Thursday, January 15, 2015

Bandera 100k Race Report, Pearls of Wisdom after Acts of Stupidity

Bandera 100k was a last minute decision for me (I decided 2 weeks out from race day just in time to get decent priced plane fare). I had hoped to get into Western States via the lottery in early December, but like the most of us, was not lucky. I sooooo want to redeem my 2013 race, where I puked more times than the amount of miles I walked it in (mile 70)...true story. When my name didn't get drawn like the majority of people, I started fantasizing about earning a Montrail Ultra Cup spot at Bandera. 

I ran Desert Solstice on 12/13/14, logging 147.676 miles for the 4th best on the UR Magazine All-Time list (sorry life & the holidays interfered with a race report getting done), 4 weeks after running a fast 100 at Tunnel Hill (14:45). Now, I know that I just ran 2 huge mileage races (with PR’s in both) in a month span, and would be looking at adding Bandera 100k within a month of that (3 races in 2 months). It was a decision that I knew wasn't bright and was advised not to do by a couple of smart friends, but decided to do anyway. It was after all...only 62 miles :) I knew there would be fierce competition, but maybe my legs, which had been racing well had one more good race in them...NOPE.

I learned many things at Bandera 100k. Here’s the jist of my discoveries:

Recovery is Key, I knew it, but like many, didn’t listen. I will now fully buy into Pam Smith’s doctrine of 1 day off for every 10 miles run. I thought that it was crazy to take off 24 days after the 48 hour, so I didn’t. It took me much longer to come back to good running from the Dome because I didn't give my body enough of a break. I know, that was in August...I should have known, but sometimes we have to make the mistakes multiple times to prove it to ourselves. I am NOW a strict follower. NO MATTER WHAT. If that means that I can’t be ready to race something else, then I shouldn’t be doing it anyway.  

Racing Frequently is Stupid (unless you are Michael Wardian). In 2014, I did 4-100 milers, 1-24 hour and 1-48 hour. It was too much. I plan to only do 3-4 big races (100 mile+ or more) spaced with at least 2 months in between them. I want to race my best, and cannot race well if I am over-racing. I will have fun with shorter distances interspersed. 

Practice What You Preach (#2 leads into this gem, which I promise to adhere to in the future). Many people ask me for running tips/advice. I have fairly good advice and would have advised against the 3 races I did in the 2 month span. However, it is easier to make decisions from the outside looking in (like giving someone else advice). Sometimes our emotions can skew our decisions. I will now ask myself what I would say to someone else when making decisions. I will also ask my "smart friends" who advised against Bandera, their opinion. 

Downgrade Your Goals on the Fly: I had the following goals for Bandera: 1.Earn a MUC spot for Western States 100 (VERY optimistic, NOT realistic). 2. Run under 11 hours. I knew from previous results, I would likely need a 10:15 to 10:30 (given conditions to garner a coveted spot). 3. Finish and get a qualifier done for 2016 Western States, and be eligible for the Montrail Last Chance Drawing. 3. Earn a USATF medal and maybe win some money. I knew within 10 miles, that I my legs were dead. I came through 50k in 5:30 (goal was 5:07) and debated quitting. However, nothing was majorly wrong. I was happy and my stomach was good. I was just unable to convince my legs to turnover faster. So, I trudged on and held onto my lesser goals. 

Be Happy and Positive Even When Things aren’t Going Your Way: I was in a good mood despite the icy and muddy conditions and dead legs. After I realized that my main goal was totally out of the question, I just decided to enjoy the journey. I took more time at aid stations, ate regular food (mashed potatoes with ramen mixed in is delicious :), and made sure to overtly thank the volunteers for braving such a cold and nasty day. I stuck my tounge out to the photographers and laughed, thanking them for being out there in the cold as well. 

