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Capt Karl’s the Falls 30 km Trail Run Race Report – 15 Hour Adventure

Just finished hooking the timing chip to my right shoe and pinning bib #246 in a haphazard 45 degree angle on the left leg thigh fabric of my black running shorts. “Two minutes till we start!!”, Race director Joe Prusaitis announced while standing on a ladder at the start of the 30 km race.

Pedernales State Park (Photo: Courtesy arsheffield @

The Drive

Tim and I departed the north Dallas burbs before 2:00 pm with expectations of arriving at Pedernales State Park (NW of Austin) around 6:00 pm. The Falls 30 km race start 7:15 pm. A simple, laid-back plan that got a bit more exciting before we were even able to get outside the Dallas city limits.

Time it should take to leave the burbs and be cruisin’ down the highway south of Dallas – 30 minutes.

Actual – 1 hour 20 minutes.

While the outside temps were in the low 100s, it apparently got even hotter for the folks in a big coach bus that caught on fire in the early miles of interstate 35E. Two fire trucks, a handful of police cars, and one lane open. It looked at though everyone got off the bus safely. We began to feel a different kind of heat…

As we finally exited the city and hooked up on the scenic Hill Country drive along highway 281, Tim’s portable GPS had an estimated arrival time of 7:05 pm. 250+ miles later we arrived at the start park entrance with four cars in front of us. Time – 7:00 pm. I jumped out of the car and dashed inside to present our State Park pass and get our entrance ticket/receipt, telling Tim to get in the driver’s seat. A few minutes later I flagged Tim to go around the cars still waiting and we drove the never-ending park road mile to the race parking area.

Parking was in a big field area that was full of cars at this point. We quickly scanned the area trying to determine where to park and in a gracious twist of fate, one car backed out right next to the start line (looked like Olga V. – not completely sure) and we glided on in.

Shoes, Garmin/HRM, visor, HEED, fill two handhelds, Hammer gel, electrolytes, one car key for each of us. BAM! Off to get our packets.

The 60 km runners had already left (7:00 pm start) yet there were still plenty of runners hanging about that created a forest-like feel and made it a challenge to find packet pickup. After asking a couple runners, we made it to the table. Timing chip – check. Bib – check.

“Two minutes till we start!” – Race director Joe Prusaitis

The Race

Not quite the pre-race plan but we made it and were ready for a 30 km adventure! A couple fist-bumps and man grunts then Tim moved up into the extra spicy section, I positioned myself in the jalapeno-free group.

My basic plan coming into the race was to keep the heart rate below 160 bpm as much as possible through the final significant climb (mile 12.7) and then see what I had left for the final push to the finish. And of course, enjoy the heck out of this trail running experience.

Start -> Fence aid station (mile 5-ish)

Within the first half mile, I enjoyed a brief chat with John Sharp. He looked ready to dominate and quickly disappeared off down the trail. I tried to settle into a cruise rhythm to get myself to mile 12.7 with some hops still left in my stride.

The initial 1.5 miles was fairly tame double wide trail / jeep roads that included a scattering of Hill Country rocks to keep you honest.

We then dropped down along the rock shores of the Pedernales River. Not sure if I even saw any water. It was a cool, yet strange running environment as you trot from rock slab to rock slab. A short, but steep climb out of the river bottom before running along a park boundary fence that included rolling, non-technical terrain that gradually took us upwards to the Fence aid station. I didn’t need anything and rolled on out as soon as I got to the table.

The effort felt easy but the heart rate ran a bit hot. Needed to slow it down a little.

Avg heart rate for this segment – 163 bpm

Clock time – 56:59

Fence aid station (mile 5) -> Pipe aid station (mile 8.4)

After some more running along the park boundary we danced along some varied single track. Plenty of little ups and down mixed in with a buffet of scattered rocks. The trail began to remind me of the Rockledge Rumble event up in Dallas. No huge climbs but the terrain is always changing which can provide its own unique challenge as you are always changing gears to maintain a consistent effort.

I arrived at Pipe aid station feeling pretty good and could tell that I had saved a few heart beats during this segment. Refilled both bottles and a quick “hey!” with Cheri Linwood workin’ the aid station and I was off.

Avg heart rate for this segment – 160 bpm

Clock time – 1:36:56

Time to turn on the headlamp!

Pipe aid station (mile 8.4) -> Pipe aid station (mile 11.81)

This segment is a counter clockwise loop that started with a downhill dirt road scamper before branching off and dancing along some singletrack. A few little rocky technical descents that would hurt if you caught a toe but all very runnable.

I caught up to a solo female runner that was glad to have some company as she thought she saw animals scurrying around. I didn’t notice anything and the conga line forming behind me mentioned the Blair Witch Project so I guess a few people caught sight of something.

Enjoyed a few glances at the stars and moon above. Gave thanks for this experience as the body was beginning to gradually feel the miles.

Off the single track back onto the dirt road and some double track trail before a nice little climb to test the gojo as you arrive back to the Pipe aid station.

