DNF at the Habanero Hundred (50k) – Lessons Learned, Lessons Learned

DNF = Did Not Finish

The 50k at the Habanero 100 was my first DNF.  I knew this race was going to be hard and a challenge – I thought I had prepared.  In retrospect I wasn’t ready.  So with any DNF, one has to reflect and use it as a positive to learn some lessons.  This post will cover some of those.

But let’s start with the race first.  The course is in Buescher State Park in Smithville Texas about 50 miles outside of Austin.  It is in a hilly area just east of the main Texas hill country.  The race starts at high noon in the middle of August (read hot).  The temperature was around 96 degrees with blazing sun.  This is the premise of this race, run in hot hellish conditions.  The course does not lack elevation.  The 50k course had about 2400′ of gain, which is challenging for Houstonians who don’t know what hills look like.  The trails aren’t very technical, but there were a lot of loose rocks, stones and gravel which made for slippery footing requiring extra work to maintain balance and pace.  Combine hills, gravel and heat and you have a pretty tough course.  The 50k was a 3.2 mile out and back followed by four 7ish mile lollipop loops. There was one aid station about 3.5 miles into the loop, and one at the start/finish area. There was a 50k race, 100k race, 100 mile race and a 100k and 100 mile relay.  The 100 mile race had 1 finisher – it took her 28+ hours.  The 100 mile race had 27 DNFs.  This may be one of the toughest hundred milers in the country.

I’m not going to bore you with describing my race, let’s just say 20 miles in (middle of 3rd loop) I felt like doo-doo.  I walked the better part of 5 miles to get back to the start line and ended up vomiting in front of spectators and relay runners, 3 times.  At this point race over, ego bruised.  So what did I learn?

Lessons –

  1.  Heat is no Joke! – Yeah, I thought I was trained to run in the heat.  But most of my hot running is in 5-10 mile segments in the evening (mid 90’s) or toward the end of my long runs on weekend mornings.  Next time I run this race I need to work in some 15-20 mile long runs on weekend afternoons to get used to running long in high temperatures and strong sun.  If you are not from the south and want to run this race, be warned – do what you need to do to prepare yourself for long stretches at temperatures in the mid to upper 90’s (with pretty high humidity).  I talked to a lot of people who did the 100k or the relay and heard the night brought no relief.  What breeze there was died, and it got very humid.  Some people thought it was worse after the sun went down.
  2. Work on the Hills – Did not do anywhere near enough hill work.  Time to hit Spots Park for next year.  There was a mile on the back half that had most of the gain for the course, so getting in some sustained hill running is key.
  3. Don’t Drink 2 Liters of Hammer Heed – NO!  Bad!  I never trained with this stuff, so I think that upset my stomach.  Stick to what I know (water and Gatorade).  Take in more salt.  Need to carry two bottles next year, one with water and one with electrolyte.  You need this much fluid because you are sweating so much.
  4. Don’t Run an Ultra the Week Before – Self explanatory!
  5. Go Slow…I mean SLLLLOOOOWWWW – I started at what felt slow for me (8:30s) and would be about a 5 hr 50k.  Well, not slow enough.  The 50k winner came in at 6:00+, so a more conservative strategy would have gotten me there.  I had a 15 minute lead when I stopped.  Next year I target 9:00 – 9:30s and go from there.
  6. Do more trail running – One cannot compete in trail running without, ummm, training on trails.  I was only doing about 7 miles a week on trails.  If I want to be a real trail runner I need to go get some long runs in on some more challenging trails in some state parks.  Weekend day trips!

So here is how I look at it.  DNF = Did Not Finish but is also Did Not Fail.  I made it 25 miles on a tough course.  I learned a lot.  I will be back next year and snag a medal.  If I’m really ambitious, I might shoot for the 100k.

If you are interested in more info on this race see the following links:

Trail Racing Over Texas – Habanero Hundred

Trail Runner Magazine – Habanero Hundred Article

Hope to see you there next year.  I’m out for revenge!

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