The Hill Country Hundred

Posted by Nash Mader on

Words by Keith Mitchhart

Photos by Mark Cortinas and Keaton Blovad

Eight months ago I ran my first half marathon.
Four months ago I ran my first marathon.
A week ago I ran my first 100K.

My friends have asked me, why? Why am I running? Is there something I am running from? Towards?

For me, it’s really not as much about the running itself.

I don’t consider myself a runner.

Right now, running is serving as the vessel for me to live out the lessons that I want to learn. To pursue the higher version of myself that I crave. My runs are expressions of my truth, my belief that life is just an accumulation of experiences and my desire to have as many of those as I can.


In a way, it all comes back to death for me. I ask myself, what do I want to do, see and experience before I die? What lessons do I want to learn? My answer: the hard ones. The extremes. The ones you’re rewarded with by daring to jump with two feet in. The ones born from the perfect alchemy of fear, pain, trust, insanity, and a little bit of herb. It’s a balance. A constant test of self to seek out the extremes of life.There are lessons that are being lost in this world. Lessons that aren’t rewarded with immediate gratification. Our society doesn’t place value on these hard fought internal battles. Yet, that is where my hunger lies.

Before this 100K, I knew there was a lesson I was being called to learn. A journey I was meant to go on. A glimpse of enlightenment that I was meant to see that would impact me now and long after I leave this existence. I planned the Hill Country Hundred with the intention to heed the call. To live the experience. To prove to myself that I could. To meet my limit and make it watch as I ran past. To inspire. To move something from the conceptual to the actual by means of my own action.


And so I decided that 62 miles would be a solid way to do it. So a week before the run date, I threw together a crew, a route, and a loose-leaf plan to do just that. Saturday, April 15th, I would run through the heart of the Texas Hill Country, from my hometown of Dripping Springs to Fredricksberg. Past working ranches I watched get bought, sold, and rebought throughout my childhood. Past rolling fields of BlueBonnets and the road I grew up on. Down the route I used to speed at 5am headed to football practice. And past the lot I took a job shoveling rocks at all summer in the Texas heat to save up a little cash to start my company.

I planned a route straight through my childhood. What a trip.


And here's how it went:


Mile 1-30: ‘The Come-up’

The first thirty were just fun. I was riding the high of the excitement and the reality of the experience was looping in my head. I was elated to be really doing it. I kept reflecting on the fact that we threw it all together in a week, and how crazy that was.


Mile 30-38: ‘Fire.’

This is when shit got really hard. On the physical side, it got insanely hot. It was easily 100 degrees on the asphalt and I wore the Texas sun through the peak afternoon hours. Mentally, I was processing that I had already run a marathon (my longest run up until that point). Each stride I took added to the miles past the farthest point I’d ever pushed physically. Doubt decided to run these miles with me. Asking me questions and playing games. How is my body going to hold up? Pain also decided it was time to join in on the experience. Shit got real.


Lunch was its own chapter entirely. In all honestly, a fucking low point.

I needed to bring my body temp down and decided to take a cool shower out of the back of our van. Immediately, my body went into shock and all the fears of failure manifested physically.

I was at a point where I felt like I couldn’t take another step and I knew I had twenty something miles left to go. A fucking trip.

Body convulsing, shivering, and rejecting nutrition, I was scared.


Surrender number one. Trust.


I had no choice. I had to rely on my friends to bring me back down. And through trust, I did. They helped me get to a point where I was able to continue on.

Together, WE were able to do that.

Mile 38 to 52(ish): ‘Somewhere Between Delusion & Enlightenment’

These were the post lunch to sunset miles.

The first few steps after lunch were a feeling I will never forget. A feeling so sweet because it is one I didn’t think I was going to get. I did not think I was going to be able to take those steps.

It was a surreal experience having my body go into shock, being nursed back from it, and fifteen minutes later having me be back under the sun. Back on my feet. Back running.


Pretty unreal.


Through this period, there was a lot of that “unrealness”. Feelings of bliss but also feelings of pure delusion.


And I was there, still running, as it all ran through me.

Surrender number two.

Roughly Mile 52 to 56: ‘Sunset’


The sunset brought a shifting tide. Like the ocean, it brings the best surf. You’re drawn in, entranced in its beauty, humbled by its might.




And then the sun sets.


It’s as if the moment the last sliver of orange fire clears the horizon, everyone is gone. Surfers are out of the water. Watchers are back in their cars. And the ocean suddenly becomes a dark and scary place.


The Sunset over the rolling hills felt much the same. As she began to sink lower into the sky, I finally got some much needed relief from the six plus hours of the 95 degree weather and the harsh rays beating on my toasted back.


The sky was a painting. One I had seen many times before but never experienced quite like this. This time I was a part of the painting. Made up of the same paints as the sun, the sky, the cows, birds, and the hills.


We were one. I felt everything.


And then, darkness.


It really hit me. