I have spent the past two years focused on nailing this race. After last years disappointment, i stayed focused for another year and still hopeful of a successful race next weekend. Last year, training went good and i felt good starting out but by mile 30 my knee hurt and by mile 70 all running was over and i was forced to walk it in. not fun. This year i feel that im in better shape and a little more experienced. my 45 mile cleburne run 4-5 weeks out is my gauge on what sort of shape im in. In 2010, it took me over 8 hours but i wasn't really racing it. last year i did it in 7:10 and this year i knocked an additional 30 minutes off that time. my game plan is almost identical to last year. my brother will be my crew, and he will have my bottle(s) ready at every aid station starting at mile 15. i will have it super organized so everything i need will be available on the fly. the biggest mistake i can make is to get sucked into somebody elses pace. i usually start out pretty conservative and that usually helps me stay solid throughout the race. the first 50 i will run my own race and hopefully come in around 8:45 or so. miles 50-65 matt doellman is pacing me and my goal is for us to run everything run able and hold a solid pace but nothing crazy. miles 65-85 is what i'll attack. i feel i do better on the hill sections then my competition then the flat sections. 65-75 i'll throw on my ipod and hammer it. if matt crownover is there i'll pick him up to get me to 85. if not, i'll keep hammering solo. at 85 i'll pick up doellman once again and see whats left. no clue what i'll have in the tank or where i will stand in the field. well see how it plays out...
Two years ago i created a pace chart for this race. after each time i would train down there and after last year i would alter it a tad. it has a 19:20 finish time, and it also has splits for all 20 sections. it kept me focused on smaller goals the entire race which kept me more in the game mentally.
im not going to go into any dumb pre race details. just the usual drive down friday, shitty nights sleep in the tent, woke up, and ready to go.
LOOP 1 -
the race started and i was up front with about 5-6 guys. i figured me and steven were the only 100 milers and it was really nice to run relaxed, and able to bs with people. we finished the first section in under 42 minutes which was moving but it felt very comfortable so i wasn't worried. i picked up my bottle from my brother since i did the first section empty handed. steven and i continued to run together for another mile or so until i had to take my first pee. i knew i may not see him again because i think his comfortable pace on the flat sections is faster then mine so i knew a gap was about to be made. i was totally cool with it and just wanted to focus on myself and run my own race. the second section went good and i hit split exactly to keep myself 2 minutes ahead of schedule. everything was going good until i was cruising along and totally missed the left turn into ice cream. i continued way down the jeep road until i realized i came up on the markers for us for after we were done with ice cream section. i had to back track which was about an eight minute detour. i wasn't happy especailly since my splits were pretty tight and i didn't have much room for error. i got back on course and found myself pushing the pace a tad to try and get back on schedule. i came into equestrian at mile 15 about 5 minutes behind where i wanted to be. i did my first bottle exchange with my brother at that point and grabbed my 200 cal packet of choice. my goal was all day to only exchange bottles and grab whatever 200 cal packet (either power bar gel blast, gu chomps, clif shot bloks, or honey stinger chomps) looked good and keep going. i tried to keep all aids in under 10-15 seconds. i was off and ready to tackle the "hill sections". i hit both sections solid and was able to get myself right back on pace, but was very discouraged at the amount of fatigue already in my legs. at about mile 22 was when i felt the first signs and was disappointed to feel like that that early. i finished loop one in about 4:13. my pace chart had a 4:15 but i was secretly hoping to make up 5 minutes per loop for a sub 19.
