Brazos Bend State Park; Needville, Texas
April 6, 2019
This race is a precursor to the Brazos Bend 100 in December 2019 (100 miles) and was a much anticipated test race to helptweak my training.
I’ve run three 50k and one 50 miler prior to this race – so this race was a step-up in distance. Additionally, It’s April in Texas and you simply have no idea what the weather will bring you as you start race day.
Race Conditions: Temperature started at ~75 degree and ranged to the mid 80s during the middle of the day. Texas weather gave us a a hot and humid day with a light breeze over 1/2 the course – this lack of wind truly increase the suffering during mid day with a sun that broke through the morning clouds. From noon to 6p was simply miserable.
Goals: 1) Finish the race; and 2) See if I could maintain a 14:24 pace for the race.
On race morning, goal #1 was certainly achievable but goal #2 looking a long-shot with the South Texas humidity and temperature combination.
Before the Race: I was well prepared, physically, for the race and my gear was as good as I could possibly plan. Both coach and I knew that April was a little early for this 100k race, but this race is on the same course as my “A” race in December so it was well worth the work to get ready.
Morning of the Race: Nothing of note.
The Race: This is a four loop 15.8 mile flat trail course through Brazos Bend Park with the Start/Finish line setup where the course is a figure 8 with a couple of out-and backs.
Loop 1 (1-15m): The race started at 5:30a in the dark. My headlamp was plenty for this course and I started off at a controlled pace and immediately fell to the last 10% of the 100k group – no worries this was expected and I knew it was going to be a long day. With a 75 degree temperature and no sun, we were all still sweating by the first aid station due to the humidity.
A little over an hour into the race, I remembered the sage advice of Coach Ben – “If you are running for an hour, you should already be walking.” With this advice in mind, I started a walk for 20 minutes and continued a 40/20 run/walk rotation. T Loop one finished 3:27:35 (~13:27 pace. 8:30a) with no problems. Soaked with sweat from my head to foot, but was healthy and happy. Thought at the end of the first lap: All systems go, don’t screw this up.
Transition: Food, new socks, cold power-aid and got out of transition quickly.
Loop 2 (Start – ~30m): This loop started smoothly and through the first half of loop two I maintained a 40/20 run walk pace. At mile 22, I had to again reflect on race strategy ‘to run while I WANTED to run and walk until I was ready to run again.” Loop 2 is a good blur with the aid stations going by and the miles clicking away. The temperature began to rise as the sun rose behind the cloud cover. This lap completed a 50k distance. Half done. Loop two finished 3:28:26 (~14:28pace. noon). Text from teammates came in during this lap – great lift for me. Thought at the end of the second lap: All systems doing fine, but trouble is in the air with the temperature (and hot spots on the ball of each foot).
Transition: Food, new sock, new shirt and shorts, and a bio break. I examined my feet in transition and chose NOT to treat the hot spots. THE FIRST DOMINO: I had plenty of help in the transition with Paul Beaty and Max Atkinson, but I didn’t pretreat the hot spots/small blisters. This is an ultra-runner beginner mistake and I should have known better. The less than dime size place just didn’t seem like enough to extent an already 12 minute transition. Even with good help, I couldn’t settle myself enough to truly think about the distance, humidity, and sweat to come in lap three…..here comes the sun….uh oh.
Loop 3 (30 – 45m): This loop started out with me a little frantic and wanting out of transition and back to the trail. As I moved out of transition I physically felt the sting of my feet in my new socks and old shoes reminding me of the hot spots/small blisters that were on my feet. Stubbornly, I moved out with the assurance that I had a blister/first aid kit in my pack in case I needed it. Other bad news: the cloud were started to break up and there was a promise of full-sun coming. Mentally, I was in a good place, but I knew that the suffering was going to begin on this lap. It’s not that I hadn’t been at the distance before, but I was experience enough to know what was coming. I started the first half of this lap a little faster because it was more open and there was a slight breeze in place – the second half of the loop had trees and had already proven stifling in the heat and humidity.
At Mile 36 my brains stopped me and I stopped at a bench and cared for my feet –at least I tried. I pulled out my small, but well-equipped box and tried to put both large bandaids, and KT-type tape on my feet. Uh oh! My vaseline/anti-friction goo that I had reapplied to my feet before the race and in each transition kept the tape/bandaids from sticking to my feet. This was the Oh shit moment when I realize that I didn’t have a single piece of equipment/clothing that wasn’t soaked with sweat and there was no way to dry my feet enough to apply the foot first aid. I still had about 9 miles on this loop and realized that I was going to do a lot of damage before mile 45 (next transition). At this point, I had a marathon left to do on a set of worsening feet. Goal now: Finish. After working on my feet, I stayed at a good power hike pace for the remainder of the lap at finished it up Loop three a little slower at 3:54:49 (~15:42 pace. 4:20p). Thought at the end of the third lap: I’m not in a good spot, mistakes were made and the last lap is going to be done on grit and pain. Embrace the Suck!
Transition: This was a disaster. I wasted 10 minutes with little to show for it. SECOND DOMINO: I had no more race socks and put on my pre-race technical socks. THIRD DOMINO: No more brain to think. This was a solo transition and I had few brain cells. I was hurting and needing to bring this race to the house. I did changed shoes (fresh pair of Altra Torrins). I checked my blisters – yuk, but didn’t do anything about them – my brain was well into the pain and I saw that both blister were broken – and bigger than a silver dollar. THE FINAL DOMINO: I did nothing about the blister other than putting on dry socks and shoes. To be honest, at the time, I was willing to accept what happened to my feet in trade for finishing the race. A bad bargain when you still have 15+ miles to travel on a pair of bad treads. Oh, I also forgot my sunglasses and hat, but luckily packed my headlamp for the much anticipated sunset in about three hours.
Loop 4 (45 – finish): I’ve already admitted my transgressions in transition. They all found me on the fourth lap. Mentally, I started this lap in a great place – the suck had already been embrace and I was in a good place to deal with the pain. Oh yeah, full sun until sunset.
The pain grew worse on this lap and I felt the blisters grow as the miles grew. I was waiting forever to pass the 50 mile marker and begin gaining longest run miles. The 5+ miles that it took to get there seemed to take forever. After 50 miles, I felt that I could finish – I could tick off aid stations and turn around seeing these trails for the last time.
I did picked up pace to finished the fourth loop faster than third loop, but with a lot more pain. Why? Purely in the head.
Loop 4 was largely uneventful until the last 3/4 of a mile when I moved from one trail to another (in the dark) and side-stepped off a 6″ ledge to the next downward trail stumbling to keep my feet. It was a pure white-lightening pain as I slid sideways on the large blisters that had enveloped both ball of my feet. I’m still uncertain how I kept my feet, but I had the finish line in earshot and a 100k race to finish. Loop four 3:45:37 (~15:14 pace. 8:10p).
Mentally: I was prepared for this race. Physically, coached prepared me.
Done Right: Pace – I was controlled throughout the race and raced it to the best of my mental and physical ability. Scary to think 100 miles at the end of the year. This one was at the edge of possible under the conditions. Body from the ankles up was well-equipped to race. Stay with my race plan for the most part. Clothing and equipment were an A+.
Improvement: Continue to build the miles on the feet, keep experimenting from the ankle down. Continue to strengthen the body – get stronger and leaner.
Differently: Don’t let little things become big things – FEET.
Lessons: The feet must be cared for.
Back to Training: Time on feet matters. Need to spend time both at a run and power-walk for long time periods.