#293 - Bandara 100k - Race Report

Bandara 50k done! When I originally signed up for this it was with the thought of doing a real gnarly 100k to start the training for Western States or Hardrock, sadly didn't get in to either of those and knew this had a "drop down" option from the 100k if needs be.

I discovered after about half a mile that my legs were done, and its the sort of course where you're watching your feet every step of the way to avoid the 8.6 billion trip hazards of rocks, stones, scree, roots, razor sharp grass, prickly pears and trust me, there is nothing soft and fluffy in the Texan scrub lands! There were some horrible ascents, and the descents were even worse, my major feat was staying upright! Got round 50k in 6:38 so was happy with that on a real tough course and a blazing hot day. Not going to get much sympathy for sun burn am I?! lol Thought I would sit at the finish for an hour, ice cold coke, then go find a Whataburger for an A1 Steakburger, then get a Cheesecake Factory take out, be a nice end to the trip and everyone would understand right? 50k on these legs would be a reasonable achievement, you'd all write, "well done, I understand, you've got a lot of miles on those legs..."

Maybe two years ago that's what I would have done. But I was in for the 100k, and as tempted as I was, I went around again. Incredibly tough, but then that's what I was there for. I think it was worse knowing what was coming up, legs are cut to bits, daren't even look at my feet and can barely walk. Maybe two years ago I would have taken the "get out of jail card" at half way, took the medal, got my time, but instead I thought about all the nice comments people say about me, few I believe really apply, but I thought about the world that gets up every morning and watches me, a daughter I'd like to think I make occasionally proud, girlfriend, family, running clubs and that flag I wear around my neck or on my back, I represent them all. And didn't want the Texans to think I was a quitter. So 15:11 and I took the buckle (not that it counts really as only 100k) instead of the medal, and Bandara 100k done.


There was little on in the UK this weekend (that didn't involve the prospect of much mud!) so I'd decided to tag on an extra week to my US trip with the thought of either doing the very popular marathon double in MS/AL (and the Mississippi Blues marathon is one of my favourites!) or a hard 100k in the Texan scrub lands in a park named "Hill Country..." so I knew what I was getting myself in to! Whilst I was mulling this over I was still in the Western States and Hardrock lotteries, so I was thinking a tough run will be better for me than a couple of extra random marathons. There were many times in the prickly Texan scrub that I wished I was in Jackson! lol

There was an optional race briefing on the Friday evening, which I didn't worry about attending as the Park was about an hours drive from San Antonio and as I had done plenty of driving this trip (clocked in at just over 3000 miles) so an extra couple of hours wasn't high on my priority list.

I wasn't quite sure how to prepare for this race, 100k is a bit far to think of it as a long marathon, but on the other hand (all being well) would be out far less than for a 100 mile race so didn't really feel I needed the full 100 mile set up. In the end I decided on half taping up my feet, just the big toes, injinjis and new thorlos, but wouldn't worry about any 100 mile food, changes of clothing or anything like that.


My plan had been to arrive at about 0600 for the 0730 start with the idea of grabbing a good parking spot so could use the car as a "drop bag" if needs be (the course was 2 x 50k loops) but that plan was rather thwarted by the crowds of folk who were there earlier than I was! I am thinking a lot of people must have camped as the main car park was full already and i was directed to the back parking lot, which wasn't that far away, but far enough that I wouldn't want to go there mid-race. I was prepared though and had a drop bag ready, which I then decided at the last minute just not to bother with! Plan A had been to put my rucksack in the drop bag and then just run round the first 50k with just my water bottle, and then swap to rucksack later. But just figured that having the rucksack with me the whole time was no huge deal, would save some time and generally involve less messing about.

The forecast was perfect really, cold 4C at the start, getting up to about 23C in the afternoon and getting down to 4C again at night. Everyone was rather wrapped up milling around before the start so decided on a sleeveless baselayer under my short sleeved shirt. (Mental note - sleeveless baselayers chafe after about 12 hours - marathons only!).

This event was the US 100k trail championships and there were some very quick looking guys at the front of the start, for once I decided against being too near the front at a US ultra! Started maybe a third of the way back and that worked out well as within 10 seconds the quick guys were gone and whilst I overtook maybe 50 runners very quickly on an open field part after that there wasn't much overtaking or being overtaken so that worked out well. In fact although much of the course was single track or double track it was almost always easy to pass or be passed.

