I have never traveled out of New England to race and had never raced past November, although when the opportunity to run the Bandera 100k in Texas arose I was apprehensive but excited to run new terrain in warmer temperatures. My mileage significantly decreased when winter hit, but I had turned to cross training and core work. I wasn't sure how competitive I would ultimately be but hoped to make the best of the experience and have fun. It was a two lap course and my friend Meredith and her husband were doing the 50k and they planned on crewing and pacing me after they finished. Due to the distance and the rocky terrain I decided to wear my roclite 320’s and dressed in many layers.
The temperature at the start was 16 degrees with a projected high in the 40's. I debated between wearing my hydration pack and using a handheld. I decided to wear my hydration pack, thus avoiding the need to pull into many aid stations. The race director counted down and we were off. After I reached the top of the first climb I went to take a sip out of my pack. No such luck, frozen. I continued to run without much worry and started to descend. Within ten feet of descending I caught my foot on a rock and I went down hard. I immediately popped back up and tried to ignore the pain. So far not a good start and mentally I began to question whether flying all that way was a mistake. I encouraged myself to make it to the first aid station and then reevaluate. At this point three females were about a quarter mile in front of me. When I arrived at the aid station I grabbed a cup of water and took off running with it. I drank it down and tried to get my head back in the race.
I slowly closed in on two of the females and eventually passed Annette Bednosky. I then started running off the back shoulder of the next female named Melanie who was from the area. I noticed that once she sensed my presence she picked up her pace. I let her continue to lead the way and was hoping she may tire herself out early. Speaking of tired, I again tried to drink from my pack but still frozen. I knew I needed some sort of energy so I grabbed for a gu. It too was cold so I had to chew it to get it down. Fortunately before I knew it we spotted the second aid station and Melanie stopped. At this point I traded the option of water for the chance to move up one place.
Things seemed to be a little better, but before I knew it I was on the ground again. Trying to stay ahead of the two females that were close behind I picked myself up and continued to move forward. I was now alone with a few males in sight. I was getting thirsty and all I could hear was the slush sloshing around in my pack and I couldn't even bend the hose. I knew I needed to do something before I dug myself such a hole that I couldn't get out. I tucked the hose down my shirt and checked it every 10-15 minutes. Finally 2.5 hours into the race I was able to sneak a few small sips. That alone brought a lot of relief.
By the time I approached the third aid station my hose was unthawed so I didn't stop. This allowed me to over take the first female Jill Perry. I ran alone and just tried to stay mentally focused. Eventually Jill caught me and we had a great time getting to know each other. We conversed and even strategized a bit since we both felt we were running the first lap too fast. We pulled into the start/finish area just around the five hour mark and we both refueled and headed out. For a majority of the time Jill let me lead the way and my trend continued as I took another spill on a rocky downhill. I wanted to scream and I didn’t know how much more my body could take. I focused on trying to keep decent form despite my sore hip and swelling knee. About 42 miles into the race Jill and I parted ways after she stopped at an aid station. I knew that I would be seeing her again. As I plugged away I was now throwing up and couldn’t figure out exactly why. I tried to run a consistent pace and tried to keep in mind there were still a lot of miles to cover. As I pulled into the next aid station Meredith gave me a bottle with water and told me her husband Paul would meet me at the next aid station and pace me for six miles and then she would run me in the remainder. All I could think about was get to Paul, don’t lose too much time. I did just that and was eager to have some company and to gain some insight in how things were shaping up behind me. Turns out I was losing my lead to the three closest females behind me. Paul and I chatted and as soon as we began to climb I felt a sharp cramp in my left calf. I had never felt anything like it before, it was like my whole calf just locked up. A succeed tablet immediately helped remedy that and I forced myself to walk the big ups since it wasn’t any faster to try and run them.
My six miles with Paul was over and Meredith and I were now off and running. Meredith reminded me about the importance of being smart and focusing. She was also great at pushing the fluids and electrolytes. With still ten miles to go I wasn’t ready to push the pace and risk getting seriously hurt. It was great having Meredith with me not only for the company and advice but because she knew the course so well, she could tell me exactly what was coming up next. With each step forward I began getting more and more paranoid about what lurked behind me. I couldn’t hear or she her but I knew Jill as getting closer. I knew I just needed to focus on me and then of course as luck would have it I went down. Before I could even open my eyes Meredith was saying “get up, get up, lets go.” I got up and tried to run but it was more like a hobble. We weren’t even going to talk about how much it hurt because that wasn’t going to help anything. As we approached the last major climb of the course Meredith told me to walk but I knew that I still had the legs to power up the hill. I ran the whole up without worry and then knew it was just a descent and then a quarter of a mile of easy terrain to the finish. After making the left hand turn off the technical downhill I turned around to see Jill and a local named Chris. I said something like “hey girl, I knew I would see you again”. Jill and Chris blew by Meredith and I. Meredith gave me “the look” and I caught up to Jill and got next to her. I turned to her and said in a jokingly way “Do you want to duke it out?” To my surprise she said yes and took off in a sprint. It took me a second to process her response and then I was on the chase. I caught up next to her about thirty feet from the finish and she slowed down so I patted her on the back and said “come on Jill lets bring it in.” Again it turned into an all out sprint and we ended up in a tie and at the same time set a new course record in 10:33:18.
It wasn’t the most comfortable race I have run but I learned a lot about overcoming the ups and downs. Mentally it was a difficult day for me due to the falls and the focus that the terrain required. I couldn’t have faired as well as I did if it wasn’t for Meredith and her husband Paul crewing and pacing me. The course, aid stations and organization was fantastic and I hope to run in Texas again soon.