Sunday, April 19, 2009

End of the Road

Well, this blog has served it's purpose. With your help and support I was able to raise $4,777 to help in the fight against Prostate Cancer! This is $385 over my goal of $4,392. Thank you once again for all your support!

I don't know when I'll blog again but any future posts will be at my other running blog. You can find it here.

Thanks for reading!

Ouachita Trail 50 Mile Race Report

"Enjoy the weather, it's the only weather you've got"
~Joe Bastardi

When I picked up my packet on Friday afternoon one of the race directors, Stan Ferguson, told me the forecast called for rain, which meant we wouldn't be able to go over Pinnacle Mountain for safety reasons. I was really disappointed! I wanted to complete this race in its normal format, including Pinnacle Mountain. But there was nothing I could do about it so I just adjusted my mental plan.

The next morning I woke up at 4:00 AM to get ready to run. There was no rain! I drove to the race start and stood around with the other runners ready to go. Race Director Chrissy Ferguson, in her usual style, said the weatherman was "an idiot" and that since there was no rain we were going over Pinnacle Mountain! Most people cheered, a few groaned. She went over a few other details of the race, then we lined up on the road and were off.

We ran about 2.5 miles to the trailhead and then entered the trail. This part of the trail is nice, mostly downhill. We ran another 1.5 miles to the first aid station. I grabbed a PB&J, refilled my bottle, then began the long climb up Pinnacle Mountain. Pinnacle Mountain isn't that high, but you can't run or even walk up it. You have to scramble up, hands and feet and arms and legs. The picture below is of runners cresting the peak. You can see the large boulders that make up most of the ascent and descent - there's no trail, just boulders to scale.

On the way up there was a guy above me running in a kilt. I told him I was really glad he was wearing bike shorts under his kilt otherwise I'd be staring at his "equipment" all the way up the peak.

I finished the climb, had my picture taken by a photographer, then quickly started down, passing a few people who were more cautious than me on the descent. Once I reached the bottom I felt like the biggest obstacle of the race had been overcome. My legs were tired but didn't feel trashed, and I took off running at a reasonably fast pace. We returned to the aid station at the base of the mountain and then headed off on the Ouachita Trail. The weather was mid-60s, overcast and humid. I was drenched already.

The next section is not very hilly but very rocky. I had forgotten how rugged this trail was. My feet were hurting from the rough terrain (I don't like my trail shoes - I need something with a little more support and cushioning). Around mile 6 my right knee started hurting. This was my other fear for this race, after Pinnacle Mountain. Two weeks ago when I ran the Texas Marathon twice I had pain in my right knee and thigh toward the end of the race. I only ran two times after that race, short runs, and on the second one, an eleven miler, my knee started hurting again. I decided to take the rest of the week off and try to heal before OT. But going into the race I knew things didn't feel right and I might have some problems. I was discouraged that they were already starting at mile 6. I was carrying Advil but I wanted to wait as long as possible before taking anything. So I ran on.

The next major milestone in this race is the North Shore aid station at mile 16.0. If you are a 50 mile runner you are allowed to switch to the 50k at this point and still be considered an official finisher. Considering the pain in my knee it was tempting - I would already be halfway finished instead of 1/3 through. But I knew I wanted the 50 mile finish so I ran right past the 50k cutoff and into the aid station. I refilled my bottle again, had some coke and a jelly biscuit, then headed out. My knee was killing me and I knew I couldn't wait any more so I took two Advil. That left four more in my pack, so I needed to pace myself.

After leaving North Shore we ran into a section that was much wetter than the previous sections. In this section there were large puddles and muddy spots covering the whole trail. Sometimes you could go around but often you couldn't. There were also many, many water crossings that you couldn't jump across, so you just had to splash through the streams. I accepted that there was no way to stay dry and just started splashing through the mud and water.

Next I made sure to stop at the unmanned aid station around mile 19.2. This is where I made my mistake last year - I didn't top off my bottles here, thinking the next aid station was closer. I got dehydrated and had to drop.

This section, from North Shore at mile 16 to Hwy. 113 crossing at 24.2, is the most runnable part of the course. I did some good running here, still feeling the ache in my knee and now my hip and quad.

I ran into the Hwy. 113 aid station and chatted with the volunteers a bit. One of the women said, "You're the happiest person we've seen in here all day." Then one of the guys said, "Are you Marshall King?" I was surprised and said I was. He said a friend had forwarded an email to him last night about my fundraising efforts. Apparently he had told the other aid station volunteers and they had been talking about it. He said, "We were talking about the prostate earlier." I replied, "Wow, I'm sorry I missed that!" After a few more seconds chatting I headed out for the 2.4 mile section to the turnaround.

I hated this section. The trail is confusing and not that runnable, there are at least a dozen water crossings (that you do twice, out and back), and I was impatient to hit the turnaround. It was also during this section that a gentle mist began to fall.

In this section I passed a guy named Paul that I met at Three Days of Syllamo. He had been running strong earlier but he looked like he was struggling. We talked for a bit and he said it just wasn't his day, that he wasn't having the kind of race he wanted to have. I asked him if he'd seen "The Big Lebowski" (one of my all time favorite movies) and he had, so I reminded him of one my favorite lines: "Sometimes you eat the bar, and sometimes the bar eats you." After a few more seconds I took off (Paul would later get his second wind, and after we passed each other a few times he took off for good and finished somewhere ahead of me).

Finally, the turnaround, at mile 26.3. My marathon split was about 5:22 or so. Time to head back to the start. I found that while running my knee felt pretty good, but after standing around at aid stations it was painful to get going again. I usually had to limp out of the aid stations and it felt bad. But after a few minutes things felt better and I was able to run normally again.

The mist continued and I continued splashing through mud and water. My feet hurt but I didn't feel like I was getting any blisters. It started to rain a little harder and the rocks got slippery so I had to be more careful with my footing. About a mile out of the Hwy. 113 aid station (28.4) I slipped a short way down a creek bank. The fall was minor but on the way down I put my hands out to stop myself; my water bottle hit a rock, the top popped off and all my water poured out. Dang! I had about 4 to 4.5 miles to the unmanned water drop. Not much I could do but keep going. Luckily it was a cool, damp day and I had been hydrating well.

Other than having no water the next section was uneventful. It rained gently off and on. I got pretty thirsty but eventually I made it to the unmanned drop (mile 33.4) and refilled my bottle. I ate a gu, drank a little extra water, then took my next pack of Advil.