What didn't work out so well was the first ascent. Did my legs feel it? I can't even say that they died on me, there was just no life to start with really and I knew straightaway this was going to be a tough day!

The course had aid stations about every 5 miles which nicely broke it up into chunks, the first part included "Ice Cream Mountain" which was a lie about the ice cream! Did make me smile though as there is a similar named "Hill" on the Windemere Marathon course, the self proclaimed "Worlds Toughest Marathon" (ho, ho, ho) - it's like 150 feet high, on lovely smooth tarmac. This was several miles of horrible rocky ascent and descent, climbing over an actual little mountain complete with the first of two brushes with the sharp, spiky, razor like grass bushes whose name escapes me but were unavoidable in a couple of areas, and when you've gone through 50 of these then your legs are a tad sore from all the scratches! In fact everything seemed to have spikes, thorns or have extremely sharp edges! There is nothing soft and fluffy in the Texan outback!

I was making steady enough progress, about 12 minute miles which bearing in mind the terrain I was happy with. I did find the running very sapping though as you just had to watch where your feet were going with almost every step of the way. Rocks of all sizes, tree roots and even the "good bits" had some hazards to watch out for. For someone who has made a running career out of lifting his feet up 1mm from the surface as often as he can get away with the constant leg/foot lifting was tiring!

The day soon heated up and I was sweating like a little piggy I must say! Was all just hard work, but my discipline was good, in and out of aid stations in moments (these were excellent) and was amazed at how often the same people would pass me again and again, it was like "where have you been?" You could actually have drop bags at miles 10/15/20 (the last two were at the Crossroads aid station that you passed twice) and I was surprised at people diving into things at mile 10, was puzzled as to what they might need so soon in to the race.

Now there was a "get out jail" option at this event where you could drop down to the 50k after the first loop, get a medal, get an official time and I must admit, I was very, very tempted indeed. The last five miles or so coming up to the start/finish I mulled over the various scenarios in my head, of shall I, shan't I? At the start/finish area it was the hottest part of the day, lots of folks sitting around who had done the 25k or 50k, cold drinks, lots of food, would have been very easy to just sit down...

But, for my sins, decided that I was there for the 100k and off I went, 6:38 for the 50k, and somehow suspected that the second loop was going to be longer and tougher. I was right! Was very lonely too as the field had long since spread out and there were no 25k or 50k runners to go past occasionally either. Leapfrogged a couple of people once or twice, but otherwise was pretty quiet. I lost the iPod on the second loop preferring the quiet of the afternoon/evening and no amount of driving thumping music was going to get me going very far very fast!

I had an ultra thin jacket in my pack, which occurred to me as the night came in would probably get shredded if I brushed up against anything out there. Ooops. I decided only in dire need would I put it on, and it was fairly mild so I wasn't too worried. The aid station staff were more concerned I think as had a few folk ask me if I had extra things to put on as many were very wrapped up. But I was good and there was always some running involved, just not much and not for very long, but did keep me warm.

In the night as I suspected my pace dropped quite considerably as on occasion I picked my way very slowly through the optimum route. Some of the trails I looked like they were dry stream beds as they were all so choked with stones (would have been fun had it been wet!) but once I was out on that second loop there was no way I wasn't going to finish. Whilst it was a tough course, it wasn't as bad as say Bear 100, which was tougher, and higher by some way. One of the benefits of having done lots of events, some quite tough, is that you can always reflect back on "that was worse than this..."

So I plodded, jogged, picked my way around. Aid station discipline faded a bit, but only a bit. The big climb down "Last Chance" I think it was called was just dreadful, I barely managed to stay upright, and my toes were seriously sore from the stubbings and semi-trips and general beating of the course.

Right at the end I found my right ankle was feeling sore, but discovered that was the timing chip, it was pretty tight, and the chip was quite large and think it had been rubbing, but fixed that, couldn't do much about the rest of the chafing in assorted areas though.

Managed a nice jog over the finish line, 15:12:13, good for 95th out of 256 starters, which was kind of surprising as I felt I was very slow. 51 100k starters though dropped down to the 50k, I was glad in the end not to be one of them!

Things I Learnt

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