gloves, and an extra bottle of gatorade. I change out shirt, jacket, hat, gloves, socks, and shorts, put the pack on and head over to find the ladies. I thought I'd taken a good bit of time, but they're still there messing with their gear. I eat a quesadilla while I regale them with some colorful commentary and get my picture taken by a park employee. Eventually they tire of my exuberance and leave just to shut me up. Back into the sand. Now that we can see, it seems even worse, or maybe it’s the rain, which is light but regular. It's not enough to put on the rain jacket yet, so I leave it packed, but the ladies both began this loop with their rain jackets on, and they regret it. It's a choice to be made: get wet from rain or wet from sweat. Eventually, they take their jackets off and pack 'em up. With one full loop done and the miles wearing on our legs, we tend to run less and walk more, but my walking pace is solid. This past year's 500mi hike on the Appalachian Trail has my hiking ability in rare form, so I keep walking away from the ladies. We manage well enough through the sand and the 1st Station, but once we get to the hills of mud, I lose 'em both. The mud is worse than before, as expected from the constant lazy rain. My shoes quickly load up to Frankenstein level, complete with pine needles and leaves, but I've been doing a good bit of mud running these past few months, so I manage quite well. I actively engage in the enjoyment and recreation of surfing the mud slopes. It's a bit exhilarating not knowing if I'm going to bust my ass or make it to the bottom without ending up in the sludge. I think about this for just a fraction, wondering what the downside would be if I fell. There's no rocks or roots. The ground is soft. If I end up all muddy, the rain will wash it off. What the hell and why not just go for it, so I do. I run, slide, and surf down and power walk back up. When I reach the bottom and look back, I see both the ladies hanging onto trees. When I top out, I check again and can't see them. I wait a moment, but then think better of it. I do another hill the same way, check again and realize I've disconnected. I had so much fun with them and they would be even better company after it gets dark again, but I should just keep on.

The rain does pick up and I put on my jacket, but maybe I wait too long. I’m really enjoying all of it, and especially the rain on my face, so I don't bother to put my hood up, and everything I have on gets soaking wet. Alone now and missing the good company I've had most of the day, I roll along without seeing another soul. Coming into the 2nd station, I refill my empty gatorade bottle with Ginger Ale and take another quesadilla as I walk out. The timing and milage is such that I should reach my drop bag at the middle station before dark. I'm thinking I should blow right through and make haste to get finished instead of killing time with a wardrobe change, but my inner thigh and nether region chaffing is causing me to rethink the idea. The rain gets harder but doesn't remain so for very long. The light drizzle from the clouds every now and then spills out some rather large dollops. All in all, the trail is not only getting more muddy and slick, but it's pooling up too, creating some good sized ponds on what used to be a trail. The chaffing has me coming into the 3rd station like a cowboy looking for relief. I ask for my drop bag and the whereabouts of a changing room, but there is no such thing. They suggest the port-o-jon, which is my last and only resort, so I head for it.

They have dressed-up the shitter impressively, with candles, floor mat, a book to read, and a candelabra. I lock myself in, and strip down nude, removing all my sopping wet clothes, to lube up the danger zones. Now, I’m completely covered in the dry clothing I left here in my drop bag specifically for this reason. Shirt, jacket, shorts, gloves, rain jacket, and super-heavy duty wool buff all combine to make me feel rather grand. All but my muddy socks and shoes, which would only be in the same condition in a minutes, and it seems rather silly to even bother. I feel a new man escaping the Shit House Changing Room, having readjusted my entire mood and bearing. Besides all that, I only need a Ginger Ale refill and another quesadilla. I was hoping my delay would allow time for my friends to catch me up, but no such luck. I leave feeling refreshed, dry, and still a bit lonely, heading into the dark. I already have a flashlight in my pack, but I take the spare from my drop bag just in case.

The light shuts down rather quickly under the tall trees and heavy rain, while the trail becomes a creek. I button up and cinch down much smarter than I had earlier, with hood up and pulled in taut. I stay warm and dry where I need to and the rest of me will just have to deal with it. There is nothing can be done to keep my feet and legs dry, so I don’t even think about it. There are places where the mud is abundant, and places where I wade from puddle to puddle, where the size, length, and depth are in question, but the circumstances that kick me the hardest are when I wade thru a muddy stream where the surface underwater is uneven to produce unexpected sliding. More than once I go down into the mud, sometime with just my hand, and sometime full body. 

I have adapted very well to my poor vision, but in the dark, rain, and fog, I bumble about pathetically. The course markings are mostly the Kisatchie National Forest green arrows which are well placed and frequent enough to keep me from being completely undone, but I’m more content seeing the reflective markers Edie uses. I know I'm on the course of the green arrows, but I still get unnerved now and again for no good reason other than I'm alone at night in a forest I've never been before, in the rain and completely exhausted. I stop now and again to check behind me just to make sure I'm not missing a turn. The conditions are such that I’m not certain at all times I'm going the right way. On some occasions, I'm blinded by my own breath-fog, until I step through it. The rain, when it comes down hard causes such a racket on my rain-hood, and also on the pools of water I wade through. I hear different pitches on each pool and wonder if its the depth of the water that causes the deviation or something else entirely. Sometimes I hear loud crashes in the woods only to think it's just another effect of the rain. When the rain is light, my headlamp beam shining out under the hood, refracting through every rain crystal passing in front of my face produces the same visual effect as snow. Its amazing how many over-stimulated senses my poor addled brain is trying to process right now. The feel of the cold, rain, wind, and pain on my face, feet, and hands. The sound of my breathing and the cacophony of rain crashing into me and the forest around me. Visions of mud, water, and dirt all merging and swirling about, the flashing of lights and reflections surrounded by darkness, and movement everywhere. The smell of fresh rain and wet earth, merging with the stink of my wet sweaty clothes. It's too much for one person to process while walking alone in the woods.

Spending so much time in water or mud, or water and mud, I begin to feel the assemblage of sand castles in my shoes. I stop once to empty my shoes only to realize the lion’s share of sand has actually saturated into my socks. I think of removing and wringing out each sock, but wonder if its worth the time, and never do. I think of an experiment where I’d fill a shoe with water and sand, add a wool sock imbedded with more sand, then insert a water softened foot and swish it around for maximum abrasive rub, and determine how long takes to generate one or a dozen blisters. In the end, I end up playing a sand-in-my-shoe game. If the sand lump accumulates in a good spot, I let it be, but if it collects in a bad spot, I simply step in another puddle, dissolve the sand lump, and let it redistribute in another random location. And then of course, when I get it right and can’t avoid the next puddle, I start over again. So much of the water is lukewarm and of little concern, but there are places where the water is cold enough to cause my feet to tingle like it does in snowmelt. Now and again, I leave the trail to avoid busting my ass on a slick descent or a deep pool between two ridges. I cut up between the trees as close to the edge of the woods as I can. This was easy during the daylight, but after dark, it’s a gamble and not always easier or wiser.

Finding the 4th station is relieving, not only knowing I’m on the final section, but to know I'm going the right way after all. Believe me, I was not always sure. All I want is a Ginger Ale refill and quickly continue onto the final section. This last bit has everything already, but now there's more. We had loads of hills, plenty of sand, and beaucoup mud, but now the stream crossings are huge too. Knowing I'm almost done powers me on. My forced hike gets stronger and I finally remove my hood to let the rain once more fall on my face. I was never really cold, but for a short bit coming into the drop bag station. I’m not sure how my feet are doing, but feel the blister pop and know there has to be some damage. I’m so glad to be nearly done, and not heading for another loop, like the poor 100 mile runners. I could do it, but my feet would be ruined by it. I’ve had enough. I hope the girls are ok and suspect they are. They had it going just fine before I hooked up with them and figure they should be fine. I cross the finish in 15:31. Jimmy’s been been done for over 2 hours and his tent was wrecked by the rain, so we decide on a hotel instead, but first he allows me some time to eat some good local Gumbo.


2018: Goodwater 16mi


The field of 16-mi starters seems very thin in the wide chute. Only 35 people, I learn later after I get home and check the results. The 54-mi and marathon runners had all started hours earlier at 5:30am. They also sent the 2-person team runners off at sunrise (7:30am). With 14 starters in the 54-mi and another 42 in the Marathon, wasn’t all that many runners on the course as it is. The 8-mi will start an hour after us. The timing of each is such that I’ll only see a few of the 94 odd 8-mi runners just before I finish. All of us began east, heading to the 4mi Jim Hogg aid station first and then the 8mi Spillway aid, before reversing back the way we come back to the finish: but thats just logistics.

Quite a good bit of the course is rugged and rocky, with not much for changes in topography. It does roll a little, but mostly the trouble is high humidity wet rocks. All but the last bit near the spillway is single-track trail. I wasn’t at all surprised to see the lead group take out from the start rather quickly with Josh Beckham running. Was only curious to see who'd go with him. I wait just a moment to make certain I don’t get drawn into the start-line energy-suck, and sort myself out behind a guy with a fishing hat and two ladies who seem to be talking to each other. Of course, my energy or patience is such that when the fishing-hat guy goes past the ladies at a point early on where they seem to slow, I simply stick to him and go along in tow. I stay behind for another few minutes as we twist about on the windy trail under tree cover with lots of rock obstacles. I suppose he might want me off his stride, because he steps off trail and stops so I can pass, not that I want to or need to, but now I am in front of him. And so our band of runners quickly spreads out in so many different means and ways.

I'm never certain which direction I will turn at any given moment. The trail is not always easy to see, it is rarely strait, and it changes direction so quickly and surprisingly that I must stay constantly tuned to all of it. Scanning constantly for rocks, low-hanging branches, and the constant turns, I tune in while I tune out. I hardly notice anything other than my little rock dance when I realize I’m again behind another runner. He steps off to let me pass, but I tell him I don’t need to, but in saying no, I pass him and he tucks in behind me. We talk for a moment, a few statements, nothing worth note, and then another and another join in. Now we are five, each add-on coming in singly, and I ask if they wish to pass, but they do not. It’s a quietly comfortable group who run without talk, breathing comfortably, each of us navigating the obstacles in our own way.

After another 15 to 20 minutes, I feel I'm being pushed along and decide to exit the pack. I need to re-establish my own comfort level, so I step off and let them go, walk for a few moments before resuming my run. I get back into my rhythm and after a few more twists and turns, watch the boys in front slowly pull away and separate into singles again. By the 4mi aid, I now have two new add-ons who have tucked into my flow. One of them (Shayna) starts talking to me, asking questions about trail running and she remains with me as the other falls off. I switch to a walk now and again, for slight rises and slippery slopes of wet rock, but she remains locked into what I do, at least for a while. On a flat and fast section, she goes ahead while I remain at the effort I've been. Even though the course is decidedly easier and faster here, I just don’t care to push the pace.

Two miles from the 8-mi turn-around, the race leader (Josh) buzzes by, heading home. In the next 2 miles, between here and the Spillway, another 20 runners file past, including the two ladies I passed soon after the start, still talking. The rain begins and comes down a fair amount for the next 30 minutes as I roll into the 8mi aid and turn to head home. Maybe because this being the most open area of the course, or maybe its just everywhere on the course, but the trail becomes a mess of mud, with my shoes picking it up and clumping on. Besides making the landings more uneven, and the rocks more slick, my hamstrings start complaining about the extra workload just lifting my heavier unbalanced feet. By the time I get back into the trees, the rain stops while the humidity maintains its already elevated funk.

Alone since mile 5 or 6, I feel even more isolated now, not seeing anyone except the occasional glimpse of a colored shirt well off in the distance. My energy on the wane, I'm working much harder now just trying to keep moving. I take more walk breaks, some for no good reason at all. At some point, I study my watch, the distance and time, and realize I can break 3:30 if I just quite screwing around. I love the mental games and dial one in. The humidity and the mud is messing with me and I feel I'm done, but I attempt to talk myself into staying on task if only to be done sooner. And so I manage a decent effort that lasts for 10 minutes, then a short hill to walk, then another 7 minutes to the next rise, and so on and so on. I think I may just pull it off, but my reasoning dies when my GPS shows 16 miles and I still have more to go. Not that I can absolutely count on my GPS being dead on, as I know it rarely ever is, but now I don’t know how much further it is and the timer is still flying. So, now, I am uncertain. More uncertain than I was a while ago, which is really odd, because I never really had any reason to be certain of anything. 

I start running, pushing myself more than I have done at any point today, and refuse to stop. I can’t know, I don’t know, and can only know when I see the finish and the clock. I am returning the same way I ran out, so I must eventually get there. I pass two women who are the last of the 8mi runners, and just after passing, I hear a crack and then one of them yells, or maybe both of them yell. I turn around and go back to see that one of them has her hands over her face. She has run her head into a low branch and it has split the skin on her forehead. She has a bandana or some such in her hands and applies it to her head. She has a nice cut, but I’ve seen worse. I tell her to keep the cloth on her head and keep going. We must be near the finish. So I turn and start running again. It's not far now. I hear it first, and then i see it, and cross the last paved road, and soon after, enter the chute, and see the time, and I'm amazed. 3:27:26

2018: Bandera 100k

The wide variety of clothing options on the people in the start-line crowd was indicative of the changing weather pattern. From thin teeshirts to heavy winter jackets, long pants or shorts, and all the accessories, people were trimmed down or overloaded. The temp was 38 and would trend up, which is what we call great volunteer weather. It'll be a bit warm for me and knowing this, I still start with jacket and gloves: a case of knowing and not thinking. Hell, I'm just here for a little all-day run.

