Q & A With Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile Finisher Erik Kennemer

Erik Kennemer Rocky Raccoon 100 2021 Race Report Team Dirt and Vert

One of the inaugural North Texas Team Dirt and Vert members completed his first 100 mile ultra at Rocky Raccoon on February 7-8, 2021

We asked Erik a few questions about the event and his takeaways.

Congratulations to Erik and we look forward to seeing you cover many miles leading up to your next ultra.

Tell us all about your first 100M race. Was it what you expected?

I lucked out with excellent weather, perfect trail conditions and pacers that were beyond seasoned and skilled. I knew going in that it would start out as a running love fest and devolve into misery, nailed that prediction.. The first loop I probably went out a bit too fast and couldn’t shut up, wanted to chat with everybody… THAT eventually ceased to be the case..Waves of emotion would ease over me out of nowhere and then subside, I’d like to avoid the rollercoaster analogy but… What I didn’t expect is that I felt relatively mentally alert the entire time, I had expected to be out of my head towards the end.

What was your longest race distance prior and what made you choose this race?

Crazy Desert 100k was my longest race prior to Rocky which I ran last March. Rocky has had a special place in my heart for a long time, I paced a good buddy “guess who” there 9 years ago at his first 100 miler and have returned to crew for another good buddy “guess who” a number of times. I had no doubts where I wanted to earn my first big buckle.

How did you train and how did the pandemic impact your training or race preparation?

I try to “stay ready to get ready” year round but started training in earnest 16 weeks out. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by strong knowledgeable runners that I can turn to for advice and guidance, no reaching out to the faceless Twitterverse here. Early in the training I maintained what some would consider conservation mileage 40-45 a week and towards the end ramped up to 60-65 mile weeks averaging 30 miles during the week with one day focused on hill work and back to back long trail runs on the weekends. The monotony of my weekday solo runs really made me appreciate the company of my Dirt and Vert brethren on the weekends as well as an occasional after work jaunt at one of their organized runs. The PANDI honestly didn’t effect my training much, I run super early during the week and would run with the same small and trusted circle on the weekends.. Mainly it just gave me anxiety about race cancellation.

In hindsight, what would you have done differently in training or race execution?

My race went really well and I’m honestly pleased with the quality of work I put in. I’ve crossed a lot of finish lines but there are few races that I feel I did well and honestly this was my best effort. I asked for advice from those with experience, I listened, implemented and was consistent. I’m chaos incarnate and thesis NOT typical for me. Execution wise I was uncharacteristically organized leading up to it and stuck to my plan regarding not burning time at aid stations and the start finish each time. I probably should have grazed a little more when I did pass through just to break up the monotony of eating the same thing mile after mile after mile. Towards the end I just didn’t want to eat and I’m sure I was low on calories.

Any advice or words of wisdom for runners considering their first 100M?

My advice to anyone considering tackling a hundred would be to seek the sage council of those who are experienced and be consistent in your training. Listen to your body, adjust activities as needed and know that rest and recovery are extremely important. During the race if something is irritating / bothering you, make adjustments immediately.. That rock in your shoe or the hotspot on you naughty bits isn’t going to fix itself. Lastly, don’t go in it thinking you can just “wing it”…

Now that you’ve completed your first 100M, what’s next for 2021.

I haven’t picked the “next” yet, for now I’m just enjoying running because I want to and looking forward to cycling season but I KNOW there will be next… I’m of course going to throw my hat in the ring for that loooooong shot chance for a Western States slot which because it scares the hell out of me it could actually happen…. Plus I hear it would drive a certain someone absolutely INSANE “guess who” if I got in with my first ticket.

Q & A With Dino Valley 100k Finisher Zach Dane

Zach Dane Team Dirt and Vert Dino Valley 100k Texas

One of the North Texas Team Dirt and Vert members completed his first 100km ultra at Dinosaur Valley on November 21-22, 2020.

We asked Zach a few questions about the event and his takeaways.

Congratulations to Zach and we look forward to seeing you cover many miles leading up to your next ultra.

 

1. The Dino Valley 100k definitely was tougher than I had anticipated! Being who I am I went out way quicker than I should have, it’s a 6 loop course with each loop being about 10.1 miles so that first loop was fast. After that I felt ok but around mile 30 it had warmed up a lot more than we all thought it would so dehydrating started to kick my butt. Basically I had lost all my nutrition that I had put into my body halfway into a 62 mile race! I powered through It though and took the next couple of loops as easy as I could.

2. My longest race distance prior to the DV 100k was the cross timbers trail marathon back in February of 2019. The reason I chose DV 100k is it was just after my cross country season had ended so I knew I would have time to recover, and I had some friends that already signed up as well.

3. Coming off of cross country season I had the speed but I didn’t have aerobic base needed for a 100k so my training mainly consisted of a couple longer runs but in reality I didn’t have that much time. My preparation was more of a mental preparation I knew if I wanted to cross the finish line it would be a battle between my ears. Covid didn’t necessarily interfere with much other than the stair master at the gym being taken once and a while.

4. Looking back on the race now I would have not ran a race so close to cross country season! I would have given myself time to recover from XC then start a newer training block building off my speed and endurance.

