Texas Trail Championship Retrospective
The results won’t be final and official until June (and as of this writing aren’t up-to-date), but by my math, I’ve built an insurmountable lead in the Texas Trail Championship, so it’s as good as won. Besides that, I don’t plan to run any more races for the foreseeable future, so it’s as good a time as any to look back on what was a mostly successful season.
The first race was the only one I didn’t win, and also the only one in which I didn’t achieve every goal I set out to do. I figured I wouldn’t win the Bandera 100k, as it always has a competitive field, but I had the goal of finishing in under nine hours, and I finished in 9:19. It was a far-from-perfect race, with wet/muddy conditions, and I took a hard fall that cost me several minutes. Even so, I met most of my goals, most notably beating my previous time at Bandera (9:34). I also placed higher than anyone from Texas; everyone else was from out-of-state and probably was paid to be there.
Rocky Raccoon was the toughest race of the bunch, but not by as much as you might think. Both Bandera and Dos Senderos had more difficult courses; Rocky Raccoon is a cakewalk by comparison, with essentially no hills to speak of. However, there’s no getting around the fact that 100 miles is a long way to run, and as mentioned before, -6 °C (21 °F) is the coldest temperature in which I’ve ever run. That didn’t make it any easier.
I’d also call this one the result I’m most proud of.
Dos Senderos was probably my favorite race, and the one I’m most likely to run again. It helps that it’s close to where I live, enough so I was able to wake up in my own bed and drive to the race. More importantly, it had the most fun course and the best after-party. I also like that it takes place about a week before spring break.
And finally, The Game was the most unique of the bunch. I’d never done a last-runner-standing race (aka “backyard ultra”) before, and it was certainly an interesting experience. The pace of the race comes to a marathon every 6.5 hours or so - more than twice as slow as my marathon pace - so it’s physically not all that challenging. On top of that, the time in between laps can be spent stretching, sitting, and you can even change clothes and shoes without losing time, like you would in a “normal” race. It’s a cliche, but this race is more mental than physical. Despite being eight hours longer than any other race in the series (or perhaps because of that), it was by far the easiest.
That said, I’m not coming back unless the course is moved to somewhere else (preferably somewhere with a trail) and the website becomes much better maintained.
Will I do the race series again? Probably not. It’s not because I don’t like doing the races - they’re a lot of fun! It’s not even because I don’t like the training; I like to run. It’s because the training necessary to properly prepare for races like these is time-consuming. I already work a job that’s time-consuming, and I have other personal projects I’d like to work on, like arranging music and writing websites and apps. Some of those might even pay off. Speaking of which…
I’ve begun to feel unappreciated, perhaps even disrespected, as a runner. One begins to wonder how many races you have to win before someone notices. I don't run in order to obtain a tangible reward, but when you put this much time and effort into something and it never leads to anything, you get frustrated. You'd think someone would want to be represented by the currently-most-decorated ultramarathoner in Texas.
Maybe the problem is I haven’t reached out enough, but I don’t know how. You can’t go to Nike’s website, visit the “Contact Us” page, and find the email address of the guy who hands out sponsorships. How does one get in touch with that person, or even find out who they are?
I’ve already tried asking both my principal and the district’s athletic director about coaching cross country, and every time, I’ve gotten a “Maybe” with no follow-up. Much like sponsorships, maybe I should make a stronger effort to reach out and find the right people.
In the meantime, it's on to the next thing: Hiking the northern half of the PCT this summer. After that, I'm not sure. The next several summers, I'd like to hike the CDT (probably split across three summers), bike the Pony Express, and eventually, bike all 17 EuroVelo routes. That last one will take a decade or more, but to the best of my knowledge, I'd be the first person to do all of them.
As far as my next during-the-school-year goal (aka the "offseason"), I'm thinking of giving up ultras for a while and "only" doing marathons. In particular, it'd be cool to do a marathon in each of Texas's six major cities: Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, Fort Worth, and El Paso, all in one running season. And I'll run them. In three hours or less. None of that "I 'ran a marathon' in all 50 states by walking each one in 6+ hours." This sounds like the kind of thing that would be perfect for a sponsor to get behind, if only I knew how to hook it up. It might depend on that.