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2014 Cactus Rose 50 Race Report: 1.55 in 15

Surfing. With your shoes as the board, and the loose rocks combined with the steep pitch become a good little wave. Our small little group of three glided down the final technical descent, Lucky Peak, hoping to stay upright on our boards. We could feel the closeness of the 50 mile finish line in the distance pulling us towards her shores.

“Do you know how far to the finish?”, Michelle asks two 100 milers as we near the base of this final descent.

“1.55 miles”, one of the two runners respond.

If you mention the distance to the hundredth of a mile, you must know what you are talking about…at least that was my reasoning at that moment.

As we get back to running and less surfing, I look at my watch. 15 minutes before the 12 hour mark on the race clock. I quickly saw this fun little opportunity to finish off our race and announced to our 3-pack.

“Here is the opportunity. We have about 1.5 miles to the finish. It is 15 minutes before the 12 hour mark. The rugged technical stuff is behind us. If we focus and get after it, we can sneak under 12 hours.”

No words were spoken, yet we all heard each others response.

With focus and determination, Armand, Michelle, and I progressively dialed up the effort which we knew we had to hold for the next 15 minutes after running 48+ miles.

We went for it.

October is often a beautiful time through the region and is my favorite trail running month. The cooler temps and drier air mark a transition to Fall and the start of many mild months of trail running in the South.

This would be the first time the entire fam would come down for Cactus Rose. After a few days of family camping this summer in New Mexico and Colorado, we were fairly confident we could handle a couple nights of somewhat primitive camping together. What we haven’t dialed in yet is need vs want with respect to what we bring, so the Outback was filled from front-to-back, plus our portable Roof Bag (which we love) was filled to capacity. Thank goodness for the hearty suspension on the Subaru.

After 6+ hours of driving, we were still all accounted for as we drove into the Hill Country Natural Area.


Tent set-up.

Pre-race meeting.

A tasty family dinner in Bandera.

Then a few hours of sleep (or laying there) before the early-bird start of 5:00am.

I had a few basic goals for the 50 mile:

  • enjoy the day and be grateful for the opportunity
  • finish sub-11
  • if sub-11 wasn’t happening to simply (not always so simple) finish

Mile 0 – 25 (Clockwise loop)

Star-lit skies and mild temps (50s), Joe sent us on our way at 5:00am sharp. Two loops for us 50 milers and the 100 milers enjoyed four.

Plan for this first 25 miles was to keep the effort Easy, which for me means to run at a relaxed pace that requires no mental effort to maintain.

Much of the first 15 miles is a mostly runnable trail surface. Of course there are some rocks, some roots…like trail running. There also were a couple short grunt climbs that allowed for a few brief power-hiking breaks. All the more significant climbs/descents are rocky and technical which turn a 100-300 foot change into something a bit grander.

Sunrise was beautiful. A red glow along the horizon. The surrounding hills all coming to life. Cool moment.

The final 10 miles of this loop contain the more significant climbs/descents. The sotol was nice and thick through the 3-sisters hill (around mile 17) with their leaves reaching across the trail and micro cutting your skin as you pass through them. I could actually feel the resistance to my forward progress.

Three more climbs and descents – Sky Island, Boyles Bump, and Cairn’s Climb.

As you start nearing the end of the loop you have to control your effort as you can get a bit excited seeing all the front runners running back towards you (you switch directions after every loop).

Fun to see Matt cruising at the front of the 50 mile. Steven looking steady and maybe even asking if I had a beer for him 😉 . Nicole checking on how I was doing while she was running UP one of the climbs. Melanie running with joy and calling me “bearded man”. Brandon always looking smooth and enjoying the run. Then some of the 100 milers…Brian, setting the pace. Jason, killing it.

This was also when I first met Armand, who was running his first 50 miler. He gradually moved ahead of me during the final couple miles to the end of the loop.

I arrived back at the start/finish just under five hours.

25 miles done.

25 miles done.

My legs were starting to feel the downhills but overall I was feeling pretty good. Talked with Wendy and the kids. They were all doing awesome and having fun. Rolled out my legs quickly with my Tiger Tail, grabbed nutrition for the next 10 miles, and then looked at my second bottle I packed in my drop bag. Held it. Looked at it some more. Then put it back in my bag.

With the rising temps this would turn out to be a big mistake!

