August 12-14, 2022
Again, after far too much time, I am writing an event report for the Habanero Hundred—a multi-loop trail run held entirely on the 7IL Ranch outside Cat Springs, TX (kind of between Houston and Austin), put on by TROT, Trail Running Over Texas. Honestly, I wasn’t going to run this race as I had my hands full putting together the fund-raiser 5K with my Church on Masters Road in Manvel, TX; I was also a little short funds, to be honest. However, I think the Spirit led me to view a video of the event just a few weeks before race day, and some drone footage showed an arial view of the parking/camping area for the Habanero: Man, it looked something like the infield of the Daytona 500 NASCAR Race! When I saw that, I just knew Runners’ Church needed to go!!! Beside the fact that the TROT race management team are just the best, and their events have a well-earned reputation of being the Bombay.com, another reason for the huge participation in this event is the various distances from 10K to 100M. The Habanero offers something for everyone. That said, this event is not—as I like to say—children’s play: It is brutally serious, yet set in a fun-filled, party-esque atmosphere. It is run on sandy horseback trails in Texas in the middle of August; and, it starts at high noon! I mean, who wouldn’t wanna cowboy- or cowgirl-up and run this? I emailed the RD, Cal Neff, who was super supportive of the Runners’ Church mission, and said he would support any way he could. Packet pick-up was Friday afternoon, so I got to the ranch early. When I got there, I was immediately greeted by Cal who pointed me to some prime real estate for setting up Runners’ Church HQs. Sweet! After I pitched camp and set up the R.C. canopy, I headed for the 7IL Ranch barn to hang out at packet pick-up, greet and encourage all the runners I could, tell folks about our pre-race Runners’ Church service, and give out free shirts and stiickers. I really enjoyed the setting because I didn’t interfere with TROT sign-ins and merchandise shoppng, but was able to connect with so many people. I knew I’d made the right call to come to the Habanero. This was only confirmed when Rene Villalobos showed up because, well, who doesn’t just love Rene? As runner traffic died down, I finally headed back to camp to make supper and get my stuff ready for race day, including going over my message. One of the huge upsides to starting a race at noon was that I didn’t have to try to force myself to sleep at some early hour to get up at some gnarly 0-dark-30 time. Now that’s my kinda start time since I can’t seem to really kick the night owl routine. I slept pretty good, got up at a reasonable hour, ate breakfast with some really great coffee, and got my race victuals laid out. Then I began milling about, talking to folks and inviting anyone I could to the Runners’ Church. Cal began his pre-race announcements and pointed me out over the P.A. and reminded everyone about the Runners’ Church service about to commence. That was really awesome. I started the service on time with stopwatch on, and over 20 folks were gathered around the Runners’ Church canopy. I opened with prayer and then focused on Philippians 4:8, and the import of “thinking on these things”, about the importance of changing the channel playing in our minds as soon as the enemy comes a-knockin’ with negative thoughts and talk, how we need to switch channels to the “God channel” and remember His promises. I felt Spirit-filled and Spirit-led and the message was so spot-on—for this race and beyond! The race started with a shotgun blast (God bless Texas) to launch a huge throng of runners through the TROT arch and across the timing mats. As one friend said, “It was on like Donkey Kong!” As is my way, the first chunk is of the race was devoted entirely to meeting and encouraging runners. Because there were so many, I can’t hardly remember anyone’s name. On the 2nd 6.23-mi. loop, I started to pick ‘em up and put ‘em down, as I like to say. Sure, I still talked with folks and told them about Runners’ Church and shared some Jesus’ love, but I was also focused on seeing what I could do as far as a sustainable “up-tempo” pace. Loop 2 went well and 3 was going swimmingly…that is, until my body started doing this weird lock-up thing. I know I was acclimated; I was taking my normal gram of salt (NaCl + KCl) per hour. But, something whacked was going on, and with a ton of miles before me, I was seriously scared that my entire race was in jeopardy. I started doubling my intake of salts and hammering a banana piece at every stop. After a couple loops of that, I seemed to be getting back to stride as it was getting dark. I took headlight 1 (of 3) and made 2 loops; but, I figured the batteries were good enough for another lap. Well, as Blue Collar comedian, Ron White is wont to say, “I was wrong.” About 1/3 through, my headlamp went completely out. "Tango Uniform", as we used to say in the Army. I tried running trail by braille, but wound up in the dirt; no nicks or scrapes—just sand and grit all over my sweat-soaked bod. I married up with a dude with a good light and ran with him. We had a great loop talking while still running strong. At the turnaround, I changed out lights, got salted and “Perpetuemated”, and was back in the swing of things. I forget what loop I was on, but the hope of sub-24 was still possible if I manned-up to push it, so I pushed on. Then lightning struck a 2nd time: My headlamp made only 1.5 loops!!! So there I was again, ambling in the dark, waiting for a “savior”. Then came the light! It was Cory Torkelson from San Antonio whom I’d hammered with earlier; this time he saved my bacon, and we were able to share our testimonies of our journeys to the cross. As we came in to the turnaround, I asked if he wanted to marry up for the remainder, and he agreed: Good, bad, and ugly, we were finishing together! Dawn came and our goal was no longer sub-24 (finish before noon), but to try to keep pressing to the finish before it got just so blazin’ hot…again. His mom was there at the turnaround every loop and she was a great encouragement. However, as we ambled in for our final pass by mom with 50m to the finish, she really gave us the ole victor’s yell and whooped it up for us. As we ran the dwindling “gauntlet” of runner tents, they joined in the cheer with cowbells as we turned the bend to cross under the TROT arch hand-in-hand for the finish in 25 hours and change. Mom caught it on video, we hugged and said goodbyes, and then staggered our separate ways to find some recovery. The Habanero Hundred is an absolute jewel for all runners, at least for those who acclimate to Africa hot. It is a 1st-class event held on a classic Texas ranch. Its extreme conditions are the challenge, and for overcomers seeking a worthy “opponent”, that's the draw. The high-noon start is just a bonus (not to re-mention it makes for ample day time to prep for the start). This was the “PR” for Runners’ Church in terms of folks attending our pre-race service. That alone was, as we say, worth the price of admission. Kudos and blessings to Cal and his entire TROT team and team of volunteers. And thank you for letting Runners’ Church be a part and for your tremendous support. Like the long race, we're all headed for "a finish"; but, we need to "fight the good fight of faith", to "share in the sufferings of Christ Jesus", to love the brothers and sisters, and to hold fast our faith to the end. Journey-ON!, because our journey is ON! Amen.
"...And the One who is seated on the throne will shelter them. They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their Shepherd, and He will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."~Revelation 7:15b-17
Brother Milt was first to break out the RC singlet.
Brother Doug, sporting his RC singlet!
Brother Rene: Perhaps the most PROLIFIC runner ever... And on-fire for the Lord!
Running with new friends!
Pickin' 'em up & puttin' 'em down!
"No greater love is there than this: to lay one's life down for one's friends."~~Jn. 15:13 "...'Lord, when did we see you hungry and give you food, or see you thirsty and give you something to drink...?...'Truly I tell you, just as you did to one of the least of these, my brothers, you did it to me.'"~~Mt. 25:37,40
Doug...with a WORKING headlamp!
A perishable crown...er...buckle, to be sure; BUT, these babies are HUGE!