Avg heart rate for this segment – 161 bpm

Clock time – 2:18:57

A quick bottle refill and I began a steady walk up the next little climb and determined my strategy for the remaining miles.

Pipe aid station (mile 11.81)  – > Drain aid station (mile 15.22)

I still felt like I had an extra gear so instead of a gradual consistent increase in effort, I dialed it up to 11. Obviously the carbs were not going to the brain. Looking back, not the smartest decision with 6.50-ish miles to go (ya think?!?) but try I did.

It was fun chasing the two-legged headlights along the varied single-track in front of me. Like a wild animal chasing his prey, I got excited when I saw an increase of dust particles floating in the air in front of me. I was closing in.

After 2.5 miles of pushing near the top of my tempo effort (175 bpm), the hunt turned into a night-time stroll. This extra push along with the warm temps at some point shut down my stomach. Argh!

I did prevent one dude from missing a turn a wondering off into neverland. He cruised 30 meters pass the left arrow, glow sticks, and wrong way sign. One good courtesy yell and he was back on track.

The Drain aid station had the coldest, most amazing water. The simple things. I could have stayed there the rest of the night sipping from these taps.

Avg heart rate for this segment – 168 bpm

Clock time – 3:02:30

Drain aid station (mile 15.22) ->  Finish

The remain 5 km turned into an interval session. Run steady until I hit that threshold that said walk. Walk for 60 seconds. Repeat. For whatever reason, I had no interest in digging extra deep and override the walk desires.

Finish clock in site. Up a short little hill and the 30 km journey was complete!

Avg heart rate for this segment – 163 bpm

Official finish time – 3:40:45

Tim knocked out a solid 3:01:22! Way to go bro!

A big thanks to Joe and all the volunteers!

Running hangover

I was looking forward to grabbing a burger and chatting with those I was unable to prior to the race start, but before that I gulped down two bottles of ice-cold gatorate/power-aid/lemon-aid (not sure which) that was sitting in a plastic pitcher at the finish. Tasted amazing but that was where the fun ended!

Talking to people didn’t happen.

Stomach still didn’t feel right. Couldn’t eat any food. Stomach still turned off.

Found an edge of the parking area/field that didn’t have people or vehicles around and emptied a couple gallons of fluid out of my belly. Unfortunately the place I chose was right next to the road out of the parking area. To those that saw a man hunched over pretending to look at some fallen trees as you left the park, that was me.

Felt much better after that but my head felt like I had been partying instead of running the last four hours. Fortunately Tim felt good and was willing to drive as I tried to regroup. Some ice, a little bit of coconut water, an ice cream sandwich, and 1-2 hours had me feeling mostly normal again.

We road tripped it all the way back to Dallas.

Rolled into bed at 5:00 am.

What a trip!

Post Race Reflections:

  • Course – Fun! Technical moments (small and moderate sized loose and fixed rock) but mostly all runnable. The best way to train for this course would be on trail with constant short grade changes.
  • Gear – The INOV-8 X-talon 212s were always smilin’ on this terrain. Using two handhelds worked great. Wish I would have carried a couple 100 calories of HEED with me for bottle refill.
  • Race Execution – Positive-Split by 11-ish minutes. Was aiming for a negative-split. Looked like I may have burned a few matches in the first five miles with the heart rate dancing above 170 bpm for short segments of time. The middle miles fell more within my effort plan. As I began the “hunt” at mile 12.5, running at an effort above 170 bpm was rather silly. Five-plus miles of trail running is still a long way to go. A progressive effort build and heart rate cap until the final couple miles may have been a better choice.
  • Training – Based on some previous training runs and having a basic idea of the course, I felt like a 3:30 finish would represent my current fitness. I still feel that is a pretty close woulda-shoulda-coulda estimation if I would have handled my effort a little better. Since Jemez 50 km (mid May), I ran between 6-25 miles/week with an average of 15 miles/week using a quality (w/ strength training) versus quantity training approach. I chuckled when I determined my average was only 15 miles per week.

What’s Next?

It’s nesting season!

Approximately four weeks until our little girl is welcomed into this world!

Wendy after winning...both games!

Griffin and I enjoying our usual swing-time after the midwife / birth center appointment Bag full of cars and Baba also made the trip.

Be active – Feel the buzz!

David –

About the author

David Hanenburg David Hanenburg is the passionate dirt-lovin' creator of Endurance Buzz and has been playing in the endurance sports world since 2000 after knockin' the dust off of his Trek 950 hardtail thanks to a friend asking to go ride some local dirt. In 2007 he ran his first ultra on the trails and fell in love with the sport and its people. For more information on David's endurance sports journey, check out the About page.

12 Responses to “Capt Karl’s the Falls 30 km Trail Run Race Report – 15 Hour Adventure”

  1. on 08 Aug 2011 at 9:24 pm Fawn (milanorunner)

    Great race report and really sounds like a great run. Until the end that is. Yes that was gatorade in the pitcher.