At the next aid station, North Shore (36.6) I joked with a volunteer as I ran in, "Could I get any wetter?" At that moment a huge downpour started. Clearly the answer was YES. Again I ate, drank coke, refilled my bottles, then took off. I couldn't believe I only had 13.4 miles left. I told another runner, "Now I know we'll finish; the question is, how long will it take and how painful will it be?"

The next section is pretty rocky, and the rocks were really slick by now. Also, the heavy rain created puddles everywhere! There was no such thing as dry trail any more - it was wet, really wet, and submerged. I was walking more than I wanted to in this section but I was really getting tired.

The rest of the run was uneventful. I ran into the last aid station and chatted briefly with the volunteers, including the same guy who had received the email about my fundraising. They told me there were four miles left. Four miles! Sounded too good to be true. I ran/walked the 1.5 miles of trail to the park road, then ran/walked to the finish. I was so close to finishing under 11 hours but I just couldn't muster enough energy to run much. I ended up running into the finish at 11:03. Because of the rain the finish line had dissolved. I ran up to a tent with volunteers inside and said, "Where do I stop?!?" They said, "Here! You're done!" And so I stopped. RD Chrissy Ferguson handed me my beautiful, handmade finishers award, I talked to her briefly, but all I really wanted to do was get my drop bag, get in my car and get in a bathtub!

Fortunately I only had one small blister on the tip of one toe. My knee and hip are still hurting and I will probably see a doctor this week. Other than that I am feeling pretty good and don't seem to have any other issues.

This is a great race with a challenging course, great volunteers and great race directors. I don't know when I'll be back but I definitely recommend it!

Ouachita Trail 50 Mile Mini Race Report

I finished Ouachita Trail 50 Mile in 11:03. Mini race report: 1 small mountain, 1000s of rocks, 100s of mud puddles, 2 shoes pulled off in the mud, dozens of water crossings, 5 hours of rain, 1 minor fall, no vomiting, 44 miles of knee and leg pain, 4 Advil to mask the pain. Happy to be alive.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

We Did It!

With your generosity and support, we exceeded my original goal of raising $4,392 to fight Prostate Cancer!!! I've now raised $4,702, $310 over my goal, and donations are still coming in.

I want to sincerely thank everyone who offered me financial support and encouragement. None of this would have been possible without you. We haven't beat Prostate Cancer yet, but strides are being made everyday. I know the money we've raised will be a small drop in the big bucket that will lead to a cure. So thank you for making a cure possible.

My final race is Saturday; I'll post an update as soon as I'm able.

Thanks again!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Final Race: Ouachita Trail 50 Mile

My next and final race is on April 18th: Ouachita Trail 50 Mile. I have a history with this race; last year I DNFd (did not finish) due to dehydration (you can read last year's race report here). This is a nice race on the Ouachita Trail northwest of Little Rock. The race is a pretty typical trail race except for the BIG FREAKIN' MOUNTAIN at mile 4. It's not really that big as far as mountains go, but it is more or less straight up - last year I had to use hands, arms and legs to get up and over that sucker. Below is the elevation profile from last year's race (click the image to see the whole chart):

This year I intend to run a smarter race and avoid dehydration. I feel like my training has gone well and I am in good shape to finish this race well. But you never know! So I'll take it easy getting over Pinnacle Mountain.

What's even more exciting than my final race is that I have almost reached my fundraising goal! With your help I've raised $4,139, which is 94% of my goal of $4,392. I only need to raise $253 to reach my goal and make this whole effort a huge success.

So if you haven't donated yet, now is the time to step up and make that donation here. If you've already donated but feel like you could give a little more, just go here. If you know someone who has been affected by Prostate Cancer and who might want to donate, please send them here. You get the idea. I'm so close to my goal! It would be great to run this last race knowing that with the help of family, friends and strangers, we have contributed to the fight against Prostate Cancer!

Thank you again for your help, support, encouragement, and your money. It's been a long endeavor but it has all been worth it. I can't wait for the day when Prostate Cancer is no scarier than a cold or the flu, and no one loses a father, husband, brother or friend. Thank you!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Big D Texas Marathon Double Race Report

Sunday I completed my sixth goal race in my "Racing Against Prostate Cancer" series: The Big D Texas Marathon. But since my goal was to run an ultra every month, I decided to run this race twice!

My plan was to run the race once on my own, then join all of the other runners to run the "official" race. This meant I would be running in the early morning hours without course support; this was fine with me except that I would need some water and food on the route. My good friend Megan agreed to sacrifice her Sunday morning (and some of her Saturday night festivities) to drive around East Dallas and meet me every five miles. All she asked for as payment was a Cosmo magazine. Done. One hurdle overcome.

Saturday night I had to pick up my in-laws from the airport at 10:45 PM and drive them back to their house after a long vacation. Before I did that I was able to catch about a 45 minute cat nap at home, then head to Starbucks for a Venti Soy Latte, then the airport. Once I got them settled at home I drove around a bit killing time and getting pumped up to run.

I was really worried about where I was going to park my car. I didn't know if Fair Park (where the race starts and finishes) would be open that early, and I didn't know where else to park in that area. I drove down to the race start and luckily the gate was open. I told the security guard I was there for the marathon and I think he thought I was there to setup for the race. In any case, he let me in and I was ready to go. I parked, put on my gear, grabbed my bottle, updated my Facebook status ("So I took off running, I ran over the hills, My odyssey through concrete and steel. Gonna keep on going, I don't wanna stand still." - The Heartless Bastards) and started running.

The race starts inside Fair Park and quickly leaves the park for the streets of East Dallas. I ran about 0.2 miles to the park exit and discovered that it was still gated and locked! Uh oh. I looked around for another way out and couldn't find one. I was seriously considering scaling the gate when I noticed that there was a gap between the road and the gate; it was a little wider where the road sloped off, so I took off my running vest and my hat and slid under. It was a small enough gap that I almost didn't make it! I reached back through the gate to get all of my gear and get dressed again. I took off running again and then realized I had forgotten my course directions (which were printed front and back on a piece of 8 1/2 x 11 paper and laminated)! Back again, got the directions, and I was finally ready to go.

The run itself was uneventful other than being chased by a couple of dogs (which for me is a common occurrence - I'm always being chased (and once bit) by dogs when I run). Megan was waiting where we arranged at about mile 4.2. I got more water, ate a 1/4 PB&J, then took off again. The weather was nice (60s) and it was so quiet and peaceful running by myself. I met Megan again a little after mile 10, then again at 15. At mile 15 she fell asleep while waiting for me; she woke up and got confused and thought I had already been through that stop so she almost left! Luckily she got her head together and waited for me. At this point a cold front started coming in and the wind really picked up. It was a really cold wind. The wind would get worse throughout the morning.

