Cactus Rose 50mile – 2011
There were so many incredible accomplishments this past weekend at the Cactus Rose 50 mile trail run. I am not the least bit saddened that my effort was perhaps the least interesting of the many incredible stories I heard. I will start with my own efforts and results however, while they are fresh in my mind.
I had one clear goal, with this being my longest distance run to date – FINISH. My second goal, which was a total shot in the dark, was to run sub 12 hours. I had all my food and drop bags arranged the day prior to race start. My head was collected and I was confident in my ability to finish. The real question was how fast, where would I hit my first wall and how would I handle food. I’d experienced some nausea issues on some of my long, slower runs recently and this worried me slightly. I went up to Hill Country Natural Area just outside of Bandera on Friday afternoon with my girlfriend. We got my packet, set up camp and went to town for Pizza with some of our running buddies. Had a s’more with Liza and the group and went to bed around 9 or 10.
Loop One (25 miles)
Race started at 5am with low to mid 30 degree temps. I was freezing, but couldn’t stop thinking how nice this would feel in a few hours. Headlights on, we charged off at a slow pace until the group spread a bit, which took a couple miles due to some steep early climbing. I spent a couple miles asking random people who they were and then awkwardly talking to them when it wasn’t who I expected. I am not a natural talker, especially at 5am in freezing temps. We had an aid station every five miles, so I discarded my pants and jacket at the first one. I ran into a running buddy, Connie, around mile 7 and we ended up running together the rest of the loop. I can’t express how much faster time goes by when you have company. 5 hours felt like two. I met a couple other San Antonio runners on this loop and was amazed by the sped which some of the relay runners were going. Eventual 100 mile race winner, Steve Moore, roared past at a blistering pace as well. I couldn’t believe it! He went on to extend his previous years record by a bit. I ran into a handful of Rockhoppers toward the end of the loop which was nice as we got a chance to chat and take our mind off the trail a bit.
Loop Two (25 miles)
I felt amazing through all of loop one. So great, in fact, I left the 25 mile aid station much sooner than I should have. I was ancy to head back out – where I should have delayed a bit to eat more and take in some fluids. So off I went. The positive feelings remained until around mile 35 aid station, where nausea started creeping in. Stomaching sugary tasting liquid, gels, etc just wasn’t happening. I tried forcing some down, and it was gag city. So I was reduced to water and chex-mix and a leisurely 14 minute per mile stroll for a while, with spurratic walking on the climbs and some downhills. The positive side of this, is that I got a chance to chat with some people who were similarly suffering. I crossed a few familiar faces again around mile 43-44 which was a nice pick-me-up and I ran some more. Arriving at the mile 45 aid station, I wanted to just skip it and finish my run. However, I knew those last five miles were pretty technical and I was going to need some energy. I stuffed my face with all kinds of salty food (chips, potatoes in salt, one cup of coke) and off I went. Roughly a half mile later, I was finally feeling back to 100-ish percent. I had a great jog going for my last few miles. Ran into one guy who was out running, not even part of the race. I jogged with him a bit and explained the ups and downs of the course, then parted ways before I kicked in the last mile or so. Seeing the 100 milers heading out for their third loop as I was about to finish was utterly inspiring. Some of those runners would not be completing their race for another 15-18 hours. My run ended with a time of 12 hours 33 minutes, just shy of my second goal and utterly demolishing my first :) It was a good day.
On to the impressive stuff!
- Our running group had five of the top ten 50 miler runners. 1st, 4th, 6th, 9th, 10th.
- Eric Herzog placed first 50 miler, despite having to stop a few times and deal with some severe cramping later in the race. He can also perfectly tell you all the different types of birds you see on a run, despite moving at some ludicrous pace. Before even responding about his race, Eric was asking about mine and congratulating me on my run. Class.
- Stefan, the 4th place runner, twisted his ankle EARLY in the race and still ran a 9:33 50 mile. Stefan runs a 2:30 marathon or something freakishly fast and does triathalons as well. Pic of his foot on the left. Insane.
- Lalo ran his first 25 mile loop, realized he forgot to put food at the Equestrian aid station for his wife, DROVE THERE AND BACK, then resumed his second loop and still got 10th place in 10:08. Heart.
- Connie ran a 3:30 marathon just a week prior to completing this, her first 50 miler. Connie passed me around mile 43-44. I knew she was hurting as much if not way more than me, but she was determined to get the race over with. Guts.
- Travis not only placed 6th, but this was his first 50 miler and longest run to date. Machine.
- Cairns Climb with RockhoppersOne of our runners completed the first loop in Vibrams and second in Huirache sandals. This course is NOT barefoot-friendly. See pic on left for the average HCNA landscape. ALWAYS rocks and steep climbs often. Crazy!
- Scott Raab ran some ridiculous pace to win the fastest single loop award, sub 4 hours. Kelli also ran a crazy fast time. Their teams took first and second in the 4×25 mile relay. Speedy!
- Robert completed his longest run to date as the last leg of his relay team and dealt with the coyote’s howling all night and being mostly alone for about 5 hours at 1am until around 6-7am and freezing temps. Props.
- Four Rockhoppers completed the 100 miler. Rachel was 2nd female in her first 100. Jean fought off a myriad of problems to finish sub 30 hours and had a smile EVERY time I saw her, despite what she was going through. Chris Russell completed his third Cactus Rose 100 and placed 8th. Brian PACED for 50 miles, as long as I RAN. Larry Pearson placed top ten in the 100, just three or four weeks after completing Wasatch 100, arguable one of the top three hardest 100s in the states. Inspiring.
I am not sure I will ever have what it takes to compete in these things, but the experience of meeting so many interesting people and frollicking through the hills for hours on end cannot be matched. I am utterly thankful for my health and, as long as I have it, will continue pushing to see what I can achieve.