Cactus Rose 50 Miler
This was my first ultra in Texas, my first ultra in graduate school and my first ultra since Leadville. Needless to say I was anxious to hit the trails for the weekend. I feel that my training for the race was solid, about 85 miles per week with about 40% trails. It was a drastic change going from a job at Rocky Mountain National Park to a Physical Therapy school in Austin, Texas and I was worried running might have a hiatus. However, I still had plenty of time to grind out the miles in the Texas heat.
I found several great trails in Austin including McKinney Falls, Barton Creek, and Onion Creek Park and some old country roads that reminded me of farm town life back in Tiffin, Ohio. I thought I could run a personal best for the 50-mile distance since a course in Texas could not even compare in difficulty to the courses I ran in Colorado. However, after the sun came up on the course that I was running I realized that this was not at all the case.
I got in a taper week and was able to do some miles on the beach at Padre Island with Apryle. It was a great opportunity to explore more of the state and get in some relaxing miles. I had a couple of tests race week that forced me to study long hours and luckily kept me from running too many miles as I inevitable do race week. As a result I was feeling well rested and after getting off work at 9pm on Friday I traveled to Hill Country State Natural Area.
After a restful 4-hour nights sleep in my pop up tent outside my car I toed the line for the race somewhere in the middle of the pack. This was a mistake, should have started at the front after spending some time weaving around the main pack. After breaking free I saw a few other head lamps every now and again but essentially I was by myself, a drastic change from Turquoise Lake… It was relatively flat but very technical terrain and I was tripping and stumbling all over the course. The trail was tough enough during the day but at night I having even more difficulties.
The sun rose around mile 17, right as I entered the sotol and I caught my first glimpse of where I was running. It was surreal; I almost could have mistaken it for the foothills in Colorado. It was great to see some undulating landscape again but then I realized that I would not be running a pr today. I kept plugging and made the half way point in 3:55; 20 minutes slower than my first 25 at Collegiate Peaks in May. I was still hopeful that I could maybe even split the race.
I will say this was the best that I have done in race in regards to staying hydrated and nourished. I must have filled my 2-liter camelback 6 times and ate about 3500 calories. I kept remembering back to Apryle handing me trail mix every 5 minutes on Hope Pass and tried to duplicate that with myself. I feel that this was difference between running the last 10 as opposed to walking it in.
I did not even spilt but I did manage to keep it relatively close coming through the next 25 in 4:31:26. This brought my overall time to 8:26:26; about 58 seconds slower than my 50 in Buena Vista earlier this year. However, I feel that this course was significantly more difficult than the Collegiate Peaks 50. The elevation gain seemed comparable (3600 CR 2500 CP) but the technicality of Cactus Rose made it much more strenuous. I finished the day in fourth, my best 50-mile place; a win in the ultra circuit continues to allude me.
The course was very well marked and for being a self-sustaining race the aid stations far surpassed my expectations. I believe the route chosen was an excellent way to highlight the landscape. The course did an excellent job of tearing up my legs with the cacti and the rocks did an exceptional job of rolling my ankles. It was an interesting course and made me work for every inch and I would not have it any other way. If I were going to be in Texas next year I would sign up for this one again, but hopefully clinical rotations will take me back to Colorado.