One last refueling stop at mile 20 and then back to the start. I asked Megan to bring me a cheeseburger and coke at the finish/start.

Around mile 20 my right knee and thigh started hurting. I was wearing my Newton Motion shoes, which I love. But I think that they don't have enough support for all of this road running. I was also feeling some rubbing on one of my small toes. So I knew I needed to do some maintenance after I finished marathon 1.

I got back to the finish with a time of about 4:38. I walked to the car, taped my small toe, changed to my more supportive Asics GT 2140s, ate my burger and drank my coke, then walked to the race start to find my brother (who ran the half) and my friends from TNT. I ran into a bunch of people from TNT who asked me how I was doing and were very supportive and encouraging. Philip, one of the TNT coaches and the person who got me started coaching with TNT, told the race announcer about my Big D Double and the he announced it over the loudspeaker! It was pretty cool.

After a few more minutes it was time to line up for the official 8:00 AM start. I spent the last few minutes talking to more TNT friends and then the horn went off and it was time to start again! This time the gate was open and there was no need to shimmy under.

Things started out well and I was running strong, feeling really good and going probably a little bit too fast. I ran into coaches Caron and Philip around miles 3 and 4, and saw Megan again at the TNT cheer stop at mile 4. We left the roads and ran on the path around White Rock Lake. The wind was BRUTAL! It felt like I was running uphill on the flats. After a few miles we left the lake and headed into the neighborhoods of East Dallas for some nice running with a little less wind. I saw coaches Kathy and Manuel here.

I was slowing a bit but still feeling OK. I wasn't eating enough because I was starting to feel a little queasy. I should have tried to eat more but didn't feel like eating what I was carrying (PowerBar Gel Blasts and a PB&J). I really missed the opulent aid stations that we have at ultras.

Around mile 15 I started walking a little more. Up until that point I was running 0.90 miles and walking 0.10 miles, unless there was a big uphill when I also walked. I started taking a few more walk breaks, and they were longer. I walked the most in the next 2-3 miles. I passed another TNT cheer stop and saw several people I knew, including Brian. The TNT people were great.

After that we started running down Mockingbird Lane and I knew I needed to get some more calories, so I ate three PowerBar Gel Blasts. As I was chewing them I accidentally inhaled the pieces and started coughing and gagging. The entire process made me feel nauseous and I thought I would feel better if I threw up. So I stood on the side of the road, made myself throw up, and did feel better. I started running more, getting back to the 9/1 pattern. I entered the neighborhoods north of the lake, where the worst of the hills are, and I ran into Philip again! He ran with me for about 2-3 miles and he really motivated me up the hills. I still took some walk breaks but I took fewer breaks and they were shorter. It was a huge help. I also continued to see TNT people on the course like Janet, Elizabeth, Kim. It's so awesome to have people who know you cheering for you.

Finally I left the Lakewood hills and headed into a nice, gradual downhill on Swiss Avenue and south to Fair Park. I still walked quite a bit but did some decent running in this area. As I got close to the finish I knew I would see another TNT cheer stop and I was really looking forward to one last cheer from people I knew. I saw TNT Coordinator Ryan there who yelled out, and then coaches Kathy and Manuel again. Finally the finish was in sight. A few more turns and I could see the finish line. A short burst of speed and I was across! Official time was 4:47:23, only 9 minutes slower than the first marathon. I had really wanted to do both races in under 5 hours, so I was happy with my time. My estimated unofficial 50 mile split was 8:53, and I was REALLY happy with that.

As I walked back to the post-race area I saw someone carrying a cup of beer. Beer! That sounded so good! I quickly found the beer table, grabbed a cup, then headed to the TNT tent to sit down. Felt sooooo good. After a few minutes I staggered over to grab a piece of pizza, then Elizabeth got me some gatorade and I sat around talking with some of my friends. It felt really good to be finished.

Eventually I motivated myself up out of the chair and back to my car for the drive home. Once home I took a hot bath and fell asleep in the tub. Then I took my daughter Lela to the movies and fell asleep again. After a big dinner at Blue Mesa I went to bed and slept like a baby.

Thanks again to everyone for your financial support and your encouragement. Knowing that you guys believed in me enough to give your money and your time helped me through the rough spots in the race. I can't thank you enough for your help.

It's not too late to contribute. My final race is less than two weeks away and I still need more donations to reach my goal of $4,392. I'm so close! Please consider making a donation to help fight prostate cancer! Click here to make a secure online donation. Thanks!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Next Race: Big D Texas Marathon Double

This weekend is the sixth race in the "Race Against Prostate Cancer" series. On Sunday I'll be running the Big D Texas Marathon. But since my goal is to run one ultra per month I'll be running the race twice. I plan to start at 2:00 AM and run the course once on my own. Then I'll refuel and rest a bit before starting the official race at 8:00 AM. I'm only nervous about two things with this plan:

1. Finding water - with my running vest I can carry plenty of food/energy chews, but I can't carry enough water. I'm considering either stashing some water every five miles or asking a friend to crew for me and meet me every five miles with food and drink.

2. Getting lost - this race has a lot of turns! I'll have to carry directions and be very careful.

I'm pretty excited about running the first marathon solo. I love the solitude of running alone at night. Then I'll jump right in with the crowds and enjoy the cheering and excitement of the second race. I'm also excited because my dad, his wife, my brother and his wife and kids will also be there. My brother is running the half marathon. So it will be fun to see family this weekend and maybe on the course at some point.

On the fundraising front things are still going well, but I'm not finished yet! I've raised $3,747, which is 85% of my goal! I'm only $645 from reaching my financial goal, and that is the reason I'm doing this - it's not about the races, it's about saving lives. So please help me reach my goal! You can donate here.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Three Days of Syllamo Mini-Race Report

Due to an extremely severe ice storm in February a lot of the trail system was damaged (the number of downed trees is just unbelievable). The race director worked hard to provide chalenging and rugged terrain with much less trail available to him than in the past. He did a great job and the race was still awesome!

Day One: 26 miles in 4:55. Got lost for about ten minutes. Rest of run was great! About 20 miles of single track, 6 miles of hilly, steep jeep roads.

Day Two: 50 miles in 10:06. Last 10 miles were tough! At mile 5 we had to cross a COLD, waist-deep creek, twice. On the second trip I slipped and put my hands and arms plus my chest in the water, up to my shoulders. BRRR! Except for that I did not fall and I did not throw up! :) 38 minute PR for 50 miles. About 30 miles of single track, 20 miles of hilly, steep jeep roads.

