Before we head into the spring training and racing season, let’s get in a little recap of the winter.
These recaps have been LONG overdue so I’ll work from what’s freshest in the mind (RR100) and work backwards to Bandera.
2016 Rocky Raccoon 100 USATF Championships
The goal going in for RR (4 weeks after Bandera 100k) was to repeat as USATF 100 mile trail champion, compete for the overall win (i.e. keep Ian Sharman somewhat within striking distance), go sub-14 hours (last year went 14:05), and run a sub 3-hour final 20-mile loop (last year ran 3:16 for the last loop). Meredith also “recommended” I be at least 40 minutes in front of the women’s winner (last year Nicole Studer crossed the line just 17 minutes after me). Ambitiously, I thought that a 2:35/2:35/2:40/2:45/2:55 progression of lap splits was possible resulting in a 13:30 finish time. My splits last year were 2:33/2:39/2:44/2:53/3:16. Without further adieu, here’s how it played out…
Loop 1: 2:33. Ian took off like a jackrabbit and I settled into a smooth comfortable pace with eventual women’s winner Sabrina Little and last year’s women’s winner Nicole Studer. The two of them were chatting it up and absolutely hammering the Triple C Trail sections (aka Superhighway due to the regrading) into and out of Damnation. Was cautious to give my right hammy plenty of time to come up to operating temperature before the sun came up, after which I passed my gloves and Drymax arm warmers to my crew.
Loop 2: 2:39. By this point I had separated from Sabrina and Nicole, Ian already had 5 minutes on me at the start of the 2nd loop and would more than double it to 11 minutes by the end of the loop. All systems were GO and my crew of Meredith and Justin were in GREAT spirits in the crisp morning. Julbo Aero sunglasses were PERFECT for picking up the roots and nuances as the trail weaved in and out of the shadows. USATF representative Jason Bryant conducted his first of 2 “live, on-trail” interviews during this loop.
Loop 3: 2:46. Despite falling off my projected splits, I was feeling GREAT and moving really really well. No headphones, sunshine and clear skies keep me clicking off the mile splits of 3-3-7-3-4 for each loop. The night before the race, I listened to the UltraRunner podcast interview that Eric Schranz and Sarah Lavendar Smith did with Matt Fitzgerald, author of the new book “How Bad Do You Want It?” My takeaway for the race was one that Sarah mentioned, “How do you feel about how you feel?” This phrase got lots of airtime in my mind, along with that new Justin Bieber song “Love Yourself”, ha!
Loop 4: 3:02. Justin jumped in as my safety runner/pacer and we made what felt like quick work of it. Jason’s conducted his 2nd “live, on-trail” video during this loop. We easily would have come in under 3 hours had I not stopped briefly to take advantage of the porta-potty at the gate right before the Park Road aid station. The sun was starting to set and my crew got my gloves, arm warmers and a short sleeve shirt ready for the final loop.
Loop 5: 3:22. Meredith took Justin’s place at the Nature Center aid station and our goal was to get as far as possible past the Damnation aid station before having to turn on our headlamps. For some reason, we both felt that I moved so much better this year even though the time doesn’t reflect it in comparison. Proud to have run every single step this year, having done a little bit of hiking the last 8 miles of the race last year.
All in all, absolutely thrilled with how the race played out. http://trailrunner.com/trail-news/2016-usatf-100-mile-trail-championship-results/ 14:24 total time and 39 minutes behind Ian (was 33 minutes behind him last year). OF course I would have liked to run faster, break 14 hours, go sub-3 for the last loop. Heck, I had PLENTY of motivation with pounds of New Zion Church BBQ waiting for me at the hotel room. Sabrina finished 31 minutes after me. There is still work to be done!!
Many thanks for the work that physical therapist Dr. Kevine Norris substituting for out-of-town Dr. AJ Zelinksi at Little River Healthcare Chiro & Rehab and their team did on me the week before the race to get me ready. Thanks too to Lisa for the pre-race massage and Jamie for the finish-line massage!
2016 Bandera 100km USATF Championships
Having no pressure to earn a Golden Ticket by virtue of my 10th place finish at States last year, I came in wanting to podium, earn the USATF Master’s title, and apply lessons learned from my tactically deficient 2014 race where I went off the front like a buffoon. It’s no secret that minimizing your positive split from loop 1 to loop 2 is the key to doing well here. My plan was a 4 hour first loop and a 4:20 second loop.
Loop 1: 3:59. The Hill Country State Natural Area treated us to a BEAUTIFUL morning and a relatively tame start that broke apart somewhat going up towards Ice Cream Hill but then for some reason regrouped shortly after the Chapas aid station at mile 11. Denucci made a cheeky acceleration coming through the fields after Mendoza stepped off the trail briefly to take care of some business. Mario quickly caught back up and by the time we hit Cross Roads at mile 16 I was a couple minutes back but stoked to be within striking distance. Fellow Texan Ford Smith and I ran together through Last Chance (mile 25) before he accelerated and gapped me coming into the Lodge. Meredith had me in and out of the Lodge for loop 2!
Loop 2: 4:40. I kept pressing the whole loop knowing that just about anything can happen in a race of this distance. The cool but sunny and breezy conditions out here can be deceptively dehydrating, and cramps can appear without any notice. Walmsley, Denucci, and Mendoza were absolutely crushing it in 1st/2nd/3rd positions. Caught back up to Ford on the approach to Sky Island and we motored into the Nachos aid station which nothing but a water bottle fill-up for me but Ford needed to catch back up on calories. Meredith kept encouraging me at each aid station to stay on the gas which I was happy to oblige. Seeing your wife selflessly crew and ride her mountain bike from aid station to aid station brings out many grateful and humble feelings. Coming into the Last Chance aid station with 6 miles to go, Meredith informed me that Mario left only 6 minutes before and was walking with his wife towards the finish. Patiently, I kept my eyes peeled up the trail for him around every corner, tree, and bush. Unfortunately, I never saw him and crossed the finish line thinking that I was still in 4th place, only to be informed later that Mario turned back around to the Last Chance aid station and pulled the plug having succumbed to the effects of the flu. SO, an 8:39 finish which was about a minute PR for me out here. http://trailrunner.com/trail-news/bandera-100k-usatf-100k-national-championship-results/
All in all, I’m incredibly blessed and fortunate to be happy, healthy, and in great spirits. Meredith and I are so eager to see what the rest of 2016 has to offer up!!! HUGE thanks to all my sponsors and supporters for helping make these journeys possible. Mahalo for reading.