Monday, September 3, 2018

3rd Annual Whataburger Challenge -- Race Directors’ Recap

3rd Annual Whataburger Challenge
Race Directors’ Recap

The thunder was rumbling in San Antonio this Labor Day morning . . . or was that the sound
of competitors' stomachs anticipating revolt?

Twelve hungry competitors vied for the coveted title of Whataburger Challenge Champion
this year, to the delight of numerous spectators and photographers. Notably missing was
much-touted course-record-holder Brian "Banjo McNaturepants" Ricketts. Ricketts has
turned out to be a one-and-done eat & run challenger. Some critics have been overheard
wondering whether his first win wasn't a fluke, since he refuses to toe the line for a rematch.
He was seen at the final WB location today, driver there perhaps by fear of losing his CR.

Another noted absence was Matt "The Assassin" Smith. Although Smith vehemently
protested recent criticism that he is all talk and no walk, he "pretty much validated
everything you guys said" by failing to show up on race day, according to Chris Russell,
an objective source.

After a quick pre-race briefing by RD Joe Schmo, the gun went off at 8:12 and the gorging
began. The first racer out of his chair was John Denny, heretofore unknown by
Whataburger competitors -- a ringer brought in by The Sheriff to compete in his stead. By
his speed in putting away his #1 combo, though, he was clearly The Sheriff's superior,
thereby earning him the nickname "Chief." The other competitors soon followed down
Dezavala Road, highlighted by Sweet Chris and his usual harem of female supporters.

Eric, feelin' fine at WB1
Leaving the first WB location, Steffan lamented, “I’m already kind of full” -- a sentiment that unfortunately hinted at the poor showing he would have.  Meanwhile, Zmolek noted with confidence that this challenge was far from the most disgusting thing he’d ever done, having once eaten a stick of butter for $5.

Zmolek, not at all intimidated by all the Rockhoppers
For the third year in a row, Schmo was the first to arrive at WB2; but for the first year ever, he was also the first to finish the #2 combo and leave.  Joe T and first-time WB entrant Edgar Gonzalez arrived at WB2 together a few minutes behind Schmo, and ordered their food as Schmo started eating. It was here that the drama increased -- Charles S. (possibly irked by his 12-1 pre-race odds) was the 4th to order, but when the next tray of food came out, he claimed it ahead of Joe T and Edgar, at which point he hurriedly zipped outside to eat.  In his defense, he gave the WB employee his number as the food came out, but the employee still handed it off; nevertheless the nickname “Hamburglar” was born.

Hamburglar dining al fresco
Zmolek and Steffan both quit before finishing their 2nd meal, while Edgar, Tom, and Larry persevered through their 2nd meal only to DNF by not ordering a #3.  Although an admirable technique, Edgar’s trick of dunking his burger patties, buns, and fries in water, in a dip-dip-chew pattern did not ultimately help his race as he got lost on the way to the third WB.  Even WBC veteran Tom “Wrong Way” Bowling added a bonus mile due to a wrong turn on the way to WB3 (although in light of his longstanding nickname, we suppose that isn’t so surprising).

Chris R trying to pawn off some of his fries to Chris P at WB2
On the run to the 3rd WB location, Joe T was practically flying.  He passed John and Charles, and was gunning for Schmo, fueled entirely by hamburger grease and raw fury over his mistreatment at WB2.  

Schmo, although not moving quite as well as before, arrived several minutes ahead of the
others at the third restaurant and ordered the #3 combo (triple patties) that has plagued him
so severely in years past.

Joe T arrived second.  After ordering, he remained at the counter, hovering there to ensure
that he (and only he) would get his order as soon as possible.  When he finally took his seat,
he carefully chose the exact seat that had been graced by his meat sweats on this day two
years ago.

Joe T ordering at WB3

The meat sweats
Joe T bore down immediately while Schmo hit the wall (as usual) halfway into his burger and slowed significantly.  Demonstrating the same awe-inspiring greatness of Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, and Michael Phelps, Joe “Jose Mañana” Tammaro became the 3rd annual Whataburger Challenge champion with a time of 1:56!  Upon finishing, he immediately power-walked outside to puke (in front of several delighted spectators) and came back refreshed, grinning from ear to ear.