Day Three: 20k in 2:12. At miles 5 and 7 we crossed the same waist-deep creek. Managed to stay on my feet this time but the route I took got me in water up to my belly button! Lots of mud on the trails today, sloshing and splashing. Almost lost a shoe twice. Overall a great day to be on the trails and alive. 11.4 miles of single track, 1 mile of hilly jeep road/highway shoulder.

Overall: 88.4 miles in 17:13 (unofficially). After day two I was 19th out of 39 stage runners. We'll see where I end up.

I'll follow-up with a more detailed race report once I get my head around the weekend and get pictures developed. Thanks for reading!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Latest Update on Three Days of Syllamo

Received from the Race Director today:

Once again Mother Nature showed us who is in charge and just how really fierce she can be; she always wins!


As you may have heard we were hit with a major ice storm in early February causing total damage to the trails in the area. Since then a group of dedicated trail runners and mountain bikers have logged over 150 man hours working on the trail. The forest service has also logged many hours of trailwork, although the trails have not been their main priority. A lot of the trails are still closed due to safety issues. So with that in mind I must tell you that we do not the abundance of trails for our use.


At Three Days of Syllamo we change the courses every year. I always try to design courses without loops, overlaps or any significant sections on forest roads. This year we will be forced to primarily use the Sylamore Trail and forest roads as our courses for each days run. Do not be discouraged; the Sylamore trail is a world class trail that meanders along Sylamore Creek, over mountain tops crossing many streams. Along with the Sylamore trail we will utilize forest roads to get the distance needed. As always the runs will be fun and take you too many beautiful locations. The 50 mile course for Saturday will be somewhat short; mid forty’s, therefore we will be starting a little later.


Stage runners, there be could be a surprise! You should come prepared for any condition including water crossings and darkness; look close at Syllamo Man! “It’s dark down in them there hollers”.

Not sure what to expect this year, but I'm sure it will be fun!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Next Race: Three Days of Syllamo

Next Friday I will start my next race, Three Days of Syllamo.  This is my absolutely favorite race I've ever done.  I've completed it twice before and can't wait for next weekend to come.

The format is three days of racing:  50k on Friday, 50 Miles on Saturday and 20k on Sunday.  All races start and end at the Blanchard Springs campgrounds in Northern Arkansas, about three hours North of Little Rock.  The terrain is mountainous and challenging.  The Race Director does everything he can to incorporate lots of climbs and tough trail into the races.  For course maps and elevation profiles, go here.

I walked this race in 2005 (when it was 20k/60k/40k) and in 2007 (when it was also 50k/50 mile/20k).  Both races were awesome and I had a wonderful time.  My 2005 race report is very detailed and has lots of pictures so if you are interested in learning more about the race go here.

I don't expect this to be a fast race - I've got to save myself for the later days.  When all is said and done I will have raced 93.49 miles in three days.  Here is exactly what will happen:  Wake up, run, soak in either the ice cold river or an ice bath, eat pizza, sleep, repeat.  I expect these to be some very slow races, but I also expect to finish all three and have a great time doing it!

On the fundraising side things are looking good but I could still use your help.  I'm only $700 dollars from my goal!  That means that with your help I've raised $3,692, which is 84% of my goal.  So just a few more donations will get us over the top.  If you know anyone who has been affected by prostate cancer please feel free to pass on my website!  I'm not picky - I'll take money from anyone.

Thanks as always to all my donors and all my supporters.  This whole experience has been much more meaningful thanks to your generosity and encouragement.  Let's keep on going!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Update on Dad

We got great news today.  Dad's PSA test (PSA is the hormone marker that indicates the presence of prostate cancer cells) showed that his PSA level was undectable, meaning there is no sign of disease at this time!  The doctor wants to be aggressive with some hormone therapy and radiation, which we weren't expecting and was a little upsetting at first.  But at this point it's better safe than sorry.  I'm just so glad the test results were so good.

Thanks to everyone for asking about Dad and checking on his results.  It's so good to have great friends.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Pictures from Cross Timbers

My good friend and running buddy Dave took a couple of pics as I took off for my last five miles of the race yesterday.  In the first one you can see the crazed look in my eyes!  In the second one you can see how sweaty my back is - I took off my running vest before heading out.  Even though it was in the 40s most of the day I still sweat a lot.

Race Report #4: Cross Timbers Trail Run 50 Mile

Saturday, February 21 I toed the line at 6:30 AM for the start of the Cross Timbers 50 Mile Trail Run.  If you've read my blog recently you know that I DNFd at Cross Timbers two years ago.  The course is really tough (it's called "The Toughest Little Trail in Texas" for good reasons) and I really wanted to finish the race more than anything.

I drove up to Whitesboro Friday night with Megan and Bryan, two friends who were doing their first trail runs (the half marathon).  We went to the pre-race dinner and briefing, tried to find something to do in Whitesboro on a Friday night (and found out the only thing to do was go to the Friday night scrap-a-thon at the scrapbooking store), and then headed to bed.  I slept pretty poorly, especially as it got closer to the time I needed to wake up (5:00).  I woke before my alarm went off, took a quick shower, banged on everyone's door to get them up and running and we were off to the start by 5:30 so I could make my 6:00 AM check-in.

After checking in we hung out in the car for a little while.  It was cold and windy; I like this weather when running but not when standing around in shorts and a technical shirt.  Finally it was time to start and I grabbed my race vest and headed to the start.  We had to start with flashlights because it was still dark.  The RD yelled GO and we took off.  I got to the top of the first hill (almost 0.10 miles) and realized I had forgotten my water bottle!!!  I ran as fast as I could to the car, grabbed my bottle, then huffed it back up the hill, running instead of walking.  I wanted to catch the back of the pack because I didn't want to get lost on the trails in the beginning.  I finally caught a few people and started the process of passing groups when it was safe.  

The Cross Timbers course is a long 20 mile out and back, then a short 5 mile out and back, repeated twice.  I always thought of the 20 mile out and back as easy and the five mile out and back as hard.  In reality the first five miles of the 20 mile out and back (and the last five miles) is pretty tough, rocky, rugged trail with lots of climbing.  It is much harder on the way out than it is on the way back.  I fell in with a group of three runners and we hung together for a while.  One of them, Andrew, I ran with off and on for most of the first half.

