The Boulder Skyline Traverse was a fantastic experience, I learned so much and it helped me head into the last block of my training for Bandera with confidence! Here is my recap of my training from the Skyline Traverse on December 10th, 2022 through the Bandera 100k on January 7th, 2023! Enjoy the final chapter of my Bandera training blog!
I crammed a ton of miles into Monday – Thursday this week so that I could enjoy time with family on the weekend. We decided to do a family holiday gathering in a neutral location – Savannah, Georgia. I did a run in Savannah on Sunday. Running is my favorite way to explore a new city! I love seeing a new place on foot, getting myself lost, then finding my way back. The history, the big trees with the Spanish moss, the buildings.. Savannah is a city I would definitely recommend visiting!
Monday December 12th: 8 miles easy in the AM with strides – 5 miles in the PM at Sloan’s with the crew!
Tuesday December 13th: 4 X 7 minute tempo + 6 X 30 seconds fast! Total 9.75 miles
Wednesday December 14th: 10 miles easy in 80 minutes – PM Jones Road uphill ski in 70 minutes
Thursday December 15th: 20 mile long run with 2 X 30 minutes at 50k effort
Friday and Saturday: Off from running – exploring Savannah, GA with family
Sunday December 18th: 12.5 mile easy run around Savannah
Weekly total: 66 miles of running in 9 hours with 2,700 feet of elevation gain
For Christmas this year, I decided to go visit my good friends Kevin and Kyrsten in the Bay Area in Cali. So once again the plan was to front load my training to allow for some down time in Cali. Colorado weather had other plans.. We had an incredibly cold and snowy week that forced me to be flexible.
Monday December 19th: 5.5 mile run with Sloan’s Lake group
Tuesday December 20th: AM warmup and hill strides with Stargate kids 2.5 miles – followed by hills at Chapman: 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 minute hills for a total of 10.36 miles!
Wednesday December 21st: Skiing at Copper! Conditions were amazing, 4.5 hour drive home was less amazing..
Thursday December 22nd: Off day – travel to Cali – Sharks vs Wild hockey game!
Friday December 23rd: Easy 10 miles with Kevin (AKA Erv) – Erv is not much of a runner but he is competitive and decided to join me for this whole run.. His body may not have loved that call. 9 holes of golf in the afternoon!
Saturday December 24th: 22.6 mile long run in 2:50
Sunday December 25th: 7.3 mile hike in San Francisco with Kevin and Kyrsten
Weekly total: 51 miles of running in 7.5 hours with 3,000 feet of elevation gain + 6.5 hours of cross training biking/skiing
Monday December 26th: 8+ mile run with 6 X 20 second strides – last run in Cali. 30 minute PM bike ride to shake out the flight.
Tuesday December 27th: 12 mile run with 5 X 3 minute hills + 15 minute tempo!
Wednesday December 28th: Winter Park skiing with Larry! Another great day on the slopes! 30 minute indoor bike ride post skiing
Thursday December 29th: 8.4 miles in 67 minutes
Friday December 30th: Run with Andrew! We did 6 miles with some hill strides
Saturday December 31st: Last long run with Golden Trail Runners in about 6 inches of snow! 9 miles at North Table Mountain – had to get out and run with Bryan!
Sunday January 1st: Crown hill run with Sapan! PM 30 minute indoor bike ride
Weekly total: 49 miles of running in 7.25 hours with 3,400 feet of elevation gain + 3 hours of cross training biking and skiing
This brings us to race week!! I don’t often deal with the taper crazies, mentally and physically I enjoy tapering. But I do deal with some of the common taper issues: I will often feel a little taper cold or at least the concern that I am getting sick.. I will get a bit paranoid that some little niggle is going to derail my race. I get nervous and anxious. But with more races, the more comfortable I get with all of the feelings and emotions that can come with tapering.
Monday January 2nd: AM 15 minute indoor spin. PM 7 mile run at Sloan’s Lake in 1 hour. It was fairly cold and snowy. Larry joined me for a lap and then I did the rest solo. Being a holiday, attendance was light but that is okay! I love running in dark, snowy conditions.
Tuesday January 3rd: 7.4 mile run in 1 hour with 3 X 6 minute tempo
Wednesday January 4th: 15 minute post lunch spin, 25 minute post dinner spin. Love walking some live hockey while spinning out the legs.
Thursday January 5th: 3 miles on some snowy paths
Friday January 6th: 30 minute walk on the river walk in San Antonio with Gabe!
Saturday January 7th: Bandera 100k!!!!
Sunday January 8th: REST!