As the herd squeezes forward on the tree-lined jeep road, we have little room to move about until we pass the old abandoned Boyle's house. The sudden single-track bottleneck stops us in our tracks as we sort into a single file. This done, we speed up a little until we reach the next squeeze point at the base of Big Nasty. The first of the tough technical climbs is not terribly long, but an eye-opener for flatlanders and smooth-trail runners. Like so many of the others, the climb is rutted, full of rocks, ledges, and sotol. Explains why I like it so much! The compressed pack of people remains tight from Big Nasty, across the saddle, up Sky-Island, around the perimeter, and back down. This is great downhill barn-storming if there's room to run, but I'm stuck in a long line of lemmings with no room to do anything but hold pace with the pack. If I was in a hurry, this would be frustrating, but I have no plan other than relaxing and enjoying the day. 

Down low, we pop onto another scrub juniper and mesquite lined jeep road. To be a tree in Texas, you must be short and have thorns, which works great to keep runners on trail. The main point about this particular section of jeep road is: we are finally sorted such that we can finally run as we please. All other excuses for me going slow from this point forward are my own. Less than a mile of jeep road until we turn back up onto the next single-track around a ripple of land below Sky-Island. One of the risers is a spiderweb of trails, where the people in front of me take the rightmost option even though the trail is marked up the middle. I choose the middle and find that I climb faster than the others in this group of lemming and pass quite a few by walking faster. Round the traverse, I pass through the lower saddle and high ledge before dropping down into the Equestrian Aid Station. I hang my jacket and gloves on a tent cross-bar, refill my water, and continue out the other side. Without much wind or humidity, 38 degrees is not cold enough to require much more than a tee shirt.

The route out is a flat and boring jeep road that does its best to avoid hills and trees. We had a wet winter, so there's more color in the leaves than usual but the tall grass is winter brown. I have a hard time making myself stay on the run through these flat areas, so I try my best to maintain an intermittent walk/run: walk for a bit, run for a bit, and repeat. The next turn leads to another technical single-track, a rare difficult section not on a hill. Not seeing an unoccupied inch of ground anywhere to plant a foot, there is no way to avoid the rocks through here. Surprising how few and small the hills are here where the ground rises up just to create a ledge more than a few times. It makes sense that this trail would terminate at what we so lovingly call the Devils' Intersection, where three trails come together that all used to be called trail#6. The park has recently renamed all the trails mostly I suspect to get rid of the Devil, but I do believe he remains.

The next section of trail is mostly flat and easy and then it's not just before getting to the big major course crossroads. We're to go up into the Sisters then drop down and around the other side and come back to this same spot. But first, the Sisters: three bald peaks with two saddles in-between and all of it covered in sotol cactus fern and rock: big rocks and little rocks, ones that roll, and some imbedded. I have a great pair of heavy duty rough country trail shoes, but there are times I wish I could attach additional padding to the front and sides like a little tug boat. I've dialed in a fast forced march for the climbs and bomb down each of the descents very comfortably with a controlled fall. At the base of the final sister, we turn back onto the boring jeep road and head back to where we started this loop. For the first and only time, the road ripples a bit over a few hills. After the back-country campground, where a few of the campers sit and watch us file by, we turn up to the intersection we had left just a short while ago, tying a nice little knot into the Sisters, which have tied a nice little know into me.

From here to Nachos is nasty piece of work. More rock and sotol for sure, but more than that, this bit of trail is more secluded, narrower, more opportunities for the sotol to cut on me, and more rocks I can't avoid. But first, the trail leading to Ice Cream Hill has more ripples of arroyos loaded with rock to crawl up and slide down before I even get to the main climb which tops out with a few ledges near summit. It's here the lead 50k pack blows by with Ford Smith. From Ice Cream to Last Chance, there'll be small groups of 50k runners that skim by, going a bit quicker than the slower stream of 100k runners. Its easy to see who's in each race without bothering to ask. They have five more miles and a faster stride than most if us. The descent off Ice Cream is a minefield of accidents and the section after not much easier. Some of the ruts are low enough and the sotol high enough to poke me in the face. By the time I get through the worst of it, I have bloody smears on my arms and legs. Nachos Aid used to be down on the jeep road across from the Park Ranger's house, but the park recently created a new trail higher up where there is no room for aid. The next convenient flat spot is another half mile down the trail at the road crossing. The temp has risen to 48 by now and my shirt is drenching wet with sweat, so I change it out from my drop bag. Still feeling pretty good, but a bit warm. 

Done with the hills for then next 15 miles, I'm now moving into my least favorite section of the course. The trail is single-track riding in and out of a two mile long section of dry creek bed. I might enjoy it more if it had water but its been a long time since I've seen water here. There's less rocks here in the creek bed than there was over Ice Cream Hill. This whole park is odd like that. I cross the road leading back into the main park HQ then cross it again to the old ancient road onto number 8. There's so many rocks, I cant help but think they all used to be part of a reclaimed road. Used to be, the grass hid all the rocks from my eyes and allowed my feet to find them as they might, but somebody has cut and worn a trail here that rarely ever exists. It's a pleasant surprise. Later when I come back through here in the dark, these hidden rocks are usually brutal, so it's nice to have a well worn trail. I find a few arrow signs that are knocked over and take the time to pound them back into the ground with a rock. Over the powerline hill and down the rock chute to the cactus garden at the base, I turn onto another jeep road, rarely used but functional. It's an easy rolling road until we reach the last bit which turns to the overlook and rides the bluff to the drop down to the park road across from Chapas Aid Station. The course wraps around and comes in to Chapas (a concrete floor barn) from the other side, passing directly through and turning back where we started this pretzel loop only to turn left again back to the old number 9 trails. Its in the 50's now and getting unpleasantly warm. 

More flat shit to do so I go to do it. Again, I'm surprised how much of this typically awful trail has been trimmed down and cleaned up. It's not nearly as bad as it usually is. I continue my run/walk for the entire perimeter loop around what used to be called 9a and 9b, then the new section of rocks that has not been cleaned or trimmed. Crossing the road at the front of the park, I pass the old barn that has been recently burned and then the most mentally debilitation section of the entire course, the Race Track. It's a one mile loop around a field and back to the exact same spot at the gate where it began. I can see and hear YaYa Aid Station on the other side of the creek and it generates enough energy to pull me the rest of the way round the field, over the dry creek and in. I get a hug from Liza Howard and also Dave Mackey who is in the 50k and coming thru just as I'm starting back out. Temp is in the high 50's now.

A bit more field, all on a strait flat jeep road, open field on the left, but creek and trees on the right. About a mile of this before we drop down into a dry creek and up the other side into the trees. Another creek crossing, and then it's a good bit of twisty turny single-track for a while, all under and in the shade of trees. The trail rolls a bit, goes flat, and rolls again, but generally starting to bend upward as we roll just out of sight of the Lodge towards Lucky Peak. We can hear the Lodge and the excitement of the 25k and 50k finishers. The closer we get to Lucky Peak the rockier it gets. Down the other side and thru the big ditch at the bottom, it's no time at all before Last Chance Aid Station. The temp is still in the high 50's.

One of the reasons I'm excited to get past Last Chance is now I know everyone I see is in the same race as me. From the point the lead pack of 50k runners went by until now, I thought I could tell but was never certain of the people I didn't already know which race they were in. Not that I cared for the competitive aspect of it, but more why some of these people looked so strong as they flew by. The last two climbs, Cairns and Boyle's, are the big ones, steeper, longer, taller, and closer to done. The 25k and 50k runners did these climbs first, while they're saved for last in the 100k.

Its slow hot work going up Cairn's and I sit once to get my wind back before continuing. Once on top, it's not all that difficult, but I'm a bit toasted at this point from the heat and the miles, so its slower than I might normally go. Going down is always easy, but the connecting trail from the base of Cairns to Boyles is tough work and also because I'm a bit out of it. I can feel a few hotspots on my feet, and start thinking about exactly where so I can patch them when I get to the Lodge. One more hill, Boyles, and this one the tallest. Its slow work and I switch to a lock-step march to rest my climbing muscles. It's slow, but easy enough to do when I feel overworked. I sit at the top of the climb. Not for long, but enough to get my wind back. Across the long ridge, past the high point overlook bench, and then down. Seeing the buildings at Boyle's house is a highlight, knowing the first loop is done. I downshift to a walk and coast to the Lodge. In the open field near the finish chute, Matias and then Vianey pass me, and then I see Richard and January. Most of my training buddies are here all at the same time and it's nice to see them, but wonder what the hell are they all doing here right now. I'd expect the lot of them to be well up by now. Still, I have things to do, so I do not stay around to visit. I head over to my truck, which is near the Lodge which I'm using for my own personal aid station. I see Peter Vroljik, who has already finished his 50k and he offers to help. I ask him to find me a few medical pads to cover the hotspots on my feet while I change my clothes and eat. He comes back with some adhesive stuff I put on both big toes and one heel. I then ask him to find some quesadillas while I repair my feet and get my shoes and socks back on. All this takes about 20 minutes to repair, change, eat, drink and get out. I already had my pack ready for loop two, complete with trekking pole and headlamp. Hottest part of the day at 3pm and the temp is just a pinch under 60. Good news is, in another three hours it'll cool down quickly with the night.

I head back out with Nancy Marks, walking and eating. Soon after Boyle's house, I switch to a walk/run to the Big Nasty. Its all rough country hiking and forced march up and beyond to Sky Island. We make the top loop and start down to the base where we cross paths with my compadres, Matias, Vianey, Richard, and January all in a pack going up. I tell them they need to be up here with me and Richard says something to the effect he intends to catch up. Well, I've run with Richard and January before and I know they are much faster than me on the flats. But in the hills, I can usually stay in front of them, and so I'm thinking I need to remain in front until Nachos, just to have a chance to hang with them thru the next 9 miles of flats afterwards. So I push myself just a little harder, run a little faster, less walk, more run, and get back to bombing the downhills and fast marching the ups. I hammer the descent from Sky Island and lose Nancy in the process. I manage the flat jeep road and again push the uphill traverse around lower side of Sky Island. This is where I first hear the music or maybe I should just call it what I think of it: Noise! It's irritating me for some damn reason and begins to mess with my head. I quit thinking about my buds behind me and start thinking about getting past the noise. It's a young woman with an external speaker playing a mix of electronics, rap, and occasionally some pretty vocals. It's driving me mad and faster too, which is not a good idea. So far, I've been managing myself pretty well, but I can blow it up really fast and easy if I'm not careful. When I roll into the Equestrian aid station, she's there with the music still blasting in the station. I bitch about it for a few minutes, and then she's gone and I begin to simmer down and take care of a few things I need to do. My stomach is starting to roil a touch and I have a spare empty bottle in my pack, so I ask them fill it completely with Ginger Ale and ice. On second thought, I put the bottle with water in my pack, deciding instead to carry the Ginger Ale as my primary. Its 4:30pm and still just under 60, so I'm still sweating my shirt soaking wet. I left my jacket and gloves here earlier and want to pick them up, but in my madness, I forget. I remember soon after leaving and with night coming on, I hope it's not a major mistake. I have a drop bag at Nachos, so I should be ok with the cold weather gear and light I have there. I already have a spare light in my pack, pre-loaded just in case.

