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Bandera Recap (Part 1)

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This is a recap of my year in as much as it is about a single day. One simply does not find yourself on the start line of a 100km race hoping to race for a golden ticket without a story: and what a story it’s been!

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11 months ago I didn’t imagine I’d be racing for a golden ticket. About to undergo lung surgery and with an uncertain recovery timeline for regaining full lung functionality, I determined to work as smart as I could. Even if it took years I thought, even if I couldn’t ever race competitively, I could get back enough to run happy and hopefully over time turn in some stellar masters performances.

I figured maybe by late fall I could race something, maybe not fast but I figured by then I could at least have the endurance for a marathon effort. Little did I realize that the pandemic I was anxiously following in China was going to soon shut almost all racing down.

11 months later I’m in a bit of shock. Fitter, stronger, faster and more fearless than ever and having the most fun while at it.

By September I was starting to realize I’d be in special shape by December/January. But what to race? The biggest FKT routes would be out of season, so while I’ve got my eye planning a few future attempts on some special routes, something else was needed.

My next thought was to go after either the American Record or World Record for 100k (depending on fitness): something I’ve been wanting to try for several years. My coach began feeding me workouts to build the fitness and I started building a team to organize and pace.

Almost immediately this began to fall apart. First, I found my lung wasn’t responding well to some of the training and more intense efforts were limited to such short durations it was difficult to imagine a 6 hour intense effort only a few months later. Then I found out Hoka was planning an attempt around the same time. I reached out about joining but with my lack of any significant running history joining in on the Hoka fun felt unattainable. Between not wanting to build a competing event and being uncertain whether my lung would even be ready in time, I shelved the plan, but not the training.

In late November I started to feel like the lung was in a better place. But what to race? My ultimate goal for the next few years is to race competitively at Hardrock and UTMB. Western States also interests me but doesn’t quite bring the same mountain toughness appeal to my spirit these other races have. But while I was researching qualifiers that might actually happen I realized that for as few races as there were, all three golden ticket races looked like they might happen and had entries still available! I grabbed entry to all three and figured I’d decide later if/which races to attempt: to be informed at least in part by the state of the world, the precautions in place, and whether the race would even take place.

I held off deciding until late December, when it became clear the lung was solid and the fitness was fully there. Bandera seemed the safest option, being the most remote, a loop (instead of a point to point with bussing involved), having multiple Covid contingencies and precautions in place, and offered on-site camping near the start. Coree caught wind and offered to crew: and since he’d already had COVID spending a lot of time with him would be very little risk. This all meant I could easily control my exposure to others.

And so it was a road trip was born and a ticket race became the goal!