A Reminder that Bandera is Not for Wimps

On Sunday, I got up bright (well, not bright; it was pitch dark at 4 a.m.) and early to drive out to Bandera for BunMart. This is one of those events that I desperately try to make every year; I was lucky enough to be in on the first year, where I got my space name “Nebula.” That year, I had to limit my distance so that I could make it back to Austin in time for a holiday event. I had to miss the next two years due to things like our anniversary falling on the date and being injured. But THIS YEAR, I was well, conflict-free, and rarin’ to go.

My plan was to spend all day and to do every bit of the course that I could with the objective of treating the run like a Bandera dress rehearsal. To that end, I intended to walk anywhere I thought I might walk on race day and to parcel my energy so that I felt like I could go another loop when I finished.

2010 BunMart group at Bandera. Organizer Henry Hobbs (yellow jacket), me to his left in green. What a fun bunch of trail runners. Credit: Henry Hobbs

The three-loop full course was somewhere in the range of 25–27 miles (I don’t do Garmin, and I didn’t really care what the actual mileage was). A friend, Charlene, and I fell in together in the first few steps and we wound up running the entire way together. It was a nice pairing. If I were to make any complaint, it would be that I missed some of the quiet time I usually have at Bandera running by myself, but what with my allergy issues and the rugged terrain, I really can’t complain at all. It was nice having a buddy.

We did the big loop first, some 14 miles, which was made up of my favorite route out there, the Lodge Loop, and a short section from the Bar-O parking lot where we started. The morning was a bit cold but quickly warmed up, and we stopped to adjust clothing, reposition food, and take a bathroom break. There was a bare-bones aid station (water, bananas and bagels nicely provided by the folks organizing this Fat Ass event) at the Equestrian campsite and we stopped a bit to chat.

At Henry’s recommendation (our fearless leader and the BunMart originator — Henry had dreamed it up as an informal response to SunMart), we did the short loop next, a 5ish-mile tour of The Three Sisters. The day warmed up quite a bit, and we had another stop to adjust clothing. Our only misstep of the day involved coming back into Equestrian via 5a because we misinterpreted the map (we totally saw the flags that had been placed but thought we were to come in via a different direction the next time due to the placement of the lines). There was a bit of laughing over this before we set out for the third loop.

Coming into the finish at BunMart. Charlie and I spent the day together at Bandera and pulled flags at the end. Credit: Henry Hobbs

I wasn’t too keen on doing the third loop last because, for me, it’s the hardest. I find Ice Cream Hill to be the toughest part of the park and here I was, hitting it in miles 22–23 or so. We took it very easy with lots of walking, as we were also pulling the flags on the course (I got the low ones and Charlene, being taller, got the higher ones). I think that late afternoon is going to be the toughest part of the 100K for me. It will be crucial for me to keep my food intake up, fight mental low spots, and deal with heat (yeah, who’d have thought that might be an issue in January but it could very well be here in Texas) before I get into the night. I like running at night, and I think it will be a pick-me-up to see the sun go down and work my way through Bandera in the darkness. I have such fun memories of running with Marcia at night and watching the sun come up that I will have plenty of positives to channel.

Henry gives me my “full orbit” finisher’s bib at the end of 2010 BunMart. Credit: Henry Hobbs

We were the last ones in and it was nice to have the group there for a pat on the back. I felt great! Everyone headed to OST for dinner but I opted to get straight back to my family, so I hopped directly in the car and began the 2:45 drive back to Austin. I’d brought ice for my foot as a preventative. I had a couple of minor ankle rolls while we were out there which seemed like no big deal, but driving seemed to stiffen things up and, by the time I got out of the car, I couldn’t put weight on my foot. Had to call the hubby to give me a hand from the car. This worried me; I iced and then did an Epsom salt bath and promptly fell asleep to wake up the next day to a perfectly fine foot.

Bandera was sobering and a real reminder that the race I’m attempting will be very, very difficult. But it was also a reminder of how much I love that wild country and being out there with friends. Whatever happens in January, I’ll be glad for my time on the trails there.


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Published by Leah Nyfeler

I'm a writer, editor, runner, and adventurer who is always looking for the next new story, exciting adventure, and good meal/book/movie. My focus is on helping people find their best, healthiest self through sharing what I know and how I've come to learn it. In addition to my blog "Enjoying the Journey: Observations on the Fit Life" at www.leahruns100.com, my articles have appeared in a variety of print and online magazines. You can hear me as part of the 2015 Austin cast of Listen To Your Mother.

0 thoughts on “A Reminder that Bandera is Not for Wimps

  1. You are going to do so great in the 100K! I always felt the same way about Ice Cream Hill, until the second loop of my 100K two years ago. I decided to time how long it took to get to the top … and it was a whole 3 minutes. So just remember, it\’s brutal, but it\’s short (Lucky Peak is the same way). You just tuck in and go and before you know it, it\’s over. That became my motto for the race … you can do anything for 3 minutes!

    – Marcia

  2. Sounds like a great experience out there! I\’m so glad I\’m going to get to give you a Have A Fantastic Race hug at the start line at Bandera!

    (I\’m scared, though. I\’ve only run out there once and I remember it being tough!)

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