“What Texas lacks in altitude, it makes up for in attitude.” – Race director Joe Prusaitis on Texas trails at Cactus Rose
Cactus Rose was once an event that would be no more. Race director, Joe Prusaitis, nearly dropped it a couple years ago due to lack of interest. Lack of interest is no longer the thoughts that first come to mind. For many, this rugged, old-skool trail run has become a yearly pilgrimage of self exploration. This year, over 250 runners learned a bit more about themselves across the 50 mile, 100 mile, or 100 mile relay (4 x 25 mile) adventure.
This event is for the self-sufficient.
Aid Water stations will have water. Need anything else? You better have it on you or stash it near one of the water coolers.
A main 25 mile loop within the Hill Country State Natural just outside the cowboy town of Bandera, Texas.
Be ready for some rocks.
Be ready for some moderate but gnarly hills.
Be ready for an adventure that will likely leave an impression.
The online panic about warm race day weather one week out from the race turned into perfect running conditions (40F – mid 60s) on race day. With these run-friendly conditions along with some healthy competitive spirit, course records were annihilated, crushed, and bamboozled! Yes bamboozled!!
A great day to play.
The men’s race really had a number of spicy tread ready to get after it. Brian Hopton-Jones has been workin’ extremely hard all year with a number of wins and top 5 finishes. But his focus is on Cactus. Crush Cactus. Break the 2011 19:28:32 course record held by fellow speedster Steven Moore. After putting in 75 great miles last year and then having to resort to walking much of the final loop due to a knee issue, would this be Brian’s year to put it all together?
Back to defend, Steven Moore put together a number of solid efforts and wins in 2012 that including setting a course record at Superior 100 in early September. While the post Superior recovery was slow going, Steven was ready for another adventure.
“Superior beat me up pretty bad. In addition to the normal post-100 fatigue my feet and ankles hurt for about two weeks. It was three full weeks before I felt I was back to 100%. That left me with 2.5 weeks of hard training and a 10 day taper for Cactus Rose. Physically it worked out just fine and mentally, yes, I was ready.”
Finally, let’s not leave out Lorenzo Sanchez. This guy has been steadily knockin’ down his Cactus Rose times and finished runner-up in 2011.
In a near scripted start, Steven Moore was off the front after the first hour of racing with both Lorenzo and Brian in chase.
What’s it like being the rabbit for nearly 100 miles? Is it something Steven thought about?
“Arghh. Yes, I have to think about it although I’d rather not. I’m a pretty competitive guy but there was definitely a small part of my brain hoping someone else would get out in front and lead the way. Being ‘hunted’ for that many hours can definitely be a drain if you let it. The relay and 50 mile runners help to provide some distraction and I just tried to pay attention to my race and not trip on the rocks!”
After 50 miles complete and one “Spectacular” Superman digger, Stephen was 14 minutes under his 2011 course record splits. Lorenzo was about 30 minutes back with Brian another 10 minutes back. All running extremely well!
The first 50 miles of a 100 miler is kind of like the swim in an Ironman triathlon – You can’t win the race in the first 50 miles, but you sure can lose it.
The race now begins.
Last year during the peak heat hours of the day, the sun was baking, temps were in the 80s with few areas to find much shade. This year, mid-60s with a fair mix of cloud cover, and you have an environment for magic.
Steven continued the steady push and instead of the mid-afternoon loop 3 suffer-fest split of 5:08 (in 2011), Steven finished the loop with a sparkle in his eyes 4:33 split. One loop to go with Lorenzo around 20 minutes back. Brian knocking out a solid loop and was firmly in third with a 15 minute cushion on his 19:20 pace chart!
With a bit of go-jo left in the tread, Steven kept the effort high.
“I ran every bit of lap four except the steep climbs up each peak. It’s nice to still have something left and not enter the death march or ‘old man shuffle’ late in a race.”
Steven’s 4:50 lap four split (5:55 in 2011) firmly secured the win and set a new course record of 17:34:08, close to two hours below last year’s effort!
Where did these two hours come from?
