Cactus Rose 50 and 100 M races are an absolutely awesome old-style events put on by Joe and Joyce from Tejas Trails. It goes as 4 25M loops washing machine style on a nastiest cruelest single track you can find anywhere. It includes rocky ledges, spit-out rocks and overgrown roots on the hills you never thought existed in Texas. I ran the 100M version last year and had a sick blast, breaking my tail bone at mile 32, plowing through the heat of the day and the freeze of the night. It is a self-supported race where you get water and ice stocked up every 5 miles, and the rest is up to you - drop bags and no volunteers or cheer support unless you brought your own. I loved it.
This year there was an experiment - Larry and I owned the Equestrian AS, one runners pass twice on each loop (at mile 5 and 15 out of 25). From the Information packet: Olga V. has agreed to manage Equestrian... but Olga likes the old school ways, so the support will be in the Olga Way... minimal with a Russian twist! And boy, did we absolutely LOVE being there!!! It combined all I've been missing on, the Grand Teton 2 years serving main AS, the 4 years of Autumn Leaves 50/50 time keeping and AS manning, the 3 years of PCT 50 and a single shot at Hood 100 directing...what a hoot.
I had some minor surgery on Wed, and Thursday night we toured the supermarket to stock up on AS supplies. Friday straight from work, we collected our kids from schools and drove to Bandera, arriving at 9pm. I stayed at the main Lodge with a bunch of other volunteers (what meant no sleep), and Larry and the boys camped at the AS.
3:30 am came early enough to require 2 cups of coffee, and after sending runners off, I was driven to the Equestrian for the first "come through".
And the day was just beginning...Runners passing by, staying around, taking care of themselves, their crew cheering on, water, drinks, melons, scolding, lying, smiling, yelling, pushing, massaging, helping to change, to feed, to figure out the problem, nudging, nagging...oh, the joy of it all. There was some course vandalism that sent a handful of runners off and added 5 miles for them, and there was some marking that made for wandering for tired runners (weird, I never got lost last year, and I am infamous for getting lost!). Lots of people are involved even when the race is billed as "self-supported", and it was running smoothly as always with the gang from Tejas Trail. With the evening coming, Larry popped the grill going and prepped the grilled cheese sandwiches, while I made noodle soup and chicken broth, along with hot chocolate. The warrior's numbers thinned out, but those who stayed were incredible. Steven Moore ran away unchallenged all day in a 100 for a 19:35. Derek took 2nd in a 50 miler. Stephen B. faced the demons of last year and broke 24 by half hour for 3rd in a 100. The girl's race, while on the further end of the times, was still super-exciting! With only 3 of the women left enduring the full 100, Mary was leading at 85M by 39 min. My bestest friend Beth Simpson-Hall, who flew from WI (my former teamie of Montrail, and now of Wasatch Goat team) to celebrate her birthday in a real ultra-style, traced her strongly. We changed her in clean cutest clothes (it's important to look beautiful, and she always does!), her hubby Larry came by to check on a progress (he flew in as a surprise from his job assignment! Yay for love!) - and I ushered him to speed up his lovely wife. And did she ever! Beth passed Mary with a mile to go, to get that birthday present of a win!
Less than 50% finished the 100M option and chose to drop down and join those who started 50M race - this event grants a finish of a 50 once you get through the distance (kind of like Umstead). Just shows what kind of nastiness awaits for you out there. In words of Joe: No Whiners, Wimps, or Wusses : A nasty rugged trail run Bonus Points for Blood, Cuts, Scrapes, & Puke.
The kids behaved awesomely, like never before! I can't give them enough credit, as they made our AS work possible. We were so busy, we never took a single picture, although we did have a camera. Larry did a short run, then took boys to town for a dinner. We did get a car-nap, each for 3 hours (Larry had a break midnight to 3am, and I did 3:30 to 6:30 - and while Larry was out, I learned to flip buttered bread with cheese!). Basically, we "ran" our own 100 miler - personally, I haven't left a site of an AS for a minute for 30 straight hours. The AS seemed to be a hoot, and there is a chance we'll adopt it for good, if many folks are interested. At some point the webside will have comments from all, as well as official photos, but the results are up now. Here is one point of view: It was freaking cold at the start, crazy hot during the day, and damn cold at night. The course was tough, but somehow through these elements, Derick Purvis placed 2nd with an 8:40 something in the 50 mile. Steven Moore won the 100 and put on quit a performance for all of us to witness. His winning time was around 19:30. Most of the time, he was just a flash going by you on the trails.
Olga and Larry ran a GREAT "minimal" aid station. I'm sure every runner will agree to that!!! Later in the night, Larry was getting grilled cheese sandwiches going, along with the soups, watermelon, hot chocolate, and some other basic aid station munchies. Olga seemed to provide a perfect balance of caring along with a strong kick in the A#S! She has a remarkable way with people. Even after she yells at you, all you want to do is say thank you! : )
As always, Joe, along with his prettier half, Joyce, put on another successful Cactus Rose! And this email wouldn't be complete without giving a huge thanks to Henry, Robert, Diana, Claude's wife Debbie, and all the other great volunteers that keep everything going.
I don't know if there's such a thing as rock fairies, or it its Henry doing it while he's driving around on his 4-wheeler, but I swear someone kept putting more and more rocks on the trails as the hours went by. : )
Looking forward to Cactus Rose 2011.
Photos by Diane H.
Race photos official
Anyhow, it was the best of times. Many asked why I didn't run that weekend. I didn't need to. With all my friends, old and new, I ran and crossed the finish line - and won - a few dozens of times. There couldn't be a better reward in life.
It felt good to feel needed. Felt like home. I guess I just added a new home to my list:)
In Austin there was a sad news for community - a great friend of many and an ultrarunner Dano died after a long battle with ALS. I only had met Dano once, when he was already in a wheelchair, and he made an ever-lasting unforgettable impression on me. He seemed to know the botton to click, the sarcasm to say, and be aware of every new thing happening. Imagine what those who knew him closely felt. May he run long never-ending trails up there forever.