5. Well now that I’ve completed my first 100k I’ve planned out some stuff for the summer of 2021. One of my friends Briston Rains and I are going out to either Utah or Colorado in June to either run the Bears Ears 50k or the North Fork 50k. After that in July I’ve signed up for a brutal race put on by Karl Meltzer its called the Speedgoat 50k in Snowbird Utah. This is the race I have my eyes on considering its a high profile race and very competitive. So I’m beginning some training right now building my aerobic base and I’m going to tackle the speedgoat 50k course pretty hard. For the June races they are to get my body prepared for the mountains and elevation of Utah. Im shooting for a top 5 finish at Speedgoat.

Tejas Trails Bandera 100k Race Report – Jen Kirkpatrick

Tejas Trails Bandera 100k Race Report Team Dirt and Vert Jennifer Kirkpatrick

Most of all, the ultra distance leaves you alone with your thoughts to an excrutiating extent. Whatever song you have in your head had better be a good one. Whatever story you are telling yourself had better be a story about going on. There is no room for negativity. The reason most people quit has nothing to do with their body” ~Scott Jurek

I’ll let you in on a little secret: leading up to Bandera, I didn’t completely trust my training. My lack of trust had absolutely nothing to do with the plan that my coach had laid out for me. My lack of trust rested solely on ME, and it had become a raging fire, fueled from the guilt and regret of missing workouts. Yes, I managed to get the majority of my workouts in, but I did miss some strength and mobility and I did miss some mid-week runs. I felt like a complete and total failure. I felt that I had let myself down, my coach down and my team down. Plus, it was just scary to race after a year of nothing. Did I still have a competitive spirit? Could I still run that far? It’s just crazy where the mind will go if you let it.

A lot of people dread taper, but I don’t. There’s a point during the week when the nerves melt away and I am forced to accept the reality that what is to come is what is to come. I cease to fret about performance or pain or fatigue or results. Taper is when you have reached the point of no turning back. In other words, you no longer have the time to train in order to change the outcome. Or, you have no more time in which to screw it up. I find an eerie comfort in that. Taper week, for me, is accepting my fate then tying up loose mental ends so that I can race in the best mental shape.

Going into the race, I had a few goals:

  • Complete the race in 15 hours (Greg thought I could run in 14:30 – I thought he was insane)
  • First and second loop splits with no more than an hour difference. (Also thought that I would not be able to pull this off.)
  • Remember that racing is a celebration, not a test
  • RACE, not run

Due to COVID protocols (Tejas Trails did an EXCELLENT job, by the way!), the race started in a wave format. I was in first wave, which was 6:30-7:00AM. The wave start is awesome, becuase there is no pressure to arrive at a fixed moment in time. We were heading to the start and I decided that I wanted to change shorts, so I went back and changed shorts! That level of chill could never have happened in a mass race start. I started around 6:42AM. The weather was PERFECT! It was in the 30s but there was virtually no wind and not a cloud in the sky. The forecast was upper 50s, cloudy in the afternoon and low 40s that night. It just doesn’t get any better! Most of the first wave had started at 6:30, so I was by myself, except for a few people that I caught and passed early on. The wave start worked really well for me because I didn’t get caught up in what everyone else was running and I could focus on maintaining the level of effort that I wanted. When the faster runners in the group behind me started catching up, it wasn’t that mental blow that you sometimes get because I knew those people would have been far ahead of me if we had all started together. Plus, if I had 30 minutes on them and they caught me – it’s not like burning matches to keep them from passing would have done any good….because they already made up 30 minutes on me! I did miss trying to chase down women to better my position, though. Chasing people can be fun. Tejas Trails Bandera 100k Race Report Team Dirt and Vert Jennifer Kirkpatrick

Everything was clicking along really well, until I got to the Lollipop. I ended up somehow getting a cactus needle jammed through my shoe into my second left toe. I tried to pull it out of my shoe, but needed tweezers. I wasn’t about to waste time pulling off my shoe for one stupid cactus needle, so I carried on and decided that if the poking became unbearable, I would address it at that point. Around this same point, I started feeling a sharp pain in my left ankle. Just one mile prior, I had been thinking about how much stronger my ankles were compared to the last time I ran in the Hill Country. Wow. What in the world could have happened? I realized fairly quickly that the pain in my ankle started at exactly the same time as the cactus needle in my toe, but it seemed unlikely that would have caused the issue. Again, I decided not to think about it until I needed to think about it. Even then I was resolved to keep moving, however that might look. Luckily, I only felt it off and on for the next 5 miles or so, then nothing! (By the way, it ended up being a large cactus needle stuck in my ankle. I suspect that it punctured a vein, which caused the pain and the large bruise afterward.)

Bobby had come to crew and Baha to pace. They went for breakfast after the start, then met me at Equestrian, which was the second aid station. I shed my long sleeve shirt and headlamp, traded water bottles and was off again. My goal was to trade water bottles at most aid stations, restocking food at Nachos (mid-point of the loop) and start/finish. Efficiency was a must, especially during the first loop. I made it to Nachos quickly and easily enough and restocked nutrition pretty quickly. I knew I was ahead of the pace chart I had prepared, but couldn’t tell exactly because I refused to take the time to pull the pace chart out of the pouch out in my belt. Since I wasn’t exactly sure how the wave start was going to work, I had based the whole thing on a 7AM start, so I had to account for that 18 minutes as well. Run math….smh.

When I made it to Chapas, I was feeling good, but a little tired. Having the Big Ass Runner crew cheer for me as I ran through the barn gave me a nice shot of adrenaline so I had some energy going into the flatter, more runnable section of the course. This is where faith in your training pays off. Even though I didn’t have a lot of faith in ME for the overall race, I knew that I could get through these runnable sections. Greg structured my training around keeping my leg turnover for those flatter areas and I knew I was prepared for it. I made it to YaYa, tired, but still moving. Bobby and Baha didn’t make that aid because they had gone to grab lunch, but all I needed was water anyway. Now it was just a few miles to the start/finish where I would be half way done AND would pick Baha up to pace. I rolled into the start finish with a first loop time of 6:27, which was about 30 minutes faster than I had planned for the first loop!