Heading up the same boring flat jeep road as earlier, as much as I want to, I find it difficult to run. I employ the walk/run pattern again, trying to run more than walk, but it's not as easy as it has been. But for the occasional blasts from the Noise-maker, I don't see anyone else. I navigate the rocks of old trail 6 to see the Devil on my way to the Sisters, when Vianey surprises me. She runs up, slows to chat for a moment, and then gone. Last thing she says is 'You told me I should run my own race and not stick on anybody'. I watch her summit the first Sister when I turn and start up after her. I summit soon enough and bomb the other side in time to catch her in the saddle. We start the 2nd Sister together, but I'm moving faster on the climbs and leave her as I pass over the 2nd and 3rd Sister alone, then bomb down to the old jeep road and make my turn. The jeep road has some climb to it, but its still not my cup of tea, so I get down it a good ways before Vianey comes by me again. She has a smooth easy glide for somebody 45 miles into a 100k and I'm envious as she spins by and gone again. When I pass the backcountry camp site, I can hear all the sounds of a huge group settling into a late dinner on a gorgeous night in the woods. It almost drowns out the sound of the lady with the boombox who remains in front of me. When I get to the crossroads, I see Penny Lane making her turn onto the Sisters as I make my turn away from them. We wish each other a good finish just as the sun begins its final goodbyes for the day. I push across the Ice Cream arroyos and up the final pitch on a gorgeous night, watching the sky light up with colors, as the temp finally begins to drop, all while listening to some hip-hop from a backpack boombox. Oh what a lovely sky, the beauty merging with the lower temp, and a pinch of irritation surges my body to the summit and down the other side to pass the Noise-maker. I cant hear it as much being in front of her. I suppose the speakers might be on her back. Hell, I don't know and don't care. I just need to run to get away. It's 6pm strait up crossing Ice Cream and pitch dark just 5 minutes later. Still, I don't turn on my light, wanting to just run and enjoy the quiet for a bit. I really think I'm doing well, but she's running better, catching and passing me a half mile before Nachos. Completely deflated, I start to walk. I just want distance between us and if I cant pass her, I can slow down. When I get to Nachos Aid Station, she's still there, and so is the Noise. I have a few things to take care so I take my time changing into a long sleeve shirt. I stuff a jacket and gloves in my pack, also an extra light. I eat a few quesadilla slices. My stomach feels better from the Ginger Ale so I get another complete refill of the same, minus ice. Now that its 6:45pm and dark, the temp has dropped down to 50. It still seems warm but I expect its going to drop more.

Now that its dark, I begin to trip more and my feet are really starting to hurt. This section us literally a bed of rocks and the Noise-maker is still ahead, so I back down and simply begin to stroll, being careful not to kick any more rocks. I don't hear any noise this entire section, so I'm good with my current plan. Up the dry rocky creek bed and as I cross the park road, a truck stops to fix a traffic cone. Its Jonathan and I stop to chat for a moment. I'm curious if Chris (the race director's) wife had her baby yet, who won the race, and if he would mind collecting my left-behind jacket and gloves from Equestrian. The next road crossing takes me back to the ancient road and grass covered fields. Besides Jonathon I hear and see nobody in front of behind. My easy saunter has me placed perfectly between those in front and behind such that I'm completely alone from Nachos to Chapas. Coming off the last few powerline hills and onto the rarely used jeep road, I drift in and out of old memories as I silently wander. At one point, coming out of a drifting series of thoughts, I wonder if I'm still on the correct path. Another mile down the trail, for some reason I don't even know why, I shine my light off to the side and see two big glowing spots. I know enough to realize they're the eyes of an animal reflecting my light. It's a good 30 or 40 yards off trail at the edge of the trees and tall grass. I cant see anything other than the eyes, no outline, nothing else. I keep walking, but have to move my light in front of me to keep from tripping, but it has me creeped out, so I turn it back to the eyes over and over again, in front, to the side, and back and forth until I get far enough away I cant see it anymore. Thats about where I turn left and bend up behind where I saw it. This is the cut over to the bluffs above Chapas. I keep looking left until I turn at the bluff and drop down to the main park road across from Chapas. I stop for a moment and realize I'm holding my breath and my arm hairs are standing up. I have no idea what that was. I keep telling myself it was piece of old machinery left in the woods, but I don't really know. A wild pig might not have stared at me and it was too wide to be a deer. I have no idea but it certainly gave me the willies. There's guy at the door of Chapas yelling at the top of his lungs over and over again. Not sure what he's yelling but he's happy to see me. I don't see any other runners, so it must be me he's yelling at. I sit down at a bench to get some hot potato soup when two guys come over to tell me the Noise-lady just left. They were at Nachos when I was too and remembered me enough to warn me. I thank them and ask for another Ginger Ale refill and more food. Figure I'll take a few more minutes just in case. I sure enjoyed the quiet of the last 5 miles and hope to get more of the same. Its 8:15pm now and the temp seems to have settled into a low of 46. Still too warm. 


Immediately after leaving I put on my jacket and gloves but then not long after I roll up the sleeves, unzip the chest, and remove my gloves. I don't need the jacket but too lazy to remove it and put it back away after taking the time it took to take it out and put it on. I make the rounds of the number 9 trails. At the back side border fence between the park and ranch, I hear a group of people talking loudly, but never see them or any lights. I don't see anyone else either until I'm almost done with this section. Just before popping across the jeep road, a woman catches me, stays with me for a few, and then when another guy catches me and goes by, she goes with him. Across the park road and back to the Race Track, I pass a guy who begins Retching louder than I've ever heard anyone: his rolfing so intense it hurts to hear. Turning onto the Race Track, I hear a few voice behind me coming fast that sound like two men and a woman, who I think just might be Richard, January, and Matias. Well, its about time, I think. I've done enough to keep them behind me this long, but I keep on and push on around until I see YaYa off in the distance. I make the turn, cross the creek, and roll into YaYa just at the trio catch me. I turn to say 'Hi' and it's not them. I forgot about them but now the thought comes back and I begin to worry they are not out here on the course any longer. I've been dragging my ass for 10 miles. All I need is a sip of coke, so I stop to get it, remove my pack to take out my trekking pole, and leave, forgetting the pole. I could have taken off the jacket and should have, but my laziness has reached a new level of 'don't give a shit', so it remains on. Its after 10pm now and the temp has gone back up to 50. 

Five minutes is what it takes to remember what I forgot, but I'm sure as hell not going back to get it. My feet are hurting so bad and I don't wish to add one step in the wrong direction. Just keep on walking. One more time through the field, across the creek and back again, and I finally catch the Noise! She's with another woman, they're moving even slower than me, and they're chittering away like two birds on a wire. It's hard to believe, but as I pass by, I pick up speed on start a fast march again. I try a few times to run, but thats not happening. But I can without a doubt walk fast. And the trail begins to bend upwards again. Passing the Lodge around 10pm, there's still a good bit of people and noise over there. It's getting closer! Heading up to and on to Lucky Peak, I get a bit too ambitions and have to sit again. Not for long, but a few moments and then slowly down the other side. The pain in my feet hurts too much to bomb the downhill now. This doesn't happen to me often but it sure as hell is where I'm at now. Sliding down and into the big ditch, then up and in to Last Chance, I sit down to visit with Roger Davis, who has been managing this station for the last ten years. He says he's done and he'll be hard to replace. I for one will miss him. He offers me some hot food and drink, but its now 55 degrees at 11:30pm and all I want is something cold. I get up quickly, not wanted to get too comfortable, and head out for the final section.

Two more big honkin climbs, Cairns and Boyles, and I try to run but it's a farce, so I walk. The climb up Cairns leaves me breathless again and I make myself keep on moving until I reach the summit before I sit again for a breather. I get up quickly and get around the top and head towards the drop, where I pass a guy clicking along with two trekking poles. Once down, I get over to Boyles and once again attempt to push my body up. I remember to use the lock step again, but I'm slow. The clicking pole guy comes up on me and hangs on. After a good bit more climb I learn his name (Jose) and we continue together across the summit and over to the drop. I start to get excited now, knowing I'm on my way down the final hill. Jose and I stay together on down, past Boyle's house and across the final half mile flat. I tell Jose, no matter how bad I feel, when I get to the gate, I'm gonna fake run the last bit to the finish, and so we do.

Immediately after crossing the mat, Vianey comes in behind me, running fast. She had missed a turn and got lost for a few miles. We go into the Lodge to get warm, change into warm clothes in anticipation of our core temp drop. We're there for a bit, when the Noise lady comes into the lodge looking for medical... with her speakers still blasting. She's asked a few times to turn it off, but I don't know if she does or not. I get up and leave. I don't understand why people have to blast their music out to the world when it would have been just as easy to use an ear bud.

2017: the Circus


I ran this same race last year. Similar format with a few changes. The old rule was: we were restricted from running the same loop twice in a row. Thats it! This year, the additional caveat was added that we must run the 7mi loop first, all of us, no exceptions. Not that I dislike the 7mi loop, but if its wet, the 7mi loop is a sloppy muddy mess, and I have always known this. So at the pre-race briefing, Mallory announces a new Joe Prusaitis rule. Yes, she even named it after me, as it is well understood that I would not run the 7mi unless I was forced to, so she forced me. And yes, it sucked. The entire seven miles was a complete messy slip-n-slide suck-fest.

At the 6am start in the dark, the lead pack pushes off rather quickly. Hard to tell how many are in the 12 hour race, and the relay teams starting with us further increase the confusion. Whatever my focus might have been with an early dark winter start, but with all the mud, the mud becomes the focus. I hardly notice the course markers, but at places where they must be, they are there. Not that I'm moving too fast to have the time to think about it, but with all the slipping and sliding, a few times to remove the mud from within my shoes, and another to find the shoe that was sucked off my foot, my mind was completely focused on my next step. Mid-loop, I pull my first wrist band and wrap it round my wrist, and soon after I cross paths my old friend Mike Riggs, who lives nearby and is oddly enough just out for a run. He didn't even know there was a race on. He walks with me until we get back to the headquarters, and thats the last I see of him. Takes me 2 hours to slide round the 7mi loop, so the sun's up when we do end this misery of mud.

Based on my experience last year, where I learned the 5mi loop was by far the least muddy and due that fact, the fastest, I choose the 5mi loop next, with no intention on running the 7mi loop again today. I learn later many of my friends chose the 3mi loop. The 5mi is clean and clear of mud, so I run and so does everybody else. Only takes one hour to cover 5mi compared to the 7mi of mud in 2 hours, which is not surprising. Certainly there is some mud, but it is of little significance. I collect my 2nd wrist band.

Starting the 3mi loop, I pass a few friends just coming back in from the end of the same loop. I know damn well they are not that much slower than me, so it pre-warns me of the difficulty ahead and I can only assume it is more mud. The loop starts well with a dry mile, but soon after the mile point, I am once again into the mud, and not much better than the nasty ol 7mi loop. This loop, the shortest, is also the hilliest, which is surprising so much mud would be on these steep slopes. It makes for some difficult climbing and descending, but mostly its just slow. I now have 3 different colored wrist bands.

I had set up all my gear next to the bathroom because of the seat nearby I wished to use during the race. I figured I'd need to change shoes as much as anything else. I had a tub full of extra clothing, another with food, and an ice chest with cold drinks. At 15mi, for the first time, I stop to change gear. The shoes are unrecognizable from the mud, so I figure I'll try the clean ones for the dry loop. Also I decide on a dry shirt, and I no longer need the jacket, buff, and headlamp. While doing all this, I drink a gatorade & eat a sandwich. With no intention on doing the 7mi loop again, and with just the fast 5 and the slow 3 on the agenda, I figure I'll be back here every hour give or take. So, I don't bother to carry anything more than a water bottle filled with Tailwind.

Another 5 and then the 3, brings me up to 23mi as colored wrist bands continue to multiply on my wrist, creeping up my arm, and forcing my watch to relocate. The day finally begins to warm up, insisting on a ball cap to block my eyes from the sun, and bringing a new sort of pain. A rash begins to develop, so I step into the bathroom to re-lube and make another complete wardrobe change, including shoes. The muddy shoes are my best shoes, so I switch back to them.

The 5 and 3 are now being processed in my mind as a set, and the next set brings me to 31 which is 50k, and into the ultra distance for the first time today. After all my years of marathoning, it still fascinates me whenever I run an ultra to the point I cant help but recognize the moment. But time has changed speed. Earlier while in the mud, it crawled, slowly inching forward as I dreaded 12 hours of this shit. But now, time is flying, and I try to do the math to determine in advance how many more loops, and miles I will be able to do. While the speed of time increases, the speed of my body is decreasing. Trying to determine where the two exponential curves will cross seems to be around 2 more sets, or more accurately, 3 or 4 more loops.

It is exactly the same path each time, the same loop, the same trail, roots, and rocks with one very significant change. The mud on the 3mi loop is slowly being pounded into a more dry and runable surface. So, as I slow down, the 5mi loop is starting to take longer and the 3mi loop is getting faster, but its hard to wrap my mind around it, because I'm getting damned tired and my mental capacity is now frayed. And so I run, and I try to do the math, and I try not to fall, and its all so utterly useless, but the attempt to think it out, even thought it has no real value, does keep my interested enough to keep on moving. I can still run the flats and the downs, not to be confused with the ups, which I have walked from the very first hour.

One more set gets me to 39mi with at bit under 2 hours remaining. Earlier, I could have done 2 more loops in 2 hours, but it's not earlier no more, so I suspect I'll get 1 more 5 in and then have not enough to do another, even if it's a 3. Off I go, and I do make an honest effort of it, or at least I feel I do. The reality is, I'm really dragging ass now and run my slowest 5mi loop to come in with about 3 minutes left. Not enough time for another and damned glad of it. I'm done. If I'd the time, I'd have gone, but I'm good with the 44mi I do get. Mallory takes a picture of me and another with both our arms covered in colored wrist bands

2017: Wild Hare

Wild Hare is a Jekyll and Hyde race, beginning as a mountain bikers roller-coaster whip-de-do, then after the bluff dive transforming into a duel set of cow pastures. Early on, it's a game of push and pull on a single-track too narrow to pass for much of it, such that I'm stuck in the pace of the people in front of me, at least until an opening to squirt past here and there. Not that I mind being trapped in place. Without these limits, I'd likely be much faster than I should be going, and I'm already going too fast.

