Wednesday, January 16, 2008

2008 Bandera 50km Report I decided to run Bandera after finishing last year’s Waco 5-0, my only other trail race (and a great run). After completing the Waco 5-0, one of my fellow participants had said, “if you liked this race, then you’ll love Bandera. It’s similar, but with A LOT more rocks.” Um... that's an understatement.

So we (Donaldo and I) left Fort Worth for Kerrville, Texas around 10:30 a.m. the Friday before Bandera. After a Luby’s pitstop, we arrived at the EconoLodge a little before 4:30 p.m. While waiting to check-in, we met another Bandera runner. He told us the race site was about an hour away, so we quickly dropped off our suitcases and hopped on Highway 16. About 45 minutes later, we left the asphalt behind as we cruised along the caliche road leading to “The Lodge,” the official race headquarters located in the Hill Country State Natural Area.

We pulled up as night began to fall. Lots of crazy ultrarunners were hanging around, eating spaghetti, shooting the breeze. I picked up my packet, grabbed a plate of food, and took a seat. Instantly, we were in the midst of conversation with our table companions. Discussions ranged from past experiences at Bandera to training to injuries to post-race festivities. After polishing off a piece of pecan pie, my eyes started getting heavy, and I decided it was time to head back and get to bed.

My 4:45 a.m. alarm actually didn’t seem that early. (I think Ezra is due some of the credit for my ability to wake up before the sun.) I got dressed, and we made our way to an IHOP just down the road. 2 cups of coffee, 2 pancakes, 2 scrambled eggs, 2 pieces of bacon, and a plate full of hashbrowns later, I was sated and ready to run. We got to The Lodge about 45 minutes before the beginning of the race. I checked in, changed shoes twice, and took a seat on a bench until they called us to the starting line.
Bandera consists of three runs—100 km, 50 km, and 25 km. All three runs start at the same time, but in different locations. 109 of us were running the 50 km, and we had a short quarter mile walk to our starting point. Standing around shooting the breeze with my fellow runners, I was reminded again why I am leaning more and more toward ultra-events. The competitors were exceedingly laid back. Unlike a marathon, no one seemed concerned with getting to the front of the line or heading out quickly. There was no pre-race tension, no elbowing for extra room, no discussions of pacing. With little fanfare, the race began, and we trudged out toward the first of many, many rocky, hilly, evil climbs.
The course was mostly single-track and littered with rocks of all shapes and sizes, from tiny pebbles to bowling ball-sized boulders. The jagged rocks felt like they were going to impale my shoes (an older pair of Asics 2080s), and blisters soon formed under the arches of both of feet. The first 10 miles were the most technical, as we climbed up and down Cairn’s Climb, Boyle’s Bump, Sky Island, and Ice Cream Hill. Unfortunately, the early view from the top of the hills was obscured by fog, but once it burned off, you could see miles of beautiful hill country.
I met up with my dad at Nachos, the first fully-stocked aid station, where he helped refill my Nathan hydro-pack while I scarfed down a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a coke. Temperatures had risen to the 70s, the clouds were gone, and the sun was shining. I put on my sunglasses and headed out.

Five miles later, I was at the Chapas aid station changing socks and liberally applying Body Glide to my blistered feet. Despite how the looked, my feet didn’t hurt that badly. My quads were getting sore from navigating the rocky descents, but overall I felt pretty good.

The next five miles took place on some dirt trails that had a few rolling hills, but none of the big, nasty climbs from before. There was little shade, and the sun started to fatigue me. I was happy to arrive at Crossroads, the next aid station, around mile 20. Donaldo was there to greet me and help with the water. I snagged a few potato and egg burritos and another coke before venturing back onto the trail. After a couple more tough climbs, the trail rounded back to the Crossroads aid station, where I fueled up for the last push over some brutal ascents/descents, including Lucky Peak.

Finally, I cruised up to Last Chance, an aid station half a mile from the finish where 50K runners turned left towards The Lodge and 100K runners turned right for another 50K loop. The aid station workers handed me a beer (apparently a Bandera tradition), which I gulped down in about 3 seconds before cruising to the finish line.

6 hours, 45 minutes, 12 seconds. 27th place overall out of 109 starters (only 87 would finish). I’ll be back next year.

3 comments:

afuntanilla said...

Enjoyed the read. Glad the blisters did not hamper you too much! Congrats!!

JohnF said...

Congratulations. Bandera is a challenging course.

Just12Finish said...

Congrats! The PBJ and Coke sounded like the best part of the course!

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