It seemed like I spent A LOT of time at the start/finish before heading out on the loop, but the difference in Baha’s Strava for the loop and my chip time for the loop was only 6 minutes. If that’s the case, I’m really happy with that. Baha’s friend, Brian, started the loop with us and stayed with us until we arrived at Boyles. He certainly kept the conversation going! I needed Coke, so we stopped. Gah, I hate to waste time at aid stations but I was in a low spot. I told Baha that I was tired. I would have been happy to lay on that rocky ground and take a nap! No time for napping in a race, though, so off we went again. Stopping for Coke was a good decision because I did get an energy boost. Sometimes taking a little bit of time now of time pays big dividends later. I was feeling pretty good at this point, but had been doing run math in my head. (I realize how dangerous it is for me to attempt run math while running, but I threw caution to the wind and did it anyway.) If I was right and we could maintain just under a 15 minute average pace, it seemed like a 14 hour finish was possible. I asked Baha if I was correct in my thinking and he agreed that it was completely within reach. I told him that it would be pretty sweet if we could come in at 13:58 or 13:59. 13 just sounds better than 14, right?? That’s all I had to say – from then on, he had a new goal for me….sub-14.

Bobby was ready and waiting for us at Equestrian. This stop took longer than it should have….I feel this may become a theme. I had planned to arrive here at 4:30, which would have been just an hour prior to the sun setting, so I had also planned to put on a long sleeve, vest, headlamp and gloves. It was still “warm”, so I only put on the long sleeve and headlamp, stuffed the gloves in my belt and grabbed more nutrition. At this point in the race, I only had 22 miles left. So short, yet so far. I had fueled well in the first part of the race, but that stuff gets hard to stomach. I transitioned to getting most of my calories at aid stops through Tailwind Rebuild and Coke – which was my plan from the beginning. I’m going to keep doing it in all my races until it doesn’t work anymore! LOL!!Tejas Trails Bandera 100k Race Report Team Dirt and Vert Jennifer Kirkpatrick XOSkin

Heading out after what seemed an eternity, the miles started clicking away and it really didn’t seem to take us a long time to get to Nachos, even though it was 7 miles. In my mind this stop went really well – Baha might beg to differ. Baha stopped to use the port-o-potty and I downed my Coke and Tailwind and was waiting on him when he was done. Thats a win, right?? In my pace chart, I had anticipated making it Nachos around 6:15PM, which would have been close to the time that headlamps needed to be turned on. We rolled into Nachos at 5:15PM! Now the immediate goal in my head became making it to Chapas before turning on my headlamp. Of course, this was a very arbitrary goal, but sometimes all you need are a few mind games to keep you motivated in those last miles.

We rolled into Chapas at 6:22PM. At this point, I was sliding down into another low and I had difficulty getting all that shit down my throat fast enough for Baha’s liking. I haven’t a clue how long we were there, but regardless, it was too long! While we were there, Bobby said to me for the first time: “just run faster”. I thought, “Dear God, he has spent WAY too much time around Baha!” But he went on to say that we were gaining about 5 minutes between each aid station and that “all I had to do” was keep that up to come in at 14 hours! LOL!! Of course! No problem whatsoever! I finally got my ass up off we went. But a few steps later, we were running through the barn and saw the Big Ass Runners AGAIN!!! I can’t even begin to express what a pick-me-up that was! I was a little sidetracked by all the fanfare and Baha practiaclly had to shove me out the barn door to get moving again. We might have been 100-200 yards down the trail, which, by the way, was some of the smoothest and flattest this course had to offer, AND I TRIPPED AND FELL. (We all knew it had to happen!) I’ve never hopped up so quickly because we had NO time to waste and of even more importance: I only had ONE aid station in between me and that finish line!

This section went pretty well besides me being dog-ass tired. But we made it at least a mile or two in before headlamps were needed, and that excited me. My body was tired but my brain was still in it. I still hadn’t pulled that pace chart out of my pouch and was going off memory. Anyone who knows the brain fog of an ultra knows how stupid that was. I thought YaYa was 5 miles from Chapas at 57 miles, but it was actually almost 6 miles from Chapas at a hair over 58. I kept thinking we had to almost be there, but we never seemed to get there! More exhausted by the minute, I refused to give into the fatigue. I couldn’t let myself down. I couldn’t let Baha down. I couldn’t let Bobby down. I couldn’t let Greg down. Baha kept encouraging me by saying that all he wanted was for me to give myself a chance – a chance to meet this goal that I didn’t know was within my reach until this day. I didn’t fully believe in my mind that we could make it. We had this big climb at the end and by my superior run math calculations, I thought we were going to roll into the finish between 14:15 – 14:30. But Greg’s training had prepared me for this very section and this was where we HAD to bank time, if we were to make it. We blazed through that section, even if it did seem like an eternity.

We made it to YaYa at 7:40. With less than 5 miles to go, there was no reason to load up on calories. Plus, yuck. I drank some Coke, put my head on Bobby’s shoulder for 5 seconds (yes, Baha counted) and we were headed to the finish, baby!!!

