You know that feeling of being “in the flow” – moving smoothly and like you can run forever? I love that feeling! and neverever got there in this race. It was alllll work.
I had been having hamstring issues and spent the 2 weeks leading up to the race resting, icing, rolling, feeling a little uncertain about showing up.
But this is a favorite course, a birthday tradition! so I did. And although it was a tough (heat! gazillion % humidity! tweaky hamstring!) it was amazing. Not in the happy/easy sense, but in a way that I learned more of what I’m capable of + how runner friends are the absolute best + how sometimes a hard talk with yourself (on the ground & a bit desperate) about what you’re honestly willing to do is how to reset a difficult experience (because after that? you’ve chosen it — instead of “wtf-this-is-miserable-make-it-stop”).
Race format is 4 loops of a little over 15 miles each. The first 2 loops went fairly smoothly – not-fast-but-steady pace, almost 100% humidity but some cloud cover (& sprinkly rain). The early dark start was lovely – frogs singing, gators occasionally roaring off in the water (mating season! so they were wildly vocal).
As it got light, I tried a couple of times to listen to music, set my “run forever” pace, get into the zone – nope, wasn’t happening. Not even a little. Gahhh! settled in for one of “those” races.
Came into 50K checkpoint feeling ok, not great. Hamstring had been threatening, but holding up. (I had started the race loaded up with Advil – and was topping up a little bit every loop – which helped with inflammation.).
“Ok, 32 miles & I’m steady-if-not-fabulous. Hamstring holding. I’m managing.”
Three miles into 3rd loop, crossing a bridge – I caught my foot on a board that was sticking up (reminder: pick up your feet!) & BOTH hamstrings locked up. Arghh!!! Couldn’t even try to stretch without massive cramping. Leaned on handrail until muscles relaxed enough to “zombie walk”, then worked into an easy jog. Met up with another runner who was hiking fast! & we kept moving. (Thanks, Matt – for hike pointers and fun company.)
4th loop: Heat became an issue as well as after-effects of Advil (peeing serious amounts of blood — sorry, kidneys!). Gave myself a 5 minute time-out in the shade to assess the situation & damage, think clearly about what I wanted to do & what I was willing to do. Decided 1) heat was manageable, if I was careful, 2) pee wasn’t (yet) brown, so likely not rhabdo, 3) I was on track for a PR (competitive, much?) & I wanted it –as long as no permanent damage. Stood up, left my comfy shady spot and set off at a (very) easy pace.
Mile(ish) later — held up for gator crossing! (such a magical place, this park). Waited several-minutes-that-felt-like-way-longer for this guy to decide if he wanted to move off the trail. I tried talking, “Oh, hey Mr, Gator! Nice day, right? Wanna move over a little so I can get by?” No, no he really didn’t. Eventually, he scooted far enough across that I could go around the tail end. I went fast! & didn’t look back.
Things improved in early evening when temps dropped a bit. Met up with another runner & we were able to chat as we made our way toward the finish. It got dark! frogs started singing, gators were bellowing in the water, & lights ahead showed the finish line.
Finish was a new PR (by over 4 hours!). To be clear, Brazos Bend is a PR kinda’ course – flat & fast! – and my only other stand-alone 100K was Javelina (tougher course, tougher conditions), but I’ll take it.
What Worked Well
- Black Diamond spot headlamp – next time: also bring small flashlight for better depth perception
- Nike skirt
- Athleta tank
- DryMax trail socks
- Altra Lone Peak 3 shoes
- Ultimate Direction pack – perfect size, easy to get to nutrition. Next time: swap hard bottle for soft, easier to fill
- Gu Roctane
- Bonk Breakers — caffeinated
- Roka sunglasses (polarized! great even in low light.)
- Logistics – last minute change for this year required offsite parking & shuttle to start line. All went smoothly.
Not So Well
- Too much Advil! dealing with tweaky hamstring = peeing blood for last several hours of the race. Ugh. (Sorry, kidneys!)
- Chafe – needed to reapply Trail Toes more often, though at 100% humidity not sure anything would have helped!