Oh, Bandera, you were once a bustling hub on the wild frontier. Spaniards and Comanche fought for control of you. Cowboys gathered around you to begin their journey along the Chisholm trail; ready to guide their steed to Kansas for sale.
Time has eroded your fame and washed away your legend, but still you survive, proud and graceful. Your saloons have been traded for antique stores and museums, tourists have replaced the wild cowboys.
As your ranches became dude ranches, you kept a wild streak. In the Hill Country Natural Area, just outside of your borders, men and women gather every January to challenge you ruggedness, to run you for 100 kilometers. You throw everything you have at these hardy souls, yet they still return in an attempt to conquer your wild side.
I challenged you at the 50 kilometer race last year and we will call that one a draw, for defeat you I did not, but I hobbled away with the right to call myself an ultra-runner for the first time. My goal was 50 kilometers and I did that, still I longed to completely defeat you, to break you like the wild mustang that you are at heart.
I returned this year to face off with you, accepting the challenge of the 100 kilometers. You would not be easily broken. Starting with your white cedar, aggravating an already worrisome cough. Then you threw sub-freezing temperatures at me, so cold that my water bottles tried to freeze shut, my sweat began to form icicles on the brim of my hat.
I soldiered on, pushing past my coughing, shivering and aches. My lungs were not up to par, but my legs felt powerful. I pushed through the first few miles of constant hills and technical single track. It seemed that you were not going to let up.
Slowly, you gave me a reprieve, at least it felt that way. The hills eased up and the sotol bush and cactus took over. When they took a break, grass came along, hiding loose rock.
Oh, Bandera, you would not go down without a fight. Relentlessly you fought me until I gave in. With 28 miles of the 62 down, you placed a brick wall on my chest, I could no longer breath, my head was swimming. All that you had thrown at me, I had let my electrolytes become unbalanced. I could take no more, struggling to make a 20 minute mile. I knew I was doomed.
The decision was hard, but I still believe correct. I chose to give in to you in order to fight another day. My cough was getting worse and I knew that challenging you further would do nothing other than make it worse for me later.
Oh, Bandera, we are now 0-1-1, but be assured, I will return to defeat you. You may have wounded my pride, you did not break my spirit or my will. The score will be even, 1-1-1.
Sun Tzo said “Now in order to kill the enemy, our men must be roused to anger; that there may be advantage from defeating the enemy, they must have their rewards”. I am now roused with anger, my reward will be a buckle.
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