I thought the distance between YaYa and the finish was 5ish miles, but it was actually 4. (Why did I carry that chart??) I really needed to go to the bathroom. And I really tried to pee while I was running. And I really didn’t want to admit to Baha that I needed to stop. Eventually, Mother Nature won the battle and I had to stop. Baha continued telling me that we were right there, but I still thought we were tracking a 14:15 finish. Suddenly, we were making our way up that gnarly climb and descent that was at the end….how were we already here?? We made our way through that – cautiously, because steep, rocky descents are my Achille’s Heel – and finally, the home stretch! My watch rolled over to 14:00 and I thought that we had a mile or so left to run. Well, guess what? We didn’t. We were literally THERE! We crossed the line at 14:02. Tejas Trails Bandera 100k Race Report Team Dirt and Vert Jennifer Kirkpatrick Jason Bahamundi

I am really proud of this effort. I wasn’t sure what to expect, not having raced a 100k before. I feel like my pacing was pretty even. My second loop was just a hair over an hour longer, and I’m really proud of that. A lot of that is due to race management by Bobby and Baha not letting me linger longer than needed. A lot of it is knowing that you have to keep moving and the knowledge that not walking is slower than walking and that walking is slower than the ultra shuffle. For me, it’s also important to know when to hike. There were several inclines I was able to run, but at some point the energy expenditure outweighs the benefits of attempting to run up something and hiking actually becomes faster. The catch is: you have to run again as soon as you are at the top. That becomes a mind over matter thing when you’re tired. Tejas Trails Bandera 100k Race Report Team Dirt and Vert Jennifer Kirkpatrick

I can’t begin to express my gratitude to Bobby, for coming to the race and crewing for me. Having loved ones at aid stations is such a pick me up. Knowing they will be there gives you the will to keep moving through the rough spots so that you can see them sooner, rather than later. And I can’t express my gratitude to Baha for believing in me and getting me there. I cherish the memories that we have made on these adventures! And finally, thank you to Greg, for preparing me to tackle this course and helping me navigate the rough patches during training.

More adventures await, but for now, I’m going to rest and relax a couple of days and play Taps for my two big toenails. Guess I kicked one too many rocks out there….

Q & A With First-Time 100 Mile Finisher Sue Luck

Sue Luck Dinosaur Valley 100

One of the North Texas Team Dirt and Vert members completed her first 100 mile ultra at Dinosaur Valley on November 21-22, 2020.

We asked her a few questions about the event and her takeaways.

Congratulations to Sue and we look forward to seeing you cover many miles leading up to your next 100 mile race.

1- Tell us all about your first 100M race. Was it what you expected?

It was the toughest race I had ever done. I expected this going into the race that it was going to be hard mentally and physically. I am glad I did it because it challenged me mentally more than anything else.

2- What was your longest race distance prior to DV and what made you choose this race?

The longest race I had ever done prior to this race was the Spartan Ultra which is a 50K and 70 obstacles. I choose this race because my good friend Jackie had reached out to me mentioning that this 100 miler race had a huge discount code for signing up.

3- How did the pandemic impact your training or race preparation?

The pandemic was actually a blessing for me in training for the race. It gave me a positive goal to look forward to and to stay active. Since the lock down in March 2020 I was able to work from home so I had more time dedicated to my training all summer long leading up to the race. Some days I ran early in the mornings or right after work. I devoted more time researching and testing out my gear to prepare for the race.

4- In hindsight, what would you have done differently in training or race execution?

If I can change one thing in my training is to speed walk more. I mostly ran nonstop in my training schedule. In hindsight I ended up walking most of the night. The major thing I would do differently is consume more food and calories during the race and hit up the aid stations more.  I bonked on a couple of the loops due to not eating enough food.

5- Now that you’ve completed your first 100M, what’s next?

I would like to run more trail races in 2021. I plan on doing this race again. The race director and volunteers were very supportive. They did an amazing job organizing this event! I love supporting local races.

Sue Luck Dinosaur Valley 100

Trinty Trail Out and Back FKT – Race Report

Trinity Trail FKT Lake Lavon Jason Bahamundi

On Friday, November 27th I laced up my shoes and went after the Trinity Trail Out and Back FKT. The decision to go after this record was made on Wednesday, November 25th in the evening after seeing that I had a good week of recovery and feeling emboldened by the FKT attempts of Greg and Jen. I was inspired by their efforts to push themselves when there was no reason to and with nearly 9 months of no racing, that itch had to be scratched.

Earlier this year, when Lake Sonoma was cancelled and then Bryce Canyon followed in the cancellation line, I noticed that there were a lot of people going after FKTs. I saw Billy Yang follow Amanda Basham on her 22-Mile Kalalau Trail/Na Pali Coast FKT attempt and that was the first time I wondered about an FKT attempt. The pandemic allowed for those thoughts to marinate as we entered into a steady state of base building. With no races in sight, I wanted to get that race day feeling. The Trinity Trail Out and Back FKT attempt would provide that.

On Wednesday, I wrote down the items that I would need for an 8 hour run. On Thursday, after the Turkey Day Run with Team Dirt and Vert at Erwin Park, I went home and started to assemble all of the items I had written down. It truly felt like the day before a race as I was going up and down stairs, into the garage, counting gels and calculating liquid amounts. Figuring out where the ‘aid stations’ would be and what I would need to get me from Point A to B and back again. I had nervous excitement, but that race day vibe was certainly there.

