Monday, January 11, 2010

Bandera 100k

"Ma'am, I am going to need to inspect your bag," the TSA officer at PDX informed me.

So started my trip to the Bandera 100K. "Yeah, no problem," I answered back to the portly uniformed man, as if he were giving me a choice. I was certain I was getting busted for a canister of powdered Gatorade given the recent scare with "granular substances." The officer quickly removed nearly everything from my bag, it's contents readily revealing the nature of my trip: running shoes, sports bras, gels, water bottles, even the Gatorade got passed over with barely a glance. But remember my headlight that I had so cleverly rigged for Hundred in the Hood with my McGyver skills? Yeah, well TSA didn't think it was so clever.
My weapon of mass destruction

After the headlight passed individual inspection and a chemical exam, the guy hands it back with an explanation: "This morning we had a training drill and there was a fake bomb with some copper spools and batteries wrapped in duct tape, so when we saw this we were crapping our pants!"

Umm... is "crapping our pants" an official TSA term and am I supposed to feel more secure knowing that the TSA personnel are going to soil themselves when a real emergency occurs?? Anyway, after being removed from the terrorist list, I made it to Texas without further incidence.

My original reason for going to Bandera was to try to win a spot for Western States. But back when I was looking at the entrants in November, the list looked pretty beatable. I guess I wasn't the only one to notice this because right after the WS lottery several fast names appeared on the list: Annette Bednosky, Aliza Lapierre, and Jill Perry, as well as two former Bandera champions (Marcy Beard and Melanie Fryar). No longer needing a WS spot, my goal morphed into Waldo redemption and starting the year out with a good race (specifically, I wanted to go under the old course record of 11:18, but I wouldn't have admitted that ahead of time).

Race morning came was freezing (no, worse it was 14 degrees!), but it was sunny and clear. My gloved fingers were in pain from the cold and a thin layer of ice would form on the nipples of my water bottles between uses!

Bandera is two repeated loops of a 50k course. Looking at the available splits from previous years (2008 and 2009), I was immediately impressed by how much everybody slowed down on the second lap. Only 4 people (all men, total = 204 finishers) completed the second lap within 40 minutes of their first lap time (average was greater that an hour slower!). I certainly understand the concept of fatigue, but I thought the best strategy would be to aim for splits as even as possible. The first lap my mantra was "Leave room for improvement." Consequently, I walked a lot of the smaller hills (and all the big hills) and I stayed behind people rather than passing. In fact, for the first 12 miles I ran with a guy targeting a 15 hour finish.

The first section has a couple of good rocky climbs and the second section had several boulder strewn rollers, but the third section was actually the killer in the first loop, precisely because it was far and away the easiest section of the course - flat trails through grassy fields with pretty smooth trail. This section lured one into running faster because it was so easy and I succumbed: 5.8 miles in 50 min. That didn't really "leave room for improvement!" But I settled back in through the next hillier sections until the end of the first loop. Annette was at the aid station which surprised me a bit because I thought she was farther ahead of me. I left to start my second loop at 5:11 just ahead of her. I was feeling pretty good, but already my appetite was going south. I wasn't sick at all, there just wasn't much that sounded good. I was running scared back to AS1(now 7), knowing that Annette was right behind me and knowing that I wanted to go close to my first split. At the AS I grabbed some pretzels, but spit them out after chewing them to a pulp because I couldn't swallow them without gagging. I was two minutes off my first split.

The next section I think was the hardest for me. My energy was starting to falter and it was mentally rough because I knew I still had 20 miles after getting to the next Aid Station. By the time I got to Chapas (AS#2 and 8), I knew I had to get some food in me, so I reluctantly accepted a cup of soup and stayed until I got it all down. Four minutes slower on this split, but a lot of that was at the aid station.

Then it was back to the easy section. Wouldn't you know it, that's where I take my only fall of the day! I banged up my knee and dislodged a water bottle, but there was no real damage. That section I felt like I was dragging, but I was only 2 minutes slower. When I got to Cross Roads (~mile 48), I was happy to see Sean Meissner there, done with his 50K and out to cheer.

"Hey, Sean, you wanna run some more? I could use the company!" I begged. He seemed interested but he didn't have any running gear. So we agreed he'd go change while I did the 4.25 mile loop back to Cross Roads.

As I left Sean yelled, "Keep it up. She is only a couple of minutes ahead of you!"

I looked back at him and wondered what he was talking about. "Who??" I queried.

"Jill," he answers back. Hmmm, well now that was encouraging. But the knowledge didn't seem to help my running, as this split was my biggest discrepancy from the first (6 min). When I got back to Cross Roads, Sean wasn't there yet and I didn't want to lose time waiting so I took off. I was even more discouraged because a sign leaving the aid station said "10.7 miles to go," but I was sure I remembered the last two legs to be 4.7 and 5.0 miles, so where did that extra mile come from?? (answer: bad math! Really it was just too cold to think!). I even asked the cook if this was right, but he just laughed and said, "10.7 miles is just a short run for you guys!"

Extra mile or not, I was smelling the barn at that point plus I was catching some of the 50k stragglers which was motivating and got back to just a couple minutes off my first loop split.

When I got to Last Chance, Sean was waiting for me and I was so glad to have some company. Plus, he got me to try some watered down Coke when I told him I wasn't eating much. In real life I hate Coke (and all dark sodas, except root beer) - too syrupy with a completely artificial flavor. But after 57 miles this stuff was like the elixir of life. I started sucking it down and it perked me up, plus Sean made sure I kept moving.