Not sure why I haven't felt very good of late, but I'm excited to be running with John Kuss today. It's been a long time. Ryan's also running with us. John and I go out quicker than usual for me and quickly slide to mid-pack as we rotated round the pond while Ryan tucks into our wake. John and I chat a bit and receive some unasked for feedback from who knows where, asking if we were gonna talk all day.

We incrementally increase pace as we pass one person or another. The twisting and rolling rhythm leans us one way then the other as we spin round the turns, faster and slower as we dip in and out each ditch. Somewhere about two miles along, I feel the need to back down, so I step aside to walk while John and Ryan glide past. I let 'em go for a few minutes while I walk, but can make out where they are for a while. I pick back up and continue, running slower, walking the little ups, running everything else, and slowly slip further and further behind. I need to be careful, more aware to stay within myself. The first 3 miles were way too fast and maybe I can get the buzz going again, but for now I need to stay easy and relaxed.

At the bluff I descend into the cow pastures, the path stays just inside the shade of the trees around the perimeter and up the cow chute. We used to take a direct path strait back up the bluff and immediately back down the dipsy-doodle mud chute, but Chris Russell is there to make certain we turn instead. Across the creek we enter the second field. It's a mile around and back to this same spot. Again the trail stays just inside the perimeter of trees, but this time we have a short set of mini rollers. I seem to have found my place as I'm no longer passing or being passed.

I exit the field section over a wire mesh and leaf covered pedestrian bridge. Entering the third and final equally different terrain type for the final two miles, we start with a high traverse with a few bridges that serve only to keep us at the same elevation where it would otherwise be impossible to have a trail for anything other than mountain goats. It's a very pretty section with good visibility for some distance, multi-colored leaves and pine needles covering everything, and a bit more roll than we had in the first section. The route could only have been created my a drunk mountain biker, as it seems undecided which way it should go, turning at places where I'd have otherwise gone strait. Inside of a mile from the end loop, we pop up to the fishing pond and camping area, where we turn and run around it before the barn tunnel into finish. I'm glad to be done with the first loop and equally pleased with my time (1:25) until I learn the winner does two loops in 1:40. All in all, I do better than I expected for all the walking I did, possibly on the strength of my first 3 miles

My new shorts are not working out too well and I'm soaking wet from sweat as well, so I quickly change shorts and shirt. I run the initial pond loop slower than I did last time, and feel much better for it. Turns out, I can run much more smoothly and consistently now that I'm not bombing the course. Feels good, at least, for a while. I have no idea where the boys are, but when I come into the mid-way station, Nimiye tells me Ryan just left, but I don't know what that means: 1 minute, 3 minutes, or 10 minutes. For somebody just standing and watching, it might not seem like all that long, but put some shoes on and 3 minutes feels like a long time.

Section one feels different without the crowd, running easier now, leaning into the turns, walking less, enjoying the feel of it. I exit the portion thru the cattle chute, pass the electric pond, drop over the bluff, and head down to the fields, when I see Ryan and yell at him. After field one, Chris yells at me something about me being the only person he's seen run up the hill in a while. Of course, I start walking and he laughs about it. Crossing the creek into field two, I see Ryan again on the other side. I'm slowly edging up to him but not enough to catch. Again, I exit the fields for the final section. This section is an odd mix of rollers, dips, turns, and even a bit of field that we seem to zigzag thru. Around the campsite pond for my second and final trip thru the barn for the finish where Ryan and John are waiting. I'm surprised to get in under 3 hours. Actually, all 3 of us get under 3 hours and glad to be done. I pushed hard at the end part with some strange desire to finish under three and both calves hurt bad because of it. I have got to sit down. Takes an hour for the ache to go away, but it is done.

2017: Cactus Rose

100mi attempt: 50mi run

I cannot ask for a better weather forecast. Everything is lining up perfectly. I feel great, well rested, and have in the past few months run more than a few very good long runs. I usually know when I'm going to have a good run, and I now know I'm set up for just that: a really good run. Doesn't happen often any more, so I'm enjoying the lead-up, and even a bit anxious, that is... until I feel an irritating little tingle in my throat. Not a good sign at all! Usually, the tingle is a precursor to a cold sickness, but can be just a spot of allergy irritation. Either way, for a throat that's about to be a very important conduit for nutrition and breathing in lots of cold air, it's a very bad sign.

40 hours later, on a cold Saturday morning, my throat is already raw when the race starts. I've been training and planning for this race for a half-year, so I'm excited to finally be going, and can only hope to suffer through the throat pain, because everything else seems to be in excellent working order. Used to be, this race was 100mi & 50mi with just a few relay runners, but this year, a 75mi & 25mi were added. The 75mi is odd, but of little concern, but the 25mi adds a twist I don't care for. Out the gate and up the jeep road, we're packed in tight, until Lucky Peak, where we thin down a bit on the climb. I go over with Kuss, Richard, and January with plenty of room. All this is very familiar and comfortable to us, and it gives us a good 10 to 12 min window with which to enjoy each other's company... until the 25mi pack catches us in the flats.

About 2 miles in, passing near the Lodge (I can hear the noise thru the woods) before I  have somebody hot on my ass, clipping my heels. It was 5am when we started and still very dark. I turn and ask if they want to pass. No response! Maybe I'm just an idiot after all, and clipping my heels is her not so subtle way to say, get the hell out of my way! She clips me again, so I step off trail and let her pass, only to realize she's just the first of 40 people... all tucked in nice and tight, with not much room for a full stride between one and the next. Damn! I wanted her off my ass, but don't feel like waiting 5 minutes to start running again. But I do wait because there's no way to get back in without being an ass to somebody else. Eventually, they pass, and I get back on path. With Yaya station in sight, I catch up to Kuss, Richard, and January in time to hear them talking about the same herd that stampeded them, and how glad they're gone. We'll get more later, but in smaller packs than the one huge mob that ran us over. No thanks for the 25 miler! The rabbits just don't merge well with the old established 50 & 100 mile turtles.

Kuss pushes ahead at Yaya to not be seen again, chasing the 25 milers. I forgot he was in the 25mi too. Richard & January have been training together for years, so they're tuned in to one another, running lockstep, while I feel like an interloper. My manner and style is so unorthodox, I don't usually line up with anybody. I tend to switch from pushing the pace to backing down and walking at odd intervals. Might even find me sitting on a rock, taking a sit break here and there, managing my energy as it suits me. I can keep going as long as I don't blow it with a long sustained surge.

Last year I ran the 50mi here in 14:55. I had a great 35 miler before the heat ramped up and kicked me in the teeth. I had a complete meltdown: saw dark spots and near to blacking out. I sat and recovered more than a few times on the climbs. Anyway, its much cooler this year, so I don't expect a meltdown and might even run the first two 25mi laps about the same as last year. I created a timing sheet with last year's splits for Joyce. Even if I'm off, she'll still have a good idea how to track me. I manage to stay near R&J through the flat bottom rock creek, across the road, and into the rock garden (new this year). Chiquita Falls has stepping stones for a dry crossing (which Richard is thankful for), then Bar-O, and 2 mile creek trail that twists in and out of a dry creek all the way to Nachos. This is first of my 3 major drop bags (Nachos, Equestrian, Lodge). I'm using the other two stations (Yaya, Boyles) for drop bags too, but only as emergency stops. I didn't want to set myself up for long delays at every aid station.

I've been using Tailwind in my water from the start, another at Yaya, and again here (Nachos). That and the two bars (coconut & Kind), plus the peanut butter sandwich I walk out with, and I begin to wonder if I'm starting with way too much fuel. The first 9 miles were flat and easy, compared to whats next. The hills begin here and continue to the Lodge (16 miles). R&J pushing the pace out of here, but for now... I have no problem hanging near, even manage to go in front over Ice Cream Hill. A ripple of hills follow Ice Cream Hill, and then up and over to the base of the Sisters. Sharp left to skirt around the girls, only to climb the other side and come back up and over from the other side. R&J get in front on the wraparound road, but Richard stops on top to text his daughters, so I go on without them. Dropping down the other side to the same intersection, and left to the Devils's intersection (6,6,6a). Left again through a nasty little rugged romp to the big superhighway and flat easy jeep road to Equestrian.


Joyce is waiting for me with a smoothie in hand. I forgot how raw my throat was until I had this wonderfully soothing cool balm pour down my throat. I moan with pleasure just as R&J run in. Henry comes in next, surprised to catch me. Thought you'd be at Boyle's by now, he says. Actually, Joyce puts in, ya'll are dead on Joe's splits from last year. You guys are all doing very well. R&J lead me out, but I'm having a bit of a shoe problem, so I stop to fix it. It takes a good bit longer than expected, so when I'm repaired, R&J are gone. There's a lot of places I can see a long way: along the traverse, around the two hills, under the saddle, and down the other side. But, I cant see anybody anywhere. Down the big ol fat jeep road and up the long climb to Sky Island, Henry catches me about the same time I catch R&J. Henry's in the 50, but his plan was to run one 25mi loop and then take a break, then pace me on the 3rd loop. He's in no hurry for a guy who's running well. The four of us make the Sky Island loop and see Nancy Marks going up as we head down. I've know Nancy for a long time and I also know she likes to use me to pull her along, so I tell the gang, she's going to speed up and catch us.

Boyles is next and Henry has a cooler full of cold drinks, so we stop for a quick drink. Nancy comes in within minutes, turns and heads up Boyles Climb with R&J behind her. I'm starting to feel a little low, so the climb is slow and tedious. R&J are moving well and gone again, while Henry and I slowly make our way. I find a soft grassy area on top and it looks so inviting, I lay down flat on my back for a few moments (Reminds both Henry & I of another similar circumstance at the Arkansas 100). I make a grass angel before I get up. The rest of the loop, over and down is a mix walk/run that could have been a lot faster, and should have been, but I'm frazzed. Hate to say it, but its much the same at the next up and over at Cairn's as well. Basically, the entire last 5 miles from Boyle's to the Lodge is a dog fight between me and myself. Loop one is faster than what I ran last year, but not as good a finish as I would have liked.

Joyce has some hot food for me when I arrive. I change shoes and everything else, reload my water bottle, have a reasonable refuel stop, and escape. I had way too much Tailwind on loop one (bloated stomach), so I lay off the substance for loop two. R&J had come in 5 mins ahead of me and leave 5 mins ahead as well. Henry is done for now, so I start loop two alone. Its much hotter now, and I've just eaten, so its hard to run, but I try, so its more of a walk mixed with a few running strides now and again. I pass Ryan just before I reach Cairn's, and then Laz, and over the next 5 miles, many others I know. My dubious run pattern remains the same for much of this section, but does finally get loose and become more of a run across the top and down off Boyle's. Joyce is waiting for me. This is an unplanned surprise. She knew what kind of state I was in when I left Lodge and decided to make this stop to check on me and assist if she can. The avocado she brought is perfect for the moment and I eat the entire thing. She also tells me I made the return trip here faster than I did the earlier loop. This surprises me, as I'm not moving well at all, but how I feel and how I run does not always correlate. Good news is now I'm feeling much better, so the next section over Sky Island goes much better and I arrive at Equestrian well under last year's time. I simply cant see how I'm suddenly ahead of the game, from the 'How-I-Feel' perspective. I also catch R&J again. Joyce has another smoothie for me (strawberries, blueberries, bananas, apple juice). Its hard to describe exactly how good this damn thing tastes and also how good it feels on my throat. It's getting hard to eat anything else. The coconut bars and the Kind bars hurt my throat. The only thing that feels good is anything cold. 

The next section is the long one, and I'm worried about running out of water, so I take my hydration pack. I load it with an extra water and a cold sprite. Last year, this is where the meltdown occurred. But the weather's comfortable now: slight cool breeze, not too hot, and I'm once again running well. R&J go out ahead of me from Equestrian and they're much faster than me on the flats, so I don't expect to see them for a bit this time. I run more of the big ol fat jeep road than I thought I was capable of, and also do pretty well up to the Devil's Intersection, and even the Sisters. I seem to be climbing well, and summit quickly, but this is all within a vacuum with nobody else around. More likely, I'm crawling, and my perspective is all whacked out. On top of Sister3, I see R&J on Sister2, so I push a little harder. On Sister2, I see them in the saddle between 2&1. Again, I hump it over and up Sister1. They're just ahead, so I catch R&J with Nancy as well descending off the final Sister.