|coming in loop 1 at 4:13 at the 2012 Cactus Rose 100|
i set out with a little peace of mind knowing that my pace chart does have slowing down a tad so i knew i would be able to make my splits. miles 25-30 i still felt kinda bad and was pretty worried. it was the type of fatigue that i didn't think i should have and honestly i thought that i was going to blow up and miss my goal big time once again. i was depressed and wasn't really able to enjoy it. after boyles i felt a little better and was in a little better mood. i was moving really good though the hills and made up some more time to put myself back closer to 19 hour pace. i made it to nachos feeling good and right where i wanted to be. i dread the section from nachos to equestrian (bar-o section by the entrance of the park). no major hills just run able stuff that i always have trouble meeting my splits. i started to struggle on this section. ran every step of it but it didn't feel that good. i came into 45 about 10 minutes ahead of pace which was where i wanted to be. leaving is when things got worse. i always struggle around this point of this race. i felt like crap heading back to the lodge. i was able to run the first 50 in 8:40 which is what i wanted but i didn't feel good. i was surprised at how big of a gap steven had on me. i knew he was capable of some fast stuff but just didn't expect him to throw down a 8:10 first half. insane. lorenzo had about a 10 minute lead on me at that point too. i wasn't too worried about them because i was doing what i could and it was too early to blow myself up.
|matt crownover running the last couple of meters to mile 50 at the 2012 Cactus Rose 100|
|cruising into nachos aid|
matt doellman and i set out to run miles 50-65 solid. i told him that i wasn't feeling good and we started trying to figure out what it was. i was drinking more gu brew then water which has some sodium. i was thinking i was low on electrolytes but wanted to make sure before i resorted to any sort of salt pill. matt asked me when the last time i took an s cap was and i said "april" haha. rewind three weeks ago and i was telling matt crownover about my salt theories. i said in warm weather i don't need any because i sweat out a lot of water and i stay pretty balanced. but in cool temps like this race when im not sweating at all, the water builds up a little more and dilutes the salt. so even though i knew it going into it, i still didn't follow my own rules. i was peeing more then usual, so around mile 53 we finally agreed that i was just low. i wasn't thinking too clearly or intelligently so it took a while for us to agree on something. i was in an all time bad mood at this point for three reasons. i knew i was losing time on this section. i knew if i couldn't turn it around i wasn't going to meet my goal and i was going to have one hell of a 2nd 50 out there. i wasn't in the mood to suffer for that long. so popped on s cap at 53 and at mile 56ish i started feeling a tad better. i wanted to make sure i was better then about 20 minutes later i popped another one. by the time i got to nachos at mile 60 i was feeling great and saw that i was still a couple minutes ahead of my 19:20 pace chart. we ran the ice cream section great and i was in a great mood finally. but about this same time my right knee/quad/hip flexor were all tight. not necessarily injury type pain but tight enough to make me quit running a couple of times in pain. i guess if its not one thing, its another. we ran into equestrian good and i set out to tackle the "hill sections" once again solo. i was feeling good and ready to take it up a notch. i had no clue how far behind i was but i didn't really care. i just wanted to do my thing and do what my body allowed me to do. those 10 miles were really enjoyable and i hit them at a very good pace which wasn't much slower then loop 2. i made up a lot of time on my pace chart those three sections which put me 15 minutes ahead of schedule at mile 75. exactly where i wanted to be if a sub 19 was going to happen. (13:35 actual time - pace chart had a 13:50)
|finishing loop 3 at 13:35 about to head out with matt crownover for miles 75-85 at the Cactus Rose 100|
matt crownover and i were ready to set off on loop 4. he was pacing from 75-85 before sending me back off with the other matt to finish. the other two 100's matt has paced me in, the wheels came off and we walked a lot and moved very slow. so it was nice for us to actually go out and run when he was pacing me. we basically just ran everything run able and bs'ed just like we were out on a training run. for some reason i was a bit crabby all race and let him know that. i told him not to ask me about nutrition because i had my routine and i wanted to lead and i wanted to talk about other stuff. those 10 miles were very enjoyable and i was very greatful to have him there. he is a very selfless person and always helping somebody out. matt doellman and i set out at mile 85 feeling good. we ran out to ice cream pretty solid and obviously power hiked the