Bandera was a wonderful time with friends and a great race.
Goals: I was hoping to keep my time as close to the leader as possible for earning Montrail points, possibly place in the top 3 take home a little prize money, and most importantly - enjoy a full day of supported running in a new and beautiful landscape. There were some big names in the race and at least on paper, a top 5 place let alone a top 3 looked out of the question. But things never go according to plan in these events. Being that this was really only my third race over 50 miles, I also was hoping to build some additional confidence at these longer events.
There was a big group of us going to the race including Craig and Laurie Thornley, Pam Smith, Meghan Arbogast, and Jeff and Laura Riley. For the most part we traveled on the same flights, rented a van together, and all stayed at the same house. Honestly, it was more of a vacation with friends than a weekend of hard racing.
Unlike last year where the temperatures were in the single digits, our weather was just right. Cool at the start, warming up in the morning, then just when it started to get a little hot the clouds moved in and cooled it down again. Just before the start I decided to ditch my hat, arm sleeves and gloves. The aid stations were all about 5 miles apart, and because it wasn’t hot most of us went with just one bottle.
From the gun there were a whole bunch of folks that took off, which always makes me a little nervous, but I knew would most likely provide a day full of passing folks, which is better than the other way around (like at JFK). Most of them came back within the first four miles. From the start to the first aid station the trail has two climbs and is difficult rocky footing. All the hill climbs are relatively short, maybe 300+ ft, but the loose rocks and grade make them difficult. Around mile four I caught up with Jason Bryant of NC and one other runner. At the first aid station “Nachos” (m5.6) I grabbed a cup of something we were out at 0:46, only a tad bit faster than the frozen leaders of last year.
The three of us ran together for the most part to the next aid station “Chapas” at (m11.4) 5 miles. The section from Nachos to Chapas was much more runnable with no major hills and less rock. I filled my bottle at Chapas and I was out at 1:26. Aside from a few long gradual rocky climbs along the powerlines, the tail remained very runnable from Chapas to the next aid station at Cross roads. Jason and I regrouped and we caught and passed Chikara Omine, who was second last year. He seemed to be running fine, just slower on the rocky climbs. Jason pulled ahead a bit but we were together as we pulled into Cross Roads (m16.9). I left Cross Roads at 2:07 and on the three sisters loop section which was rocky and hilly Jason pulled ahead for the last time. He had about a minute on me when I left Cross Roads for the second time (m 21.9 2:46) and after a porta-potty break I lost another minute. I stayed about 2 minutes behind Jason most of the rest of the race. The first half of the section between Cross Roads and Lucky Peak was runnable but then it starts to get rocky and hilly again. The trail remained difficult through Last Chance aid Station (m 26.1 3:22) and onto the finish (m 31 4:07) with the Lucky Peak, Cairn’s climb and Boyle’s Bump. Well except there were some nice fast parts along the top.
I felt like I was running very relaxed, but started to feel the distance around Last Chance aid station on the first loop. However, 4:07 seemed like a good time for the first 50K and was under the course record pace. I just had to focus on minimizing the second loop slowdown. I was 5:02 at Nachos (m36.6) and 5:52 out of Chapas (m42.0).
I suppose I’m getting better at the hydration and nutrition, but I often feel like I’m doing a lot of bad guess work. I was fighting off cramping most of the day, but never had any real serious issues. The race had Heed at the aid stations and my stomach really liked that, but it was making me feel bloated. I switched to water from Chaps to Cross roads (m 47.9 6:42) and felt tons better but after more cramping I got nervous about going without the added calories & electrolytes and switched back on the three sisters loop back to Cross Roads (m 52.9 7:31). Running into Cross Roads the second time I just caught sight of Jason leaving. Laura Riley was there to help and I switched bottles to my EFS fluid. By this time Craig had finished his 50K and told me that Bryan had seen me also and looked nervous. I was thinking maybe he would get excited and run too hard for a while and then maybe I could catch him in the last section. Unfortunately my EFS drink didn’t sit well, and I couldn’t drink or eat at all over the next section. I switched back to the Heed at Last Chance. (m 57.1 8:11) At the Last Chance aid station they told me Jason now had 3 minutes. You never know, but he seemed out of reach at this point. However, with 4.9 miles to go I had a solid chance of getting in under 9 hours. I felt better and better, and had a great last section which was only 1 minute slower than my first lap split. I felt like I was flying down the decent and the only thing keeping me from going faster was the cramping. I knew I would break 9 hours. Then at the toe of the Boyles Bump decent I saw Jason’s yellow jersey. I was gaining fast, but wasn’t going to catch him. I finished 4th just 23 seconds back in 8:57:42. Dave Mackey was 1st in 8:16 (which didn’t help me much for the Montrail points, but he took an impressive hour off the previous C.R.) I found out later that Geoff Rose had dropped out after the first 50K, Dave James was second in 8:33.