I haven't been motivated to blog much lately. I think the "coming down" from Bandera got me pretty good both physically and mentally. I've been wanting to jot down my thoughts about what worked and what didn't, but everytime I sat down to do it, I just got up and found something else to do. So here we go....
What I learned from Bandera...
My Training - I felt my training during November & December prepared me perfectly to go the distance. Heading into it, I was not afraid of going 100K at all. Due to the limited time I had to train, I committed to train exclusively on the trails around my house. From a hills standpoint, it wasn't far off from what I encountered in TX. What I learned is that I must acknowledge (and thus train for) the "challenge" of the course. Every race has some unique challenge (big climbs, big descents, high elevation, etc). Bandera's unique challenge was the rocks and I blew them off. It was a mistake that I won't make again. I will figure out the unique challenge(s) of future races/courses and adjust my training to incorporate it, even if it's not convenient to do so.
Shoes & Socks - I wore my La Sportiva Wildcats w/ Smartwool socks. The decision on the socks was due to the probable rain. I trained with them many times and appreciated the extra warmth on those mornings when it was freezing. Well, on race day, the rain held off and it actually got quite warm at times (sunny and 60's). After about 4 hours, my feet were sweating and swelling. As a result, my toes ended up pressing against the ends of my Wildcats. I'm sure all of that contributed to my blister mess. Thanks Aaron for the reminder about Drymax socks, as I'm going to check them out. I've also worn Injini's with good success.
Fuel Plan - My EFS liquid shot & water plan worked very well. I had mixed up about 10 bottles and stashed them in drop bags. I ended up sipping on the stuff all day. I did experience stomach cramping yet again (miles 27-30...seems to be the magic miles for me), but I can't pinpoint the cause. The only other things I had were several cups of coke throughout the second loop and a small cup of chicken noodle broth around mile 52. I tried two cola flavored Powerbar Gel Blasts, but they weren't going down well this time around. While I was definitely moving at a snails pace at the end of the day, I don't believe it was fuel related. With all that said, I can't say I felt confident my fuel plan would have worked for another 38 miles. Still have some work to do here.
Electrolytes - I'm quite sure I got low in this area. EFS is supposed to provide me adequate electrolytes, so I didn't plan on taking anything else. As mentioned, it seemed hot out there, and I could feel the salt piling up on my skin. Towards the middle part of the afternoon, something felt a little off and I was plagued with "twangy" hamstrings. I suspected electrolytes, so I popped an SCap. I took one more an hour or two later. Now that I've seen the pictures of my "white" navy blue hat, I can certainly see I wasn't getting enough salt for what I was pushing out.
Pace - In hindsight, I think I probably pushed a little too hard during the first loop. I finished the first 50K loop in 4:54 (9:29/mile). This is about 10-20 seconds per mile slower than what I ran all my long runs at. I'm still a little stumped in knowing if running faster than my planned 10 min pace contributed to my feet issues, or if running slower would have produced the same results.
My Light & Garmin - My handheld light strapped to my wrist worked like a charm. I needed it during one of the two most technical stretches and I had no issues seeing what I needed to see. I can't say enough good things about this setup. About 45 minutes after getting the "low battery" warning on my Garmin, I hooked up my external battery contraption. It took about 2 minutes of walking to get it going. You can see it in my race report picture with Joe...hooked to my hydration pack. The big negative is that you can't see it without bending it up, which even still made it challenging to read. I'm going to experiment with other placements on my pack.
Gaiters - I wore my DG gaiters for the first time in awhile I figured they'd help with all the loose rock. Not once in 12 hours did anything get in there. During Pikes last summer, I had to stop to remove rocks from my shoes. I'd much rather waste time during a race for some other reason.
Mental Stuff - I certainly got frustrated during the second loop when my feet blew up. But overall, I was pleased with how I kept my head in the game all day. I joked in my report about cursing the rocks during the last 10 miles, but during that stretch I also found myself saying...."hey, I signed up for this thing, trained by running over 600 miles in two months, paid money to fly down here....so quit your whining, harden up, and finish this thing as best you can." I wouldn't call it a breakthrough moment, but it was an important one. It's one of the main reasons why I feel I'm a better ultrarunner because of Bandera.
It's funny how the mind works after a race like this. The video on my report has me saying I don't ever want to run there again. Now, I start thinking about how I could have run it better....smarter. If I addressed the feet issues, could I have kept my sub 10 minute pace going? I guess there's only one way to find out. Ha! No, I'm not planning on going back...but I'm open to the idea!