By: Andrea Larson

As an engineer, I evaluate everything. I’ve spent a lot of time evaluating my performance at the Bandera 100k over the past few days, trying to determine if the glass is half full or half empty. I need to learn from this experience and apply to my next race (only a month away). Although I fell short of my primary goal, finishing as the first or second woman and earning a Golden Ticket for Western States 100, I expect to learn from this experience. As I explained in my earlier blog post, winning one of a handful of Golden Ticket races is my only way to gain entry to the 2020 edition of the world’s oldest 100 mile trail race.

Many firsts

The Bandera 100k included several firsts – my first time tackling

100k distance,
any running race during the winter,
flying to any race,
and running on these trails.

Other Factors

On top of that, cross country skiing has been so good in Wisconsin this year, I actually only ran a handful of times in the past three weeks – so I guess I was well rested!

The plan had to camp at the race venue so we could scout out the venue and attend the pre-race meeting on Friday and not have to drive back to the remote location for the early morning start. Good thing my husband pointed out the tent stakes were prohibited through TSA for carry-ons…and that I looked it up…turns out we may be able to pop a tent without stakes, but not poles, which are also prohibited in carry-ons! Good thing I had a friend near the race willing to lend us a tent!

What proved to be the biggest challenge was the technical footing. Even while fresh at the beginning of the race, I didn’t dare look up at the scenic vistas to take in the views. Despite many stumbles throughout the day, I did manage to stay upright on the course – a mini victory. My lack of trail running did slow me down though.


As I advised in my earlier blog post on tips for preparing for an ultra, I had several goals:

  1. Finish 2nd woman
  2. Time goal of 9:45
  3. Run less than 30 minutes slower on the second lap (course was a two lap course, each 50k)
  4. Feel strong on the first lap and push the second lap no matter what
  5. Don’t let obstacles result in a mental blow


I fully knew going into the race these were aggressive goals, turns out they were a lot easier to achieve on paper than in reality.

I was a full hour off my time goal, finishing in 10:48 – a minute per mile discrepancy. The first half of each lap was more technical than I expected – forcing me to slow my pace, particularly on the downhills. So it didn’t take long before I realized my pace chart was out the window.

I finished as the fourth woman, but I was the second American woman – not too shabby. I give my hat off to the ladies who finished ahead of me. It is incredible to fathom the pace they held from dawn to dusk.

Although I felt strong the entire race, I ran too conservatively. I was in “race mode” throughout the race, but also never risked red-lining either. Being a bit out of the race scene, I had doubts throughout the day I’d be able to feel good the entire race. I was wrong – in fact, my fastest leg of the course was the final couple of miles. Now that the race is over, I wonder how much I could have pushed it.


1. Scout as much as possible. Although watching videos, studying maps / pace charts, and driving to the aid stations the day before the race were helpful, running the first lap was the best way to know what was in store.

2. Have a “WHY NOT” attitude. I’m the one that will be wondering how much faster I could have gone. I need to take the risk in order to find my limit. I need to be confident that a strength of mine is to be on top of refueling and I don’t hit walls like most racers do. I also need to rely on the thousands of hours of training I have put in over the years. I do now have this data point to prove I can stay strong over this distance to give me confidence in my next race.

3. Sleep before the race means nothing. I don’t think I slept a wink the night before the race…and didn’t seem to make any difference. It’s all the training and proper taper that has prepared my body for race day.

4. People make the difference. I wouldn’t have been able to perform or even race without so many amazing people.

I have to thank Ellen Humberston, who flew down to Texas to crew me. She was incredible (again) – she crewed me at the Marji Gesick 100 where I set the women’s course record. And now that the inaugural IRONBULL Ultra Trail has taken place, which she co-race directs, I can tell you she’s as great as a race director as she is at crewing.

Also, I have to thank a few friends for letting us borrow a bike and tent last minute, coming with their children to cheer me on, and their hospitality.

And of course, I have to thank my husband for letting me escape for the weekend to fly across the country for this race. I especially need to butter him up since he will be crewing me at my next race!

Half full or half empty?

So if you are still wondering if I think the glass is half full or half empty, the answer is neither. As an engineer would say, it is twice as big as it needs to be. In other words, I need to lay 100% out on the race course. I need to make it to the finish line, but not a step more. On 2/15/20 at the Black Canyon 100k I’ll find out the exact right size glass I need, or at least I hope!

Photo courtesy No Sleep Media.

Andrea Larson

Andrea is an avid multi-sport racer, a mother of three children 5 and younger, active on the town of Rib Mountain Park Commission and chair of the bike & pedestrian committee. Andrea Larson joined IRONBULL as executive director after a decade in research and development as a professionally licensed chemical engineer. Andrea has won the Wausau 24 mountain bike race, the current course record holder of the Marji Gesick 100 run, and team member of Rib Mountain Racing who ranked #1 in the United States Adventure Racing Association in 2019.

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