YABRR: Bandera (at Camp Eagle) 2019 Edition
As always, the important information is above the fold. There is no way I can thank all the runners who supported me with hugs, high (or low - in Agustin's case) fives, general good wishes and "move your ass"s on the course. As well as the nameless army of volunteers who gave their time and energy to keep me and all the other runners moving. I do have to thank Jorge and Teresa for the wonderful post race meal, and of course Shellene for putting up with my running (even as she was running the 50k). A special call out to Mando, who drove that 8 miles of hell called a road just to support DDR (ok, he also drove from DFW, but that's easy compared to driving Hackberry Road). Also, thanks to Gollum for the running commentary on the drive down (in what was his normal nap time), at least he was only "talking" not "TALKING" during the trip (cat people know the difference).
The race was moved from the "real" Bandera to Camp Eagle in Rockspring, due to weather conditions. They named the town due to the fact that, unlike most mineral springs that have water flowing, the local springs only produce rocks. I had trained, and planned for a 14.5 hour run at Bandera, but since I knew very little about the true conditions of Camp Eagle, I had no idea what to expect
Prior to the race I was told:
"This course is about 2 hours slower than Bandera, it's harder to keep a good rhythm going due to the rapid changes between climbing, rocky and descending sections"
Having now run this, and Bandera, I completely 100% disagree, even though I was 2 hours off my projected Bandera finish. This course is runable, and if you are both mentally and physically on your toes, it is possible to hold a good rhythm. Sadly, I was neither (hence my slower race).
The race started out in what I consider near perfect weather, nice and cool, with a flowing section to get your body warmed, then a nice run over river rocks (solid type, not loose stuff) next to the Nueces River, where the fog was rising. I was running with Marc at this point, going faster than I should have been in the cold caused my breathing to become ragged (HR was good) so I dropped my pace. I got to about mile three, and felt a sharp pain in my groin. I had the exact same pain last year at Bandera (and that was the only race it happened at), and while I was able to finish last year, there was no way I was going to be able to pain manage for 59 miles. I was done, pure and simple, I just had to walk to Crossroads and then switch to DDR support mode. During the two mile section, I was able to trot a little, which helped the pain. I also thought about David Goggins running 100 miles on broken legs and figured that if I added more compression, maybe I could "take one more step" (yup, switched motivators there). I get to Crossroads, and discovered that they didn't have any ace-wrap in their first aid kit, but since I had convinced myself that I could continue, I did.
One of the nice things about this course layout, you get to see almost all the other runners. During the first lap I got to see the lead runners come flying down the hill towards Crossroads. The males were all spread out, racing solo. The female runners were pack-racing, just like the Pro-Marathon racers. On my second lap I got to see the leaders as they were heading to the finish past Crossroads. They didn't look any slower at that point than they did earlier in the race.
The course is a good mix of climbs, and descents, with big slab rocks, loose polished rocks and plenty of toe kickers to keep you awake. A couple of sections had off-camber rocks, some of which where slick (I saw one runner slide sideways and slam his ribs into a tree - that had to hurt), but for the most part it really was runable. At one point Landon snuck up behind me on a climb, and commented about how helpful those Trout Lilly repeats were: he was correct, I believe that my Ouray training and race made it possible to run this course. Since I was physically limited to how I could run, I took it very easy unless I knew I could run the section. There were some sections that I walked, as others ran by, due to the pain, and others where I would run by everyone who was bothered by the terrain - since the pain was at a low point. It made for an interesting lap. I finished the first lap at 7:15, with 15 minutes of time at the start/finish to change things out (added good headlamp, and trekking poles). In the past, I had a 2 hour drop in lap times at Bandera, so I had a new projected finish of 16:30. That would give me a 30 minute cushion for Western States Qual.
Ok, if you want a feel good race report, know that I finished in 16:29:40 and stop reading now. What comes next is a descent into what happens when you are running for the wrong reason.
My goal is to run one of the epics, in my case either Western States or UTMB. Both have different qualifying methods (it's easier to qualify for WS, which makes it harder to get in on the lottery). Going into Bandera I had 3 years of WS qualifying, as well as enough points for the 2019 and 2020 UTMB draws (I was already refused for UTMB 2018). The odds are I won't get into UTMB 2019 (I'll find out this week), but will get into UTMB 2020 (current process is two refusals and if you maintain qualifying you bypass the draw for the third year). The next Western States lottery is also for 2020, where if I finish Bandera Sub-17 I'd end up with 8 tickets (which might actually give me a slim chance to get in). That could mean doing both in 2020, but with WS allowing a one-time deferral, I would not enter the lottery for WS2020, so in essence the Sub-17 isn't important, the odds are I will stop running 100s after I get "my" epic. To quote Roger Murtaugh: "I'm too old for this shit". This mindset becomes important as I started my second lap, and descended into the mind game of a cracked ultra-runner.
