This was the second year which I did Pedernales Falls 60k (7th ultra, 28th overall)… and man it kicked my butt!! Somehow I don’t remember it being “so bad” from last year, although it was probably pretty bad too (how quickly does one forget lol…). Not to speak of, I ended up with a full blown cold that probably was in me before I started.
60k, if anyone is curious, is 37.5 miles = 1 1/2 marathons. The lass trail race I did was Paleface in May, but that was only a marathon. This one was gonna be hotter and longer… Ay…
This course consisted of two loops of 30k. We had 12 hours to do the whole thing (up to 7am the next day). Some parts were dirt packed trails and rather flat, but there were (at least half) portions where it was rocky, muddy, or just flat out technical.
I was happy to see people the Rio Grande Valley come up and run the race. Most of them (including Sheralee and Javier) were doing just the 30k, but there were a few people doing the 60k as well.
We started the race at 7pm. Not even a mile into it we crossed the infamous “Duck Pond”. Last year, it was completely OVER-FLOODED with at least ankle deep waters and they even said there’s water moccasins in there… So this year, it had rained a bunch as well and the duck pond is full once again! How does it feel like to start a race and less than a mile into it your feet are soaked muddy wet… ALREADY!
But this year, there were a few smart ones who went around on a collateral slippery-slide path. We all got mud and perhaps a prick or two by all the cacti but we avoided the trot thru the pond itself.
The weather could’ve been hot but similar to last year it was cloudy with a slight drizzle (good for us….). However, compared to last year, it felt more humid for some reason. By the 4th or 5th mile, I was already feeling drained by the heat. I decided it was wise to slow down a little.
When I got to the first aid station (Polly’s Corral) about 4 miles into it, there was still light outside. I grabbed a slice of watermelon or two and quickly took off, not realizing how little I actually ate and drank. And yes.. I have to admit, I may have pushed the first few miles too hard with everyone else and “feeling the adrenaline rush”.
We had a gruesome 7 miles to go in this Texas heat and humidity until the next “real” aid station (Wolf Mountain). After 4 miles, there was an unmanned water-only station, but then there would be an additional 3.5 more miles before there were any real food or electrolytes. Nothing feels worse than taking off from an aid station and thinking… Uh oh, I didn’t stock enough for the long haul…
I came across a beautiful sunset. I feel like this was the only time when God sent down something beautiful to remind me how great He was, how the beautiful scenery is a reflection of his grace and mercy. Then the darkness came.. Headlamps on!
Around 10 miles into the race, my right knee started to bother me. Perhaps I haven’t been on trails that much, or the fact that I’m running and walking at night and the limited visibility affects my perception and posture… I dunno. But I felt like crap. The terrain was uneven, a mixture of dirt and rocks. We crossed a number of falls (it would’ve been pretty during the day to see lol).
When I finally made it to the Wolf Mountain station, I scarfed down a bunch of food and Heed (the electrolyte water they served).
There would be another 4 miles before we went back to Polly’s Corral, followed by another 2.4 miles or so back to the Start/Finish aid station. I toughed it out, and I was moving along mostly on my own. I made it back to the Start/Finish around 5 hours later, right before midnight. The people in the RGV were still there and a couple of them had just completed the 30k. As for me, it was only half the battle, as I went out again.
Some random bluegrass band playing at the Start/Finish area…
And it was still HOT and HUMID, despite being at 12am. As I dodged Duck Pond again and went on the trail, there was virtually no wind, and I felt like my glasses were also fogging up, reducing visibility. But I had nothing to wipe it – forget about my shirt and shorts since they were soaked in sweat and humidity, and no not even with plants. Not to speak of my knee still bothered me.
As I came around the Wolf Mountain aid station for the second time, I came across someone (or it may have been, he caught up to ME, lol) named Brett. We actually had good conversations about our past races and experiences that made that miserable 7-mile segment between the aid stations go by faster.
We even started talking about church and faith (I had told him that I was going to go to the South Austin Christian Church and about our church network, and sharing with him how I got baptized and repented. He lives in Round Rock and said that he wanted to go to church later in the day as well (he’d go home and take a nap). He shared with me that his wife, also being a trail runner but not as extreme as he is, helped him pace his 100 miler at Rocky Raccoon several years ago. I shared with him my experiences with that and my DNF that resulted from simply not having a jacket… I don’t feel so bad anymore knowing that he did not finish the first time he tried either.
However, we were playing a cat-and-mouse chase with there 2 ladies who were talking (rather loudly lol) and it felt like it was “ruining the moment”… But whatever. I just focused on powerhiking and moving through…
Towards the latter half of the second loop, Brett and I stayed together, even at times when I stopped momentarily (and vice versa), he slowed down or stopped for a bit and wait for me to catch up. He ran the last mile and finished at 10 hours even, while I finished at 10h and 5 min. There was This is a beauty of these trail ultramarathons in that at any time, you can find someone to “stay together”, with the goal to help each other finish. It’s not about who gets there first, it’s helping one another get there and not give up, just as discipling one another as a Christian, for the journey is much easier when we walk the race with someone else that helps to keep us motivated, accountable, moving, and encouraged to take another step.