I was going to write this post as one long race review but then it started to get a little out of control so I’m breaking it into two parts. The race was two 50ish km loops so below is a recap of loop 1 (1-54km) and here is post about loop 2 (55-110km). Get ready, it’s long!
When we left for the van trip, we had two plans – meeting my mom in Long Beach, CA for Christmas and going to El Paso, TX for the Lone Star 100. When I signed up for Lone Star, I knew nothing about it except that it’s time/location lined up with our roughly planned itinerary and Trail Racing Over Texas (the organizer) had a good reputation.
A few weeks out I looked more closely and realized that it involved a whole lot of climbing (14,000 ft/4,200 m). I knew that was similar to the Black Spur Ultra that I did last summer and then realized that I was in for a whole lot of pain. Thankfully, living in a van for the last 3 months meant that we have spent a lot of time hiking and at elevation.
A couple days before the race, I started looking more closely at the course map to plan my drop bags and realized that this course was long. The race had been mapped at 54km per loop. I knew I could have a pacers for the second of the two 50k+ loops so my plan was to have Callum run the second loop with me. For the first time ever, I actually estimated how long each section of the race would take me (being very generous) and portioned all my food into 800 or 1,000 calorie bunches.
We arrived in El Paso on Thursday afternoon. My mom flew down to meet us and take care of the dog while we ran. It turned out that she did a lot of taking care of us after the race too! Around this time, Callum started to get a really bad cold. I started to worry that he wouldn’t be able to pace but he was convinced that he would be better by Saturday afternoon.
My plan was to average 6km/hr, eat 200 calories every hour and walk every single hill from the beginning. I did all my training with real food but it turned out that I couldn’t carry enough calories of real food so I ended up eating a lot of sports food.
Race day arrived way too quickly, as it always does! We had a 6am start for what was predicted to be an unseasonably hot day. And all of a sudden, we were off!
The race started out with a rocky climb to the first aid station (AS) which was about 2km in. Then we did a loop through the desert and ended up back at the AS and retraced our steps back to the start/finish. At this point, we were at around 12km and I was right on my 6km/hr pace. I had a couple friends volunteering (Anna and Dwight) and Anna was at the start/finish AS, it’s always exciting to see a familiar face during a race!
Thankfully, at this point, the sun still hadn’t fully risen above the mountains so it was still not too hot. I left the start/finish AS and started climbing and continued to climb for the next 8km. It turns out this is where you do the most climbing in the loop. You have to climb to the top of a mountain to get a bracelet and write your name in a book to prove that you went all the way up. The climb is full of loose rocks so even as you’re going back down it’s tough to run. That was the theme of the race, loose rocks making it impossible to run.
I made it up the mountain in about an hour and then there was a long downhill. From here, it seems like you spend forever in the desert on rolling hills. Up until this point, the ASs had been fairly frequently and now it just felt like endless desert.
The race was way smaller than I realized so as the field spread out it was easy to not see anyone except the aid station volunteers. From the bottom of the climb to the next AS was 9km (east AS) and then 11km (west AS) to the next one after that. This time was fairly uneventful, I talked to a couple people which made the time go faster and then also spent a bunch of time alone.
It was also really, really hot by now and there was no shade. It turns out that the problem with running in the desert is that your sweat all gets evaporated so it’s even harder to stay cool. All the AS had ice but once the ice in my Buff melted, it would only stay cool for 10-15 minutes afterward because it would dry out so quickly.
My friend Dwight was volunteering at the west AS so I had been looking forward to seeing a familiar face there. Coming into that AS (around 30km), I passed two people. As a passed a woman, she looked at me and said that I was the second place female now.
In a long race, I prefer to not know anything about place because I don’t want to make stupid decisions to try to stay in a particular place. Apparently too bad about what I wanted to know! This second place woman actually ran into the AS just behind me and then caught up to me a km later and we talked for quite a while. As this point, I’d been really hot for hours with no shade and I was really happy to have some company! We ran together for quite a while and then she slowed down because she was having a tough time and I kept going.
What seemed like forever later, I got to the AS that is 2km away from the start/finish. This was actually really disappointing because I thought I was at the start/finish and it ended up still being 2+km of rocky hills away. This was probably one of the toughest times for me during the race. I wasn’t feeling great, I was hot andI thought I was never going to get to the start/finish to pick up Callum for loop 2. Even worse, I kept thinking about how I had to do this whole thing again in reverse!
At 9 hours and 14 minutes, I finished loop 1.