The next half hour passed quickly as I chatted with Sean and twilight came. We knew we were going to easily come in under 11 hours, so we set a new goal: to finish without turning on my headlamp. Two miles later, we hit the dirt road for the last quarter mile and I gave a final push to the finish, crossing the line in 10:36:17 - with my light OFF and a 1 minute negative split! I only had a fourteen minute difference between loops! - more consistent than any of the 2008 or 2009 splits. (Thanks, Sean, for pointing this out. I guess I shouldn't be too hard on the aid station guys that couldn't add, given my bad math). Annette was just minutes behind, also without the use of her lamp.

Jill and Aliza were at the finish and there were hugs all around for our speedy quartet that had completely obliterated the old course record (11:18). I was stumbling tired, my face was a salt-lick and I was covered in dirt all along my right side from my fall, but Aliza and Jill were as cute and peppy as school girls! They were telling how Jill caught Aliza with a half mile to go and they decided to duke it out to the finish but ended up dead even, sharing the victory. The pair finished just over 3 minutes ahead of me, for an unbelievably tight spread for the top 4 ladies! The top two men, Nick Clark and Chikara Omine, also went under the old course record, so it was a fast day all around!(results)

Afterward, a group of us took the town of Bandera by storm, celebrating the day with margaritas and other libations. And don't forget food! We had a great time joking about the day, talking about future race plans and bonding over things only ultra-runners could understand (like why it is actually a good thing when your toenails fall off!). Before running Waldo, I said I felt like the biggest kid at the children's table, just waiting to move up. Hanging out with amazing runners (and all around great people) after a fantastic day of running definitely felt like I had been invited to the adult table!

As a substitute for the traditional bronze medal, at the breakfast I was awarded a most unique rock and metal elephant, which I assure you was not light! Worried about further arousing TSA suspicion, I made sure to send that bad boy through the x-ray in a bin by itself. There were still plenty of questions, but none related to me being a threat to national security!Bandera was a great experience, and with a time three hours and five minutes better than my Where's Waldo time, I feel like I got my redemption! And last (but not least!), an extra special thanks has to go out to all the volunteers who were out there freezing their butts off in miserable cold, just to make sure we kept ours moving - thank you! You won't be hearing any complaints from me about this event, which is good, because I think they would have fallen on deaf ears:


Anonymous said...

Hey Pam! Finally found you! So much enjoyed meeting you and the others...what an awesome weekend all around. Must "run" into eachother again soon! Keep in touch! Love your write up...mine should be coming up soon. Keep smiling around those two little blessings of yours! Jill ;)

Olga said...

What I said before:)

Chris said...

Pam, great report! I don't know you personally but was aware of you coming into the race. I ran off and on with Olga the first 15 miles (and she naturally beat me of course) and I was telling her that I was curious to see how well you would handle the rocks (particularly the steep, loose portions) since Oregon has different terrain. Obviously you handled it very well. Impressed with how you stuck with your game plan. Congrats!!

SteveQ said...

Great race! I saw the results and was eagerly waiting to hear how the first four women ended up so bunched.

I was feeling a little lack of motivation lately, but I may have to get in shape just to hang with you at WS! That's a pretty fast 100K, especially given the weather.

Hone said...

Awesome job out there!! The course looks like a fun one for sure. Loved the write up.

saschasdad said...

I have to start out by saying: math definitely isn't your strong suit! 5:11 first lap, 10:36 total time; this means your 2nd lap was 5:25, only 14 min. slower than lap 1 (not 25)!

Okay, now that we have that was a pleasure to run with you for a bit. You are so tough - I was very impressed! I would say you definitely got your Waldo revenge.

I look forward to watching you kick some more butt this season.

Bret said...

Great Race Pam. So was this one as tough as Waldo?

Pam said...

Thanks everyone for the nice words.

Chris - I have had some issues with my left ankle, and it hurt like Heck after the race, but the rest of me kind of enjoyed the rocks.

Sean - Thanks for the math lesson; I obviously needed it.

Bret - you ask a great question, one I have been thinking about a lot. Waldo is definitely a slower course, but I don't know if that means more difficult. All of the climbing in Waldo is in 5 distinct climbs, with lots of great running in between. Bandera has about 10 mini-climbs per loop (I think around 7,000' total) and a lot of crazy technical in between. In a lot of places, the downhill at Bandera is even slower than the flat running. Waldo only has one small stretch of rocks after Maiden Peak. The last 9 miles of Waldo are all downhill; the last five miles of Bandera have the two biggest climbs. So I guess my conclusion is Waldo is physically tougher; Bandera is mentally tougher.

Chris said...

Good comparison Pam. I would agree about Bandera being tough mentally. It is hard to get into a constant rhythm and the terrain requires a lot of mental concentration. I enjoyed your analysis about how much slower the splits are on 2d lap. One reason for that is a lot of us slower runners finish in the dark and even with lights it can be challenging to move quickly over the technical terrain at night. At the 100 mile version of this race (Cactus Rose) the slowdown is even more dramatic largely because everyone is doing a lot more night running and the cumulative effect of the miles/rocks add up to very sore/painful feet. Very few runners even attempt running downhill during the latter miles of Cactus Rose in the dark for fear of face planting.

Good luck at Western States!

annette bednosky said...

Yay Pam!
I loved reading your report! You are tough. Not a hack. Not a personage for the little kids table. Please keep up whatever you are doing and DO NOT underestimate your strength at WS! (100 miles is tough-Yet WS is soo much less technical than Bandera and you'll feed off of the energy of the event (once it starts..before hand, it can be a bit overwhelming!)
Congrats again amazing Pam!

Will Cooper said...

Nice job on the 100k race, and a great write up. Way to keep it real!


Goes On Runs said...

you rock! how fun to read about your race. what a crazy thing you do. i makes my half marathons look like evening strolls..... but i love reading about it.