Once again, we're on the big ol fat jeep road, the section with a hump in it, thru the campsite, up to the intersection switching yard, and down to the trail leading over Ice Cream Hill. I'd been pushing too hard and I'm starting to lose my edge again, so I stop for a sit break and let them go. The Ice Cream trail has a few big rollers on it, like big 30 foot waves between Ice Cream and the Sisters, and I find the perfect sitting rock to take a break. I take the Sprite out and drink it (slowly), then get going again. No blacking out or spots today and I'm glad for it. As much as I'm struggling, I am still so much better than I was last year. I'm getting better at letting the race and the runners go on without me, and taking the time to rest and repair. My energy is low, so I'm not running very far before I walk. It aint pretty, but I can run a hop-a-long rhythm where a grunt defines the transition from run to walk and back again. All in all, I feel pretty good about how it's going when I pass R&J again, and roll into Nachos.

Joyce is once again waiting for me with another glorious smoothie, and Ryan is with her. I wasn't expecting to see him, but there's no reason to even ask, as its pretty obvious: he's out! Damn! I'm sorry to see that. Last I knew he was doing well. R&J as well as Nancy come in soon after. We get what we need. Joyce suggests we take a  jacket, we may be coming in after dark. I stuff a jacket and a light in my pack. I tell Joyce not to worry about Yaya. I'll see her next at Lodge at the 50mi point.

R&J lead me out, leaving Nancy behind, still in her drop bag. R&J have their short stride, quick step rhythm going again, and I'm beginning to power down again. I so much hate these flat sections, that my bad attitude might possibly be killing my energy flow. I let them go, but do reconnect now and again. Its probably when they take their own breaks, that I catch up, but whatever it is, we are certainly out of sync. Nancy catches up by Yaya and the four of us are once again together, however disjointedly. The only thing thats been constant all day are R&J. At one point, I realize Richard might be on the same level of drag-ass as I am right now. But January looks strong. I ask her about it: You look strong, so why are still running with us plodders? Can't be more than 15 minutes after, January moves out front, and Nancy goes after her. Richard and I struggle to stay connected. As we approach Lucky Peak, the girls have a big enough gap, I cant see them anymore. I've been dropped many times today, so no surprise, but what is surprising is Richard is no longer lock-step with January.

I've been hearing the chirping of birds for a while, and it takes a while to figure the sound is coming from within. It's my own raw and congested throat. My head and nose are clear, so it has to be some sort of mucus drainage in my throat and chest. I can hear the wheeze clearly and wonder how bad this is going to be tonight when the temp plummets. Daylight begins to fade as we struggle up and over Lucky Peak. It's right at 7pm, and I'd assumed we'd lose light around 7:30, so it surprises me how quickly shadows lengthen while we scramble down. It's getting harder to see as we come off the hill and reach the flat single-track section. And thats exactly where Richard gears up and blows by. When I reach the jeep road at Butterfly Springs, they're gone. I cant seem to do any more than I've already been doing, so I keep on as best I can.

I come in to Lodge and see Henry first, then Joyce. I cross the timing mat, then tell Joyce I need to see Becky about my throat. I'd like for her to look at it and see what sort of trouble I might be in. First I go over to my drop bag and drop a few things, then head to the house to see Becky. I ask her about my throat, about the same time Henry peels off my shoes, and Joyce goes to get some tape to retape my heels. Becky says I'll do that, so she takes her own tape and begins to tape my heels. I try to explain its my throat I want her to check. She says its the dust and the cold. Joyce sees that Becky is doing the tape so she goes to warm some hot food instead, brings back some mac&cheese. I have the bowl in hand and before I take a bite, begin to shake. I give Joyce the bowl back and tell her, maybe I should lay down for some sleep, 15 mins or so. Suddenly I'm exhausted, even nodding off, when I hadn't felt sleepy when I came in. What about my throat? It hurts so bad. I hear more chirping from my chest! What the hell. I'm having a problem communicating now. Becky fires back responses before I get the questions out. My shaking gets worse. On the way to a bed in the next room, they realize, or maybe I realize they already know I'm heading towards hypothermia. I'm herded towards the bed, they cover me, tuck me in. Everybody leaves except Joyce, and she asks if I can eat. Sure would love some smoothie (to ease my throat). No, I don't think thats good for you right now. How about some hot broth? No, sounds awful. Maybe I can stomach some hot chocolate, though. She brings it and I drink only half a small cup. How about the smoothie? No, Becky wont let me give you any. I want to sleep now. The bed is so comfortable, but I cant stop shaking. Joyce checks my hands, arms, head: says I'm frozen. Hell, I wasn't when I came in. Maybe my immune system has tanked due the throat problem. Yea, hey, about my throat? Anybody going to check it? 15 minutes later, I give them my chip, tell Henry I'm out. Joyce takes me to our room 5 miles down the road (Ranch 1077). I take a hot shower, drop into bed, sleep the sleep of the dead for 12 hours.

I feel fine in the morning, but my throat is still raw. I get my damned smoothie out of the freezer and eat it. Hard to believe how quickly my game came undone. Not that I was in A+ shape when I came in, but I felt I was doing pretty well for the damage done. Legs are good. Stomach's ok, not great. I certainly needed more calories, but thats a struggle I always play with. Richard came out a few hours later, also with hypothermia issues. The temps plummeted to freezing that night. January holds on and gets it done. So happy for her. 95% of my body feels great, ready to go right now, but my throat and chest are still dealing with congestion and a raw burn. Still need to heal up before I think past this. Ended up running the 50mi split a little faster than I ran the 50mi last year. Made it easy for Joyce to track me during the race, being so close to the same times I did last year. All is good. Had some big fun. Looking forward to the next one


2017: Rawhide 50mi (25mi)


It's interesting how some races are star-crossed in some way or another such that some circumstance or another always lines up so as to keep me from attending. Well, its that way with Flat Creek Ranch. I've wanted to see Flat Creek for many years, and even now, I may miss again.

Joyce wants me to go with her to Hebbronville this weekend. She's taking her horse and dog and me to go play on the ranch while she gets to ride and herd cattle. I've managed to talk her into waiting until I've run this race before we go: the race being on Saturday, and we can leave on Sunday, even though she'd as soon go sooner.

The 50 miler starts at 5am, and its about a 2.5hr drive from my house. I know this distance will make the drive home difficult, so I attempt to hook up with somebody else going, but there's not many people in the race. The 13hr cutoff has chased many of the people I might run with. They know they cant make that time, so they don't bother to try. I'd rather not camp the night before right now, so I stay home and try to get some late evening sleep. Unfortunately, I get no sleep at all, and decide to just pop in my truck and drive out at midnight instead. Maybe I can get some sleep when I arrive.

So, I make the drive, arrive at 2am, find the race, but cant figure where to park or where to drive so I park right at the gate. Again I attempt to sleep, but again it's not happening. Each time, I'm close, another care drives up, as confused as I am. Jason shows up at some point and shows us where to park.

4am, I get out of my truck and haul my gear over to the start, setup my gear and check in. It's not long before Mallory does the race brief and the 24 of us are sent off.


It seems a shame really, making all this effort to come out here to see this place, and starting at 5am and seeing nothing at all. Our group quickly parts in two: the fast guys and girls gone quickly, and the rest of us. Like so many times of late, I line up with Nancy and Bill, and we're not far back of a couple of women. I cant tell young or old in the dark, but they sound young. The two ladies, me, Bill, and Nancy, in that order. B&N run together a lot, so I expect they'll lock in with each other. I can hear the two ladies chittering away, so they are quickly aligning up as well, so as usual, I'm the odd man out and just fine with that.

I can see lights all around me, off in the distance, and it quickly becomes apparent this is a typical mountain bike trail system that simply wanders about randomly to use every square inch of the real estate it exists on. We turn back on ourselves numerous times to pass just yards away but in the opposite direction. Sometimes we climb a bit too, but never in a direct line, but tracking way left only to come all the way back and just above where we'd just been. At first it's disorienting, but eventually I get used to it. Makes me think of a bowl of spaghetti and trying to stay hooked to just one strand as I ride the entire bowl.

We're not in very far before the girls run up a short steep climb, which I'd rather not. So, I walk, but Bill and Nancy fly past and track on the girls. I fall back just a bit, connect again on the next downhill, but at each uphill, they pull further ahead, and I wonder what the hell Bill and Nancy are thinking? Bill's not that fast usually. Nor is Nancy. She'd run the same dang 100k I did just one week ago. Running a 50mi just a week after a 100k is a damn fool idea regardless, but Nancy does this sort of thing regular. And the girls, I suspect are both excellent runners and will hold just fine well ahead of us. I don't expect this 50mi today to work well for me, but I figured I'd give it a try anyway, and see how it falls out.

I knew the aid stations where 3 to 4 miles apart from one to the next from start to finish, so I carry just a single water bottle. The very first aid station is the water cooler I just passed, I realize well after I've passed it. One of those "Oh Yea" moments. Not a worry though, as its still early dark and I'm not going thru my fluids as quickly as I will be later. The second aid has a friendly guy standing behind a table to assist me with my refill. Soon after, I catch up to Bill and Nancy. Bill says, "Wow, you've really picked up your pace!". "Well no Bill, actually you've finally slowed down". So, now after some 7 miles, I'm in front of them again, and the girls are long gone, way in front of us. I can hear snippets of their voices now and again on the long out-n-backs. I have no idea how far they're up, until I've run the same long out-n-back. 

Its hard to tell which way to go more than a few times, such that I stop to check the signs. My terribly poor vision can't make out the white arrows on the colored paper. The white light washes everything out, and with splits to spin off the 10k, Half-Marathon, Marathon, and 50mi, I'm worried I'll miss my turns. With the twisting and winding trail, I cant trust the lights in front of me are actually in front of me, so I cant just blindly follow the lights. Being alone in the dark and struggling badly trying to find my way, I trust I'm on the correct path, and just keep on until I find another sign or flag. I suspect the others are doing better than I am. It's just my eyes are so bad. I know the main split for us 50 milers is after mile 10, so I'm pleased to reach it and make the turn. I think about it for a moment and decide to wait for Bill and Nancy. I want to make sure they make this turn too. Its well marked, but I hate for them to miss it, so I wait.

The sun comes up soon after, and now I'm much more comfortable finding my way than I had been in the dark. It's not long after, I run into the start area, which is also the main transition from the Lower Loop to the Upper Loop. I'm just under 3 hrs for the first quarter, but I take the time to change my soaking wet shorts and shirt before heading out again. Bill and Nancy come in just as I head out.

It's so much more enjoyable now that I can see the trail, where I'm going, and the terrain around me. It's an interesting place, big hills, long sweeping switchbacks, plenty of trees, and the prototypical layout of a mountain biking trail system. Whatever direction I'm going in, it will change quickly, and if there's another trail right next to the one I'm on, it could be 100 yards ahead or 5 miles behind. Never having been here before, there is no way to know. Now and again, I can hear Nancy behind me, but I can also hear the girls in front of me, and it means nothing reference to distance.

At the 15mi water cooler, I fill my water, then allow a small bit to pour on my head for a cool-down. There's a lot more climbing on this side. We go higher up, drop down, and climb again. Its insane how many switchbacks there are for no other reason than to just get more distance. It's not as if it makes for a more docile way to ascend the high hills, as much as it just insanely goes a long way left and then a long way right, and repeat. At one point, I see Nancy and Bill behind me, and I'm not certain, but they might be a mile back. 

There's a woman and a young guy working the 18 mile station who are both friendly and talkative. He spots my hardrock shirt and asks me about it. I see some people a few switchbacks ahead and across the valley who are all running rather quickly and wonder if they're the 50 mile leaders, but cant be sure until later, when I merge with the 10k course, and then I'm mixed in with quite a few people, none in the 50 mile.

According to my GPS, I'm almost done with this side. I've been looking down into the compound where I parked and started for a while, but I can never tell which way I'm going to go next, if I've been there or it's my next destination. I'm completely clueless, except for the milage on my GPS, so I can only assume I'm almost back at 25 miles. I can't be more than 20 minutes out when my right quad decides to quit working correctly. Not sure exactly what it's doing, but I suddenly find it difficult to step off my right leg or even land on it. It doesn't hurt so much as it just isn't doing what it usually always does. Odd! I find it quite awkward and difficult to run, so, now I'm walking even on the flats and downs.

I come in after 25mi in 5:45, and sit down to think about it, hope the leg muscles loosen up, get something to eat, maybe change into some dry clothes. Sitting still, in the shade of huge oak, drinking a cold soda, I realize just how sleepy I am. Rob's finished his race and is sitting there talking with me and I suspect I could close my eyes and nod off in nothing flat. Its around noon, and a 2 hour drive home, with Joyce wanting me there so we can drive south to the ranch. Hell, I could probably go on and finish the race. I have the time, but not certain whats going on with my leg right now, but it might work itself out. I cant imagine how hard the drive home's going to be after 13 hours, no sleep, and exhausted. I better start for home now. It would be less dangerous, and Joyce would love to see me home sooner and in better shape than the next 6 hours will make me. Nancy and Bill come in some 30 minutes after I did and it surprises me how far back they were. Just cant tell out there on those trails where anyone else is reference to you. I visit with them as they load up and head out for the second half.