Without pain, there is no joy
Sometime while the two Joes were battling it out, the Chief arrived and started eating his #3.  He was starting to regret how quickly he’d eaten his first two meals, and his underling, the Sheriff, was protesting how many fries the WB employees had heaped on John’s tray -- no doubt thinking they were doing him a favor with their generosity. Although he looked almost as miserable as Schmo early on, even stating “I don’t think I can finish it,” at some point he got a second wind and toughed it out to finish his meal in a time of 2:25.

Chris P encouraging the Chief to press on at WB3

The Chief, taking care of bidness
Meanwhile, Charles visited the restroom for a routine evacuation, only to be overwhelmed by the terrible smell and spontaneously lose all the food he’d so carefully piled into his stomach.  Not wanting to order a penalty Patty Melt, he called it a day.

Don Flynn, listening to Jock Rock vol. 2 for motivation (we presume)
Schmo kept plugging away, determined to slay his past WB3 demons, and finished less than 10 minutes before the 11am cutoff in 2:39 -- the slowest recorded finishing time to date.

Schmo giving a speech and wiping away tears before consuming his last fry
Schmo would be the last finisher, but ageless eater (well ok, he’s age 63) Bleeding Don Flynn again destroyed most of the younger competitors, earning a 4th place finish based on the weight of uneaten contents.

The podium

Applause for the champion

Whataburger love


Time/Food Remaining
Joe “Jose Mañana” Tamarro
John “Chief” Denny
Joe “Schmo” Schmal
“Bleeding” Don Flynn
0.686 lbs remaining of #3
Eric “Game Time Decision” Lamkin
0.818 lbs remaining of #3
“Sweet” Chris Russell
0.875 lbs remaining of #3
Charles “Hamburglar” Steinkuehler
Puked at WB #3
Edgar “We Run” Gonzalez
DNF after WB #2
Tom “Wrong Way” Bowling
DNF after WB #2
Larry “Ocean” Kocian
DNF after WB #2
Matt “Put the Wet Stuff on the Red Stuff” Zmolek
0.115 lbs remaining of #2
“The” Steffan Andersland
0.675 lbs remaining of #2

Tuesday, August 28, 2018


At last weekend's Capt'n Karl's race at Reveille Peak Ranch (RPR), two runners got married on top of the granite dome during the 10k.  Although Joe and I didn't get married at the ranch, it's also a special place for our relationship.  

We started dating the night before RPR in 2016.  On Saturday (race day), we carpooled to the race together, ran our races (Joe did the 30k, I did the 60k), drove back to San Antonio together in the early hours of Sunday morning, separated for a few hours so Joe could buy a washer and dryer and I could get one hour of sleep, and then we got back together for Mass at the Cathedral, a walk on the River Walk, dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings, games at Main Event, and finally a Rockhopper picnic.  Whew!  It must have been new love fueling that big weekend.  Nowadays, we don't have nearly that much energy.

Another key remembrance about the RPR 60k in 2016 was that Joe had to wear a t-shirt of my choosing, since I won our bet about the Fossil Valley 9-hour race.  We had Chris Russell help us figure out a handicap for the bet, and we ended up saying Joe would win if he ran two more laps than I did.  It turned out that we ran the same number of laps, so I carefully chose a My Little Pony shirt, which I gave Joe the night before the race, as his punishment.  He dutifully wore it for the entire race, and actually got some nice compliments on it.  I think the fact that he wore it with such confidence is what won people over.
FB reminded me that this was our first photo together!

I made him stand in a boat for some reason.

He's so adorable. 💕
Hopefully in 2019 we can both run the race together again -- and for many more years to come! Love you, Joe!

Reveille Peak Ranch 60k - my 6th year in a row

On Saturday night, I ran the 60k at Reveille Peak Ranch.  I love that race.  However, on Saturday afternoon I was still feeling like I'd rather stay at home with Joe and the girls than leave by myself, drive up to Burnet, and stay up all night running.