When the alarm went off, I most certainly felt that race day vibe. I had a couple of cups of coffee and an Rbar before gathering up all my bags and loading them into the car. The pre-race bathroom stops and feeling in my gut that I had to use the restroom were certainly there. Stopping for gas and feeling the excitement grew. Once at the start, I got nervous because I didn’t want to screw anything up with having the run being certified by FastestKnownTime.com.

A couple of email exchanges with Greg and Jen settled me down and got me focused for what lay ahead.

My goal time for this attempt was 8 hours. I had gone into Garmin Connect to create a pace strategy with that finish time and a positive split knowing that I’d have heavy legs toward the end. Greg had provided me with some insight into where the water stops are and how to remember where the trail started back after the loops were completed. Jen helped immediately by telling me that the trail went left once you stepped over the crossing gate and not straight as it would seem.

It was time to go. Pressed start on my watch and started running. This trail is not technical in any way. It is a horse trail and there is a lot of dead grass covering the trail with little to no rocks and or roots. In the first few miles I kept checking my watch because I was so nervous about going off the trail, but despite that my paces were well ahead of the 10:00/mi goal I had set for myself. Knowing this helped when I reached mile 3 and got turned around a handful of times. I don’t know that I’ve been more nervous about being lost than I was right then and there. The trail goes straight but the stepped on grass sweeps left and I just blindly followed that left turn until my watch was beeping that I was off course. Back tracked, didn’t see anything, went back, then back again and finally found the trail. OK, let’s get going.

I stayed around the 9:00/mi mark until I reached Brockdale and then the nerves kicked in again. I couldn’t find the water and was wandering around for what felt like 30 minutes. I had also noticed that my watch said 9.86 miles and Greg told me that the water was at mile 9.5. Did I miss it? I turned around and saw the spigot and filled up my bottles. I flipped through my watch faces and stopped on the one that showed me my remaining time to hit 8 hours, how far I’d gone and my ETA back at the finish. It was at this point that it said 2:03pm. A full 57 minutes ahead of my goal and 42 minutes faster than the ETA I saw when I got lost at mile 3. This is when I start asking myself: are you going to hard? Do you need to conserve energy? My response to myself: All Gas, No Brakes. Your legs will stop working when they stop working. Make this FKT attempt hard for the next person to go after.

One thing about the 5 mile stretch from Collin to Brockdale is that it was tacky enough to have mud stick to your shoes and then have the hay stick to the mud and create bird’s nests on your feet. Your 8 oz shoe would now weigh 3 lbs. The moment you kicked it off, you’d be right back in the mud. I reverted back to Rocky Raccoon in 2019 and how muddy  that was and that I took the mindset of running right through it and figuring it out later. In my mind, I knew that the return would be hard because my legs would have 30 plus miles on them by then.

The remainder of the run was fairly boring and I was just looking forward to the Mile 16.5 ‘aid’ station where I would fill up and make a run to the loop and be on the way back. When I reached the water spigot I noticed that I was still ticking of sub-10:00/mi paces and that would set me up for a return back that if the wheels came off the bus would still put me in the vicinity of setting the FKT. Once I left the water stop, I ran the 3 miles to the start of the loop and felt good. The loop had some cold water crossings that woke me up and gave me some life as I could feel the tiredness of the early wake up call start to set in.

After clearing the first two loops, I grabbed my nutrition that I had set out as markers to remember where to go back into the trail. This was an idea that Greg had given me a few days before. It worked perfectly and it was time to head back. I had seen text messages from Karen/Michelle/Erik about the pace I was setting and where I was on the course. There was also a text from Jen that I was kicking ass.

The back portion was not a big deal until I had 13.1 miles to go. How did I know it was exactly 13.1 miles to go? That is exactly when I saw Sam the Bull Mastiff with his owners and I had yelled that I was running up from behind them. Sam had drool coming down his face and he was off leash. This gave me some worries but Sam turned out to be a lovable dog. He ran next to me and when his owner called him he left, and then a few moments later he came back and ran a bit with me before leaving  again.

After leaving Sam, there was nothing exciting going on and then it happened. I stepped wrong and twisted my ankle. I audibly yelled: FUCK. FUCK man, not now. I hobbled for a bit and within 0.5 miles the pain was no longer there. Soon enough I was back at Brockdale filling my water. I looked at my phone and saw a text from Greg that said: Killing It and one from Jen that said: Fucking beast! Home stretch. 9.5 to go.  It was those words that played over and over in my head as the next 5 miles were the worst of the entire run. I normally have a mantra of Stubborn Mule playing in my head. It was something that Goat used to call me and it means so much. This time I started telling myself:

Embrace the suffering and every step from here to the finish is going to be comfortable and you can do this.

The mud that I scooted through on the way out now felt heavier and wetter and downright awful. I spent a lot of time kicking the mud off so that I could try to run but it just repeated itself over and over and over. When I got out of the 5 mile stretch and into Collin Park, I took the time to knock the dirt and mud off my shoes because I wanted to give these last 5 miles everything I had. the home stretch wasn’t hard other than having tired legs and being dehydrated. It was in this stretch that I had started laughing at myself because when I was so ahead of the 8 hour pace I thought I may break Greg’s record by 2 hours. Once the legs got tired then I had looked at breaking it by 1.5 hours. At this point, any time faster than Greg’s would be welcomed. I just wanted this to be finished.

