On October 26 I ran the 100k at El Taco Loco. The event was a Trail Racing Over Texas race located at the Land Heritage Institute in San Antonio, TX. This race promised a fiesta atmosphere with tacos, beer, margaritas, costume contest, and a buckle that would hold a taco!
I drove up to San Antonio the day before for my volunteer shift at packet pick up, arriving just in time to set up my tent. We paused packet pick up for the pre-race meeting, where I learned that the loop was more like 16-ish miles versus 15.5, how close to 16 would be a mystery until race day (spoiler - it was about 16.4ish according to my Garmin).
Race DayThe alarm woke me up bright and early at 4:15. Even though I knew I had a little over an hour before the race started, it was very difficult to get out of my warm sleeping bag. I managed to escape the cocoon and made to the start with time to spare. The start line was alive with pre-race energy! Rob, the race director, was outfitted in taco pants and a taco costume.
El Taco Loco 100k Race RecapThe pre-race briefing was held 10 minutes prior to gun time. We we advised again on the course markings and to pay attention at intersections. At 10 seconds to 5:30 am, the countdown begun and we were off running right on time. It was dark, and would be for a few hours still. The temp was a chilly 45, it would warm up to the mid 70s under sunny skies... a perfect day for running.
The race loops around the Land Heritage Institute. After about a mile, we had an out and back, then did a lolly-pop loop which then took us to the first aide station (chips). The course then made it's way along the Medina River and then to the second aide station (salsa). We then made our way roughly 7 miles back to the start finish.
The trails were a rugged kind of beauty, with lots of prickly pear cactus, open meadows, and some tree covered portions. All of the trail was very runnable, not many hills, rocks, or roots. The toughest part of the course was that it was exposed to direct sunlight for ~70%.
Since my training for this race was practically non-existent, I choose to go in with intervals. I ran 4 minutes than walked 1 minute. That strategy worked well for the first loop! In fact, I started my second loop in just over 4 hours, and I was feeling great!
The wheels came off in the second loop. After mile 18, I was in a world of hurt. My lower back started hurting, and I was having a tough time keeping my eyes open (from lack of sleep the prior 2 nights). I continued on putting one foot in front of the other and power hiking. When I reached the salsa aide station, my friend Lydia reminded me that ultras hurt, it isn't supposed to feel great, and to keep moving! I got back to my intervals as much as I could and made it to the start finish in over 5 hours.
I started my third loop at 5pm, with 10:30 left for cutoff and the last loop cutoff at 10pm. I knew I had to keep moving and keep my loops at 5 hours or less. I felt great going out on my 3rd loop and kept up with my intervals as much as I could and not waste time at the aide stations. Running in the dark for the second time was a little different than the first, I was mostly alone and I heard so many animal noises out on the dark... at one point it sounded like the coyotes had me surrounded. I came in the start-finish area with about 20 minutes to spare before the last loop cut-off.
I changed into warmer and dry clothes, downed some hot chocolate and I was off on my last loop at 9:50 pm. I wanted to make some good time on this loop and promised myself "no matter what" I would keep up with my intervals. Knowing I was DFL was a bit of a stress, I felt bad for the volunteers out there waiting for me to finish. I managed to keep up a good pace and passed someone before I made it to the salsa aide station. I went on to pass 5 or 6 more runners before I made it into the final stretch of the race. I finished my last loop faster than my 2nd and 3rd loops!
At the finish, I was greeted by cheers and Rob handed me by buckle with a vegan taco!
Reflections on the race....
I didn't make any goals for this race aside from finishing, which I was so happy with a finish considering my lack of training for this race. Upon reflecting on the race, I have a few key items that I will want to consider in future long races.
- Racing strategy going into the race is key... knowing that I was going to do 4/1 intervals helped keep me going.
- Consistent training could make it seem easier.
- Sleep is crucial... consider hotel for races over 50k, or even a campsite away from start-finish area. Make sure to get a good nights sleep 2 nights prior to the race.
- Keep up on nutrition and do it early, it's easy to get behind.
- Having supportive friends and family that believe in your crazy ideas can be the difference between succeed or fail.