In the end, of course, I'm glad I went.  I felt like I was able to push myself to keep running much better than I was able to a few weeks ago at the Colorado Bend 60k.  I know that I still have a ways to go to get back to the ultra-ready type of fitness I've had in the past.  But maybe my plan of "racing my way" back into fitness is showing some results, anyways.  I've also been doing one hill repeat workout a week, which I hope will pay off as well.

According to my GPS, this year's course was 34.5 miles.  (A 60k is the equivalent of 37.2 miles.) The ranch is under construction, and the course had to be re-routed slightly, so I wanted to go back to my old data to see whether it was drastically longer than in previous years. I can't compare it to my GPS data from 2017,  because my watch had died mid-way through that race.  However, in 2016, my data said the course was 35.4 miles, so maybe it's always been a bit short.

If this year's course was shorter than last year's, that's sad for me, because that means I'm not only slower than I was last year, I'm even slower than my times indicate:

2018 - 7:59:23
2017 - 7:30:14
2016 - 7:57:01
2015 - 7:43:20
2014 - 7:39:31
2013 - 8:11:00

Ultimately, the wins for me are that I was able to keep running during the race -- although I definitely slowed down on the final loop -- and that I was able to come into the finish strong.  I'm nervous about this weekend's 50k, because unlike Reveille and Colorado Bend, Alamo City will be in the daytime heat, and it's 5 loops, which will be tough mentally.  At least it's at a beautiful place where I have happy times running with Joe and the Rockhoppers.  And I know where I can get a cold beer after I finish!

Friday, August 17, 2018

Powerlines run and TMI

Today has turned out to be that day each month when the reality of our infertility crashes down on me in full force.  Although the doctors have told us that we have essentially a 0.8% chance of getting pregnant each month (compared to about a 15% chance for typical couples where the woman is my age), I still pray and hope for a miracle.  When it inevitably doesn't happen, I crash hard.

One of the things that really gets to me is, the last two times this has happened, it's been during a run where I had big goals.  Last month, I had set out to do a 50k on Leon Creek.  Today, I was planning to do 18 miles on the Powerlines.  The 50k was doomed because my cramps became so bad, I could barely walk.  Today, I honestly could have kept going past mile 12, despite the cramps, but I was too upset to continue.  When I sat down and cried at mile 11.5, I knew for sure I was calling it a day.  When this happens, I feel like the universe is telling me, "Not only are you a failure at getting pregnant; you're also a failure at running." 

That feeling is a big part of why I've been trying to up my training lately.  Partly, I'm doing it because I want to be prepared for our Grand Canyon run.  But really, I just want to have something that I'm successful at again.  I don't know if that's realistic, to get back to where I was before my burnout last year, but I want to try.

In the midst of our personal challenge, it's easy for me to lose sight of the bigger picture -- that Joe and I have a lot to be thankful for.  I'm so thankful for our marriage, for our family, for our home, for our health.  And if we are able to ever have children, I'm sure all our struggles will make us that much more grateful.  One of the things I do on almost every run is think of 7 things I'm thankful for, and for each one I say a "Glory Be" prayer.  It's never hard to come up with 7 things.  At the same time, I can't deny that there's one thing I want with all my heart and cannot have.  And that's what makes me sit down and cry in the middle of a run.

All I can do is promise myself I'll get back out there tomorrow and finish that Powerlines run, and just keep praying that I'll be better at trusting in God's will for us.  Thanks for any prayers you can send our way!

Glory be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
World without end,

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

I finished an ultra!

I knew that running the Colorado Bend 60k would be a good litmus test of my fitness and my preparedness to run Rim to Rim to Rim at the Grand Canyon at the end of September.  I honestly wasn't sure I'd be able to finish the race, as I haven't done that distance (or anywhere remotely close to that distance) since February. 

The good news is, I finished!  I feel happy to have the reassurance that I can still cover an ultra distance.  I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to keep running for so long into the race, as I've really struggled with much shorter runs of late. 

It felt great to be running a race again, to be out on the trails under the bright stars all by myself for the first loop, and then to be running with Joe on the second loop.  I have so many great memories of Joe pacing me at races.  I couldn't even say how many times he's done that service for me, it's been so many.  It's so fun to chat and laugh about silly things together during races. 

