Last night was the first night of what I call, Tejas Trails madness. It’s a series of night races put up by Joe called the Capt Karl series. The races begin at 7 pm and have distances of 10K, 30K and 60K. The distances are standard. What is not standard are the conditions. Last night was the first race and this goes on for the next 4 grueling months of TX heat. The races are meant for training for many of the ultra runners in the area who are training for some big milers in the fall such as 50-100 mile races. It helps them to train for running through the night and of course, in the heat.
I signed up for the race last night. I’d been wanting to do it badly but some friends were arm-twisting for a house party that I’d said yes to. But when the party got cancelled and because Bharath is not in town to insist on alternative Saturday night revelries, this was the perfect opportunity for me to get out, run the 10K and stay around to do some volunteering. Joe’s been great to me, he lets me into these races last minute, sometimes for no fee. I had no interest in running more since I just did the 25K and I wasn’t sure how it would go in the heat. But it turns out that I was in the minority – plenty of Tejas crazies that did the 30/60K that were seen at Beacon Rock last night – (Ever heard of compulsive gamblers? These are compulsive runners).
I had enough time to plan but still planned badly because of laziness. I forgot to take a bunch of things I wanted to – a cold towel, a change of clothes (bought an overpriced Pedernales Falls teeshirt at the state park office) and extra food. And should have got gas but I didn’t and then worried that I’d breakdown somewhere in the middle of 290W.
Anyway, made it to the race grounds by 7 pm. Packed in my stuff and got ready to run, picked up a bib #. The race began and oh my lord, it was HOT. It was 95 or so when we started. I felt awful. Sitting around the couch all day, I should have at least warmed up in the last 10 mins that I was waiting around. Anyway, I felt stiff, hot and a bit grumpy in my tummy. I began really slowly but I was miserable. The course was dusty and sandy in parts. The first two miles went along a fence and it was ugly and rocky. I kept thinking about last weekend and how wonderful it felt running in the cool mountains of Portland and here I am back on the dusty, hot, stony trails of TX. I walked a lot in the first 2 miles because my stomach was cramping and I felt a bit nauseous. Every step felt like lead. My head felt like it was on fire and so I had to walk every few minutes to cool down. I drank nearly almost all my water in my pack and poured 2/3 of the hand held on my head and neck.
I’m sure it gets better, this heat conditioning but I just didn’t enjoy it. Eventually the sun went down a bit but this was nearly after 3.5 miles. I checked the watch, it was 42 mins. I’d still half more to go and I knew this wasn’t going to be one of those fast races. I did feel bummed because at the end of the day, we’re all competitive even against one’s own past record. Finally at about 4 miles, the sun was almost gone, it was twilight and it cooled down enough for me to run continuously.
I thought I’d hydrated enough (but I hadn’t). I’d taken 2 salt tablets before we began and by the end of the run, I think I had taken 5-7 tablets. But even then, while running I felt my eyes fogging up, one of the first signs of dehydration. This heat is not to be trifled with. It’s the humidity. I caught up and was pacing 2 guys. One of them eventually took off and the other guy would run/walk and keep asking me to keep up. Eventually I took over him as he was walking. I was able to run smoothly for the last couple of miles but still couldn’t help feeling woozy.
Later while talking with Bhavesh and Rod, who’d done 30K races – and I realized that I’d missed the electrolytes. Salt wasn’t enough and neither was water nor gels. I admit I am not a fan of those electrolytes. I can’t stand drinking the peach/grape flavored water. But I will search high and low for unflavored electrolytes to be mixed with unflavored water.
Spent the rest of the evening helping out at the aid stations and hosing/misting down heated runners coming in either for second loop of the 60K or 30K finishers. Was quite fun. There was a woman that came in and her 15 year old daughter was waiting to see her. She told her very excitedly that she had finished the 10K in just about an hour and was really looking for some commendation from her ultrarunner mom. But mom was a bit preoccupied filling up her bottle and getting nutrition and cooling down I presume. Don’t blame her but I can’t forget the look of admiration and love on her daughters face as she was telling someone her mother upped her registration to the 60K from the 30K. Daughter kept her medal on 2 hours after the race had ended (as did many of the 10K kids, adorable). And she had these puppy eyes filled with love as she bid her mom goodbye for her second loop, quite ready and happy to wait for her for another 3 hours. Some big running shoes to fill little girl, but I hope she doesn’t try too hard. Ultra running may not be for everyone. Also saw 2 little girls, no more than 8, intense that raced and won the 10K. 2 sisters, looked exactly like Jamie Thorvilson and her sister. Must make it a point to tell Jamie about them. There was a woman who finished the 10K in 2 hours and I saw as she hobbled to the finish line, she was wearing leg braces on both legs. All kinds of people run – fast, slow, thin, fat, happy, sad. All you need is a little determination to endure the distance. And of course, the heat.