We climbed the "Golden Steps," a steep and rocky climb, and then a few minutes later hit the first aid station.  The four of us left together and ran a bit more, then Andrew took off and the others went their separate ways for bathroom breaks in the woods.  I ran my own pace for a while and then hooked back up with Andrew for the second half of the outbound trail which is very runnable and a real joy to run.  We passed through another aid station manned by some people I know from the North Texas Trail Runners - this aid station was on the lake and it was so windy that they had to move the aid station and abandon the tent they had been using.  Any time we ran near the lake the winds were incredibly strong, and there were large waves with white caps on the lake.

We ran the last bit to the farthest aid station, then joked around with the volunteers at the aid station and fueled up, then turned around for the return to the start/finish area.  Lots more nice running on this return trip, and I was feeling strong.  My Garmin was telling me I was running fast, plus it was measuring the distances short, which means I was running even faster then it said.  I was getting worried that I was running too fast, but it felt good and everything was working well so I decided to hold it as long as I could.

The return to the start was uneventful, Andrew and I ran almost the entire thing together, taking turns leading or following.  We were both really happy to see the road leading to the start and let out a few whoops.  Ran into the start area, more water, more food, and then headed out for the ugly, brutal, challenging 2.5 mile trail to Juniper Point.  This section has some nice runnable sections, but it has gut-busting climbs and some trail that is impossible to run and difficult to walk - you have to pick your steps carefully on the downhills.  

I was still feeling good and probably ran this section a little faster than I should have.  About halfway in I ran into Megan who was having a great time and running strong.  She was almost finished with her half marathon.  A few minutes later I saw Bryan, also almost finished and looking good.  Then I climbed the final hill (called SOB Hill) and hit the aid station.  Water, boiled potatoes, coke, then the return trip to the start-finish and the halfway point.

As I was running back I was on a pretty smooth, flat bit of trail around mile 24 when my foot caught something and I went down hard!  I landed on my hands and knees but kept falling forward and landed on my right side, mashing my arm up against my ribs!  This is exactly what happened at Bandera.  Both of my knees were bloody, one of my hands was bloody,  and my ribs felt bad.  I was worried that I might have refractured my rib but I don't think that any more - I'm not having any pain in that area now.

Nothing to do but keep going so I jumped up, dusted off and started running.  After not too much longer I left the Juniper Point section of the trail and made the short run to the start/finish.  Bryan and Megan were both there eating burgers and relaxing - that looked like a good thing to do.  My time was 5:10 - much,  much better than I ever expected.  I did not establish a specific time goal for this race but I was thinking 12-13 hours; instead I was on a 10:20 pace (which of course I couldn't hold, but still!).

At the start area I changed socks and filed down a toenail that was rubbing my shoe and irritating me.  I felt like I might be getting some blisters but that was not the case and I finished the day with no blisters.

I had hoped to see my friend Dave at the start because he was volunteering but he wasn't there yet.  So I refilled my bottle, grabbed more potato and headed out.  Halfway there.

I was having some strange stomach feelings but I pulled off the trail, did what bears do in the woods and then was good to go.  I purposefully slowed down a bit, especially on the harder first part, but was still feeling good and running everything I considered runnable.  Made it through the first aid station without incident and headed to the next one.  At that aid station (manned by my NTTR friends) they asked me if I was taking electrolytes.  I had not been up to that point but had hoped to get them from the food.  They couldn't believe how much salt I had on my face and neck (and my hair was stiff) so they recommended I take some.  I took two then and carried some with me.  That gave me a little boost and my running became easier.  

After this point I started seeing a couple of the 50 milers who were ahead of me running back to the start/finish, so I started counting runners to pass the time.  When I got to the turnaround aid station I had only counted three runners!  I couldn't believe it and I asked them if I was in 4th place.  They said no, 5th (I guess I had miscounted someone).  I still couldn't believe it!  I normally finish 5th from last, so to be in 5th place was just a shock.  I started visualizing a 5th place finish!  I talked some trash with the aid station volunteers, told them they should thank me for giving them the opportunity to be out in the great outdoors on this cold, windy day, then started the run back.  I ran a little ways and then felt like I should throw up a little and clear my stomach.  It wasn't much, but once I did it I felt better.

Again at the NTTR aid station I confirmed I was in 5th place, talked to the awesome volunteers for a minute, took another electrolyte, then took off.  Still feeling good but struggling more to keep a good pace, running most of the runnable sections but taking more walk breaks.  Passed quickly through the next aid station and headed toward the start/finish for the last brutal 5 miles to/from Juniper Point.  I finally hit the road and ran strong into the start area.  I saw Bryan there who asked if I needed anything and was really encouraging.  As I was refilling my bottles my buddy Dave ran up and said, "Dude, you are an ANIMAL! I saw your time on the first loop and I thought it was a mistake!"  Dave had predicted I would finish in under 11 hours, which I had told him was insanity.  He told me I had 1:35 to make it a reality.  Unfortunately at this aid station I didn't eat anything - I thought with 5 miles left I wouldn't need anything.  Man, was I wrong.

I headed into the Juniper Point section and after a few minutes I lost ALL energy.  I was moving so slowly, and there was no running.  On most of the uphills I had to stop one or more times to rest.  I was even dizzy and staggering a bit, grabbing onto the trees.  I really didn't want to do this for five miles!  I started dreaming of sugar!  All I wanted was something sweet to eat.  Most of the aid stations had these valentine candy corns, and right now that sounded so good!  I struggled up the uphills, staggered down the downhills, and then finally made it up SOB Hill and into the aid station.

I immediately found the candy corn and shoved a huge handfull into my mouth.  I had no manners - I was eating with my mouth open, too full, just so happy to have some sugar.  Then I had a glass of pepsi, then some more candy corns, then some gumdrops, then another pepsi.  While I was gorging myself I heard a noise behind me and Andrew came bounding into the aid station like he was running a 5k - long strides, strong legs and pace.  It was awesome!  I told him that he was going to pass me and end up in 5th place.  Then I took off (while Andrew had a beer) and started my stagger back to the start.  Only 2.5 miles to go.