  2. on 08 Aug 2011 at 9:29 pm Chris R.

    Entertaining report as always. I was doing 60k and sorry I missed you. When is the next race?

  3. on 09 Aug 2011 at 7:30 am Harold Neiper

    Glad to finally meet you.  Great report. My wife asked about the course but couldn’t remember specifics so this will help her visualize. Sorry to hear about the post-race stomach issue:(. It was a great race.  Funny enough how we were talking about lessons learned – I learned something else that night – bring spare batteries.  Apparently the “new” batteries I had weren’t all that “new” and only lasted about 20 min. before it dimmed so much you couldn’t even read a book by it.  Even so, it made for the most interesting run of my life!  Cheers!

  4. on 09 Aug 2011 at 11:31 am David Hanenburg

    @Fawn – Thanks so much for volunteering! I agree, volunteering has its own unique and special rewards. Such a nice night as well.

    Thanks for visiting and happy future running adventures.

    @Chris – Dude, bummer we didn’t get to chat. A huge congrats on your solid 60 km finish! Awesome! How did the race play out for you?

    @Harold – Super cool to finally get a chance to talk outside the digital world! You looked strong out there. Sorry to hear about the battery issue…but oh the story. 🙂 Until next time…

  5. on 09 Aug 2011 at 1:04 pm Laron

    Sounds like an amazing race. Thanks for the Trip Report. I’m still wondering whether it was more of a race to get to the start on time or to get to the finish in 3:40. Great racing on both ends! In trail running and ultra running, I’m always reminded to take it easy at first even if that means hanging out in the back of the pack. I pushed it a bit too hard out of the gates at Crow Pass and I paid for it down the back stretch. Still, it’s nice to push yourself and see what you can do. So, you’ll be running Bandera 100k race in January? What kind of a course is it? Sounds interesting but must be sold out already, eh?

  6. on 09 Aug 2011 at 1:52 pm David Hanenburg

    Hey Laron! The drive down definitely added more excitement than what we had planned but hey…we still had two minutes to spare. 😉

    True – once you lose you mojo it is pretty tough to get itback…especially in shorter trail races. In 50 and 100 milers, you have more time to recover and get back after it.

    Bandera – A very fun race down near San Antonio –

    Fun hills, rocks, and some flat areas to cruise along.

    I ran the 100k in 2010 and ran the 25k this past Jan. You should come down for it! I am considering it, toggling between 50k an 100k. It is not sold out!

    Here are a couple of my race reports:
    25k (2011):
    100k (2010):

  7. on 09 Aug 2011 at 9:02 pm Dbones

    Hey bud thanks for the race report I was right behind ya finished in 3:46:43 reading this really made me reflect on my run ! I took off way too fast at the beginning and paid at the end.

  8. on 10 Aug 2011 at 10:20 am David Hanenburg

    Hey Dbones – Thanks for sharing some of your race thoughts. way to get it done!

    When feeling fresh and spunky, it can be hard to hold back in the early going…especially for guys. I have never regretted feeling strong during the last 1/3 of a race. I need to continue to remind myself this at the beginning of the race. 🙂

  9. on 10 Aug 2011 at 12:38 pm Chris R.

    David–it went ok. Honestly I don’t particularly enjoy the night 60ks. Too much time in heat for me but it’s good training for Cactus. I just start out slow and try not to keep from going too much slower.
    I did accidentally give myself a Gatorade shower. It was on the 2d loop and I decided to cool off by squirting water from my bottle on my head. I forgot that I had (for the first time) filled my bottle with Gatorade at the previous aid station. Didn’t realize Gatorade was so sticky.

  10. on 10 Aug 2011 at 1:04 pm David Hanenburg

    Chris – You still had a solid day! Good work!

    Dude, the Gatorade…you made me smile…and laugh. 🙂 Fortunately the bees weren’t moving through the area.

  11. on 11 Aug 2011 at 7:57 am Julie

    Sounds like a fun race/trip. (except the sitting in traffic for over an hour and throwing up part!) Awesome report, I feel almost like I was there. I need to make it down sometime and run one of the Capt Karl races. Glad you are running injury free and strong now. Great finish time! Love the pics of Wendy (she looks so cute!) and of you and Griffin. I bet he is so excited to be a big brother!

  12. on 11 Aug 2011 at 8:40 am David Hanenburg

    Hey Julie – It was 15 hours that definitely didn’t lack some excitement. Memories…

    The Hill Country area is definitely a place to race and check out sometime. A fun place to run and hang in nature.

    Yes, the run is gradually coming back and I am grateful for that. It has been quite a journey.

    Thanks for the sweet comments on the photos. 🙂 Wendy has been a trooper in this heat. Griffin is definitely excited about his little sister. We had a fun time placing our hands on Wendy’s belly and feeling her move before bed last night. It was pretty cool. His only concern…”can I still sleep in bed with you guys.” 🙂

    Any upcoming run adventures?