When I went through the last pasture and back onto the trail, I knew I was home and would be setting the FKT and be ahead of 8 hours. I ran the last stretch without stopping and after I stepped over the cattle guard and walked a few steps I hit the stop button on my watch and it flashed 7h40m32s. I was elated, exhausted and emotional. Almost immediately my phone rang and it was Karen. I told her that we did it and she told me how proud she was of my effort and just like after every other race that holds meaning: I cried. The emotion just poured out of me. I didn’t expect that to happen but it told me that I gave everything I had and didn’t hold anything back.

A bunch of text message exchanges with Jen and Greg and tears streaming down my face told me everything I needed to know about the support community I have as well as the effort I put out there. I know that this FKT will not stand forever but I hope that I set a time that will make the next person think about whether or not they want to go for it and if they decided to that they are going to have to give it 100% for the entire 43.7 miles and not take a single step off the gas.

Black Canyon 100k Race Report

Black Canyon 100k Race Report Jason Bahamundi

This Black Canyon 100k race report is about 6 months too late but hey, what else have you got going on right now? Plus, with the 2021 version coming up sooner than you might expect this is the perfect time to read this race report.

Background:

In December 2018, my name was pulled out of the Western States lottery barrel and I was going to race WSER in 2019. Knowing that I would have the lottery ticket for the 2020 WSER lottery from the 2019 finish I decided that I was not going to race Rocky Raccoon 100. I had raced that even 5 times and was looking for something else to race that had a bit more elevation (or more challenging elevation) and so the search for the 2020 qualifying event was on.

A bunch of athletes from DFW settled on Black Canyon 100k and then the strategizing and training started.

Training and Goal Setting:

After looking at the elevation map and seeing that the total elevation climbing was approximately 6,000 feet I went to my race results for Bandera 100k to compare the elevation in that race. As it turns out the elevation profiles are very similar. In 2015, I finished Bandera in 12:52 but that year was a muddy mess and I figured that with better nutrition / hydration practices and experience running trails that I could break 12 hours on the course.

I chatted with Greg about this goal and we agreed it was doable. We set the goal, then built our training plans to achieve that goal.

Race Day Execution:

Greg and I tend to be trail running nerds and want to know what we need to do to accomplish our time goals. We will have splits for getting to the various aid stations and different outcomes but for this race, we went with the laminated card that only showed what we needed to do to get to 12 hours.

Of course, when the split chart came out and the pace for the first 20 miles was 8:50/mi to keep us on pace I got nervous. Despite the course showing that it was flat to downhill for those first 20 miles, keeping that sub-9 pace for 20 miles on trails wasn’t going to be easy.

If you don’t know about Black Canyon, understand that it starts with a loop around the track before heading out toward the trail. If you don’t execute this well, you can end up blowing up later in the race and/or be stuck in a traffic jam once it gets to single track.

Greg and I decided to start together and as is our customary plan for racing together, if somebody isn’t feeling it the other person is not obligated to stay behind. We took our loop around the track and hit the road toward the trail. We saw friends along the way and smiled and laughed and were given a lot of positive support.

After about 4 miles, Greg had to stop to use the ‘restroom’ and I just kept going along. I didn’t expect us to be separated so early but we had our goals that we needed to achieve. I love racing and running in Arizona and the landscape and trail did not disappoint. The sun was rising and the crisp air felt great. The pace I need to keep, felt really easy. I made sure to stay on top of nutrition and hydration from the get go. I planned on drinking 2-3 flasks (40-60oz per hour) and taking in 1 Spring Energy per hour. I also had Skratch Labs chews on me in case I needed a calorie boost.

The race execution was going great. I was feeling good and was looking forward to seeing familiar faces at the Bumble Bee Ranch aid station which is at mile 19.4. The few miles prior to that were awesome as I was running with 4-5 other athletes and we were cruising through the course. When I ambled into the aid station I saw Amy Clark who was part of our posse at the race. I asked her where Karen was and she didn’t know so I got the necessities out of my drop bag and moved on ready to keep the progress that had been established.

The next 5 mile stretch to Gloriana Mine at me up as my pace dropped by nearly 2 minutes per mile. It was uphill but it just felt harder than it should have and I had the thought that I did go out to hard. I took a bit of time at this aid station to refill, drink, and refill again before heading on to the Soap Creek aid station at mile 31.2. The benefit of this stretch was that it was 7 miles and mostly downhill which I felt could help get me back on track.

Getting to this aid station was harder than the thoughts in my head allowed me to believe it would be. I remember looking at my watch at the marathon distance and reflecting on Ali’s words that she ran a 4 hour marathon here a few years prior and then blew up. I had hit the marathon distance faster than she ran it and the doubt started creeping in.

I started to leave Soap Creek and decided to take a moment to drink the entire flask and refill before heading out toward Black Canyon City. As I turned to head back, I saw Greg coming in and before I knew it he was heading out and I thought: Oh, we are going to race that way!!! Reality is that we both know the rules for racing together and I was happy to see him running strong.

Black Canyon City aid station comes up next and I felt good heading in. I was so surprised to see Michelle because she had previously told us she wouldn’t be able to make it. Seeing her smiling face and then Karen’s was a huge uplifting moment.

I asked how Greg was doing and they said he was doing ok. In the next breathe they said that Greg’s direction to me was: Hurry up and catch up. I made my way through that aid station as quickly as possible and headed out to see if catching Greg could actually be done. I felt really strong leaving that aid station despite the climbing immediately out of the aid station and then a couple of miles later.