What happened next was like what you would see in a movie.  I slowly, gradually but definitely got my groove back.  First I could walk faster, then I could jog, then I could run the downhills, then I could run the flats.  The sugar had done exactly what I needed it to do and it did it quickly.  It wasn't enough to keep me ahead of Andrew who passed me not long after I left the aid station.  But it was enough to get me back up to a decent pace, to hold onto 6th place, and to finish in 10:44, WAY faster than I thought I would ever run this race!  I was able to run strong into the finish and jump across the finish line where Megan and Bryan were waiting.  Then I headed straight to the nearest picnic table to sit down and put my head down.  I had nothing left - I had literally left it all on the trail.  I was too tired to even lift my head.  I collected my finishers award (a cross-section of a cedar tree with the race logo burned into it, very cool) and a finishers sweat shirt, and then just lay there in a coma.  Bryan got me a veggie burger and some water but nothing really tasted good.  Megan and Bryan went back to the scrapbooking store and made me a handmade "Congratulations!" card.  It was awesome!  I was getting cold and just wanted to curl up in a blanket in the car.  I congratulated Andrew on his great finish, hugged a few of my friends from NTTR, then climbed into the backseat of my car while Megan acted as my ultra Designated Driver and got us back to Dallas.  I fell asleep after about 15 minutes and slept about an hour.  We dropped off Bryan, I dropped off Megan, then I drove home and got right in a hot bath.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading!  I appreciate all of the comments and support I receive from all the friends and strangers who read my blog or follow my Facebook updates.

This was a milestone week for another reason - I crossed $3,500 in my fundraising, which is 80% of my goal.  That is because of you guys and your generosity.  So thank you for making my goal a reality and contributing in the fight against Prostate Cancer.  That's what makes the miles, the throwing up, the bloody knees and the blisters worthwhile, to think that we can someday soon wipe out cancer.  THANK YOU!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Next Race: Cross Timbers 50 Mile

Next weekend is my fourth race in the Racing Against Prostate Cancer series:  Cross Timbers 50 Mile.  Cross Timbers and I have a history:  two years ago it was my first DNF (did not finish).  I made it to mile 45 and was exhausted and didn't think I would have time to finish.  So I have some unfinished business to take care of.  To read the race report from my DNF go here.

This is a tough course, mostly because of the hilly, rugged 5 mile out-and-back section to Juniper Point that is run twice, after each 20 mile out-and-back section.  So the hardest part of the course is at mile 20 and mile 45.  I remember most of the course being runnable and not too tough, maybe a few tough climbs.  It's the Juniper Point section that really gives Cross Timbers it's reputation as the "toughest little trail in Texas."

I've done lots of hill training and lots of back-to-back runs so I feel pretty good about my training for this race.  But I don't plan to take anything for granted.  I'll start out slow and stay slow throughout, and I'll really take it easy on the hard uphills.

On the family front, Dad has an important PSA test tomorrow.  If the test results come back clean then he will be considered cancer free!  So we should know more in a few days.  This is what we've all been waiting for and I can't wait to hear the good news.

On the fundraising front, you guys have been awesome!  With your help I've raised $2,984.  That's 68% of my goal.  So fundraising is going well but I still have a ways to go.  Don't be afraid to visit my fundraising page and make an additional donation!  Remember that everything you give goes toward ending Prostate Cancer and saving lives.

Keep your eye on my blog for some raffles I will be doing to raise funds.  You could win a cool prize.

I'll post an update as soon as I can next Saturday, and I may update Facebook and Twitter during the race if I've got the time.  Thanks to everyone for your words of encouragement and support.  You guys help keep me motivated!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Race Report #3: Bandera 100k

This was my first Bandera race, and it was awesome.  I consider this to be one of my best races ever.  I can't wait to do it again next year.

Bandera is considered by many to be the toughest ultra in Texas (except for the Cactus Rose 100 miler which is on much of the same course as Bandera and is a largely self-supported race, meaning no aid is provided except water).  I was nervous coming into the race because of its reputation, especially because of the elevation gain.  Below is an elevation profile of the race - the profile below is only for 50k (the race is two 50k loops) so I climbed each of those hills twice.  The three worst climbs (and the most rugged descent) are all grouped in the last 12 miles so it is a brutal finish.

I used my Garmin 405 GPS watch to record the first loop (the batteries won't last for two loops) so you can see the course and elevation gain here.  You can even replay the race to see how much I slowed down on the hills, and how fast I ran some of the downhills.  It's very cool!  Here is the elevation profile from my Garmin and it matches the above profile almost exactly:

According to Garmin I climbed 7,615 feet on the first loop, so 15,230 feet overall!  For contrast, the Empire State Building is 1,250 feet tall; the Sears Tower in Chicago is 1,450 feet tall; the current world record holder, the Taipei 101 Tower, is 1,670 feet tall.  

If you really want to see what the course is like you can check out this photo tour.  There is a lot of really nasty trail - lots of rocks (big and small), sotol cactus everywhere that leave little nicks on your legs and arms (and that really sting when you sweat).  But it's also very beautiful, one of the most beautiful places in Texas (on a par with Palo Duro Canyon).

But enough about the race, here is my report:

I drove down Friday, stopping in Waco to pick up my good friend and running buddy Susan who ran the 50k.  We headed right to the race headquarters at Hill Country State Natural Area to pick up our packets (we missed the trail briefing).  We then headed into town for dinner at the Old Spanish Trail (which was delicious and cheap - I had a bean and cheese burrito, chips and salsa, and french fries - salt and carbs!).  After that we checked into the hotel and I got my gear ready for the next day.

We left for the race around 6:00 AM after finding some coffee in town.  We got to the start around 6:30 and it was already packed.  We dropped off our drop bags and then headed to the port-a-potties before heading back to the car because it was REALLY cold.  I didn't expect it to be that cold, and I was wearing a short sleeve shirt and no gloves.  I didn't want to go find my drop bags to get warmer clothes, and luckily I didn't have to.  Susan had brought me my goodie bag from SunMart (which I missed because I was sick) and it had a long sleeve SunMart shirt and a pair of gloves, so I was all set.  About 7:20 we headed to the start area - we started in different directions so we wished each other luck and then went our separate ways.

At 7:30 we got started.  We headed off into the hills and up to our first climb, toward Sky Island.  It wasn't too bad and the views from the top were incredible.  I fell in with a small group and we talked a bit while running, but eventually I separated from them; I prefer the silence and solitude of running more than constant chatter.

I was feeling good, wasn't pushing hard on the ups or the downs, taking it nice and slow on the flats, just trying to remember that I had a long day ahead of me.

