Over the weekend Team Hanenburg headed down to the Hill Country State Natural Area for the Bandera 25 km trail run just north west of San Antonio, Texas. This would be my first trail race in 10 months as I spent most of 2010 practicing persistence and patience to return a cranky knee back to its smiley, and somewhat humorous self. The humor is still quite dry but it’s great to see a small grin returning. Yeah baby!
The Epic Drive
Thanks to a recommendation by good trail running buddy, Matt C., we explored the epic highway 281 drive from Dallas. Unlike Interstate 35, no 18 wheelers blowing you off the road every couple miles and it was rolling, rugged, Hill Country scenery nearly the entire trip down. You do end up driving through small, character rich towns to what felt like every 10 miles or so but we think our drive time was actually shorter than last year’s I35 route. Highly recommend!
We did encounter a few rather interesting observations along our 281 journey:
- Kill Country? – At times it felt more like the Kill Country instead of the Hill Country. We saw all kinds of signs welcoming hunters in all the small towns. Many deer stands were observed in the rugged terrain along the way.
- A store called Antiques and Old Stuff – Are there new Antiques?
- Interesting lawn ornament – A single prop plane painted in Texas state flag colors…located right in the middle of a small front yard. Interesting…
Use it or Lose it
It has been a while since I have gathered all my desired run stuff for a race. With the lack of trail race brain activity, my gathering skills came up a bit short.
The 25 km Experience
With the star filled drive to the park…a mild 40 degrees in the pre-dawn hours…I knew it was going to be a special day on the trails.
Dude – I’m racing! So grateful…
Team Hanenburg gathered near the 25 km start line. Griffin shared some last minute strategy using two of his favorites – cars and dirt!
It didn’t take long before I settled into a rythmn that felt like a cruisin’-push. We ran along some nicely groomed trail before starting one of the handful of steep rock-littered hills this course is known for.
As I worked my way up the first climb, it felt… familiar. I reflected on how one year ago, I had my first encounter with the Bandera trails and ran each step with curious and anxious anticipation of what rocky challenge was coming up next.
This year was different. Similar to sharing a coffee with a special friend you haven’t seen in a year, yet able to pick up right where you last departed. That was Bandera this year. Although the physical separation has been significant (1 year), the spiritual or internal connection with the trail felt like we had never been apart.
It didn’t take long before I stopped to observe one of the magic moments that sustains life on our planet – the sunrise. I couldn’t help but say to myself, “Sh*t, this is cool!”.
Up, down, Up, down we go for most of this course. With acceptance and joy radiating through every cell in my body, I flowed with the ever changing trail.
Be Careful What You Wish For – You Just Might Get it!
“First trail race in 10 months this weekend. Excited, slightly nervous, and hopeful to stay up on two feet. Bandera, here we come!” – Facebook update a couple days before the race
I had to chuckle. Should have just kept my mouth shut!
At mile 5.50, on top of the third climb of the morning with camera firmly held in my left hand, my memory was briefly erased. How so? Apparently I shook hands with a rock that wouldn’t let go.
I really only have two still images from the digger experience:
- Spinning slowly like a rotisserie chicken four feet above the trail, parallel to the ground.
- The drop of the camera after hitting the rock littered ground.
A cool dude right behind me helped me up and in five seconds we were both back running. A quick audit had blood dripping along both palms, the rest of the body felt fine.
From mile nine onwards, I began to feel the effort. I had still only been drinking water from my pack (remember that HEED I forgot to bring) since I skipped aid-station #1, only water at aid-station #2, and aid-station #3 was at mile 11. Get me to 11! Plus Team Hanenburg will be there to add inspirational fuel for the final miles.
Entering the Cross Roads aid-station (mile 11), I immediately looked for some cals and grabbed a Huckleberry Hammer Gel. First time I actually have tried this flavor…d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s. Of course, I probably would have enjoyed a handful of sand if I knew it would up my blood sugar levels.
After a quick chat with Wendy and Griffin shared that a 10 year old boy said, “Stupid”, I began to prepare myself for the final four miles to the finish.
Mile 10.5 to 13 is a point in the course that actually stays fairly flat for an extended distance. This is a place you could knock out some fast mile splits…assuming you still had the mojo to get it done. My mojo was on low-jo. I had the mental energy to think about this opportunity but the physical remained a horse trot through the woods. I cracked the whip a couple times – no response.
One final short steep climb at mile 14 and then a gradual downhill, rock-free prance to the finish line.
I finished in 2:40 with a little blood on each hand but most importantly a knee that felt just as happy as when it started this journey over two hours ago…and for that I am most grateful.
A big thanks to Joe Prusaitis, the Tejas Trails crew, and all the various volunteers, that allow this event to happen. Also none of this would be possible or nearly as much fun without the support of my family and friends.
Gear from the day:
- INOV-8 Flyroc 310 – Handled the technical terrain (up/down) exceptionally well. Feet were still smiling post run.
- Thriv Energy Crew tech shirt – Louisiana company making some extremely comfy (soft) and technical fitness clothing made from natural materials. Great tech shirt.
- RaceReady Shorts – Great fit. Love the back bumper pockets. I purchase mine from Hammer Nutrition.
- Camelbak Octane LR Hydration pack – Enough water to hydrate the entire run and hold my camera. Full review coming shortly for this pack.
- Zensah calf sleeves – Had a great run in them before the race so decided to give them a race day test. Honestly, no idea if they helped or not during the race. I did wear them for the 6 hour drive down and back which seemed to reduce that heavy leg feeling I normally would have from such a long trip.
Bonus Bandera Insight
Best food we have had in town - The Grotto Grill and Coffee Bar
Clean, fresh, tasty, and includes organic ingredients. Wendy and I both had a Greek salad with organic chicken – crazy good! There are very few restaurants where my body says high quality after the meal. Strangely enough, this is one of them.