Be Thankful for Aid Station Volunteers: (#5 leads into #6). I always try to thank aid station people who are out in often crappy conditions just so we can race. It is a selfless act. It doesn’t take long to say thank you as you pass through an aid station. So, do it! The headlamp I had was so poor that I couldn’t see anything. Luckily, I had twilight until I got to the last aid station, where an aid station worker lent me another light. It wasn’t great, but combined with the kindness of another runner, James, who helped me to leech off his light, I made it slowly to the finish.

Read Race Materials Before You Go/Plan Ahead: Because I signed up for this race late, I hadn’t read the race details. I printed off information to read on the flight there. After securing crew help, I realized that crew can only get to 2 different aid stations. They have to park and walk 1.5 miles or .5 miles in each direction to be able to crew you. My friend Brenda was going to come, but the conditions were supposed to be horrible and I didn’t want her to be out in bad conditions all day. So, I told her not to come. However, because I thought she would be able to get to most of the aid stations, I didn’t plan in advance. I didn’t have anything to use as drop bags. I also forgot my headlamp. A friend who lives in San Antonio, coming to run the 25k bailed me out. She brought me 2 plastic garbage bags labeled appropriately and a headlamp!!  

Adapt or Die: Ok that’s a little harsh, but conditions did take out many runners yesterday (out of the race, not life). I fell about 15 miles in (shocker...I know :). Anyway, upon falling, the strap on my handheld broke with 4 miles to the next aid station. I took the strap off and stuck the bottle in the back of my tights. It wasn’t super comfortable, but what’s a girl to do? I know it pulled my pants down a I am hoping no one got too much of a show. But, there is no use boo-hoo’ing about it. I had another handheld at Cross Roads AS, but decided not to pick it up. I felt more comfortable having my hands free to catch myself just in case. 

Failures Make Victories that Much Sweeter: This can be taken in the figurative sense (you don’t have to win the race). It’s awesome when things come together and you have a good race result. However, we wouldn’t appreciate them as much if we didn’t see the flip side. 

Make Friends and Enjoy the Scenery Along the Way: Because this was a USATF race, headphones weren’t permitted. I LOVE my ipod, but was happy not to have it early on. I met four women during the course of the pre-race, and race that I hope to keep in touch with. It is nice to talk to people and get to know them better. I think 99% of ultrarunners are super nice, down to earth people! I also made sure to look out at the scenery during the race, which I don’t always do when focused on my footing. But, I was in a new place for a short time, so I paused at the top of climbs to glimpse at my surroundings. It’s a gorgeous course. I will be back. 

Condensed Race Report: 

Pre-race: Evy Gonzales, a fellow Hammer Athlete saved me by bringing me 2 bags to use for my gear. I thought I would have a crew at each aid station, so didn’t plan accordingly. I met with her at 7am and posed for a picture with my eyes closed apparently :) Nice photography Roy Pirrung. I also talked to Caroline Boller who would run well and claim the last podium spot. We discussed clothing, gear, and wished each other luck. 

The race started out fast, and I let people go. I knew from looking at previous years splits, that many people had second lap splits of 40 minutes+ and wanted to pace myself, thinking that was my chance to claim a MUC spot. However, after 15-20 miles and a fall that broke my handheld strap, I knew my legs were crap and it was about enjoying the day. I did get a chance to chat with Kelsie (5th) and Leslie (6th) about life, school, and family. It was a nice way to pass the time without my tunes. 

Melanie Fryar, Kelsie Clausen, Leslie Allan Howlett & Me in the black letting everyone go 

The weather was crappy, starting around 28 degrees. I slipped on icy rocks in the beginning. It would later heat up to a balmy 35? degrees, with added precipitation creating mud hazards. The rocks became slippery with mud later in the day. There were several stretches where mud stuck to your shoes like cement blocks commiserate of a gangster movie. When your legs are dead, adding what felt like 5# of mud to each of them was not uber helpful.