Next climb is Ice Cream hill, a really nice climb with a fun (and sotol-filled) downhill section that was fun to run.  I tried to pay attention to the trail as much as possible because I knew I would see it all again, and some of it in the dark.  After Ice Cream Hill we hit the first aid station, called Nachos, at mile 5.6.  I ate some crackers, 1/4 PB&J and drank some coke.  At this point I was about 15 minutes ahead of "plan."  I should explain that for Bandera I did not set any time goals - I just wanted to finish.  But in order to plan for my race (drop bags, when do I need lights, when do I need warm clothes, etc.) I had to establish some sort of plan or schedule.  So I created two estimates - a "best case" plan and a "worst case" plan.  At this point in the race I was 15 minutes ahead of my "best case" plan so I knew I should slow down a bit to avoid going out too fast and not being able to finish strong.

The next section of trail is very runnable with minor climbs and lots of nice dirt trail with the occasional rocky sections.  My toes were a little sore from the downhill running (the ends of my toes were not hitting my shoes - it was the rubbing on the bottom of my toes that was bothering me) so I decided to stop at the next aid station to wrap my feet with duct tape.  I was also going to eat more and rest a bit - this would help me to slow down my pace.

The next aid station, Cross Roads, is large and very well organized.  There were lots of chairs available and volunteers who would get you your drop bag, food and drinks, etc.  I got 1/2 a PB&J and coke, then got my drop bag and wrapped my big toes, my little toes and the balls of my feet.  Then I had some hot Ramen Noodles and headed out.  The next section is about half nice, runnable trail and then a couple of good climbs with some very tricky downhill sections.  This would be a challenge at night!

Here is a picture of the landscape from the Three Sisters hill:

And here is a picture of some of the rugged downhill sections.  This is easy compared to some of the later downhills!

I came back into Cross Roads feeling good, still ahead of the "best case" plan and enjoying the day.  I had run into several friends and acquaintances on the trail and in the aid stations which I always enjoy.  I was thinking that this race is not as bad as everyone says.  I was a little ahead of myself!

The next section includes a climb up Lucky Peak, a climb so steep I had to stop part way up to catch my breath.  There were several people climbing above and below me, and we were all using some language that I won't repeat here!  After coming off Lucky we ran into the last aid station before the end of the loop, Last Chance.  I again had PB&J, coke and some ramen noodles.  The warm, salty soup really made me feel great!

This last section has two more really difficult climbs, Cairn's Climb and Boyle's Bump.  I ran into a friend from Dallas, Fred L., and we met a third runner, Greg from San Antonio, and we ran this section together.  The hills were slow and tough, but the downhills were almost worse.  The footing was terrible, lots of loose rocks, large drops, etc.  I knew I'd be doing this trail in the dark later and was not looking forward to it!

The three of us ran into the Lodge together to cheers.  Halfway done in about 7 hours and 20 minutes, 25 minutes ahead of my "best case" plan.  I grabbed my drop bag and got my flashlight and headlamp, grabbed some coke and soup again, then took a seat and rested a while.  I had plenty of time (the race has a 24 hour cutoff so I had 16.5 hours to finish the second loop) and wanted to make sure I maintained my energy level.  In many of my ultras I run out of energy too early either due to going out too fast or not eating and drinking enough, so I was really focusing on my eating and drinking.  In addition to the aid station food and drink I was finishing a water bottle in between every aid station and I was eating a couple of PowerBar Gel Blasts every mile or so.

I sent a text message to Susan to let her know how I was doing.  She was planning to crew for me for the rest of my race and had promised to bring me a cheeseburger and fries later that night.  Susan finished her race in about 7:42, about an hour or so ahead of her plan, so she had a great race!

Fred, Greg and I left the aid station together, and as I was heading out I heard Dave Elliott call my name.  Dave and I had never met but we are both members of North Texas Trail Runners and had chatted via email about the race.  Dave ran the 50k and had a great race!  It was good to finally meet him in person.

As we started climbing again I lost track of Fred, and Greg and I passed each other several times for the next few miles.  I was still running alone most of the time and enjoying the day.  Since I had already seen the trail once the element of surprise was gone and I could plan for the rest of the race.  I knew those final climbs were going to be tough!  I still wasn't trying to hit any specific goal so I wasn't concerned about sticking with my "best case" time - I was just using it as a guide.

Here's a great view from that section of the course:

Things went well into Nachos and I entered the very runnable section.  I was really pleased that I was still running since at this point in many races I'm walking, not running.  I ran into Chapas and the aid station volunteer offered me Jambalaya or Beans and Rice.  Mmmmm, jambalaya sounded good, so I asked for that.  He said, "Do you want Louisiana Jambalaya or Kentucky Jambalaya?"  I said, "What the hell is Kentucky Jambalaya??"  He said, "There's no such thing, I'm just trying to confuse you!"  I had the jambalaya and it was really good.  But it was spicy, and this would come back to haunt me.  In my opinion this is the only mistake I made during this race.

After leaving Chapas (42 miles) I had to turn on my lights.  I was still running well and enjoying the relatively easy trail.  I also ran my 45th mile or the race.  This is significant because before starting the race I had run and walked 9,955 miles since I started racewalking back in May, 2003.  That means that mile 45 of Bandera represented my 10,000th mile!  Very exciting.

Then, I fell.  This was my only fall during the race, and I'm lucky it happened on flat, dirt trail.  I don't know what happened, but all of the sudden I was pitching forward.  My right shoulder hit the ground and stopped my forward motion, but the lower part of my body kept rolling forward so that I actually rolled up in a ball and almost rolled all of the way over; I actually had dirt on my HAT from rolling on the ground.  It knocked the wind out of me and resulted in a little more inappropriate language, but I got up and got going.  My gloves were dirty and my right side was covered in dirt but I felt OK.

I ran into Cross Roads (mile 49) and Susan was there waiting with my cheeseburger.  I took a seat and started eating.  I wasn't too hungry (jambalaya issues) so I didn't think I would eat the whole thing.  While I was eating there was a woman looking at me like a sad dog that hadn't eaten in days.  She and I had been passing each other off and on throughout the day.  I offered her some of my burger and she refused, but she looked so longingly at it that I knew she needed it so I ripped off about half and gave it to her.  I never saw her again - I hope she made it.

I headed out of the aid station with some rumbling and churning in my stomach, and it was difficult to run comfortably.  I tried a few times but it didn't feel good at all.  Finally, I knew what was coming, so I stopped on the side of the road and threw up.  After that I felt all better and was able to run again!  I climbed Three Sisters and #6 Trail before heading back into Cross Roads.  My stomach didn't feel great so I didn't eat much (a little grilled cheese).  I was disappointed that they didn't have coke or ramen noodles.  I think that would have been better than grilled cheese.  Susan was still there to help me, get me a sandwich and drink, etc.  She was a great crew!

