Brazos Bend 50 (50k) Race Recap – April 16th, 2016 – Brazos Bend State Park, Needville, TX
Running 50 marathons/ultras has kind of been my goal since late 2014. I viewed that as a big milestone as that is the number I have in my head of when this frequent racing stuff starts to get real. It’s all in my head, but still, it’s the goals we set for ourselves that should drive us forward…and if it means a lot for you that’s what you should chase after. I can sorta say that I had Brazos Bend 50 in my sights as #50 late last year – although with an ever changing race schedule it went up and down on that list a few times. I was however damn glad that it worked out this way. Getting to run #50 at a TROT event, on my home turf in one of my favorite places to race, with the TROT family, and at the site of my very 1st ultra last year was more than special. I got to have this milestone at “home” and that felt really good. With all that, let’s get into the story of Brazos Bend 50.
The weekend started off on an exciting note on Friday night. We got to have a TeamTROT get together and spend some time with each other at the pre-race festivities. After hanging out and chatting for a bit we went out for a 3 mile shakeout run and photo shoot. Race photographer Myke Hersmeyer got some amazing shots of the team running along the Brazos Bend Trails. The best part of the night was getting to spend time with my fellow teammates and getting to know them more. Those on TeamTROT are not just amazing runners, but more importantly are just amazingly nice people that are fun to be around. After the shakeout run, we all headed to dinner and spent some more time chatting about running and life.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time spilling the virtues of TROT races or Brazos Bend. TROT holds two races at the park annually (the Brazos Bend 50 in April with a 50M, 50k, 25k and 10k, and the Brazos Bend 100 in December with a 100M, 50M, marathon and half marathon). If you want a more detailed review of what it is like to run at Brazos Bend, check out my write-up of the December Race where I ran the marathon.
The day dawned very similar to the December race, it was a muggy and humid day with some cloud cover and the threat of rain. Fortunately, unlike December (or last April for that matter) the trails stayed dry and fast for the whole day. I came into the race with PR on my mind given the flat course. I knew I could easily top my 4:08 time from 2015, as I stopped during a hail storm for about 10 minutes to take shelter. Grabbing a podium spot was also top on my list, as I finished 5th OA at Brazos last year. I knew 1st place was dead out of the question because fellow Team TROT member Cal Neff was also racing the 50k. Cal can only be described as a total badass runner, with a marathon PR just slightly better (ok 30 minutes better) than my 2:52. So, yeah…2nd is cool too!
Race strategy was fairly simple on this flat course. Run 7:30ish pace early and keep breathing easy and see what I had left in the tank for the last 6-8 miles. I chose to carry dual Nathan bottles (one a Fire and Ice, the other an Insulated Speed Draw). One was filled with water for taking gels, one with Tailwind for electrolyte replacement. Given the warm and humid weather, both would play a role. I had a 2nd bottle filled with Tailwind at the start area stashed in my Victory Sportdesign Bear II bag. I would grab this bottle before the 2nd lap to minimize time at the aid stations. The plan was to run the 1st loop with no aid station stops, then stop at the start/finish aid station to refill water. I knew that on loop 2 I’d probably need a stop or two as the weather got warmer and I took in more fluid late in the race.
Loop 1 went largely as planned. I went out and despite feeling good I held myself back to around a 7:20 to 7:30 pace. I knew it would be a warm and humid day, and saving energy early would be important. Cal Neff missed the start and caught up to me about 1/10th of a mile in. He wished me luck and then took off. With an easy pace going, 3 other guys passed me and I settled into 5th place knowing it would be a long race. I ran consistent and took 4th place around mile 4 and then landed in third around mile 11. With little variation in the trails I simply ran consistent and strong. I came through the halfway point with 15 miles on my watch in a time of 1:52 (just under 7:30 pace). If I could maintain this I was well on my way to a PR for sure (PR was 3:57).
The 2nd loop started well, but about 6 miles in the humidity finally started to do its job. Once I hit the long out and back section, I had to stop at every aid station (3 total stops) to pour cold water over my head to cool off. These stops were well worth it and kept me running pretty strong. My pace slowed into the 8:10 area, but I had built enough of a cushion to where a PR was likely. The nice part about this long out and back was I could see my place. I knew 2nd was a long shot as the guy had about a 10 minute lead on me. I also knew that 3rd was pretty much sealed up as long as I kept running, as I had built a 15 minute lead. Motivated to get that PR, I kept running. After a tough final few miles, I pushed to the finish to come in just under 3:54 and snag a 3 minute 50k PR.
After taking some time to re-hydrate and recover, I spent the better part of the afternoon hanging out at the finish line with other TeamTROT members and cheering in other 50k runners and eventually 50 milers. There were many amazing finishes at Brazos Bend 50 this year…too many to write down. For me this race was a tremendous success. I felt about as strong as I have since before I ran Rocky Raccoon 50 in February. A lot of nagging injuries have started to go away, and my form was back where I wanted it to be. I felt I held up well and ran strong all day, and the results reflected it.
As for reflecting on #50 – well the journey getting there is always the best part. The people I have met, the friends I have made, and finding my home in the running community are the true triumphs of running your 50th marathon/ultra. Each of those races has some amazing memory, some lesson learned, some failure or some triumph that reflect the accomplishment. I’m ready to take on the next 50 and celebrate #100 (looking like sometime in 2018 at this point).
As always I’d like to thank Trail Racing Over Texas for putting on another amazing event. I don’t just say this because I am on the team…they truly put on some of the best races out there. Also, big thanks to sponsors Julbo, Nathan and Victory Sportdesign, who’s products I used during this race. Their support is appreciated and they make great products, so please check them out for your running needs!
Career Marathon/Ultra #50! – Career Ultra #9, #4 of 2016, Marathon/Ultra #10 of 2016
50k PR – 3:53:54 – 3rd Place Overall