“Cooler weather. I’ve trained hard and feel pretty dialed in on the awareness of what I need during training and racing right now but the cooler weather was huge this year. I eat more and run faster when it’s cool. That doesn’t mean I’ll always have a great race in cool weather but it sure is a good start to the equation for success.”
Lorenzo crossed the finish in second and Brian finished under his course record goal!
Three finishes under 2011 course record time!
A day of magic indeed.
Top 5 male
- Steven Moore (Ink N Burn) – 17:34:08
- Lorenzo Sanchez – 18:32:40
- Brian Hopton-Jones – 19:18:31
- Thomas Orf – 21:21:54
- Nathan Leehman – 21:50:30
Rachel Ballard was back for another go at the 100 mile distance after finishing second in 2011. Rachel took the pole position with Melissa Heggen-Davis hanging in the shadows as Rachel describes.
“I would see Melissa after the washing machine turns and she looked so pretty, calm and cheerful every time it was unnerving.”
The Sotol cut. The miles passed.
With 45 miles to go, Rachel picked up a spark of supportive energy from a local speedster.
“I was honored to have Liza Howard pace me most of the last 45. She was a little wall of humming energy trotting behind me, which was a great help.”
The hills were taking their toll on Rachel but she kept moving forward to earn her first Cactus Rose 100 win in 24:52:31!
Melissa kept after it for second place, finishing a little over 30 minutes later for second place honors.
Top 5 female
- Rachel Ballard – 24:52:31
- Melissa Heggen-Davis – 25:26:52
- Jean Cummings-Perez – 27:58:01
- Amanda Boston – 31:00:08
- Jennifer Kimble – 31:03:14
The spicy end of the female scamper was an inspiring display of heart and toughness between three women – Cara Bass, Teddi Schneider, and Shaheen Sattar.
From the start, it was Cara and Teddi gliding through the course like synchronized runners.
The early miles were less fluid for Shaheen as she twisted her unlucky ankle…again. Not the best way to start a 50 mile push but that didn’t prevent Shaheen from staying mentally in the game as she explains.
“It was very painful at times. I think the adrenaline kicks in during races and keeps you pushing. I just kept looking forward to each aid station knowing I would see Steve, mom and sis. They kept me focused on the race. Also had a friend, Nick Polito, out with me. He always gives great advice and it helps having someone out there that you’re trying to stay with.”
After 25 miles, Cara and Teddi continued to set the pace at the front. The two would gradually begin to separate from one another and Shaheen began to feel…stronger? Yes, indeed. We got ourselves an exciting finish in the works.
Shaheen continued to gain on both women and at the final Equestrian aid station visit with less than 5 miles to go, Shaheen was first female in…and out…and all alone as Shaheen explains.
“Once I got to 40 I was able to run most the way to 45 and was in the lead for the females by then but knew the other girls were strong so I just did what I could to get to the finish.”
Shaheen finished sub-10, winning the female race in 9:54:26!
Shaheen’s strongest memory of the day?
“Having the support of my amazing sister, mom, and boyfriend means the world to me. This race was my first 50 mile finish last year so it will always be special to me. I love being out on trails with others that share the same passion.”
Hard to argue with that!
Both Cara and Teddi continued a steady push to the finish with Teddi earning runner-up honors.
Top 5 female
- Shaheen Sattar – 9:54:26
- Teddi Schneider – 10:09:30
- Cara Bass – 10:12:22
- Mariela Botella – 11:17:35
- Fumi Ishimatsu – 11:35:21
What kind of race was it? Top two finishers under course record time. You get the idea, right?!?
Gerardo Moreno (2012 Rocky Raccoon 50 winner – 6:15:12) and fast-footed 50 mile rookie, Erik Stanley (2012 Big Sur Trail Marathon winner – 3:02) took off comfortably fast which, of course, was soon under course record (7:59:00) pace.
While the 50 mile adventure had a number of learning opportunities and firsts for Erik, one of the toughest for Erik to wrap his head around was the number of hours running.