I finally saw Greg during one of the switchback sections at around mile 42. At that point we looked at the pace chart and how we were moving and felt very good about breaking 12 hours. The weather was still cooperating with us and neither felt exhausted. Having a partner to tackle the last 20-ish miles together made a big difference. I would rattle off the mile splits to Greg and he would rattle off if we were on target or not. We strategized our hiking versus running and the miles seemed to click off rather quickly.

We were moving but not over-exerting ourselves. We pulled into Table Mesa (Mile 50.9) together and saw Karen and Amy again. Taking our drop bags, refilling, chatting, laughing and before we knew it we were off and running to get the last 10 miles in and break 12 hours.

I was starting to feel a bit sluggish and added pickle juice to one of my flasks. The extra sodium would help get me to the finish line, or so I thought. I drank about half of it before we reached Doe Spring aid station. There was only 4 miles to go at that point but I was tired of the pickle juice and poured it out and then added coke to my flask. Pickle Coke is a real deal helper.

Leaving Doe Spring we felt like we had the sub-12 hour goal in the bag but the course is flat at this point and we decided to run and run we did. We went from running 12-13 min/mi to 10-11 min/mi. We were getting close and the sun started to go down and Greg, who was in front, asked: Are you being stubborn like me and not turning on your headlamp? I originally thought yes, but then responded to him and told him I was turning it on. Being this close to breaking 12 hours, I did not want to risk a turned ankle or going off course to derail us.

As you are finishing you can see the lights of Emory Henderson and it seems pretty far off but with every step the lights shine brighter and the sounds of the finish line grow stronger. I remember feeling ecstatic and my legs decided that we couldn’t just skip in but had to run in. We went below 10:00/mi at that point and I yelled: We Fucking Did It! We broke 12 hours.

Setting the goal, Training for the goal, setting the strategy, executing the strategy and coming out ahead was awesome.

The smiles on our faces said it all. The pizza being shoved down our face holes said even more. We reminisced about the race, and waited on the rest of the DFW crew to finish. It was a job well done BUT it also sets the stage for 2021. The goal is to be across the finish line before sunset so we need to get across the finish line between 11 and 11.5 hours. VERY DOABLE.