I turn in my chip, pack up my stuff, hop in my truck and drive home, and it's a difficult drive. I struggle to stay awake and so thankful I started home when I did. I'd have never been able to drive home later, and into the night as well. It would have been foolish, maybe as foolish as attempting a 50 miler the week after a 100k

2017: J&J 100k


Nueces changed her name to J&J and added a 100k, but its still the same drop dead beautiful landscape and setting. I'd run the 25km last year with my wife and daughters. Before that, I'd created the course, laid out the route, cut a few trails, and explored almost every part of this camp, but I had never run the 100k, which included the Elephant in the back closet.

The ground is wet and muddy from four days of continuous heavy rain, the rocks puddled with water, and slick with mud. My hope was that it would continue to rain, for a cooler temp, a more comfortable run. I dread the humidity more than the high temp, so the air filled with humid mist dampens my high hopes of a great run. The double danger of tough course and high humidity leads me to a much more cautions start than I might have done otherwise


loop one

The field of runners is quite small, we start in the dark, and the course begins with an uphill, so it's no surprise that I have no idea right off the bat, where I am reference to anyone else in the race, except Joel, who is close behind me, and Ryan as well. The three of us remain near at hand thru the two immediate climbs, but Ryan stops to tie a shoelace and we lose him just as we start the easy part of the trail. So easy such that we pick up pace and move quickly down and around the next few sections.

Sometimes, a passing motivates a bit more speed, and so it does when Joel & I pass Nancy, George, and 5-fingers. But, the mud is sloppy and slippery, and the rocks just as slick, enough to give us pause about sliding, so it's not as if we're full on sprinting as much as maybe we're going just a bit faster than we had been. We're both wearing headlamps, but I've just moved mine into my right hand, water bottle in the other. I believe I see much better, trip much less with my light help low. We make the turn on top, and head down towards the Texas aid station. It's a skinny, muddy, rock filled single-track that requires constant attention, and I am paying attention, but suddenly, both feet slide out and up sideways. Flying off a slick rounded rock surface, I come down hard and heavy on my right elbow. Joel barely stops in time without tripping over me.

I get up and carefully back on my feet, continue to run. I can feel mud all over my arm and side, but I can't see a thing in the dark. Nancy and George caught us while we dallied and the lot of us roll into Texas aid, but they keep on while Joel and I stop for a moment. I reach across the table for a cup, and when I draw my hand back, I realize I've splattered the entire table surface with blood. Wow! Not only am I shocked to have ruined everything on the table, but what I thought was mud... is blood. Joel told me I was bleeding while we ran, but I didn't think much of it. I ask Donna (at the aid station) what she thinks: she says it looks pretty bad. I have a buff wrapped around my wrist, so I slide it down my arm to cover the cut and also to hook on my elbow so it might stay in place. I can't tell how much it's bleeding and don't how much blood I'm slinging on the trail, but Joel does remind me now and again: You're still bleeding a lot, Joe!

"All we have for medical supplies are some gauze pads and bandaids." The band aids aren't going to cut it, so he hands me the gauze pads and goes off to find something else that might work to hold the pads on my injured arm. I pulled off the blood saturated buff and dropped it on the table and watched the blood drain out and streak across the table. Damn! Thats two aid stations I'd polluted now. I picked it up, wring out the blood on the ground, and hang the buff across one of the tent poles being used for the Wall aid station.

I wasn't thinking clearly when I planned my equipment at this point. I already have a flashlight in one hand and a water bottle in the other. How the hell am I supposed to use 2 trekking poles. I need two more hands. As much as I prefer to have my headlight in my hand, I needed to put it on my head so I can use at least 1 trekking pole. I'd put my pack and both poles at the Wall with a desire to use the poles over the next 6 miles of brutal climbs. The pack is for nothing other than to store the poles, so it's light enough. Figure I'd shove a 2nd water bottle in the pack later, when the sun comes up. Anyway, all my thoughts are a jumble for a wide variety of reasons. I have a clean buff in my drop bag, so I use it to wrap my arm and hold down the bloody gauze pads, and leave the Wall with pole in hand, and excited to use it. I pop it out and lock it in place just as I start up from the river. Can't be more than 100 yards when it snaps. Not sure exactly what it broke on. I've been using poles for years and have become quite comfortable and careful with them. I'd never broke a pole over years of Hardrock or months on the Appalachian Trail. This day just isn't starting well for me.

The climb from the Wall begins with the prettiest view of the suspension bridge over the Nueces River. Breathtakingly beautiful is my opinion of this area leading to the Gorilla Trail. This is the section where we begin our punishment in uphills and difficult rock graveyards. The route tracks alongside a perimeter fenceline in what must have once been a jeep road, but now shows no sign of track, trail, tree, or shade. There is some thorny scrub, but mostly its rock and prickly pear. I take full credit for being the designer of this course, all of it, and especially for the back side valley we now call The Elephant, because the outline of the route looks like the legs of an elephant. I have been back here many times, up and down these hills, clearing brush, moving rocks, hanging flags, but I've never run this part of the course. Last year, we were told by the handful of people who attempted the 100k just how brutal it was. The word was out, and so it was told, that this course was a beast, but hearing it and running it are two distinctly different things, akin to describing the Grand Canyon or the Ocean to someone who has not seen either.

Its Joel and me, but with George and Nancy orbiting in and out of our space as we start up the first of the Elephants three legs. In the dark, I struggle to see any course marking flags, but I do know we stay to the fenceline until the backside fence. George, Nancy, and Joel all ran this last year, so they already know as much as I do, and we are evenly matched thru here. It's a deceptive climb thru a wide cut, filled with Texas scrub (cactus, thorn bushes, & loose rock). It's not that big a climb, but the terrain and the dark makes it awkward and uncomfortable. On top, it keeps on going back much further than expected. I keep expecting to hit the back fence, but there is more of the same, until finally we see the arrow turning us right and down. The rough scramble of loose rocks is tough to navigate carefully without sliding out. I've learned to simply run it out, keeping my feet moving quickly on down to the jeep road where we track on an easier path back over to the main big valley. The single steepest climb on the course begins here at the second ascent: up and over to the back fence line for leg two. It's not long, but it's a slow brutal climb regardless. At the back fenceline, we turn and stay up high for a longer distance than we did the last time.  Again we descend another rough loose scramble much the same as the previous, to another trace of old jeep road back out to the well worn trans-valley jeep road. Once on road, we see Prospector Aid above us, but its still another leg to do before we get there. Just under it, we turn away for our final beating from the Elephant. This time, we begin with a jeep road to the back fenceline where we begin our uphill scramble over and around more of the same Texas scrub. We lose the flags and get turned around near summit for a few moments until we figure the route leading out. The downhill is another bed of rock landmines which is difficult to avoid tripping or sinking into mud, all much the same from back fenceline to jeep road at the bottom. After all the previous madness, the final climb up to Prospector looks worse than it is. It passes behind us rather quickly before we top out into the aid station.

Somewhere between Texas and Pavilion, on 2 miles of the easiest course, Joel disappears. Not his body so much, but Joel, nevertheless! Never mind, it's still very dark and he mostly remains behind me, I realize he's no longer communicative. Not that we talk a lot, but after a bit, I realize he's no longer responding. Taking the time to study him a bit, he no longer seems capable of running, so we walk, while George and Nancy move on ahead. I'll be in this same state a bit later, but for now, I just need to help get Joel in to the Pavilion so he can reload his nutrition and get going again.

Finishing loop one around 2am in the morning, I roll strait thru the pavilion to my room. On the way, I ask Chris if he can find Becky and send her over to fix my arm. He's already heard about the blood, and goes to find Becky with her medical bag. I'd already pre-staged my room, laying out my gear and supplies for easy use. I'd a change of clothes in the bathroom, so I could shower off the sodium buildup (to avoid a rash), the mud, and even the blood. So, I shower and re-lube with Desiten, and put on a clean set of clothes. Becky comes over to patch my arm while I eat. All in all, the delay cost me 30 minutes before I'm back out again. Ryan comes in as I'm heading out, but I don't see Joel when I go thru the Pavilion. I've been in the room for a while, so he may have already gone


loop two

Its around 3am and still pitch black when I walk out, alone, nobody in sight. It's not until I top the second pitch and begin to descend, when I start to run. Boot Trail is easy with a few dips and rises, so I run most of it, but not all. Before I reach Texas Trail, I catch Nancy again at about the same place I caught her on the first loop. Well, I've already figured Nancy for one of those types I can't just run by. She always picks up pace, hooks in, and hangs on. And so I end up running with Nancy again, and so it remains, as we up and over and down into Texas aid, where we find George. Its odd how many times I come into an aid only to find George sitting half asleep in a chair. It doesn't take much to nudge him awake and into our wake. The three of us are once again together, minus Joel, as we cross up and over again. We pass 5-fingers as we enter the Armadillo Trail, and I seem to get my motor going again, but with hiccups. I run and run well for long stretched then feel the urge to sit and rest a moment. Once when I sat down, I hear Nancy say, as she's passing: "Lets hurry. He only sits for a few seconds and then he's up and running again". I catch them again, and lead for a while, then sit again, and repeat. Usually it's the climbs that knock me a bit, but now its just about anything. I've inverted my standard strengths and weaknesses somehow, as I seem to be climbing well. Back to the Wall, I pick up my remaining trekking pole. After last loop's miss (the broken pole) I again have high hopes to effectively use the pole this time. I also take my second water bottle full of water and shove that into my pack too. George starts up Gorilla first, but I quickly catch and pass him, and leave both he and Nancy behind. The trekking pole is obviously a huge success. I keep checking behind as I walk, but I lose track of them both. Can't believe I've climbed faster than George, but I can't know what all he's dealing with. The climbs all come and go quickly, as do the descents and I'm quickly, to my great surprise, into Prospector early in the morning. Sunrise came while on the Elephant.

Sitting at Prospector, I can see a whole lot of the valley and trails behind me, and spy George coming down the trail to the main valley below. I yell and wave at him before I head out and start for home. George must be really moving well, because he catches me well before I make the turn for the long descent down to Texas. Together, we walk/run the long descent and few rises into Texas. George pulls ahead on the final set of loops, but I can see him now and again on some of the switchbacks before coming into the Pavilion. Once again, I go in for a shower and change, get a bit to eat, reload, before heading out again


loop three

I began the final loop just the same as I did the first and second, walking. Certainly, there are flat sections, easy enough to run, but mixed in with a climb or two that'll slap any delusion of speed, it never crosses my mind too run. The 50mi, 50k, and 25k have merged with my 100k, such that I don't know who is running what distance. Some I know, most I don't, but many slow to wish me well, and ask if I'm the guy who's marked the trail in blood. Maybe it's my lazy walk, or maybe it's the bright blue surgical wrap on my arm, but they all seem amused I'm still alive and on course. I visit with Chris Russell for a short bit, and then he's up the rock scramble and gone.

My rhythm is a meandering one: a walk or a stumble of sorts, generally in the forward direction, with way too much wasted side to side. The Bear crawl after Texas seems to go forever and as pleased as I am to pop out on top and done with the beast, there's no enlightenment on top. As much as I continue to move at a snail's pace, I do continue to move. A couple who seem to be running the 50mi talk about their own DNF so I can only assume they're still on their second of three loops (seems really odd to me). They're not talking to me at first, but are right next to me, so I hear without really processing. Then they take a look at me and began to offer some unwanted advice: "Are you ok? You need to stay hydrated! You need some calories! You look awful." and so on. Thankfully, they begin to run and go on ahead. At first, I'm relieved, but then it all starts to sink in and I get really worried and confused. I must look really bad. I must be on the edge of timing out! What the hells the matter with me?

I knew I'd run the 1st loop in 6hrs and my time at the end of two loops had been 14hrs, which assumes I'd done loop two in 8hrs. Thats about all I can remember at this point, and all my thinking spins on these minimal amounts of times I recall. Checking my watch and doing the math, I deduce I'd already been on loop three about 5hrs, in a zombie state of stumbling wander-about, and haven't even got to the midway point yet. I need to pull my head out and get myself moving, or I'm on a certain DNF pace. So, I begin to run! Not pretty, for sure, but still, more than I'd been doing. Using my arms, I begin to pump my body forward, and force my legs to come dragging after. It hurts, but I feel better knowing I'm at least trying now. I keep it going, to the downhill, which does help me go faster. Down the steep jeep road hill, onto Armadillo Trail, I keep pushing until I have an honest to goodness run going (at least from my perspective). So it continues through all of Armadillo, to the HILL, and up to the overlook. No, there's no running here, but I do force myself up as good as I can in this dopey state. Once on top, I run again, over the top and down the other side, picking up speed until I catch my un-asked for coaches from earlier at the WALL. George is sitting in a chair taking a break, which really shouldn't surprise me, but it does.

