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  • Writer's pictureBryan

Sky Island 50k 2019 Edition

Updated: Aug 13, 2020

First, and as always, foremost, thanks. To the DDR Trailer Trash thanks for the crash space, and general entertainment for the weekend. For anyone who has never been in the same location as Nikki, Scott, Nash, Michael, Ginny, Denise and Lisa, you don't know what you're missing. I'll just leave it at that.

As always, thanks to Shellene for putting up with me, as I continue to do stupid stuff.

Ok, that's the important part, what follows is just fluff.


I had registered for this race, and the Barkley Fall Classic (also this weekend) back when registration opened for each. I was hoping to get into BFC, but wanted a fallback plan just in case. I also registered Shellene, but was about 2 minutes too slow to go with our "normal" plan of having her run the shorter race; so she was stuck running the 50k. I won't go into what she has been doing for training, but she had put in a bunch of effort - all while I've been sitting on the couch eating bonbons (and trying to rehab my ankle). My lottery luck held, and I didn't get into the BFC (which, all in all was a good thing), and up until about two weeks ago I was considering trying to drop down to the 25k - but I am glad I didn't.

Race start at 6AM, high speed (for me) sprint down the road for one mile and then we hit the trail - and it was like eating a live toad for breakfast, you know it's going to have to get better. A 1.3 mile climb with 400' of gain. Good morning world! The best thing about the climb, we did it again. This was followed by another short climb, and then a technical drop to the Fort Davis historical site. Since I was concerned about the drop, I took it very slow. Shortly afterwards Jen caught me, we ran together for a bit then her training (and my lack thereof) took over and she dropped me like a bad habit. A nice climb out of the historical site (1.2 miles, 400') and back to an aid station. From that aid station is a 1 mile highspeed drop, and then shortly afterwards we start the second run of the loop.

As we were heading out to the start of the second loop, I saw movement in the grass and called out "Skunk left!", neither of the two runners ahead of me had spotted the tail up in the air as the skunk moved away. We weren't a threat, and the skunk knew it, but wanted to make sure that we were warned.

As I was coming down the technical drop the second time, I hear "I recognize that ass"; it was Michael catching me. He had been running with Shellene for a bit, and caught me just before we hit the flat at the historical site. The last time we really ran together I was in heavy training, and would sprint the hills (SAUL) - he would follow. This time he showed that he learned to run his own race when I dropped the hammer. I sprinted just far enough ahead to get a photo, then we ran together until the climb out.

Since I've been injured I've mainly been limited to "walking", the good thing is they didn't think to limit me to an elevation limit, so most of my walking has been on the dreadmill set to 10-20% average grade over 3 miles. When I hit the climb the second time, I let what little training I had take over, and just hiked it hard. During the long downhill I ran into Kelley heading up it; she had taken the scenic route :-(

Shortly after that, the 50k course joined the 25k course and headed to the Primitive loop. That section is a lollypop, and gave me a chance to see some of the DDR folk as they were heading down the climb. To me, the Primitive loop was boring, but it was needed to make the distance work, and a very good place to get some time back. I would have preferred more climbing miles, but the RD would have had to kept the course open longer - a lot longer. It was during this section that I kept looking over my shoulder for Michael, figuring that while I could outclimb him, he was probably the faster runner on the flats (being in better shape) and was definitely faster downhill.

I got to the last aid station, and finally pulled out my trekking poles. "I carried these 29 miles, they can carry me the rest of the way". The Indian Lodge loop was worth the trip alone. A nice 500' climb over a mile, followed by a similar descent. It took me 10 minutes longer for the climb than the descent. I figured for sure Michael would catch me here, not knowing that he had taken bonus miles.

During the climb I saw a tarantula heading down the trail towards me. Normally I would have screamed, and then called in an air strike, but I was too tired and just watched it pass. I did manage to walk into a cactus at the top, only injury I took.

Finished in my normal sprint, and then DDR and Team Dirt and Vert took over, making sure I got food, drink, and a seat as we waited for the rest of the runners to finish. I went back up trail just a little, so I could run it in with Shellene. This was the first Ultra were we signed up for the same distance.

After getting cleaned up we headed to Marfa for BBQ, only to find out that they were closed. We ended up at Jett's Grill, and if I tried I could probably do another full report just on dinner (but y'all have suffered enough) - the food was good. We made it back to the trailer just as the rain started, the second car made a DQ run and wasn't so lucky.

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