Put down half a can of mellow yellow on the way out for some caffeine and a little sugar boost and gave the rest of it to my son, Griffin. As a family that doesn’t normally drink soda, he was lovin’ it. I said I would give him another half a can at Equestrian in 10 miles. His eyes sparkled. He would be there.

Heading back out with Griffin holding the prized possession.

Heading back out with Griffin holding the prized possession.

Mile 25 – 50 (Finish) (Counter-clockwise loop)

I walked it out (a little after 5 hours race time) enjoying a special homemade Rice Krispy / Granola Bar.

Two years ago I ran this race and I remember how quickly these next 10 miles (the hardest section of the course) went but that was not the case this year. I was also going through my single bottle of water fairly quickly.

Lots of positive energy exchanged between everyone. It was great to see Chris, Michael, Susan, Peter, Dr., Mariela, Nikki, Marcus, Jenny, Monte, Laura, Aaron, Chris, Sonia, and many more who were all giving it their best on the day.

And then after riding a high, I hit a low spot three miles into the 25 mile celebration loop.

I then saw Armand up ahead. He was going through a low patch as well. We ran with each other…helping keep each other moving.

My bottle was now empty.

And then the conversation started, “where is that aid station?”

“Oh, just around the corner.”

That became the joke for the next seven miles.

We arrived at Boyles (mile 30) aid station. Relaxed for a few minutes in the shade under the canopy. Some water. Some ice. More water.

On our way to the mile 35 aid station (Equestrian), alternating run/walk. Plenty of rounding the corner looking for that aid station. Nothing but more trail.

Mouth started to feel like sandpaper. Tongue sticking to the roof of my mouth.

We finally arrive at Equestrian (mile ~35).

I saw Wendy, Griffin, and Ainsley, and that quickly raised my spirits.

While it wasn’t a fast aid station stop, it definitely was purposeful. Fluids. Some calories. Cool down the core with ice. Regroup.


And I needed another flippin’ bottle.

I sat on the ground with Griffin who was deeply embedded in a great Star Wars read. He was even reading while he was walking around. I have never seen him so engaged with a book so I loved seeing that. I smiled.

Griffin and his book.

Griffin and his book.

I asked Wendy if she had any bottles in the car and that I would like it to be something with a wide mouth so I could pack ice in it as well.

She comes back with Griffin’s 10 ounce Star Wars / Yoda bottle. Perfect! Griffin looks and started to debate letting me use it and then I gave him another half can of Mellow Yellow. Permission granted!

Armand and I look at each other and walk out to begin the next five miles to the Nachos Aid Station (~mile 40).

Now I had a full 20 ounce bottle. My Yoda bottle. And I filled a ziplock baggie with ice. I held this in my hand until it had completely melted to try and keep my core temp down.

We alternated between run and hike segments along with way too many “it’s got to be just around the corner” mentions.

The arrival to Nachos was a welcome sight. I was out of water again.

Water. Ice. And some regrouping in the shade.

Paul Terranova come cruising through for his 25 mile loop in the 100 mile relay. A brief stop at the aid station and he was back pushing the pace.

Armand and I didn’t quite have that same urgency.

After another couple minutes of regroup, we started marching out of the aid station.

Only 10 miles to the finish. The toughest climbs were behind us.

Armand and I began to put together some longer run segments. We would eventually see Brian Hopton-Jones during his third loop while leading the 100 race and he said to “finish strong!” I felt the whip crack.

Stay focused.

Last visit to the Equestrian aid station. Five miles to go!

Armand and I arriving at Equestrian for the last time. (~mile 45)

Armand and I arriving at Equestrian for the last time. (~mile 45)

Heading out for the final 5 miles.

Heading out for the final 5 miles.

We gave support to Ventura who was running the 100 and looked amazing. Looked like he was just getting started.

Armand and I were both feeling pretty good and kept a fairly steady effort through the twisty, wooded singletrack. This is where we met Michelle who was running very well. We gave support to one another and made the pass.

Getting close.

We arrive at the base of Lucky Peak, the final gnarly climb and descent before the final push to the finish.

Once we start the grunt up, Michelle arrives at the base and quickly hikes past us during the climb to the top. We wish each other well in passing…again.

Down the crumbly rock backside.

After hearing we are 1.55 miles from the finish from fellow runners heading out for loop three in the 100 miler, I couldn’t help but look at my watch.


