I didn't see a single mountain lion. Its the one downside to touring the countryside by running a race; unless you're way out in front of everyone else you don't usually see as much wildlife as you might out hiking alone. Bandera is in the Texas hill country and the hills are like home here in the Ohio in terms of length but they're rockier. A lot rockier, and sometimes overgrown with sotol, which scratches the heck out of your legs. Running Bandera in shorts means little scratches up and down your legs for a week or so after the race. Anyone who ran Bandera this year will probably also talk about the mud. Usually I like mud but this mud was different. It was shallow but stickier than any other mud I've ever run through. Strange stuff, maybe the dust is finer out there.
Running somewhere completely unfamiliar always makes me happy so that part of this race was great. That and the finish were the high points. The aid stations were good, and I really did enjoy the land out there. How to begin with the things that went wrong and how much to share? Well really, I guess there's just as much to learn from the stuff that goes wrong as from the stuff that goes right and the stuff that goes wrong might be more entertaining for the reader so here goes.
I was on vacation the week before the race, snowboarding vacation in Mamoth. I had a great time! I did over use my right quad a little I think, although this wasn't noticeable until halfway through the race. Also, I got sick during vacation (drugged the cough, took alleve for the fever, kept going) and then I got better. I was barely coughing by the day before the race and race morning I was less hungry than usual but still, no cough. No cough until mile 7 when I came up a hill a little to fast, breathed a little too hard and then had a coughing fit that got so intense I wound up stepping off the trail and throwing up everything I'd put into my system so far. Puking at mile7 of 62 isn't ideal but I stayed calm (mostly) and cursed minimally.
I never puke during races and I can just about always eat but here I was, unable to do more than sip from my water bottle. After puking three times things seemed to quiet down. I had the ginger candies I always carry just in case but usually give away so I started eating one every 15 minutes or so. By mile 20 I managed half a banana and a gel. My legs were starting to feel achy and shaky from lack of calories but I figured I was making up for it finally and I jogged on.
Around mile 35 I had gotten several more gels and banana halves to stay inside me and was feeling better except that my skin was getting prickly and my throat kept drying out. I didn't want to chug water out of nervousness about my stomach but then I realized peeing hadn't happened since back when I puked at mile 7. I stepped well off the trail and squatted down and made myself pee (if you're thinking 'TMI' then you just shouldn't be running ultras or you should get over that thinking). I looked at the whole tablespoon of pee that came out. It looked like watered down pepsi or maybe dark bourbon.
I know this is a very bad sign so I drank the rest of my water and took it slow to the next aid station about a mile and a half away. I stayed at the aid station long enough to drink 24 oz of water, paused to make sure it was staying and then refill my bottle again. Kidney's need water to work! So does the rest of the body really. The rest of the race went pretty smoothly except that I'd figured on being 2-3 hours faster and so had drop bagged my headlamp at the later of the two possible drop bag locations. I started doing the math. I picked up my pace. The sunset was beautiful. Scary but beautiful. I did get to my light before full dark and without falling. I didn't drop bag an extra layer and it gets cold at night. Cold and very windy! I moved as fast as I could manage and started really trying to pile on the calories.
So lets pause and see what can be learned. As long as the race lets you have multiple drop bags you may as well use them and have back up lights and clothes and maybe even shoes. At some point in the second half of the race I tore the upper in my right shoe. I could run on it but it rubbed a half dollar size patch of skin off the top of my foot by the end. What else? Oh, practice evaluating your body on training runs. Get into the habit of thinking about when you last ate, how much you've been drinking, when you last peed, whether you're getting a hot spot somewhere. I got lucky. I could have wound up touring the local ER. On the other hand, if I'd been paying more attention I might have slowed down sooner to get the calories and hydration taken care of and then run more of the miles better.
At the end of the race, during the last 10-15 miles I was actually passing other runners. There was this one woman, right at the end who kept getting back ahead of me on downhills all the way up to the very last one (the afore mentioned quad difficulty was slowing my descents). I could see her headlamp up ahead of me right when the sounds from the finish line began floating up the trail. I sped up, there was a chance I'd be able to catch her. I almost stumbled trying to keep track of my progress toward her headlamp on the dark trail. Suddenly I could see the turn just before the finish. I sprinted. I ran that last 150 yards or so with energy I didn't know I had. I passed her right as we stepped onto the road and I kept going. It wasn't about place or beating someone really and there wasn't a big audience, it was just me finding out how much trying I had left in me.
I felt great. Very winded, but so happy. Then the cough came back and I held onto a trashcan and coughed and puked until I wound up in the mud with dry heaves. They passed pretty quickly. Oh, but the coughing was intense enough I peed on myself. It was yellow. The two people from the race who had come over to try to help me seemed concerned at how happy I was to know the color of pee. Working and hydrated kidneys are a very good thing. So's getting dry and clean and warm! Thank you Tonya for helping me change into dry, warm clothes!