Trail Running in Texas & beyond

Nueces 50k Race Recap

Nueces was one of those races I’ve wanted to do since I started running trail races 2+ years ago.  The pictures were lovely and once joining Tejas Trails training group I heard story after story of the beauty of Camp Eagle and the Nueces course.  Last fall I penciled the Nueces 50 miler as a race to focus on for 2013.   A few changes in my training plan took the 50 miler off the table and Nueces was to serve as a kick off to the meat of the training build up to the Tahoe 100 miler.

A brisk morning greeted us Saturday.  Temps in the low / mid 30s.  Perfect in my book.  An hour after the hardy 50 milers, Joe sent us, a motley collection of 50k & 25k runners, on our way.  We whooped it up as we headed out the shoot, down the short stretch of jeep road, and onto the first stretch of single track.   The early conversation centered around whether we had enough beer to last the afternoon; it was an hour to the nearest town.   This early in the race there was the usual mix of people who went out too fast and with the single track things got bogged down a bit.  I was happy to let this play out and try to take it easy early.  Even still, as is the norm, the pace was faster than it should have been given the hours we’d be out there.

2 miles later and a few passes off the shoulder and a spill into the dirt, I found myself leading the general peloton with no one in immediate sight a head of me .  The leaders had shot off and the rest of us were left to our day.   As we wound our way up a set of switch backs, a runner about 50 meters ahead slipped into view, illuminated as she consumed by rising sun.  It was one of those magically trail moments that even the best pictures don’t fully capture.  Looking at the results, I am pretty sure it was Andrea Fisher.  I played leap-frog with her for much of the first loop until she took off for her finish in the 25k.

The proceeding 10 days did not comprise of an ideal race taper: a nasty superman fall down St Edwards hill, a gentle hit and run by a commercial van, and a heavy duty weights session left me bruised and sore.  I figured it I was in for a long day but after 60 minutes of running I found myself pain free and feeling as good as I have in months.  I was in excellent spirits so I just start to run at whatever felt comfortable for the time being.  This turned out to be a pretty good pace while enjoying my first tour of this wonderful course and chatting with 25k runners including several first timers who were having a great intro trail racing in Texas.

About the course.  I often do a full run down of the course.  I just don’t feel like doing a blow by blow this time.  Nueces is, by far, the best course in Texas that I’ve run.  I’ve heard the course described as “where rocks go to die” and it true on many levels.   It is rocks and more rocks, yet at the same time it is quite runnable.   Bandera, by comparison, is jagged.  Banderas has more sections without rocks but it also has ledges and washouts and angles that make a rhythm hard to find.  Nueces has more rocks and the total elevation is similar to Bandera but the overall effect is a course where a nice running groove can been found.  There are many awesome features on this course include a great section through a creek bed, a run along and then across the river, and many fantastic vistas.

The end of the first loop finds me at around 2:22 on the clock.  I take my time to swap my water bottle out with a new one full of Gu Roctane and a pocket full of gels.  Pleasantries are exchanged with Henry Hobbs, Olga, Joe, a few 25k finishers, and I  walk out for my second loop.  The 25k runners that carried me through the first loop are now finished and enjoying their well earned rewards.  I come across a few 50 milers here and there but our goals are different at this point.  They are settling in for the day with two more loops in their adventures.  I envy their experiences to be had while happy beer awaits me in my nearish future.  Brief words are shared before I move on.

I was in good spirits, energy level solid, and yet coming out of the first aid station on loop 2 my pace faltered.  Factors could include the exposed course + sun, the aforementioned 10 days of ‘adventure’, and challenge of maintaining a steady pace and focus absent of fellow runners.  The climb out of the first aid station took much longer than the first loop and was the first sign of real trouble ahead but I seemed to recover a bit on the double track trail that leads over the crest and then down towards the “Wall” aid station.  However, with about 5 miles left, it crashed about me.  All I wanted to do was throw up.  I really wish I could but sadly it just didn’t happen.  Near the top of the long climb to the windmill (this climb is known as the Gorilla climb and is last over a mile on loose rock), Justin Wendling caught me.  I was extremely surprised to see him as I figured he was well ahead of me all day.  Turns out he ran a smart race and started near the back in order to pace himself.  I need to take a page from that plan for Hells Hills.

I’d catch Justin on the downhills but then he’d be a be stronger on the hills.  As we approached the hill leading to the last aid station, I mentioned we had about 1.5 miles left plus or minus.  He kicked it into another gear and I could only watch him go.  I stopped at the aid station to swap the Gatoraid that was a contribution or cause of my stomach ailments for water and wash my face and hands.  All day I struggled with Hammer gels and was getting more gel on my hands than in my mouth.  I’ve come to really hate the packaging design of Hammer gels (the taste and quality of gels is only so-so to begin with).    With only 1.4 miles left, my simple goal was to survive and not let anyone else pass me.  It wasn’t pretty as I made my way towards the finish but no one caught me and soon enough I found myself weaving through the camp buildings that lead to the finish line.

The rest of the afternoon was spent soaking in the warm of the spring sun and friends.   It was really a perfect afternoon.  One of the special aspects of Nueces is that because it is far away from everything, many people stay the whole weekend out there either in the cabins or camping.  Zip lines, river swimming, and other points of interest make it more of an all family affair than your average race.  I headed back to Austin late Saturday afternoon, but I know better for next year.

Race stats

  • Distance:  50k
  • Time:  5:06:32
  • Place:  8th overall.

2 Responses to “Nueces 50k Race Recap”

  1. ben martinez says:

    Congrats. You looked really fresh & strong when I saw you.

    • admin says:

      It was a few minutes after I saw you that things went downhill on the stomach front.

      Congrats on yet another 50+ mile finish. You are running great. Hell Hills?