Now it was time to wrap up the last 9-10 miles of the race and the three final, brutal climbs.  This time I had to stop about four times on Lucky Peak to catch my breath and rest my legs.  The climbs were getting harder and harder, but I was still climbing.  I could tell that I hadn't eaten or drank as much as I should have after the "Jambalaya Malfunction."  But I didn't have much farther to go and just pushed forward.  One thing hard about this section is that you can see the lights of the people ahead of you, and sometimes you look up and see a light WAY UP the hill and you realize how far you have to climb.  I could occasionally see the lights bouncing up ahead.

As I was coming off the last long climb, Boyle's Bump, I was gaining on a light ahead of me.  As I got closer I saw that it was a different Fred, another member of the North Texas Trail Runners.  He's in his 60s and was finishing his third Bandera 100k - really inspiring.  I stayed behind Fred most of the rest of the way until we got to the final flat half mile.  We walked for a bit together talking about the race until we were within earshot of the finish.  Then we both picked it up and ran into the finish!  Success!  And I quickly grabbed a seat while the volunteer removed my timing chip, then I picked up my belt buckle and headed into the tent to sit down and warm up (it had gotten pretty cold and VERY windy).  Susan was there again and I also saw Greg from earlier in the race.  My unofficial finish time was 16 hours and 42 minutes - 11 minutes slower than my "best case" plan and almost three hours faster than my "worst case" plan.  I don't think I could have asked for a better result!

I was in no mood to sit around and talk - all I wanted was to shower and sleep, and I wanted some Sweet Ice Tea from Sonic.  Unfortunately Sonic was closed so I had a coke from the gas station, then showered and went straight to bed.  My stomach still felt a little touchy so I didn't eat anything.  I slept fitfully because my ribs were killing me (a result of my fall).  My legs didn't feel bad, just my arm and ribs where I fell.

The next morning we went back to the Old Spanish Trail for breakfast.  I had the Cowboy Breakfast:  Country Fried Steak, Two Eggs over Easy, Biscuit, Grits, Coffee, Two Orange Juices.  I dropped Susan off at her house in Waco, then later I had another big meal at lunch and wrapped up the day with some Mac & Cheese and Twiced Baked Potatoes from Central Market.

Two days later I'm feeling pretty good.  My left knee is a little sore but nothing unusual.  My ribs really hurt but they are starting to feel better.  Other than that I feel great.  I didn't get any blisters at all so the taping really did the trick.  As I said at the beginning of this post I feel like this was one of my best races ever.  I stuck to my plan and ate and drank well (up until the Jambalaya Malfunction).  From now on I'll stick to blander foods and make sure not to repeat that mistake.

If you are still reading, thanks for following my progress and reading about my race.  Special thanks to all my friends from Twitter, Facebook, Team in Training, and especially my family for the supportive and encouraging messages during the race.  I updated Twitter throughout the run and it was incredible to receive so many messages and emails of support.  I've really got some great friends!

Below is my race plan with my actual splits for the two loops:

And finally, I'll leave you with this.  Last year after Bandera Lynn Ballard, a great trail runner and fellow member of NTTR, the North Texas Trail Runners, modified famous lines from Shakespeare to capture the fun and spirit of the event.  To many of you this may be meaningless but in its own way it really captures the Bandera experience (most of those named are members of NTTR):
Then will he strip his sleeve and show SOTOL scars, 
And say 'These wounds I had on race day.' 
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot, 
But he'll remember, with the help of NTTR members, 
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names, 
Familiar in his mouth as household words- 
Boudreaux the Cajun, Eppelman and Thompson, 
Roper and Ballard, Nictakis, Sexton and the Last Chance rowdies- 
Be in their gaiters freshly rememb'red. 
This story shall the good man teach his son; 
And MLK weekend shall ne'er go by, 
From this day to the ending of the world, 
But we in it shall be remembered- 
We few, we happy few, we Bandera brothers; 
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me 
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so muddy, 
This day shall durn'sure gentle his condition; 
And gentlemen and women who did not toe the line, now-a-bed 
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here, 
And hold their scraggly manhoods cheap whiles any speaks 
That ran with us upon Bandera day.
I would also like to add that this is a really well organized race. The aid stations were well stocked and well run and the volunteers were friendly and helpful, and the trail markings were great - even at night I never felt lost or worried. Great race that I highly recommend!

NOTE:  Turns out I fractured a rib when I fell.  It was a minor fracture and I can still run.  In fact, the following weekend I ran the Houston Half!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

I Finished!

It was a great race! I finished in 16:42. I'm working on a race report and will hopefully have it up tomorrow.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Next Race: Bandera 100k

My next race is this Saturday:  Bandera 100k.  I've never run this race or this distance before (I've run longer but not this specific distance).  This is supposed to be a tough, challenging but wonderful race and I'm very excited to finally have a chance to try it out.

Bandera has a lot of elevation gain (for a Texas race) and very rugged terrain.  I'm not crazy about hills (they really wear me out) but I love the rugged terrain.  If you want to see what the course is like you can check out this photo tour.  Click here to see the course map (PDF), and click here to read race reports from past years.  Below is an elevation profile of the race - it's two 50k loops so I'll be climbing these hills twice.

The race has a 24 hour cutoff (11 hours for the first 50k loop; 13 hours for the second loop).  That's 21:15 minutes per mile pace for the first loop, 25:07 minutes per mile for the second loop.  So the challenge of this race won't be the time - it will be the endurance.  I know of strong runners who have attempted the 100k in the past but have stopped after the first 50k loop.  I want to finish the entire 100k so I plan to take everything nice and slow and not push myself too hard - I don't have any specific time goals.  I also plan to eat a lot since I think most of my endurance problems are due to lack of calories.

I'm still debating if I want to prepare any drop bags.  I'll be able to stop by my car at the halfway point so I don't know if I need any supplies more often than that.  I'll wear my Nathan Running Vest and I'll carry some electrolyte caps, advil, small bodyglide, PowerBar Gel Blasts, maybe a couple of gels.  I'll also carry one hand-held bottle with water.  I expect to meet most of my hydration and nutrition needs at the aid stations.

So check back for an update next Sunday!  Thanks so much to everyone for your encouragement and financial support.  I've now raised over 50% of my goal and have another $700 in pledges not yet received.  Fundraising is going well but I can always use your support!  If you'd like to make a secure online donation just click here.  And Happy New Year to everyone!  Wishing you happiness and health in 2009.

PS I just realized that since I started racewalking and running back in 2003 I have logged 9,955 miles.  That means that sometime in the middle of Bandera I will run my 10,000th mile!