Hey Aravaipa Racing and Black Canyon 100k – See you in 2021

Northeast Texas Trail FKT

Northeast Texas Trail FKT Team Dirt and Vert Jen Kirkpatrick
“Surround yourself with people who have dreams, desire and ambition; they’ll help you push for and realize your own.” Friday evening just before 7PM, I left New Boston hoping to finish the 130ish mile trek to Farmersville sooner, rather than later. Greg was in to crew the duration. Kelley was crewing through Saturday afternoon and Bryan McKenney accepted my invitation to pace Friday night. I felt I needed a someone with me during the night hours – safety in numbers.img_5325 I experienced A LOT of anxiety and doubt the 10 days going into this event. I mean, I basically decided to do this a month out and that didn’t provide an optimal time frame for proper training build up. I felt under trained. I knew the trail was gnarly in spots and I wasn’t sure if I could persevere. I didn’t sleep well the entire week before. I worried about starting at 7PM and having to run through two nights. I genuinely doubted my ability to pull it off. I didn’t start this adventure in the right mindset at all. The first miles were deceptively easy trail, yet they still wore me down quickly. Running on flat land is just HARD. I wasn’t prepared for the difficulty of navigating the obstacles of the meat of this course. The conditions alternated between lakes covering the trail, mud bogs or sections of THICK thigh-high grass/thorny plants/poison ivy and, just for fun, sprinkled in here and there were completely downed or sketch bridges (I CRAWLED over two of them). Every once in a while, the NeTT would give us a peace offering of some runnable terrain. Bryan hopped in between New Boston and DeKalb and off we went. The trail basically parallelled the road through this stretch. Pretty straightforward. After we left Avery, the trail veered off from the road, so it finally felt like we were on an actual trail. Be careful what you wish for. We navigated mud and water covering the trail, which, of course, took more time than we wanted to give. We fell behind schedule then missed a turn to workaround a downed bridge East of Annona, causing us to backtrack. I was already secretly contemplating dropping. My stomach was off, fatigue was already wearing on me and I wasn’t in a good head space. But we marched on. Between Annona and Clarksville, we trudged through the thickest overgrowth one could imagine. We tried to run but it was futile, so we ended up hiking. I had not put on my pants yet and after this section, my legs were trashed from endless cuts from thorny plants. Bryan and I rolled into Clarksville just after the sun came up. He got me through the night and headed home for some much needed rest. I could tell how miserable he felt and I wondered if he would ever speak to me again for getting him into this mess!img_5326 I ran solo from Clarksville to Bagwell. Honestly, I don’t remember much about this section but I’m sure it alternated between tall grass and mud and trail lakes. Greg hopped in to pace from Bagwell to Detroit. Kelly Whitley left a nice, firey treat for me in that stretch and it was a welcomed pick-me-up. I was on my own again from Detroit to Blossom, but the Whitley’s were waiting to cheer me on as I left Detroit. When people take time out of their day to cheer you on, it means SO MUCH. Even with the treats and the visits, the trail was wearing me down and I could overcome the urge to throw in the towel. I admitted to Greg and Kelley in Blossom that I didn’t think I could make it, but they weren’t having ANY talk like that. Deep down, I knew I couldn’t quit, but I longed for the ability to sit as long as I wanted and SLEEP. So far, the Mother Nature had been kind to me, but the rain had moved in and was getting stronger. Greg paced me from Blossom to Reno but since it was time for Kelley to leave, he sent me on my way and put his crew hat back on. I was starting to come around. Running was decent, the stomach was OK, I had a long, easy section of trail, and, most importantly, I was beginning to take back control of my mind. The urge to quit was replaced with the urge to finish. I was running for my crew and pacers now more than I was for myself. I couldn’t let them down. Bryan had already given up a night of his life for this, Greg and Kelley had given up a night and half of a day and I had Brent on deck to pace the second night. I could not let their sacrifices go to waste. Bobby was waiting for me with Greg when I got to Paris and I was so happy to see him! It was quite literally a monsoon at this point and I needed to see him at that point. The immediate goal now was to make it to Roxton so that I could pick Brent up for the night hours. I can’t remember why I had to hop off the trail and take roads out of Paris to get back on the trail, but that’s what Greg said and he always knows. On the way out of Paris, a trail angel named Alice was waiting on me, IN THE POURING RAIN, to cheer me on and take pics and video. Heart of gold. Her visit was a pick me up, for sure!! Bobby and Greg were waiting on me just outside of Paris to guide me to where I would get back on the trail. We turned down a county road to head to the trail but there had been so much rain that a low-lying bridge flooding. Bobby wanted me to hop on his truck to get across, but I couldn’t do that! I did hold on to the tailgate just in case I lost footing. I was a bit apprehensive about the upcoming trail conditions and hoped that I wouldn’t have any serious water crossings. This was quite literally a flash flood situation. The trail was definitely WET but luckily had bridges over all the creeks that needed to be crossed. The trail crossed over county roads about every mile through this part and Bobby was waiting there each time to see me onto the other side. I made it to Ambia, which was halfway between Paris and Roxton. Fi, Cathy and Chris were waiting cheer me on and they and brought soup and coffee. It was raining harder than ever now and again the warm kindness of my friends was keeping me in this fight. I was over half-way there and I would be picking up Brent at the next stop in Roxton. I started believing that I might actually pull this thing off! img_5303 I made it to Roxton and another kind stranger was waiting to cheer me on, Dan Lake. After my little aid station stop, Brent and I took off for Ben Franklin. This section had a workaround so there was quite a bit on road. Then between Ben Franklin and Pecan Gap, we took the Sulphur River Bridge workaround because we both felt conditions were not favorable to cross. On the workaround, we added a runner to our group….a dog that was so excited to discover people running by his house at 2AM. He got on the trail and ran with us all the way to Pecan Gap. Greg occupied the dog with food while Brent and I took off for Ladonia. I really hope he made it home OK!
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Best 5 minute nap EVER
By the time we got to Ladonia, the sun was coming up. That’s always a boost because you made it through the night. The rains were long gone and the skies were clear. I had the best 5 minute nap of my life in the car and we were on our way to Wolfe City. The only real issue in this stretch was a not-normal skunk that wouldn’t get out of our way and a sketch bridge or two. Bobby and Alli met us in Wolfe City and brought pancakes! It totally hit the spot. And we only had 21 miles to go!!img_5299 Wolfe City to Celeste was a bit hairy. The sun was out and the grass was drying, which made some slithery friends want to come out and get some sun on the trail. We saw at least 5 cottonmouths in a VERY short stretch. I don’t usually get spooked about snakes, but even I was getting a little anxious. A couple of bridges were also pretty sketch in this section, so we didn’t move as quickly as we wanted. (I’m sure you’ve noticed a recurring theme: we NEVER moved as quickly as we wanted.)img_4228 In Celeste, Greg announced that we had 13 miles to go and I HAD NO IDEA I WAS THAT CLOSE! I was seriously in THE BEST MOOD. Ran a couple solid miles then we hit the stupid black land mud bogs. That mud literally SUCKED OUT MY SOUL. I didn’t even think I would be able to make it to Merit, much less the final leg to Farmersville. I couldn’t believe how quickly I went from being on top of the world to feeling like I couldn’t walk another step. Brent wasn’t doing much better than me. But we finally made it to Merit and SIX MILES were all that stood between me and that finish. Bryan and Shellene had come to see the finish and were waiting in Merit….and he was actually speaking to me! When we left for Farmersville, they even ran with us a bit. I looked up, and there was Pam! She had run from Farmersville to Merit and was going to accompany me to the finish. Brent decided to stay behind since Pam had showed up and off we went.61143611207__3b5e638f-1fd0-42a2-8a4c-80899ef75425 SIX MILES. It seemed like such a short distance yet at the same time it seemed impossible. Pam’s bubbly personality and willingness to talk about anything kept my mind occupied for the first few miles. But the closer we got, the more I wanted to be DONE and I couldn’t keep my mind distracted from that. Bryan and Shellene met us at points where roads intersected the trail and he was letting me know how much farther. The great thing about this section is that it was completely maintained with pea gravel and concrete closer to Farmersville. NO MORE MUD. NO MORE GRASS. NO MORE TRAIL LAKES. That six miles felt like forever but it also went by very quickly.img_5294 img_5338As I approached the finish, there was a crowd of my friends cheering me on. I can’t even describe how touching it was for all of them to come out and support me in this way. I feel incredibly blessed to have such amazing people in my life.
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Death by 1,000 cuts, but my feet actually held up pretty well
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My People
The FKT was certified and so it is OFFICIAL! My time was 46:51, much slower than I had hoped, but the trail was much more rugged and brutal than I anticipated. This was by far the most difficult thing that I have ever done and I could not have finished it without the help of my friends and family. Thank you doesn’t even scratch the surface, but to all of you who had ANY part in this journey – I appreciate you more than you know!