Regardless, I pressed on. I was hoping to get through 50k in about 5:07 and came through at about 5:30. I stopped and apologized to Joe Prusitas for being such a slacker. I had hoped to be more competitive. He was sweet and told me he was just happy I was there. I told him I wasn’t quitting, just in for a longer day than originally planned. I also talked to Jeremy from Altra who was nice enough to bring me a pair of shoes to try (I know...don’t try anything new on race day...but if you can tell from the pearls above, I am not always the wisest). However, the shoes worked brilliantly! For the first time in forever, the wide toe box on the Altras proved to save my toes from blisters. I found this amazing, because I did my best to blister my toes by inadvertently kicking rocks all day. After pausing at the lodge to chat with Joe and Jeremy, I ate some soup and ventured back out for loop #2.

These are course pictures from a previous year...all that was
missing were cold temps, cloudy skies, ice on the sotol
and rocks, rain, mud, mud, mud, and more mud.

#2 was a slog. I “ran” most of the flats and downs, paused to see the views, thanked the volunteers and enjoyed the fact that I have the privilege to run. Sometimes, when I have a race that doesn’t go well, I think of the kids I work with who will never know what if feels like to walk or run. It makes me thankful. I was glad I stayed positive instead of having a pity party for myself. At this point, I was hoping to just run an hour between each of the aid stations, figuring that I could get done in about 12 hours. However, the darkness came and the headlamp I had was awful. I held it in my hand and pointed at the ground and hardly any light was cast. I actually looked at it to see if it was on. From Cross Roads to Last Chance, I was losing twilight. I was able to stumble my way through the last mile in the dark to get to the Aid Station. I got another light, that was weak, but better than what I had from an aid station volunteer, which I greatly appreciated!!! I set off with both, one in each hand and two guys who let me leech off their lights. Thanks James from Michigan!!!!  I sooo appreciated their help!! Again, the niceness of ultrarunners...can’t be beat!

Ultimately, I crossed the finish in 12:30 and change, 8th female, 6th USATF female, and 1st Masters USATF female, winning me $200. All in all, it was relatively fun and a great learning experience. The course is quite runnable, but rocky with short, but steep climbs. I will be back someday, more rested, and more trail ready!

Thanks to Joe and Joyce Prusitas for a great race, with fantastic organization. I love the shirt and buckle...the design is very cool! Thanks to all the volunteers who braved the nasty conditions to be out there supporting all of the runners! Special HUGE Thanks to the Aid Station worker who loaned me the headlamp! Joe said he’d get it back to you, advising that I didn’t walk it back to you because the road was sooo muddy to get there. 

Thanks to my sponsors: Hammer Nutrition. I felt great all day thanks to your supplements and energy products! Thanks to Drymax for socks that kept my feet intact! It was too cold for Running Skirts gear :(  And thanks to Coast! After forgetting my headlamp and running with subpar ones, I know appreciate Coast Headlamps all that much more and won’t forget mine ever again!


  1. Great report and words to live by. Thank you for being so upfront and honest. You lead a great example! Great job and I look forward to you coming back even stronger.

    1. Thanks Kaci! Sometimes our eyes are bigger than our stomachs. I have always pushed the envelope...sometimes it works, but most it doesn't :) Hoping to get smarter as I get older.

  2. Do as I say, not as I DO!.... Listening to what you would say to clients is SO HARD! I have been a coach for 10+ years and I still can't make myself listen to myself ;)

    1. Exactly!! I have a friend who is just like me and is a coach. We have discussed that at length :0 I am hoping I can listen to myself...maybe if I talk out loud to myself HAHA

  3. Good to read that even the best make silly mistakes at times. :) Well done on managing to enjoy the second loop - and still taking home some loot!

    1. Thanks! When races don't go as well as we'd like, we learn more from them than from the victories :-)

  4. Congratulations! What an inspiring story! You are quite an incredible woman! My goal is to do 50k at some point. And here you are doing 100k. And to even sign up so soon before the race. Most people plan mths in advance! -L

    1. Keep at it. I was overweight and could barely run around the block in 2003! You will get there!!