Completely depleted, I run into the Wall. Used up, not thinking correctly, and so far out of my understanding of what's going on with myself, I simply get back up and walk out without eating anything, or taking anything from my drop bag, which I'd put here specifically to assist with this next section for all three loops. George gets up and comes with me, and proceeds to walk me into the ground. It's not so much as he's walking fast as I'm crawling. I struggle to keep up with him from Wall to the suspension bridge, and by the time he starts up the first climb out of the river, I'm losing ground. My legs are fine and so's my stomach, but my energy is null. I get near George at one point and ask him if he'd mind pulling my ball cap out of my pack and handing it to me, which he does. I'm too damned lazy and punched out to do it myself. We pass thru the deep creek cut which climbs a flight of natural rock stairs before it turns and begins the fence line climb (Gorilla Trail) in earnest. I sit on a rock, toasted, and get up in time to see George pass over the big long climb and gone. We're in such opposite states right now, with him moving so well, and me not moving much at all, that it fairly looks like he's flying. The sun is raising the temp a good bit now. I stop a few more times on the climb when Penny hooks up with me as I finally top out on the first big ascent. She appears to be particularly concerned about me, and I agree with her. I'm not doing well, but there is little can be done about it right here and now. My trekking pole saves me so many times as I use it to row myself forward, while Penny talks to me. She tells me about her group she has out here running their first ultra, and her intention of submerging herself in the water tank by the windmill. We both know my route doesn't pass near the water tank, but I'm overheated badly and begin to think I might just as well go and get in the tank as well, because I'm not going to make the cutoff. When we get to the split, she goes right, and I take a few steps to follow. Damn but that water's going to feel good. But, I cant do it! I need to keep on, if for no other reason than to see how this ends. So, I turn and head left, towards the back valley and the Elephant. After a bit, I catch George and it just doesn't make sense - me catching him. He was well ahead and moving fast. After a bit, he tells me he'd stopped for a moment and set his water bottle down, forgot it, had to go back to get it, which is why I'm once again with George. Together we drop into the back valley, and pass Axel, who's sitting in the shade, taking a break.

We start up leg one, and from my misfiring perspective, George sprints up and gone. I sit down, then back up again, and continue slowly, to the back fence, drop down the loose rock chute where I catch George again. I can't quite fathom how it is I keep catching George: he's flying, I'm crawling. We repeat this same process at each leg, with him moving quickly up and me slowly with an occasional sit break, such that I can't understand why I'm anywhere even close to him when we drop down into the valley the final time. He flies up to Prospector and is having a lovely time with the volunteers when I arrive much later. I ask him, "Are you waiting for me?" He says no, but I don't believe him. His rock star is smashing the holy hell out of my falling star.

It's here at Prospector when I finally realize I'm going to finish and have no worries with cutoffs, and have been nowhere close to the cutoffs all night and day. How could I have been so far off? I have no idea why or how my reasoning had gone so far off, but it most assuredly did. I finally relax as George and I walk up and began our final descent. George is certainly at a much better place than I am energy-wise, so I tell him to go ahead and get after his PR. He agrees and takes off and again it surprises me how quickly he disappears down the road. I can see a long way and quickly see how much ground he puts on me rather quickly. I keep walking, try to run, but without much luck. I sit at Texas to visit with Donna one last time and then get up to go as I watch the 10k leaders sprint thru the station. Ed Easton visits with me a few moments from his 10k and then he too is gone. I cut back to do the last short loop alone before rolling into the finish for a surprising finish, at least, for me.


SECTION 1: Pavilion to Texas has two good climbs near the start, but the rest of it is pretty easy and fun to run. The trail leading up to the top is a lot of fun and narrow, but not that bad. The trail leading down to Texas is also skinny and fun, with a few very slick and slippery places.

SECTION 2: Texas to Wall starts with the rugged and nasty Bear but follows with a lot of fast easy trail, up until the climb to the overlook, which is recovered with the awesome descent off the cliff down to the Wall.

SECTION 3: Wall to Prospector is where the Devil lives. Its all nastiness and pain. Numerous nasty rugged rock climbs followed by just as many nasty rugged rock descents. Even the flats are near impossible to run thru a battlefield of rock and cactus.

SECTION 4: Prospector to Texas is all hugs and kisses. A small bit of uphill jeep ascent followed by a very long jeep descent, Minus the 3 short up-bumps coming into Texas.

SECTION 5: Texas to Pavilion is an interesting mix of this and that, but nothing for long as the entire end is very short. Down to the river, Up the zip-line stairs, across the suspension bridge, thru the trees, a bit of single-track loop, down the road, across the field, and it all seems so much longer than it is, and it aint no big deal.

2017: Sky Island 25k


I have no idea where I'm going, on a high desert mountain, in the early morning dark, but I am in the Davis Mountains, and I am running. The Sky Island Trail Race cut us loose at 6:30am, the 50k heading up onto the 7mi Skyline Loop, while our 25k group of 100 are off to run the 12mi Primitive Loop in the opposite direction. We start on a paved road down then up. David starts next to me, surges ahead, which is what I expect, but I didn't expect to pass him soon after, still on the pavement. We turns onto the highway access and quickly over into the grass leading to a concrete drainage. The drainage becomes a low ceiling tunnel under the highway, where we each stoop low and straddle leg to the other side. Pavement to grass to gravel to dirt to water as we wade the first of 3 streams, each one soon after the other.

From the start to the last water crossing, our path is wide and our flight of night owls shifts and changes like oil in water, each with a light that defines the drifting flow of one and all. While the track remains easy, I continue to run, but its easy and unforced. It's a comfortable effort where I can look about and watch the ebb & flow. It's a pretty sight, bright fireflies in the darkness, racing around each other in a surreal stream. My vision, so poor, allows my mind to run away with my imagination, inventing all kinds of realities I know are not true, but I enjoy nonetheless. I know there are course markings, but I don't see any, don't even try, and become a lemming, simply following the light stream.

The 3rd creek crossing is where the climb begins, and the groupings change, The wide flowing stream morphs into broken arcs of curved lines of light that join together and disconnect as we move up the mountain. Pace lines of five and twenty, as far as I can see, before and behind. Early on, I connect with Ashley, and we merge with a group of women, with me on the end. As the hill undulates from flat to steep to steeper, our group drops me off the back over and again as I walk the hills while they run, and run the flats to catch back up. Each time I fall behind the group, I get close to a very long pace line behind us. But, before they swallow me, the path flattens again and I begin to run, escaping back to the group ahead. Its hard to tell in the dark, but it appears all the lights nearby are more consistent in their movements than I am, so I can only assume they're mostly running a slow steady effort up the hills, while I'm out of sync with the lot of them. It’s likely just my imagination again, but in this dark world of moving lights, I'm having fun playing these mind games.

I hold my headlamp low in my hand, to throw a bigger shadow, hoping to trip a little less. But, I'm not looking where I'm going and still trip a good bit, paying more attention to those around me than what I'm doing. I never do fall, but do stumble now and again on the rocky path. My focus is less about the trail than it is to remain laid back and easy, running and resting. At the 3.5mi aid station, the girls all stop for water, while I turn and pass the lot of them. The next 6mi are a fast and easy rocky path filled with land mines. Sunrise renders my light useless at this point so I take it off and wrap it around my hand. Now I can see the course markings. Last nights heavy wind gusts must have knocked some of them over, but I can now see the blue flags here and there. There's enough for me to track on and the course is easy to follow now. Soon after, I catch the guy in front of me as he stumbles and run with him for a few. Trey pulls ahead on a slow rise while I back off and walk. I chase Trey for a while, keeping the same gap when 3 fast moving girls go by. They may be part of the group I was with earlier, but not sure. I hook on and go with them, losing them on the rises and catching back on the flats. One of the girls steps out and then another, so I'm now bouncing back and forth with the remaining tall girl who stops now and again to take pictures. She probably doesn't realize her picture breaks are rest breaks in disguise and its whats keeping her running strong. The tall girl, Trey, and I bounce around each other for the remainder of the 6mi loop, all coming in to the 9mi aid station (same aid station as earlier) one after the other.

I stop for water for the first time and top of my bottle with ice cold water, so cold in fact, I need to keep changing hands. The next 3 miles of downhill are in my main stream of likes: rocky & rugged downhill, so I bust loose and begin running hard again, eventually catching up to the tall girl and passing Trey. The streams end my romp, flattening out and allowing Trey and the girl to go by, while I back way down and run easy again. Back to the concrete highway under waddle, which is much harder to squat and run than it was earlier. 

The grassy patch next to the highway is walkable for me while the others run. The next aid is just inside the park entrance gate, but again I need nothing, so pass the tall girl who has stopped for a refill. Across the road and onto the Indian Lodge Loop, I find it flat and fast for about a half mile, before it turns decidedly up. I pull in right behind a big tall blonde dude, who is walking, but so am I now. I find it odd that I'm right on his butt, as his long legged walk is slower than mine. I stay on him as we slowly climb, and every so often, he'll run a few yards to create a gap, but then I'm quickly on him again. He never does offer to let me pass, and I never ask. I suspect he thinks he's going faster, and I have no idea if I'm moving fast enough to move ahead, so we remain just so for a few turns.

One of the many false summits offers me the opportunity to go by, as he steps out wide and I keep on going strait up and over. It quickly rises again, but now I'm ahead and pulling quickly away, walking. I pass by a photographer and see Trey up ahead, moving slower than I am, so I slowly close the gap on the next climb. Its hard for me to believe I'm passing or catching anybody on a climb. I have a long history as a turtle on climbs, but I'm obviously moving better than usual on the ups today: an old dog with a new trick. A few flat and downhill spots allows me to run a bit, but Trey runs these as well, so I don't gain any ground here. I'm catching him on the climbs.

One of the final false summits, a stack of rocks on top, I come across to see Trey standing there. He wishes me well as I pass. I run the next descent and the final climb. The competitive genie who rides my back, and I ignore most all the time, suddenly climbs into my psyche and impels me keep running from here on in. I cant pass Trey now and let him pass me back again, this close to the finish. I suspect we're about 1.5mi out or near to it, but its all rugged nasty fun stuff, so I keep on pushing, running, hopping, skipping across the rocks, and down finally.

I pass a tall young woman who is not enjoying the rocks at all, struggling badly through a rocky graveyard of a descent. As I go by, she hooks on and says something about using me to motivate herself to get the hell out of this awful place. She stays with me for a few moments, and then I'm well ahead and into the Indian Lodge parking lot. I slow for a few, trying to figure where exactly to go in the parking lot and driveway. As I bumble about, the girl I passed, passes me back, full on sprinting and saying: 'This is my stuff' or something of the sort, as she goes by quickly.

I hate road, and I especially dislike a great trail run like this ending on a stinking road. I don't run road much at all anymore, once I realized it was hurting my right hip and back. Not that I don't run it at all, but I do try to avoid it as much as possible. I make myself run, and I can feel the burn creeping into my hip, but I cant stop now. The road section to the finish is further than I expect, and I grit my teeth and grind it out, but now I can hear Trey coming. I feel him getting closer, so I make myself run harder. It's really rather silly, this arbitrary competitive mission to beat this one guy I just met and actually like. Its odd how he's become the driving force of my desire to get in before him, not that it makes one bit of difference if I do or don't. So, I run, past the woman with the sign that says SLOW, then down the dip, and up the rise to the final turn and across the finish, uphill. Trey finishes seconds behind me, and Ben Martinez, who I had no idea was chasing me down also, is right behind Trey.


We arrived at the park Friday evening, I put up my tent, and we drove into town for dinner. A storm was brewing, intermittent wind gusts were blowing, and the sky was a turmoil of clouds. We had previously paid for a star party at the McDonald Observatory and drove out there after dinner, but a storm settled over the exact same mountain just as we arrived at 8pm, so we turned and drove back to our camp instead. For the moment, our site was dry, so we settled in for the night, hoping to get some solid sleep before the race in the morning. The wind came in like a train right at midnight, shoving over and breaking some of the race tents in the process. My exact spot was just under the edge of a tall tree right next to the start/finish, and I only hoped the tree and all her branches would remain in place. Besides that, I laid in tent and enjoyed the show. It rained hard for a bit, then easy, then off, and the wind did the same, changing gust velocity and sound amplitude as the wind plowed thru our site from midnight til 5am. I fell asleep now and again, I suspect when the storm backed off, and woke again as the side of my tent was blown into my face or a thunder boomer bounced off the canyon walls. I drifted in & out of sleep, and may have missed some of the best stuff, but the tent held up well: no broken poles or wet spots within. The race didn’t take all that long, and with the best part of two days to play, we had time to check out Balmorhea (which was closed), Fort Davis, and Alpine. All in all, a great race and a glorious weekend


2017: Paleface Trail Marathon


Unexpectedly & Surprisingly, this somewhat minor blip on my radar, turned into a much bigger event than it should have been. Initially, I had signed up for the half-marathon, same as I did last year. Mark Lindsey, who had created this race and the course, was supposed to mark the course, same as he always does, but a family misfortune was such that he had to leave town, and a big 'ask' from him was for me to mark the course in his stead. Mind, I don't know this park all that well, and I certainly don't know the course, certainly not enough to mark it. But, I had 2 weeks, so I came out as soon as possible to learn it. Mark was to meet me at 2pm on Monday, but I was worried, so I arrived 2 hours earlier to get ahead of the curve.