1.55 miles. 15 minutes until the race clock hits 12 hours.

We could go sub 12.

This is doable.

Armand and I catch up to Michelle and I share this crazy opportunity and challenge for the final 1.5 miles of this 50 miler.

Everyone’s on board without saying a word.

“12 minutes!” I share as we all focus on our push-effort cadence.

“Don’t redline up this riser, just keep it steady. We don’t want to burn out.”

“We can do it.”

“8 minutes!”

A bend in the nicely wooded and non-technical trail.

More trail.

“4 minutes!”

“Keep it up. We can do it!”

We are close but I still can’t see the barn and streamers announcing the finish area.

“2 minutes!”

“Stay focused!”

“I see the final bend up ahead!”

“1 minute!”

Go. Go. Go!


Down a little dip in the trail before a left turn to the finish chute.


We see the clock.



Armand and I cross the line in 11:59:47.

Michelle is close behind and crosses the finish under 12 hours with two seconds to spare!

That was awesome!!! (wish we would have gotten a pic with Michelle as well)

Armand and I - 50 miles - done!

Armand and I – 50 miles – done!

Armand, it was great to work through that second loop together. Congratulations on your first 50 miler!!

Michelle, way to dig deep at the end!

Thank you Wendy, Griffin, and Ainsley for the amazing support and saving my race with the Yoda bottle!

Thank you Joe, Joyce, the small group of volunteers, and all the tribe that spent the day together playing on the trails!

Sharing trail stories with Mr. Moore.

Sharing trail stories with Steven Moore and Ainsley coming over for a high-5.

Also, fun to see the folks that gave Griffin High-5s along the finish chute before I arrived. He loved it!


Paul Terranova

Paul Terranova


And then I looked like this for a while.

Looking off into the distance hugging my Tiger Tail.

Looking off into the distance hugging my Tiger Tail.

While I didn’t get that sub-11 goal, I am grateful for the finish, grateful for the ability to do some problem solving, grateful to spend the day with some great people, grateful to spend a weekend in nature with my family, and grateful for a body that allows me to take on such adventures.

Sub-11, till next time.

One of my weekend highlights – a fun family hike Sunday morning to the top of Sky Island.


The Force is strong in this one.

The Force is strong in this one.

Family, meet the sotol.

Family, meet the sotol.

That was fun!

That was fun!

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.

8 Responses to “2014 Cactus Rose 50 Race Report: 1.55 in 15”

  1. on 31 Oct 2014 at 9:46 am Chris R

    Great report Dave! Enjoyed seeing you on the trails!

  2. on 31 Oct 2014 at 10:58 am David Hanenburg

    Hey Chris, Thanks so much. Always wonderful to see the great Chris Russell…and now wearing his 500th mile jacket!! See you in a few weeks!

  3. on 31 Oct 2014 at 1:02 pm Rachel Adamson

    Love it! Congrats on another marvelous finish, David.

  4. on 03 Nov 2014 at 12:22 pm Jonathan

    Great job Dave! Way to cruise under 12 with that beard!. Ventura is a beast! Feel bad that he didn’t get to finish Mogollon 100. You coming down for Wild Hare of Brazos Bend 100?

  5. on 03 Nov 2014 at 5:17 pm David Hanenburg

    Hey Rachel,

    Thanks so much! 🙂 A fun family weekend. Hope your running is going well.


  6. on 03 Nov 2014 at 5:20 pm David Hanenburg

    Jonathan – Thanks man! We definitely had to dial in full cruise mode to make that sub-12 happen.

    I had thought about Wild Hare but will be running Big Cedar (fun local trail) instead.

    Are you running both WH and BB? How is your training going?

  7. on 04 Nov 2014 at 7:37 am Craig Pickett


    Thanks for sharing the recap of your run. It was even better with the pictures. I always enjoy reading about other runners experiences on the trails.


  8. on 04 Nov 2014 at 11:12 am Jonathan

    Yes, I will be running Wild Hare 50K and Brazos Bend 50M.

    Training is going alright. Had to take some time off due to a stress reaction injury back in March and it’s taken a while to get back into long runs. My longest training run so far has been 18 miles. WH will show me what to really expect at BB as the WH trails have some technicality to some sections and a bit of undulation. Here’s to hoping for cool weather. I’ll send you a write up after BB.