“30 miles was my longest single run and those were easy paced and I would take breaks and eat every 10 miles or so. Running for over seven hours sounds insane when think about it.”
Insane? You’re in! Welcome to the club.
After 25 miles of racing and loop 1 complete, Gerardo had created a small six minute gap on Erik. Btw, both ticked off 3:3x lap splits!
25 miles to go.
Erik began to gradually close the gap and passed Gerardo around mile 31-32 as his pace slowed due to cramping issues. Erik kept is rollin’ and in fact ran the fastest loop 2 on the day (3:38:33), won the male race and set a new course record in the process. Time – 7:14:38!
Gerardo was able to regroup and finish under the previous course record time as well. Nice!
Erik will also have his 100 km debut at Bandera in January. This could be fun!
Top 5 male
- Erik Stanley (Rogue Running, blog) – 7:14:38
- Gerardo Moreno – 7:38:57
- Brandon Ostrander – 8:27:51
- Matt Smith – 8:32:31
- Brent Robinson – 9:11:11
4 x 25 Mile Relay
The 12 relay teams all finished between 17:48:06 and 31:03:19.
This division had a bit of fun and excitement as well. The top three teams all finished within a 50 minute window with Team Nannergy taking home the overall win.
Top 5 teams
- Nannergy – 17:48:06
- Sublimitatem – 18:08:16
- Bloody Steak Fingers – 18:38:11
- Team RamRod – 19:03:53
- HTRexers – 23:30:16
The Tough-as-Nails Award
The final finishers of an ultra distance event are some of the toughest athletes that are willing to stick with it to the best of their current ability and cross that darn finish line.
The Tough-as-Nails award recipients:
- David Jacobson and Scott Smith closed the door on the event in 33:48:28!
Race Reports and Groovy Pics
- “DFL stands for Dead F$#king Last. It’s the place I got, and I’m proud of it. Heck, I beat cut-off by almost 2 hours, and still got DFL …making it the fastest DFL in Cactus Rose history !” by David @ David’s Confusing Blog
- “I finally broke the silence that had lasted more then an hour between us. I said no matter what it was going to happen. he told me to stay focused, but i told him we needed to enjoy it so we talked some and i thanked him for coming out to make my dream happen.” by Brian @ Ultra Ramblings
- “Eventually the sun arose which allows everyone to see the glorious hill country side. Actually one of my favorite times is right before dawn, when the hills are black and the sky is a dark blue, just enough contrast so you can see the hills.” by ultra tortoise @ A Trail Runner’s Running Blog
- “After Sky Island I started losing a bit of steam. My pace to The Lodge (Start/Finish) was pretty broken. I began getting a bit discouraged at this point too, especially when other runners began to pass me. Joe’s advice at the start of the race was becoming a reality… Slow and steady will win over anybody that goes out too fast.” by Caleb @ The Organic Climber
- “I knew these last 10 miles would be challenging and they did not disappoint in terms of sotol, steepness and no shortage of rocks. At one point noticed a headlamp off in the distance that looked like it was on top of a mountain, and that gave me a clue about how much climbing I had ahead of me.” by Anne @ Iron Dreams
- “He says that the other guys will come back eventually, but asks me to do him a favor and break the course record. I can’t remember exactly what it is. He tells me. He set it last year I believe in 7:59. He tells me we are way under pace and I am comfortable with. I say, “sure thing.”” by Erik @ Erik Stanley
- “Olga asked if I need anything. I jokingly and mistakenly said, “a drive back to the Lodge.” Then I got the look…” – David’s EB Race Report
- Groovy race pics by Enduro Photo.
- More great pics by Brian Kuhn.
Talk some Dirt
- What was you favorite section of the course?
- What did you think of the minimalist aid station format?
Special thanks to Steven Moore, Rachel Ballard, and Erik Stanley for sharing thoughts on their adventure with us. Also, a big thanks to Brian Kuhn for the sweet photos you see above.
Check out the TALON Race Guide
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Be active – Feel the buzz!
David – EnduranceBuzz.com