About halfway to Crossroads for the first time on my second lap I had had enough. The above logic had sunk in, I had no real reason to run Sub-17, and no desire to just finish the race. I had trained for, planned for, and wanted to run Bandera - not Camp Eagle (there really isn't anything wrong with Camp Eagle trails, I enjoyed them - I guess it's just a case of having your mind set on Maine Lobster, and getting Kobe Steak instead). The race didn't matter and I was done with it.
One of the folks who was near me on the first lap was Kassie Budzik, whose has crewed for her mom at Badwater (she has 6 finishes and counting), and plans to do it herself as well. She caught me on my second lap, just about the time I was mentally ready to quit. She and I talked as we trotted, mainly her listening as I went through my reason for quitting. She asked if I would be "ok" with a DNF, and I told her I had enough of them that it wouldn't bother me. I had no "want" to run, and there was really no "need" to run, but I was still moving. I hit a section of trail that I could run, just as she slowed down (I wonder if she did that to allow me time to be alone with my thoughts). I then went through the rest of the progression about the Sub-17/DNF, and the difference between "want" and "need" during a race. It dawned on me, if for some reason I DNF'd UTMB, I'd have to run WS (I doubt I can make it through another cycle of races to get back into UTMB), so I should at least try to keep my WSQual alive. I'm still of the belief that it's easier to run a 100 miler (easy one - if there is such a thing) than it is to Sub-17 a 100k. So, my next thought was "DNF now, spend a month rebuilding (mainly mental) and then run Rocky or Javelina". The good thing is, I had the one thought that kept me going "If you don't 'want' to run this one, how can you be sure that you 'want' to run one of those". I knew that "need" to run a race won't cut it, I have to "want" to. Somehow, with that thought percolating in my mind, I was able to run past the Crossroads aid station and kept moving from there. I never had the desire to "want" or "need" to finish this race, I was just going to keep moving.
I ran (ran/walk/trot) a bunch of miles; sometimes in a small group, other times solo, and at one aid station I started running with Nick (a triathlete from Nashville). He has raced Kona, and done some 100ks, but this would be the longest he's actually been on his feet, we worked well together (sometimes talking, sometimes not) and I let him set the pace. We figured we could do 16-20 min/miles and Sub-17. Since I didn't have to worry about pace, I spent more time think about the "need" versus "want" about my upcoming races, and by the end this is what I figured out.
Running the Rose: This is still a "want" race, I love Tyler State Park, and I enjoy TROT races. Add in the buckle choices and that I "want" to collect all three. I'll be there, even if I'm not mentally 100% I think this race will help correct that.
Ute 100: Another "want" race. Even if there wasn't going to be a strong DDR presence, the RD of my favorite 100 has called this one a modern classic race. Plus, it's not Texas in August
Frankling 200: I hate to admit it, but as of right now, I will be at home this week. While I would like to run this, I know that to start a 200 mile beatdown you need to be 100% committed to it, and I'm not. This has become a "need" race, as in I feel I need to run it - to prove that I am a real ultra-runner, not an impostor (I know better, but impostor syndrome is real), but the "want" is not there.
UTMB/WS/BFC: I'll evaluate once I get in (2020), but these are still "wants"
Anyway, that was my mindset as we covered the back half of the second lap. Physically I could have possibly run faster near the end, the legs had plenty in the tank, nutrition and cardio were good. The groin pain was manageable (I didn't take too many advil, but I did take "some"). My guess is, if I had run parts of the last 10 miles I would have been closer to 16 hours (even injured). That's why I don't think this course was 2 hours slower than Bandera. Even injured, and fighting mental demons I was 2 hours off my projected, and my projected was 30 minuted better than my best time there.
I finished, and Shellene was waiting for me with my clothes bag. She said I could shower in the DDR cabin, where Jorge and Teresa had plenty of food available. Mando was willing to drive us over, but I know Agustin was close behind and would probably appreciate the cheering section. As we walked over I saw Landon, Agustin and Marc all heading to the finish.
Speaking of finishing: there was a 68 year old lady running the 50k that I passed multiple times. Both Agustin and Shellene saw her about 2 miles from the finish around 8AM. Even though that was the race cutoff, she wanted to complete the course. She officially finished at 24:55 hours. Maybe Murtaugh is wrong!
Gollum slept on the drive home.