Weekly total: 80 miles of running in 13.5 hours with 7,100 feet of elevation gain + 90 minutes of cross training on the bike
Race weekend came and went in a blur. I arrived in San Antonio on Friday early afternoon. Gabe, my friend and athlete I coach who lives in SA, was there to pick me up. He was so generous with his time all weekend. We went to the grocery store to pick up food for the weekend, then he showed me around SA. We walked along the river walk and then checked out the Alamo. San Antonio is a cool city, one I would definitely go back and spend more time in. We then picked up Sarah from the airport and drove up to our Airbnb. We made food, went over the game plan for Bandera, and played one round of Codenames, before heading to bed. It took me a bit to fall asleep, it was hard to get the brain to quiet down. Before I knew it, my alarm was going off! I woke up at 5:30, had my everything bagel with peanut butter and a banana, got myself ready to go and we made the drive over to the Hill Country Natural Area. I picked up my bib, did a short warmup, hit the bathroom and got lined up at the start! It was so freaking cool to be in the starting corral with so many ultra trail athletes I have admired for a long time. There is arguably not a bigger name, personality, or smile in the sport than Courtney Dauwalter, then there was Joe “Stringbean” McConaughy, John Kelly, Amanda Basham, Nicole Bitter, JP Giblin, Jeff Colt, Ryan Montgomery, Anthony Lee.. and a number of other super strong runners. The gun went off at 7:30 AM and we were off. It was 70ish degrees and 95% humidity, which basically meant we were running in a rain forest. It was misting/ lightly raining for the first couple hours which actually kept things feeling cool. But the rocks were fairly slick and as the trail narrowed down to single track there was some jostling for position. I found a spot in the mix with the top female runners. I knew that I did not want to go out too hard too early and therefore letting the lead men go was going to be important. I felt pretty good through the first aid station, didn’t need to stop there as I had my handheld bottle and gels. I continued to cruise along at a comfortable pace, I slowed down on the technical downhills as I did not want to take a fall or roll an ankle if I could help it. The course as a whole was damn technical. There were some spots that I was able to settle into a groove and run for a bit but overall, it was a lot of rocky, twisty/turny, up and down, with cacti biting at your legs along the way. I had very little idea where I was at place wise but I moved up a few spots throughout the remainder of the first loop.
Sarah and Gabe were fantastic, they handed off gels as I needed, I refilled my handheld bottle at most aid stations and continued to move at a good clip for the rest of lap one. I finished the first 50k in about 4:30, the last 8 miles of each loop features a few miles of very runnable terrain and then the last two miles has arguably the steepest uphill and downhill climbs on the course. I picked up Gabe as my pacer going into the second lap. The next stretch was really tough.. I was starting to feel the impact of the heat/humidity, the rain had stopped so now it was feeling hot! It was also a very hilly/technical section and so I just focused on keeping the effort consistent, running when I could and hiking when I needed to. I made a good call and asked Sarah to have my running pack ready to go when Gabe was going to drop off, I wanted to have my music ready to help me go into the 7 mile stretch between aid stations when I was going to be alone again. I had run most of the day alone, but ran a bit with Mark and Kasie in the last bit of the first loop and a little bit of the second loop. Mark, his pacer, Gabe and I all ran together for a bit which was nice to have a little group. I knew that my pace had slowed down considerably and that it was only a matter of time before I started to get passed. At about mile 40, when Gabe stepped off the course and I was scheduled to go out alone, I knew I was overheating. I took some time to sit down, change socks, get a cold towel on my neck, have water poured over me, and take in some calories and fluids. In this 3-4 minute break I probably gave up 3-4 positions, but I managed to get back moving again and settle into a groove of walk/jogging. I also found out that I had made the rookie mistake of not protecting my nipples well enough.. I had put band-aids on but had not shaved my chest hair and so when the ran soaked me, the band-aids lost their stickiness. At the next couple aid stations, my blood stained white singlet definitely scared some of the volunteers and they were kind enough to offer me some Vaseline to prevent further chafing. As I took this break at the aid station, Nicole Bitter had come cruising past looking super strong, as had Katherine Short and Careth Arnold, the ladies once again proving that they are smart and tough! Then Amanda Basham and her partner and pacer Justin Grunewald who call Boulder, CO home, came cruising on by me. I then went through one of the many energy surges and managed to settle into a good rhythm and paced them back, as I did so we chatted briefly and I told them how much of a fan I am of them. Both Amanda and Justin are super strong pro runners, but more importantly from the little I know of them, they are great humans. It is interactions like this that keep me coming back for more suffering on the trails. The positive exchange of energy amongst the trail running community is so powerful. Amanda would soon pass me back and go on to an incredibly strong 4th female finisher.
I was very happy to have my music in this 7 mile stretch, we had no service so I was limited to what I had downloaded on Spotify and so I listened to my top songs from 2022 which included a heavy dosage of Lord Huron, Caamp, Mt. Joy, Wilderado, The Lumineers etc. While I love those artists and the songs that were coming through my headphones, I noticed that I was getting a bit bored and even a little annoyed by the repetitive nature of these songs. So, in a stretch that I decided to walk, I pulled out my phone and looked at what I had downloaded and decided to listen to a Spotify playlist that I will play when I have a hard time falling asleep, Night Rain. I proceeded to listen to the sounds of rainfall and rolling thunder for the next couple hours.. It might sound a bit crazy, but it worked for me! I managed to find calm in these sounds and they brought me to a happy place of laying in a tent all cozy in a sleeping bag with the sound of rain drops on the rain fly. One of the things I really liked about Bandera is the frequency that you get to see your crew. Sarah and Gabe were at all but 1 aid station, and they saw me at a couple road crossings as well which made such a huge difference and gave me a huge boost of energy! My coach Ryan was also out there and getting to see him and get a high five or two along the way was awesome.