hill. that section is a nasty one for sure. after that hill was when my knee was super tight and running run able stuff was a struggle for the first time. we walked/ran into nachos. we set out and i knew i was going to lose time on the next section. i hate the section no matter what and there was two problems. my knee/body was aching so my running was slow and i was struggling to run period. and second i had the final 15 miles at a somewhat good pace because i figured i would either be leading or close so i figured i would be pushing big time. that whole section sucked. running was really tough and i kept seeing points on the course and would look at my watch and realize that i was cutting it very very close to my 19:20 goal. finally, around the creek crossing close to chapas i told myself i needed to suck it up and quit being a pussy. i had some deep thoughts around that time. i told myself that this is it. just like i've always said, the point in an ultra when you're faced with a decision. that decision to either give up or relax and just finish or search deep within and find that deep motivation and persevere til the end. i told matt doellman that when im running, don't talk to me because i had to get in a zone and concentrate. i felt rude saying that but it was the truth. about the final two miles into equestrian we ran somewhat solid. it was a slow pace but not sure what i expected nearly 95 miles into an ultra. we made it into equestrian behind schedule and i knew i couldn't mess around the last section. my run was slow and i knew it but at least i wasn't walking. i told myself to suck it up and at this point it was just a matter of blocking out the pain. we pretty much ran everything to base of lucky then power hiked up it. i took my final gu going up it and was at the top before i knew it. i did what i could to get down which was slow going, but at the base i knew i had 1.5 miles to go and walking wasn't an option. i wanted 10 minutes from the jeep road/trail intersection (final mile). we made the turn at about 19:09:30. i finally broke the silence that had lasted more then an hour between us. i said no matter what it was going to happen. he told me to stay focused, but i told him we needed to enjoy it so we talked some and i thanked him for coming out to make my dream happen. as we approached, my brother and crownover saw the lights and said "hopton-jones"?? and i said yep its us! we all gave out a bit of a yell of excitement and i crossed the line at 19:18:31. less then a second to spare per mile. i cut that one pretty freakin close.
|proof that i actually did finish before 19:20. with my brother (my crew)|
|with matt doellman. he paced me from 50-65 and 85-100. he put up will all my shit with a smile!|
the two matts and my brother have no idea how greatful i am and how special this weekend was to me. i finally met the biggest running goal i've ever had. i now know that my goals aren't too crazy as some people clearly expressed they were a little far fetched and didn't believe in me.
nutrition wise it was spot on. besides miles 45-55 being low on salt and feeling like butt, i felt solid the whole time. i have a very simple routine. chug some water at the aid (which allowed me to get by with only one bottle all race). gu brew on the course. at each aid i would eat a packet of something as stated above. and in middle of each section i would eat a gu. never strayed from it, and my stomach loved every bit of it including that final island nectar gu going up lucky at mile 98. 200 cal pack + 100 cal gu + 100 cal gu brew means about 400 cal per section. i averaged less then an hour per section so over 400 cal per hour every hour.
|with the man that keeps setting the bar higher and higher. post 2012 Cactus Rose 100|
so whats next? this has been the main goal for so long that it feels weird to not have anything to obsess about. i would like sub 26 or 25 at H.U.R.T. in january and a sub 9 at zane grey in april. but what about cactus??? good question. i will more then likely do a summer mountain race, but im sure i'll still do cactus rose next year. no way i'll pass it up. i feel like i belong out there while im out there. i think 18:30ish is a good goal. who knows? i will go into very relaxed and really enjoy it. if people want to come they can but i will no longer force people to crew/pace. im very satisfied with my own performance, but im still in shock that breaking the course record by 10 minutes was only good for 3rd. steven and lorenzo destroyed it. they put out some serious times. im very happy for them and everybody is friends so there is no bitterness. thats what i love about this sport. you get smoked by somebody but you can't wait to finish and have a beer with them and hear all about it.
i also want to thank joe and the crew. always such a great race and he knows how to treat runners. keep it up and im greatful he puts together these events that literally change people's lives.
a video i made from my three years at cactus plus various other training and race pics.