Race Recap: Brazos Bend 100 *DNF
The day began at 4 a.m. I didn’t sleep the best in the hotel room and kept thinking the alarm was going to go off at any time. I woke up in the middle of the night thinking it had to be around 3 a.m. and it was 11:45 p.m. Guess I was excited and ready to go… Got my stuff ready and had a bagel with cream cheese and some coconut water. We arrived to the Brazos Bend State Park at 5 a.m., on schedule and headed to the race start/transition area. Peter Bardenhagen was two cars behind us entering the park so it was nice having extra hands to carry our stuff. It was a nice morning and I was very calm and felt extremely good. I did my normal stretching and foam rolling followed by a short warm up jog. I drank about 8-10 oz. of Beet Elite thirty minutes prior to the start and then relaxed with Stefanie and Peter until the start. The race started at 6 a.m. and my plan was to go out at a comfortable pace.
The first mile was quicker than I had expected at 7:04 but my heart rate was good at 154 bpm. This was actually one of my strategies as I prefer to run alone in a race, allowing me to run my own race and not get caught up in running others paces. I also wasn’t known by the top runners in the field so most times you are free to go off the front if you aren’t a threat. The course is flat with hardly any incline (50’ elevation per 25 mile loop) and for the most part no roots or any obstruction on the trails. I backed down the effort a little and ran the next 10 miles at 7:22 to 7:49 pace which for me is probably quick but I was trying to build a comfortable lead early without burning too much energy. My main focus was to run as efficient as possible, get in as much fluid (water) as I could, and take my nutrition (gels) as often as possible. It was 55 degrees at the start with a forecast of 72 and humidity at 96% so I knew I had to take care of the hydration early on. My plan was two gels an hour and if I could absorb more I would try to take a gel every 25 minutes. I was also consuming about two bottles (32 oz.) water and Gatorade an hour. It seemed to be working as I was feeling very fresh and having to stop to relieve my bladder every few miles so I knew I was hydrated. My heart rate was around 154 bpm which for me is okay but mid to upper 140s probably would be better for a 100 miles. Cooler weather in the 40s would have made that possible. The back of the park had some horse trails from miles 16 to 19 which were tougher to run as there were lots of divots in the ground. That section also had some mud as well so your shoes would stick to the ground. I controlled my effort and dropped my pace by 45 seconds to a minute per mile to allow my heart rate to stay at mid-150s. I had an Ipod and just relaxed listening to music from this point on. I kept reminding myself to practice self-control and not push the pace. My goal was 3:20 for the first 25 miles and I came into the transition area at 3:08. It was quick but I don’t feel like I jeopardized anything. I took more time (3 minutes) before going out for the second loop. Both Stefanie and Peter helped me by getting me what I needed. I took my left shoe off to put on a couple band aids where I could feel some friction and a blister coming. Other than that I grabbed about 7 gels, a pack of Klean electrolytes, a bottle of coconut water, and another hand held bottle of water. I ditched the shirt and probably wish I kept my visor on or took a small cloth as the sun was now coming up and I was sweating a lot more. I went out around 7:40 pace for miles 26-29 and saw second and third place running together. I estimated I had a 12-15 minute lead. At that point I intentionally backed off the pace and ran by heart rate in the upper 140s. I knew it would be a long day and I figured I would conserve as much energy so I could have a good solid run with my pacer, Jason Johnston, during miles 50-75. My average pace was now 8:12 to 8:27 and then the unexpected happened.
As I approached a full aid station at mile 38 the volunteers said they were out of fluids. Before I get to an aid station I drink what’s left in my bottle so then I can get as much water as possible. I saw about eight cups of water on the table and I started filling up my bottle with them but then felt guilty for taking the water as there were other runners there in need of fluids. Instead, I took some orange slices and left with about eight oz. in my bottle and decided I’ll refill at the next station which at most would be a couple miles away. No big deal and I left in good spirits, smiling into the camera as the race was live and had video at three parts of the race. As I approached the next aid station they had three coolers but no water. The volunteer said they were on their way with water but runners on the course were stopping them as they needed water so it was taking longer to get it. I was struggling with the thought of waiting to get water and be caught by second and third place, or keep on moving and hopefully not allow too much time to be lost. I took a chance and kept going hoping I could fill up and rehydrate at the next aid station. That was another couple miles and as I got there I couldn’t believe those were empty too. There were three empty coolers and lots of upset runners at this point. Some people were starting to panic and I was getting concerned myself. The next section of trails is the horse trails where you have to slow down because it’s more difficult terrain. I wasn’t sure at the time how long that trail section was so I asked a runner coming from the opposite direction and he said a couple miles. I was taking a risk but I went for it anyway and figured it would be another 20 minutes without water. Since my urine was clear I knew I wasn’t dehydrated, and I was doing well up to this point that I would probably be fine. The problem was now I’m not able to take any electrolyte pills or any gels so I’m not getting any nutrition. My pace is slowing down because of the slower trail sections but my heart rate isn’t going down so I can tell I’m starting to get fatigued. I’m trying to conserve as much energy as possible and take a gel anyways thinking it was better than nothing. Then the mental games start playing in your head. I’m thinking to myself I’m in the woods and the closest aid station with a volunteer that can call for help is three miles away. Nobody else is running at this point and if I go down what kind of trouble am I going to be in. All these thoughts are going through my head which I can usually fight through. I make it through that portion and that table with the coolers was still empty which was devastating for me. My pace is around 9 to 10 minutes and my body (quads) is now starting to hurt and tightening up. The next station had water which was about mile 45 or 46. I chugged one full bottle and filled again, but I could never get back to feeling fresh like I had before. At some point for each of the next four miles I was walking and my pace was 9:30 or 12:30 per mile. I was already talking myself out of it knowing if I couldn’t get into a rhythm again then my goal of 15 hours was not going to happen. I made it to the transition area in 6 hours and 55 minutes and probably should have been there in 6:30. I drank a bottle of coconut water trying to replenish as much as possible. Everything at this point is getting tight so I try foam rolling which seemed to help a little with the glutes, hip flexors, and quads. Jason Johnston, my pacer for the next 25 miles, talked me into going for the third loop so I went and gave it a shot. I took a small hand held roller with me hoping I could loosen up my quads along the way as they were getting tight. Our first three miles was 9:31, 10:02, 11:29, and I’m back to walking again. Now I’m doing the math in my head and thinking I could probably survive another lap, but then I would probably have to walk the entire last lap. This didn’t line up with any of my goals so I decided to stop and call it a day. This is the first running race I ever stopped and DNF. I gave it my best effort and it’s unfortunate that something which should never happen actually did.
I started this journey six months ago to get back into shape and signed up for a 100 miles in order to take the training seriously. I’m in great shape and I’ve learned a lot about my body along the way so I should be able to use what I have learned towards another challenge. Thanks for following me and all the support!