March 21, 2009 was a day that I committed to slaying a dragon on my back. Finishing the 50 mile distance was something that had loomed in my mind since my DNF at Palo Duro. Since then, I had learned so much in regards to running Ultras, from Dmitry pacing me at Bandera to Paul Tidmore letting me on what he thought would help and all the other ultra runners who were so unselfish in coaching and information. (Paul has only finished one 50 miler…but 2 time finisher of the Hardrock 100 and 7 other 100 mile Ultras)
The race is to take place in Decatur Texas at the LBJ Grasslands state park, which is about an hours drive from my house. I opted to sleep in my own bed, get up have a waffle and coffee, and then make the pilgrimage to the race. I arrive at about 6:20 AM and signed in, got my race packet, and staged my drop bag. I like to have a little more time to prep, but was rushed to get everything done before the 7:00 AM gun went off. I had no time to contemplate or think about the day ahead, which was probably for the better. I was confident. My training had being spot on. My running partner, Marshall King , who had finished the 3 Days of Syllamo stage race this past weekend, felt confident in my preparation as well and this a huge vote of confidence. So at 7:00AM, we were off. The course utilizes the horse trails of the park and consists of 4 loops. You begin with a 4.8 mile out-and-back correction and then commence with the 4 color coded trails. The blue, yellow, white and red trails are 13.5, 10.4, 12.8, and 8.9 miles respectively. There is not a great deal of elevation change but there are more than enough gullies you run up and down. The trail for the most part was pretty “stirred up” due to the recent rains the passing horses and you had to pay attention not become a rolled ankle casualty. The most challenging part was the long stretches of deep, loose sand to traverse. Compare it to running on a really loose sandy beach. I poured a half of cup of sand out of my shoes at the finish…and I’m not joking.
The out and back and the 1st, blue loop, were uneventful. I immediately, out the gate, commenced with the 10 minute run/2 minute walk routine recommended to me by Paul Tidmore. I was eating early and often. I was staying hydrated and on top of my electrolytes. It was cool in the morning hours and things were going well. I come into the main aid station at the start/finish line (18.3 miles) and downed a cup of Antja’s potato soup….tons of calories, loaded with sodium and easy to down…Ultra runners rocket fuel. I took off to start the 2nd yellow loop. The marathon race had started at 7:30 and some of the marathoners were mingling in with the 50 milers. On of those was John Morelock-he ran gently out there. We ran about the last 4 to 5 miles together, encouraging each other. This was really enjoyable part of the run. He kept telling me that I was looking so smooth for going the 50 and to keep it up. This was great for my psyche and my body felt really good coming into the main aid station at 28.7 miles. I grabbed more soup…more potatoes, some crackers and refilled the hydration pack. While there I saw a marathoner that had finished, looking in a world of hurt. I asked if he was alright. He responded, “no, this was my first trail run and I’m hurting all over.” I told by this time tomorrow he will love it. As I was moving on to start the 3rd White loop, I heard him utter that he had no idea how we were going twice that far. I felt good, both mentally and physically…and had just less than a marathon to go.
The white loop was the first wall that I had to fight through. At about mile 35, I was feeling the pain in my legs. The legs seemed a little dead as well and my walk breaks were getting longer than I wanted. I remember pulling into Debra Sexton’s aid station in a fairly dark state of mind. I also had a hot spot developing on my foot. I stopped to apply some mole skin that I had precut and changed socks. The sand was beginning to take its toll. Three miles later, I had pulled out of the lull and the body and mind began to respond again. In the words of Olga , don’t think about the distance till your 2/3 done…I was thinking about the distance now…25K…and this thing was done. I pull into the main aid station for the last time. More soup…more food, although my stomach did not want to accept too much. Laura Underwood asked how I felt and told her, “Like a Rockstar.” My brother, Sammy, and his family was there at this point as they had made the 1 ½ hour drive. Sam told me that the time keepers table had me dropping from the race. WHAT??? I have been running my butt off and have only 9 miles to go. I hurried over to the time keeper to correct that…and all was good. I was talking to my brother and Matt Crownover, who had wrapped up his 50 miler in 8 ½ hours (2nd place)…exclaimed, “DAVE, GET OUT OF HERE!” I hear Antje, tell me to “quite making love to the aid station and to get going.” I look down and had spent 13 minutes at the station…way too long. I had done really well at not loitering at the aid stations…but blew it on this one. Off I run to finish the last 9 miles of the Red Loop.
At mile 43 or so, I was descending down a hill and started to feel the IT band scream at me. I tried to run on the level terrain but the pain only increased. Remembering an Indian trick from Rick Gaston, I pull a bandana out and tie it tightly above the knee putting the knot over the tendon. Relieved somewhat, I was able to commence running again. I pull in to Deborah Sexton’s aid station again and in good spirits especially compared to the previous time. Six miles to go and all was good. With 4 miles from the finish, I pull into the aid station manned by Lynn Ballard and Paul Tidmore. I had seen Paul around the course all day shooting pictures and always had some smart-aleck comment for him. Lynn made a comment about my bandana tied around my knee, followed by a comment from Paul and a retort by me. We all laughed heartily. That conversation will stay at that aid station and can not be repeated here. The last 4.2 miles were blissful. The legs hurt, the body ached, but the mind was euphoric. It hurt to run and I walked more than I wanted but also had good stretches of running. A pacer these last 9 miles would have taken 10 to 12 minutes off my time, I believe. But I didn’t have a pacer and I was getting closer to the finish as I could hear the commotion. I come out from the tree line and up to the finish line where Kevin Boudreaux awaited me with the finishers buckle. DONE. 11 hours 31 minutes. My wife, Brenda and my kids had made it to share the finish line with me. Mark the Naked Runner had waited around to celebrate my first 50 mile finish. He finished his 50 in plenty of time to eat, take a shower, and watch a sit com. What more could I want, friends and family there at the finish line.
Luke cheering me on at the finish line
Kevin the RD presenting me with my first 50 M finisher
Fifteen months ago I could not fathom running farther than a marathon. If someone asked me if I could run a marathon back to back…I would have responded, “Are you crazy?” I wanted to break 11 hours. I believe I can, but for my first 50 mile finish, I am happy with the results.
An endeavor cannot be accomplished alone! First, to my wife and kids, so supportive and although Bren doesn’t understand why anybody would want to run for that long; is proud of me. To Rick Gaston , the only guy who was with me from the start of my venturing into ultra running, whose advice I always take to heart. To Dimtry Rozinsky, who paced me at Bandera and taught me more about trail running in those 7 hours than I could have learned in 2 years on my own. To Marshall King, who makes me get my butt up at 4:00AM on Sunday to hammer out back to back long runs. To Kevin and Stacy Boudreaux and the North Texas Trail Runners, who made this event so enjoyable and whose encouragement was incredible….and last but not least, to all of my blog buddies who read this dribble…God bless’ya for reading such!
Bren and post race celebrations
My brother Sam and I...he's riding the Hotter N Hell 100 mile Bike ride this