The Bandera 100/50/25k is the first ultra of the year being held the 1st weekend in January at Hill Country State Natural Area 11 miles from Bandera, Texas, and about 50 miles west of San Antonio. For me this is a homecoming race considering San Antonio is my hometown and I usually have a lot of friends running the race.
Bandera is a well organized and supported race that meets the running needs of various skill levels. The capstone is the 100k, which is the US Track and Field 100k championship and is part of the Montrail Cup. Each year there is a guarantee to see some of the nation’s best ultra runners.
The course is in the heart of the Texas Hill country, which brings many short yet jagged climbs on limestone outcroppings. The footing is the biggest challenge with the trail being covered with tons of golf ball to softball size rocks. The distance is one 50k loop, which would be repeated by the 100k runners.
I went into the race feeling confident of having a good run and perhaps setting a PR beating my 2010 time. It began 7:30 am with temps in the mid 40’s and clear skies. The 50K and 25K runners began one direction and the 100k runners the other (great planning from Joe Pursaitis, the race director).
The first ½ mile was on an old farm road that allowed the elites to take off and then the climbing began. The first five miles was up and down several hills and ravines in two sections called Sky Island and Ice Cream Hill until it reached the Nacho aid-station. By the time I reached Nacho (mile 5.6), I was already burning up. Since I was running with a race pack and bladder, I just dropped off my trash and kept running.
The next few miles were a relief from the rock yet after passing the park head quarters and going another mile the trail hit a steady climb and down a hill along road cut for telephone lines. It looked easy coming up to it yet it was covered with large jagged limestone crevasses all the way up and down. Several times I rolled my ankle and stumped my toes. At the bottom I took a sharp left to a more runnable section that ended at the Chapas aid-station (mile 11.4).
Much of the run past Chapas was along the park boundary on runnable single track yet this was the only section where I took a dive after tripping on a random rock. After a few more miles, I hit a section appropriately named the Field, which was an open area that previously was for grazing cattle. It zig-zagged until I got to the Cross Roads aid-station (mile 16.9).
Despite this section being easy, I began to feel fatigue and sense of being beaten up in my legs. This was a feeling I had last summer in Aspen Mountain Marathon. I ran it four weeks after finishing the Hardrock 100. I guess, despite feeling good up to the race, I was not fully recovered from the Nothface 50 miler 4 weeks before.
At Cross Roads, I refilled my bladder, ate some solid food and departed at a slower pace to compensate for my fatigue. The next section was an out-and-back through an exposed area called the Three Sisters on the backside of Sky Island. Once again I began tripping on rocks and the heat was really getting to me. Did I mention it was January? After about 1.5 hours, I made it back to Cross Roads (mile 21.8) with a near empty bladder and cut up knees from the cactus along the trail.
Then at mile 26.1, we made it to the Last Chance aid-station where I refilled the bladder and the guy from Dallas and I started the trek up Cairn’s Climb and back down to anther climb to Boyles Bump. On top of Boyles Bump was best view of the race. Two years ago it was my favorite part of the 100k looking over the cliffs in the moonlight.Finally, we began to hear the cheers of the finish area and rejoined the road where we started in the morning and I finished the 50K in 6 hours and 25 minutes.
I had made up my mind to drop and have a 50k finish, yet after being urged by Joe P., I decided to try to go out and see if I had an improvement. I went back to Jason Mittman’s trailer to get more GU and drink mix and I took off.
Back to climbing again but after melting in the sun on the exposed climbs I began to feel it in my ankles and I had a pulled muscle. On the few runnable sections, I found I did not have it in me to run any more and I was not having fun.
So after 2 hours, I made the 5.6 mile trek to Nachos and let them know I was dropping and began the walk of shame on the road back. Luckily, I got picked up by one of the race volunteers who took me back to the finish area where I officially dropped.
In the end, I am glad I got in a good training race and I learned a lot about recovery especially with low winter mileage. I hope to use this a learning experience, which will help me plan better in the future. I had a good time with my friends Jason Mittman, Shauna Metcalf, Kip Fiebig, and Leslie Simmons with her husband. My only regret was the need to meet Kelly back in town that kept us from hooking up with my college friend Katrina Mukherjee. At least I got to meet her husband, Babul, when I saw him camped out by the park headquarters as I ran by early in the race.
This is a great race and I plan to be back for a 3rd appearance.