I know the course somewhat. I had helped Mark once a few years ago, and I had run the half marathon last year, but understand: running a course and knowing a course are not near the same thing. I start where we always start, and took off on foot, working out the first 4 or 5 intersections half-heartedly. I wasn't sure, but followed what felt right. I was good til I got to the 1st split, and then the 2nd both on Wookie Way. I took the long way at both splits, but filed them both in mind to ask Mark about later. Another split at Rock Garden of Greatness, I remember we skipped, so I dodged it. I cross Abby Road to stay on Wookie to the next left on a jeep road that I guess on. At this point the trail is so much easier and non-technical: what I suppose would be a very fast bike track. The next intersection is marked with an arrow to turn right onto a ghost of a trail, so I stay strait instead of taking the ghost. Five minutes later, I know I'd guessed wrong, so I leave the trail to cut over onto the main park paved road.

I call Mark, and he's just entered the park, so he drives by and picks me up. Well, I got about 6 miles of it right, and he tells me what to do about all the questionable splits on Wookie, so I now have half the course in my head. We drive back to the start, where we reset. We drive down and park my truck where Abby Road meets the paved park road and hike in from there. Just to be sure, we go back directly to where I knew I'd gone wrong earlier. This time we take the ghost trail which is soon onto the nasty big powerline hills. We follow course around to the place where the trail drops down to the 2nd aid and comes right back up again. We start down, but only for a few minutes. Mark attempts to describe the stop point, so, we don't go all the way down, but turn around and head back up. We cut over to Well Rd and back up to a quarry area. There appears to be 2 quarries in the park, but I never do get the two of them sorted out.

We bounce back and forth along here as Mark cuts over at intersections to show me as much where not to go, as he shows me where to go, and also the track where we cut back later. So, we don't follow the course strait away as we had been doing earlier. I hear what he says, and it makes sense, but I'm still not sure I'll remember each point as they begin to stack one on top the other to the point I'm certain a few will slip out and get lost.

We skim the turns of South and North Croton but don't enter upon either one. We turn back and pass a whole set of trails each with the same name: Chicken Foot, then reach an intersection where I understand the 5k to go left, but the 13 miler to go right. Immediately we're at an intersection of 5 trails we go strait thru, then another intersection and another and now I know I'm lost. Mark points out where the 5k joins back in and soon after we're back to the start. He walks me thru the first part of the 5k and explains the rest, but we don't walk the whole thing, and soon after he's taking me back to where we left my truck at Abby Road.

Two days later, I drive back to the park. I get my friend Fumi to go with, with the intention of running the entire 13mi loop. I drop a cooler with drinks just off the road where the 3rd aid will be on South Croton. We start off well, and manage all the turns as I've been told by Mark to and thru Wookie with each of the correct splits: left on the first split, right on the 2nd, skipping the Rock Garden. I take the ghost turn correctly this time, all the hills, and even the drop down to the aid station. This time, I head all the way down to Well Road, before heading back up. Now on to the parts I kind of know, but not well, and all this I do from cross correlation of what I recall from Mark, my memory of running last year, and instinct. I think I get this all right, but I do have my GPS on, so I'll cross check when I get home. About mile 10 is where the 5k merges in, and I make the turn, pass by all the intersections I came at from the other side with Mark the last time, pass by all three Chicken Feet, and on to where the 5k cuts out. I cant say for certain if I'm at the correct place for the major 5k in & out, but do know the 13 miler keeps on strait. I make that big turn where 5k and 13mi split, scoop on down for all the turns correctly back into the finish and done. Anyway, Fumi and I are done fro today.

I plan to go back to the park again, but due the storm damage down in Houston, most of the gas stations in Austin have run empty and there is no gas to be had, so I don't go back again until its time to mark the course, which is the following Wednesday.

I get Joyce to help me and also an old friend of Marks: Steve. I get to the park early, and sit one cooler full of drinks at aid 3 (mile 9) and another at what I think is Abby Road on the other side of where I'd gone last week. I go back to the start, where I open up Chris's trailer to collect the marking materials. I take all the wooden stakes, load what I can in a pack, then take the rest to the same place I put the coolers to split out the rest of them there. None of the marking materials are ready to be used. I have to put together a pack full of signs and I fill it with as many as I can of arrows, wrong ways, and the distance signs of 5k,10k, half-marathon, and marathon. Also load in a staple gun, staples, mallet, and a quadrant of water bottles. I load a 2nd pack full of all the  ribbons for both courses, being different colors for each route. The 3rd pack is crammed full of as many wooden stakes as will fit. Its about all the 3 of us can carry. I look around for caution ribbon, but all I can find are five 50-gallon trash bags full of unrolled ribbon crammed in each. Aint no way we wish to carry all the extra trash bags, so I decide to do what I can to mark the course without then. Just like the old days, before we got started using the caution tape. And so we go, overloaded and ready to hike one big loop with a bit of side extensions here and there to do the 5k as we do the big loop.

I send Joyce up to mark the short 5k out n back leg, just so I'll know when I get to it on the other side many hours later. That done, we start off, tagging every turn with arrows and wrong ways while Joyce hangs confidence flags. Its slow work, stopping at every cross trail to pound one or more wooden stakes in the ground, staple the correct signs on each, then pack up and move to the next. There are places on the course where this is done every 50 yards, and there are others where we walk for a quarter mile with nothing to do but hang flags. Usually, we use the caution ribbon to block major turns and sort of herd the runners into chutes to control the direction, but without the caution, we take more care with each sign and flag. By the time we got to Well Road on the other side, in the middle of the hills, we check over at the road for where I left out stash of cold drinks and extra stakes. I cant find it at first, and soon realize I'd missed my mark by a ton. We all hike down the park road 3/4 a mile before we find the stash. Damn, I don't mind being off a little with this, but it really pisses me to realize how far wrong I guessed. This costs us an extra few miles and a good bit of wasted time.

Back on, we finish the hills, and then pay a good deal of attention creating a chute of dead tree branches at the intersection of the long out n back to the aid. This takes awhile, marking this major turn at the hike down to the aid, which I'm still not sure exactly where it is. We stop at Well Road, and cut back to the intersection we'd already grown pretty damned tired of. Over to the next major intersection where we'd hit Well Road again, I'm uncomfortable marking a route to this road and then turning back without any caution tape. I see no way to mark it clean enough to not get people lost, so I back the route up about 30 yards off the road and cut thru the trees, bushwhack to the other trail heading back up. It works out well and so we leave it.

The next 2 miles are easy enough to mark, but murder to hike and run. Probably the most rugged and technical part of the course, but pleasant being out of the sun in the shade of the trees. This is the area of 3 or 4 cut thru sections I mark easy enough. By the time we reach the 9mi aid stn on South Croton, we're about done in. Steve is having some issues with his medicine to keep his diabetic sugar balance, having had no idea how long all this was going to take us. We'd already been going for 6 hours and expect anther 2 to get done. We take some time to refresh with my stash of ice cold gatorade, coke, and water, plus a new load of wood stakes and good to go. At the 5k/13m merge, I have Joyce flag the 5k section down the way we're not going, but the 5k will come from. At this point, the 2 courses merge, so its time to hang both sets of flags for a few miles. Joyce takes one bag of flags, while Steve takes the other to hang separate flags, each specific to their separate courses, while I walk ahead to each intersection to pound stakes and staple signs. And so we march past the Chicken-Feet to the major 5k crossroads which Joyce had marked at the beginning of our day. We spend some time here making sure we mark it as good as possible for all the comings and goings that will happen here during the race. The 5k will come up and turn right, make the big loop, then turn right again to go down the same trail they had come up to start. Also, the 13 mi loop will simply pass strait across without hiccup or turn. This takes a lot of signage and time. 

Another quarter mile and we have to mark a similar intersection. The 5k goes left to where Joyce had hung flags earlier down from South Croton, but the 13mi course turns right, and so we mark it with posts, signs, and ribbons. More time! Just off this, we reach the intersection like a train switching yard, with trails heading off in 5 directions. It's too much for what little I have left with posts and signs, so I simply post one arrow to go strait across, with nothing else at all the other trail heads. The 5k has such an odd and convoluted finish that it's hard to explain it cleanly. It gets back within a 100 yards of where it starts, turns left, crosses quite a few intersections and reconnects with the 13mi course just before the finish. Its important to know exactly where it reconnects, because of the flags we need to hang.

And so we finish up the 13mi loop, take a short break, cut Steve loose to get his levels right, then Joyce and I head back out to finish the 5k loop. We'd already done most of it, but, it's a confusing finish we have yet to do. But, we have no stakes left, but for a few nubs of wood. And so we mark it, without wooden stakes or caution ribbon, but we get it done. All in all, it takes about 8 hours, and we still have to go back around and collect our coolers and drop off a tent Mark wants me to leave at the mile 9 aid.

I call Mark on the drive home and thats when I get wind of a minor change at the end of the 5k that I may have done differently. I call Chris and tell him about the bags of caution flags I didn't use. He's surprised. He wanted me to haul them as is. There was some concern the course might not be marked good enough. I go home anyway. Joyce and I are wiped out.

I drive back out to the park again the day before the race, on Friday with my mountain bike to finish the 5k. This time, I find a few rolls of caution flag, so I load a pack again for marking, and go in. I ride the 5k loop, using a liberal amount of caution ribbon at every intersection I come to. I keep my GPS on just to make sure I have the 5k loop distance. I take the new trail at the end of the loop and mark it, then go back and take down the part I'd marked wrong a few days ago. I then bike over to check a few other major points and see that Chris has already patched up with caution ribbon plus pins and posts to make the major intersections clean. I'm done, so head back to my truck and home.

If that's all of it, it would have been well enough already, but I come back a day later on Saturday to run the marathon. With 2 more complete loops, I'd have close to 6 loops out here in the last 10 days. Fortunately, it's a lovely 66 degrees on race morning. Hobbs and I plan to hang together for a bit, both of us needing a long run today as a trainer for a longer run later in the year. We walk out easy, and start to run once we top the first short hill. Ryan's behind us, starting easy as well.

Hobbs has rabbit in him and as expected, keeps surging ahead, then pulls off and waits for me. And so we roll til we both hook onto a group of 3 led by a very strong consistent woman, and there we stay til the hills. We each walk up at our own best effort, and run down with varying skill for the first hill, but it was on the 2nd hill descent, that Hobbs and I go past the others. They're all most likely better runners and more consistent than either of us, but we know downhill running better than most and so we cruise on by and up the 3rd hill just ahead of them. Again at the downhill into the 2nd aid, we add more distance and thus go back up ahead again. One more downhill to Well Road put us well ahead. The next 2 miles, as I already know, is a very fun rough and tumble path of rock obstacles that is pure fun to dance thru, all of it under shade. Still, we have 2 loops to run, so we back off and walk now and again, when we could easily have been running. A few of those we passed earlier pass us in here as we intermittently walk. I don't need anything at the aid, so I slow here but don't stop.

At mile 10, we turn off the North Croton trail onto a wide open and completely exposed track which is part of the 5k loop. It's smooth, flat, fast, and boring. I find myself going a bit faster now and again, with Hobbs beginning to lag behind. By the 5k spin off point and a mile out, Henry is starting to cramp and walk a bit more. I wait now and again such that we come in one right behind the other but I'm worried about his chances at this point. We talk about him getting out, but when I get up to go, he comes with me.

We walk a good bit right out the gate and beyond. I make sure to run each down tilt, but the rest of it we walk. I sure hope Henry gets his bearings oiled up and gets right after a bit, but as we roll along, I walk less and less. Henry tells me to go on and he'd work it out, but I have a hard time cutting loose. I don't stop at the 1st aid and Henry is a few turns back by then, plus I think he might take a long watering break, so it's here I cut loose. It's also where Nick Draper hooks on, replacing Henry. Nick starts talking and I reply all the way through the hills and into the next aid.

Joel Olivares is sitting here when I come in. He's giving me some playful grief, so I reply in kind til he leaves with hopes to never see me again. Nick stays with me and we find Joel again sitting at the 9mi station. I don't need anything, so I keep on thru and Joel pops up and comes with, joining our train. And so the 3 of us continue together onto the wide open sun baked track with no shade. We're all motivated to get it over with, but it's Joel with the energy to push up on the only slight rise on the loop, and so he separates from us, and soon after goes Nick. It seems like a good time for me to take a walk break and never do get my wind back up, nor feel the urge to push the pace from here on in. I take a lazy saunter in and damned glad to finally be done.

We, Henry, Ryan, and I had talked about possibly going back out when done to get another 5k just to get some more distance today, but only if we weren't trashed when done. Well, I wasn't trashed, but I'm rather enjoying myself sitting in the shade with Henry, Kuss, JoAnne, Joel, and others. I simply sit and give up on any more distance ideas. It's done. I'm done. Henry had stopped soon after I left him and walked back for a clean 20 miles, while Ryan came in soon after me. It was good. It was done.