The 2012 Bandera 100k, held in "Hill Country" Texas, attracted the deepest field of runners in the history of the race. I was honored to be toeing the line and sharing the trails with some of the heaviest hitters in the sport. Thankfully I would not have to worry about qualifying for a Western States 100 spot since I was chosen in the lottery, but I still wanted to rack up some quality Montrail Ultra Cup points. After a solid and fun October I felt confident going into the race coming off the back of 750 miles of running in the final two months of the year (350 in Nov. & 400 miles in Dec.).
I flew into San Antonio Friday and, while I was walking through the airport with my face buried in my phone looking for my car reservation, I hear someone yell, "Yassine!!!" It's Dylan Bowman from Colorado aka D-Bo, who is there with Nick Clark, and then I notice another Pearl Izumi teammate Darcy Africa at the rental car window. The excitement starts to kick in and we yap away incessantly about everything running, sun, warmth, Texas, Bandera! Yeehawww!!! Staying in a rental house with Oregonian friends Craig and Laurie Thornley, Meghan Arboghast, Hannah, Joe Uhan and Brittany, Pam Smith, and Irunfar's Bryon Powell was also a special treat. We talked quite a bit, laughed, caught up, and before you know it race morning rolled around. I saw many familiar faces and it was really fun to be down in Texas for the second winter in a row. On to the race: RD Joe Prusaitis sends us off after we count down from ten for the double 50k loop and it is an absolute perfect morning. Colors of pink and blue are starting to illuminate in the sky and the 7-minute per mile pace off the line feels like a jog with all these amazing runners around. Timothy Olson and Dave James dart away from the pack immediately with a pretty large chase pack. Then it starts thinning out a bit with D-Bo, Clarkie, Ricks, and maybe a couple others. I stay pretty relaxed and am running with Todd Braje, Joe Uhan, Josh Bart, and fellow Rudy Project team member Jesse Haynes for the first several miles. Eventually defending champion and recent Ultra runner of the Year Dave Mackey comes out of his early race hibernation and joins me. We link up for the next couple hours with a consistent yet patient pace interspersed with some visits from Jason Schlarb and Joe Uhan. Dave and I talked about trying to run more even splits compared to the previous year where everyone's second 50k loop was at least 40-minutes slower than the first. We thought that a few of the front runners would "run themselves into the ground" and on the second loop we could pick up the carnage.
Around mile 26 or 27 Mackey started picking up the pace and I couldn't hang and let him and Joe Uhan go. I tried to stay relaxed and thought about what I was going to grab out of my bag at the start/finish area. I came through the first 50k somewhere between 4:05 and 4:10 or so, and while that may seem pretty fast, it felt controlled and relaxed. So far so good. I grabbed a Clif Bar, a few gels, and scurried out as quickly as I could as the cheering crowd motivated me onward.
(Arriving at the Start/Finish area after my first 50k loop.--Photo: Traci Danek)
The first few miles of my second loop I started feeling really good, and I started noticing some early "carnage". Todd Braje was having to drop due to a foot injury, and I started noticing some vomit on the trails. The heat was starting to have an effect on runners (myself included!) but I continued to motor through the rocky trails. Eventually I came across Justin Ricks (2011 Eugene Marathon winner in 2:22) who seemed to be having some trouble with the heat. I hiked a short portion with Justin and he informed me that it was him that was throwing up. I moved on out of sight for the next runner. After another mile or so I caught glimpse of Joe Uhan. I picked it up a little and made a pass around Joe. I was feeling strong and things were starting to happen exactly how I envisioned them to be. I even got a visual confirmation of Nick Clark a couple minutes ahead up on a ridge. I'm coming for you Clarkie! (To be fair Nick was tired from lots of racing, traveling, etc. and wasn't having his best race).
Not even five minutes after I passed Joe Uhan and saw Nick up on the ridge I started developing some stomach distress. It felt like I needed to burp to release a bunch of pressure, and it didn't seem to be processing the Perpetuum drink and Clif Bar that I had eaten a few miles prior. I tried swallowing air to induce the belch but it just caused more discomfort. I slowly started a downward spiral and was forced to slow down. All of the sudden Joe was right behind me and I pulled off the trail to let him pass. Two minutes later Paul Terranova caught me and commented, "Yum" as I let out a huge burp as he passed. I tried to hang on and maintain contact to these guys but the stomach distress and cramping, etc. just got progressively worse. There were times where I was forced to walk significant portions of trail just to get it under control and then I could start running again briefly.
This walk/run stomach pain with burping combo continued and I got really depressed as my race started slipping away. I was so bummed because I felt in such good shape to lay down a solid race but my digestive system was faltering. Not long after Jesse Haynes caught me and I told him about my issues. We ran together for a bit and he offered me some Mentos which was really nice. Even though we are on the same Rudy Project Team we are racing against each other and here he is trying to help me by giving me mint candy. The camaraderie in ultras is like no other.
I came into the aid stations and Meghan, Brittany, and Meissner troubleshooted my problems and offered me ice water and S-caps, etc. I had been taking S-caps every 45 minutes or so but apparently that might not have been enough in this weather. I started doubling up on the caps and continued to struggle through, thankfully, some easy sections of the course. After about an hour of walk/running, and with the help of my friends, my stomach started coming back around.
During that time I had a pity party for myself, I wanted to quit, I tried to run through it and ignore the pain, but finally just had to accept what happened. I tried my best to salvage my race. I had calculated that because of my stomach issues that I was going to finish in over 10 hours. I had like 15 miles to go and I just started cranking. I put my head down and ran....up and down technical sections, open fields, and a couple steep climbs (Cairns Climb and Boyles Bump). I passed Dave James who said that he was dropping as well and I wasn't sure what was really happening ahead of me. I just kept powering on and it felt good to be running so strong toward the end of a 100k. When I finally made it in the the finish area I was pretty satisfied about how I turned it around a little and salvaged things and crossed the line in 9:22....Good for 8th place overall.
(Finally done after a tough day in Hill Country, Texas---Photo: Bryon Powell-Irunfar)
Bandera is a really cool event and course...I really enjoyed it (minus the stomach issues!) and I think I may try to go back in 2013. The people were so friendly and helpful down there.
The men's race was a burner and my buddy Timothy Olson took the "W" and knocked off Mackey by ten minutes. The the third spot and Western States qualifier was nabbed by Oregon runner Joe Uhan who passed D-Bow in the last couple miles. Bummed for Dylan but happy for Joe in this breakout run. I feel like I could have been up there if things went right w/ my stomach...but oh well.
The women's race was won by Cassie Scallon (who is now living close to me temporarily and I'm excited to run with). She overtook local favorite Liza Howard, and Pam Smith rounded out the top three (even though I don't think Pam had her best race either).
Full Results can be seen HERE Part of the mystique in these longer races is that you can be in the best shape of your life and you never quite know what is going to happen. I was surprised when I was crippled with stomach issues, depressed, and then surprised again and eventually satisfied when I turned it around for the better. I can't wait till I put it all together....Maybe that'll be at the big dance down at Western States 100!? ......We shall see......
(Me w/ my new buddy Jay Danek who had a nice 100k finish---Photo: Traci Danek)
Good job to all Bandera runners and really nice seeing everyone and hanging out.....Thanks to all the volunteers...to Joe Prusaitus and company...and to Meghan, Brittany, Sean, and Bryon for helping me along the way, and for Irunfar for covering the race! I met many new friends down there and am excited for 2012....I'll leave you with a video created by Josh Bart....(warning: you may get motion sickness!)