Despite these happy feelings, I also felt and still feel disappointment over my race performance.  I've run that particular 60k enough times that I have some data to compare my times to.  Here are my five finishing times from Colorado Bend:

2013 8:03:24
2014 8:33:09
2015 8:02:11
2016 7:28:29
2018 9:06:43

Clearly, I'm not in the ultra fitness I once was.  I sure felt that during the race, too.  While I was still making a running motion on the second half of the final loop, it was much closer to Billy Crystal's power walking in When Harry Met Sally than to actual running.

I hope this is a good starting point, and that I will be able to race myself back into ultra fitness.  I'm registered for two more ultras in the next month, so time will tell . . .

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Dead legs and HICT

My legs have felt dead all week, which I'm blaming on last weekend's 5k.  I haven't made myself run that fast in a long, long time, and I think my legs were angry with me.  I've struggled -- I mean, really struggled, in my runs this week.  I did a 10-miler on Monday, which involved about 6 miles of straight-up walking, because my legs just didn't want to work.

Needless to say, I was hesitant to go into the gym this week.  I didn't want to trash my legs even further in advance of my 60k this weekend.  But I haven't been to the gym since mid-June, thanks to our travels, a busier work schedule, and my desire to spend my free evenings with family.  And my gym time is important to me -- it makes me feel strong, and I enjoy the social aspect of chatting and laughing with the folks there.  So I texted Phil, the gym owner, and made plans to come in on Thursday.

When I got to the gym and explained my "dead legs" problem to Phil, he recommended that I do the light program he had laid out for me, and then cap it off with HICT (high-intensity circuit training).  For that, he had me do two rounds of 6-8 minutes of biking -- with the bike's resistance set to 24, and one pedal push every 1-2 seconds (with 5 minutes' rest in between sets).  

The gym time was super fun -- especially because my friends Travis and Martha happened to come in at the same time, and we got to chat and catch up.  And my run the next morning, though admittedly only 3 miles, actually felt really good.  The one downside is that the backs of my legs -- hamstrings and calves -- are a little sore from the workout.  But I really believe the HICT took away that feeling of my legs being filled with lead.  Hopefully they'll feel quasi-okay for the 60k . . . but who am I kidding?  That race is going to be a sufferfest of epic proportions.  Stay tuned for the race report . . . and wish me luck!

Monday, July 30, 2018

Uninspired running, uninspiring blogging

Last week I did not feel inspired to write a blog post, despite just having made a commitment to blog at least once a week.  To make up for that, I'll write two blog posts this week.

On the Saturday before last, I went out for a long run, intending to do 30 miles on Leon Creek.  I ended up cutting it waaaay short, around 12 miles,  because I had such bad cramps.  I'm glad I ran what I did that day, though, because I really needed that mental and emotional processing time that running alone, without headphones, can provide.  The next day I got out there and finished up, doing 18 miles, so at least I felt like I got a good back-to-back, even though I didn't have the long-long run I had wanted.

I guess my running lately has been a tale of good thing/bad thing.  I've had some good consistency, but a lot of just plain crummy-feeling runs.  I don't know how much of it is lost mojo, dating back to overdoing it last fall, and how much of it is the summer heat's fault.  Probably a mix of both.

This morning I did 10 miles.  Joe and I ran our first mile together, as we like to do, and then after we separated my run proceeded to turn into a run/walk, followed shortly by a walk/walk.  With 6 miles to go, I decided that I cared more about getting as much exercise outside as I could than about my pride, and the 15-16 minute power walk pace started in.  I tried to envision Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally.

As of this moment, I'm planning to do a 60k race this weekend.  That's a really scary thought, coming from someone who struggled to put together 10 miles this morning.  But we have the rim-to-rim-to-rim trip to the Grand Canyon coming up, so I figure I need a kick in the pants in my training.  The kind of kick in the pants a 37-mile night run in the woods in 90-degree humid temperatures can give someone who hasn't run an ultra since February.  I honestly do not know whether I can finish the race.  But I'm darn sick of DNF-ing, so here's my vow: If I do start the race on Saturday, I will finish it, even if it's Billy-Crystal-style.