Bombeam- the matriarch of the Sederholm clan, and my kids grandmother had passed away 2 weeks ago, and the funeral ceremonies were today, starting at 2pm, and then continued afterwards with a family gathering at her home. Joyce also knew I had registered for and had planned to ride with Adam and Fumi to the Colorado Bend race later tonight. With everything that was going on, I wasn't sure if I'd have the time to make the two hour drive for the 7:30pm start, or if circumstances would arrange such that it even made sense for me to leave. So, I left my bag of gear in the backseat of my truck, and made myself available to the family. As things evolved, I drove Lar and Shawn home, and then on to our house, when Joyce tells me I should go. Soon after, I call Adam and Fumi, who just happen to be driving nearby, on their way up the highway, and they decide to circle around to pick me up. And so, 15 minutes later, I'm in their back seat, heading up the highway. Fumi always brings a container of rice balls, wrapped in seaweed saturated with salt. Hearing my stomach rumble, I realize I had not eaten anything today, so I quickly eat two.
Two hours later, I'm at the back side of the pack, doing my typical walk/run beginning race shuffle. Jimmy runs with me along the river trail, and then we start up the skinny single-track Spicewood Canyon Trail, and he goes ahead. With no place to pass, everybody's tucked in real tight, and because we're going up, the conversation is light. It just so happens with the angle and the direction of the climb, that we find ourselves looking directly into the setting sun. Tripping and bumbling about becomes the norm, with the bright light in our eyes, and I can feel somebody right up against my back. I turn and say, beep if you want by. I can move over. They beep, I move over, and Amanda pinches my side as she squeezes by.
The trail meanders about, up & down a few dips and dives, with an overabundance of rocks, the dominant feature of this race. The trail squeezes between trees growing from the same root, and wanders like a drunken fire ant, but we're locked in together like sardines in a tin, right up to and into the Lemon Ridge aid station. My effort up to now is hard to define, being captured in place, I did as much walking as running, so I simply shifted between walk and run, as did the guy in front of me, and the one in front of him, and so on. All in all, it worked out to suit my race-start temperament to a T. When I arrived at the 3 mile aid, I was surprised to find my water bottle empty, which is rare for me.
Although we're now on top of the mesa, and the terrain much flatter, it does still roll, and the rocks are even more treacherous than they were. Some stop, as I do for refills and ice, while others skip directly on through, with the result of shattering the conga line into sets of 2 and 3. The breakout reorganizes into pecking orders based on each packs skill and ability. Some let fly and quickly fade ahead, others walk more than they run, and many like me, continue with a running/walking sequence based on each our own inner motivations. I begin to run faster, and hold pace for a few miles, crossing the road, and then begin to slip into uphill walks, but fly over the rugged landscape, enjoying the rock dancing and the play of the game. Mostly alone, I slide in behind a woman for a bit, until she stops to walk, and then another, and another. The conga line is gone. All restrictions to speed or rhythm erased, so now its all on me, and I need to be careful.
The sun has been slowly slipping lower, dimming the light by fractions, but I'm good in bad light. For 95 degrees, you'd think it was unbearable, but the slight now-and-again breeze takes enough of the edge off, that it oddly enough seems comfortable. Normally, all black is not wise during the Texas summer, but with most of the race being run in the dark, it seems to suit just fine, so I run in stealth mode black shirt and shorts, without a light, and the sun sinking fast. I usually keep the light in my hand to help navigate the rugged terrain, but when I make the turn onto a docile grassy jeep track, I place it on my head. Unfortunately, the soft and docile road quickly shifts to an angry hateful bitch just as the last few lumens of light dissipate, and I catch an edge and fly shoulder first into the rocks. I lie there for a few moments, evaluating all the body parts, sensing pain, and where. I move my arms and legs first, before siting up, collecting my headlamp, water bottle, and then standing just as two runner's go by. You ok, one asks? No, I say, and they keep going. I try to check and feel for anything that might be messed up, can't find any visible damage, but my right shoulder stings a bit. Funny thing is, it hurt before I started, so I don't think much of it. I start walking, and soon slip into the Windmill aid station.
They top off my bottle with ice, I fill it with water, drain it, then refill again. I use some water to wash my dirty face and hands, take a slice of watermelon, and walk out. More rocks, twists, and one hell of a lot of low hanging branches that tug at my hair and poke my shoulders. This whole route is a tunnel of stabbing mesquite, cactus, and rock, making for an awful lot of ways to hurt. I've lost my mojo since I busted my ass, and although I can get running now and again, I can't seem to sustain it for long. A few pass me, and I pass them back. The long rugged downhill to Gorman Falls might have been more fun, but I get stuck behind a couple of guys who are moving well enough. I know I'd be going a lot faster alone, but I leave it be and slip into a cautions pace for now. I'm tripping a lot now but suspect it's more from the slower pace than anything else, but still, I stay tucked in behind. When we reach the road, there's a water cooler sitting on a milk crate, which confuses the lot of us. I'm pretty sure the aid is just down a bit further by the house, but it would be one hell of a bad mistake to miss water now with another 5 miles to the next one. The lead guy hesitates for just a moment and then turns down the road, but the guy in front of me goes to the water cooler to get water if there is any. While he's fussing with it, I simply stand there and watch for a moment, then wake up, turn, and head down the road.
A well supplied aid does indeed exist, complete with ice, water, food, and a couple of friendly volunteers to assist. I top the ice, then water, take another watermelon slice, and walk out. And now I find myself alone in front, walking up Old Gorman Falls Rd. It's all up, and I make no attempt to run, but do focus on a fast forced hike. I check behind me now and again to see of the others follow, but see no lights. I catch a young couple, pass them, and keep on going. In time, I reach the flat area on top, part of the Cedar Chop Loop, and stop to finish eating the melon. I'm putting away the remains when the couple and another guy catch and pass me. I pull in behind the guy, and together we pass the couple. After a bit, we talk a bit, and I get his name (Josh), and so we keep on together, sort of. I'm much stronger on the downhills, and pull ahead on the downs, but Josh is stronger and much more consistent all around, so he ends up pulling ahead everywhere but the downs. So, when we turn down the Dogleg Canyon Trail, I slowly slip ahead, and keep on gaining distance until I reach the River Trail. At this point, I slow down and Josh closes on me and passes well before I reach the last climb up Lemon Ridge Pass Trail.
About midway up to the final aid, somehow the plug gets pulled, and the energy quickly fades to cramps. Both calfs knot up and scream for relief, of which I have none. I'm carrying no fuel of any sort, but for a bottle of lukewarm water. And so I walk, but attempt to push the walk as best I can. I'm surprised that no more than one woman passes me, and that happens just as we come into the Lemon Ridge aid station. In bad need of some repair, I guzzle two full cups of cold coke, eat a pickle, reload the bottle with ice and water, and walk out. Wanting desperately to just sit and do nothing for a while, I know the only remedy is to find the finish.
With high hopes of getting my mojo going again for the final 3 miles down the Spicewood Canyon Trail, I'm disappointed to realize I still have cramping issues, so I simply push the walking pace. I can't seem to run, but doesn't mean I need to screw around either. I get passed by 3 individuals who can still run, but hold on as well as I can to make the rounds down to the Colorado River reasonably well. I cross paths with a half dozen 60k runners heading back out for their second loop. For some reason, the thought of them doing another loop, makes me feel so much better knowing I don't have to. Even this can't kill the cramps though, which in the end is irrelevant. I drop down to the river trail in good time and power walk the last half mile into the finish, where I find it difficult to stand up while a volunteer attempts to remove my timing chip.