Coming into the Chapas aid station with about 10 miles to go, I was feeling fairly rough but knew that I just needed to keep moving forward. I took a quick break, took in some ginger ale to try and settle my stomach a bit, I got some more cold water down my neck, re-applied some body glide on the inner thighs where I was feeling some chafing. The next 6 miles are fairly runnable but my body and mind were focused purely on survival. I was able to run some sections but continued to take walk breaks. One of the biggest shifts that I experienced at Bandera was in the second loop when I was able to move away from thinking only about the outcome, to focus solely on the process. I had this realization that it really did not matter if I finished in 9 hours or 12 hours, if I finished in 15th place or 50th place. The reason I do these things is to challenge myself, to test my limitations, and to enjoy the ability to move my body through space. This shift in mindset allowed me to stop the negative thoughts of what my result would say to the outside world, and focus on the pride I had in myself for doing hard things. In the next stretch I passed a few people who were running the 50k and were hiking a good chunk of the course. One interaction I had with one guy, we exchanged some small talk and talked about the challenges of the day and as I moved out of ear shot I said to him, “any day is a good day on this side of the ground,” I then passed another individual who I asked if they were a 100k runner and they said “no, I am ONLY running the 50k,” to which I responded “don’t say ONLY, doing 50k is freaking awesome!” These types of interactions always give me so much energy, feeling the positivity and hopefully helping someone else continue to move forward helps me take the focus off of myself and onto someone else. In these long endurance efforts, we spend a lot of time in our body and in our head, focusing on the discomfort we are feeling. Getting to think about what someone else may be going through and helping them in a tough moment is a great way to break out of whatever you are going through yourself. With about 7 miles to go we hit a very runnable section. I had been passed by 3-4 people in the last 3 miles and was feeling pretty rough. I had this thought come to me that if running slowly and shuffling along felt bad, maybe running faster would feel better. And so I started to push it! I found that running 9-9:30 pace (which felt like 7 minute pace) actually felt pretty okay. I then started doing some mental math. I knew that if I could average around 10-10:30 minutes/mile the rest of the way I could sneak under 11 hours. That was all the motivation I needed, I pushed myself all the way to the last aid station where I was picking up Sarah as my pacer. I ditched my phone and hand held bottle so that I could travel a little lighter for the last 4 miles and we took off. We held a good pace for the first two miles and then we hit some technical sections and finally got to the last big climb of the day! A tough uphill climb followed by a really tough technical and steep descent as the sunset over the hills of Texas. Sarah dropped back a little on the climb, we only had the one head lamp which as the sun was going down made things challenging. She was encouraging me to leave her and push to the finish, but I knew that I wanted this to be an experience we shared all the way to the finish line, no matter what my finishing time was. She was running in road shoes, was using her phone as a flashlight and does not have a lot of experience on technical trails. This was out of her comfort zone, but she did it for me and the only thing she cared about was getting me to the finish line. Sarah has always been my biggest defender. She was stronger, taller, more extroverted, more popular, and smarter for most of our formative years (and other than me being taller now, she is still all of those things!). I was her little brother, only one minute younger but the one that she always wanted to protect. There is no one who I would rather have with me in that kind of a situation as I needed to dig deep to get to the finish line. She cheered me on and encouraged me as a grunted and groaned my way through they last few miles. I had not fully rolled an ankle all day, I had a couple close calls with the ankles and with a couple almost falls, but I managed to stay mostly out of trouble. Then as the night set in and I couldn’t see where my feet were landing as clearly, I proceeded to roll my bad left ankle 3 times in the last mile.. It was painful. I willed my body to keep moving forward despite the pain and Sarah was there to help me do that. We took the final right turn and then a left to the finish together and came down the finishing chute! We crossed the line together 10 hours and 58 minutes after I departed on this 100 kilometer journey. This is a result I am very proud of! Do I have aspirations of being more competitive at the front end of these types of races, yes. But at the end of the day, I do these things for me, and I know how deep I had to dig, I know how well I managed all the different problems I faced along the way, I know that my physical and mental body were strong. For all of that, I am so proud of myself, and that is all that matters.
Thanks to everyone for the amazing support on the course this past weekend and those that sent their positive vibes, followed along, sent texts etc. from all over! Thanks to Sarah, Gabe and Ryan for being the best crew I could ask for. Thanks to the great volunteers on the course. Thanks to Tejas Trails for putting on a great event and for Aravaipa for livestreaming the event. I hope you enjoyed following along with my training for Bandera, I plan to write more blog posts on different topics moving forward. If you have topics you would like me to cover please send me an email email@example.com