Ask the Goat: Pacing Cactus Rose

With only three weeks out from Javelina, I was doing a fair share of trail running at San Antonio’s most solid single-track system –Eisenhower Park.

Ask the Goat by Chris Knodel

Ask the Goat
by Chris Knodel

The “Hillview Trail,” when expanded with the “Red Oak” spur gave you an out-and-back (reversible loop) of 6.2-miles. I kept seeing familiar faces out there and one of these approached me about pacing the final fifty miles of the Cactus Rose 100. CR100 is a 5/5 rating for technical difficulty located at Bandera, Texas. I had completed the Bandera 100K in 2012. It was a solid course –rough, rugged and covered in loose rocks and scree.

I agreed to pace him, but let him know my current pacing strategies and that I would be competing at Javelina the following weekend –so I wouldn’t be negative splitting, charging hills or sprinting finishes. He agreed and we hashed out our plans. I was to meet him at the main Aid Station at “Headquarters” around 3:00PM on Saturday to pick him up for the final two, 25-mile laps.

CR100 follows a very similar format to Javelina. Since I had been focusing almost exclusively on road running since Silverton, I thought this trial might be a good primer. First, it forced me to logistically pack for a hundred, since this race was completely self-supported outside of water. Next, it would put to rest any doubts I had that the Luna Sandals couldn’t handle the toughest conditions, and this trail is all about blood-letting. If the sharp rocks, moving surface scree and plunging descents didn’t get you, the razor-edged Texas Sotol, prickly pears or coral snakes will.

It was hot. CR100 fell between two cold fronts, but benefitted from neither. By 5:15PM, when my buddy came in, it had been a sustained 90-degree day for several hours. People were dropping like refugees. Most simply limped away; some just laid down beside the turn-around in a patch of ever-moving shade. Dana was looking pretty strong, though. We topped him off and made sure he had his headlamp, some fuel and whatever else he might need while the temperature plunged during the next 25-miles of increasing darkness.

I was the lucky one. You could definitely see the difference in my fresh legs and his well-worn ones. He continued to trip, stumble and fall as the night progressed. His coordination was getting shot. I began to engage him in conversation to try and keep his mind lucid. We got some fuel and electrolytes into him as well. By the final loop, he actually seemed to revive almost fully.

His steps became surer. His pace actually quickened. By sunrise he became a new man. At ten miles out we saw an increased pace, with the last seven even faster. He began to pull away with five mile to go. I told him to finish strong and made my way across the course towards the finish to see if I could get a photograph of his completion. I got there in time, but the all-night roaming had killed my cellphone battery. No phone, No camera. But he finished like a champ and had Rocky Raccoon, Leadville and Cactus Rose on his 2014 list of accolades.

Chris Knodel is a Mangum Track Club member and Sandhills Region native. He is the author of “More, Better Quicker – The Irish Goat: A Fat-Boy & His Path to Ultra-Distance.” His column will appear each Thursday on

Filed in: Outdoors, Sports

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