Well what weekend it was! I am back to give you all the deets on my ULTRA race weekend – running El Taco Loco 100k. This race for me was quite the test as well as a benchmark for my upcoming 100 miler, the Loup Garou trail run. Let’s see how everything went down!!
Can I just say how thankful I am to finally have an ultra with phenomenal weather? After Brazos Bend 100 splashing through endless mud puddles- I was sure this one would be quite similar. From start to finish we were so thankful for pleasant temps for this race. We started bright and early at 5:30 AM, in the straight up darkness. My friend and I drove down to San Antonio (a 4.5 ish hour drive) the night prior and stayed in a hotel so Saturday morning I woke up fairly fresh and ready to roll. The gun went off right at 5:30 AM and off we went into the woods. Headlamps dancing in the darkness is kind of my favorite thing.
The course itself was fairly flat with a few rolling hills, but single track dirt trail and very runnable. There was rain the night prior so we had some muddy spots but overall, a dry and lovely trail with some beautiful shade. The loops were fairly longer, around 15.5 miles long that we completed a total of 4 times. Which was fine as I really enjoy the looped courses so I can do the whole countdown in my head. And instead of, OH I have over 30+ some odd miles to go (HA) I can just say “2 loops left”! Then 1 loop and so on. Makes things much more manageable when you are covering 62 freaking miles.
I met a few folks as we ran and we had a little pack of folks where we were sticking together a while. Towards the back half of loop 1 we all spread out a bit. It was so super dark for the first couple of hours and I was trying to adjust and get into a groove but had a bit of a hard time doing that during the first loop for some reason.
Maybe I was still waking up? Or not enough caffeine. Not sure. But…because of this I took not 1, but 2 FALLS on the first loop in the dark. Just tripping over roots along the trail and such. The dirt was soft so I bounced back up pretty quickly and kept on trucking. Both times I went down there were folks around that were sweet to check on me and make sure I was alright. That’s one thing I love about the trail community!! Everyone always has your back, always encouraging. And always groovy good vibes. I will forever love that.
Because of those not 1, but 2 falls on LAP 1, I will say I went into loop 2 feeling a tad discouraged. Still in the game, but not feeling super confident. I hadn’t done a ton of trail training this go ’round- although my weekly mileage was rock solid and consistent. But…..would my lack of dirt running affect my ability to stay in the game? Am I going to fall FOR REAL and really jack myself up?? Only time would tell. So, I continued to just keep trucking. Relentless forward motion. Knowing that I have successfully completed a distance of this magnitude (and THEN SOME) certainly helps.
Lap 2 went by like a breeze. Once the light came out and the sun was in the sky that was all I needed to get that boost of confidence back. My ULTRA trail runner muscle memory came back with a vengeance. I was rocking and rolling on that trail like no other. PLUS…I got to see my trail friends, who were out volunteering on the trail providing aid for all of the runners. That was honestly the boost I needed to keep moving forward.
I made it to the last (VICTORY) loop and the legs were starting to get heavy but I was in great spirits. I cranked up my tunes and the sun started setting as I hit mile 50 something. I knew the hardest part of this race was coming. Dealing with the darkness. And dealing with it, alone.
I went into this race with the knowledge that I would have NO pacer. This was the first time doing 62+ miles without one. But I knew as long as I could endure running alone in the woods at night for a short time I could make it. I kept trucking. It kept getting darker.
I entered a certain part of the woods and there were NO runners around. No headlamps, no noises of voices in the horizon. All of the 100kers were spread out all over the trail and I was alone. Just me and my thoughts and my tired body. Keep moving, don’t miss a trail marker. Don’t get lost. So tired. Can’t see. Headlamp is dim. Then, for a split second, what was that noise? A pack of coyotes in the near distance. Howling because they can and its at night.
Sheer adrenaline and fear rushed though my body. I decided it would be time to make a phone call. I call my friend because I needed someone to talk to. Getting close to mile 60. My friend tells me his shift is almost over and to hang in there, a lot of runners have stopped at his aid station for food. He has to go. I’m terrified. Then…in the darkness…what do I see?
A light. A lone one, a lady’s voice. I am overwhelmed with gratitude when I see her light. She runs up to me and we both squeal with delight that we’ve found one another and how spooked we both were that we may have missed a mile marker or something. We start moving together and chatting the night away.
That finish line…I almost cry when I see it.
After turning things around with such a rocky start…I was not sure I would be able to pull this one off and keep my head in the game. But I made it happen. And I proved to myself once again that I am more than capable of doing the hard things. Overcoming adversity both on the trails and in my head and fighting towards the finish.
Falling in the darkness. It’s kind of like dark moments in your life. You can’t see it sometimes when you’re in it. But being on the other side, and perhaps seeing that glimmer of light along the way…that’s when you realize you can bounce back. And be stronger than ever before.
El Taco Loco, you showed me a lot and especially showed me…15 hours and some change later…that I’ve still got it. Plus hey, a shiny 100K PR doesn’t hurt, either.
Plus, yeah we got our tacos. And of course a shiny new buckle to add to the growing collection.
Official results will be found here.
How was your weekend? Anyone run a rockstar trail (or road) race lately??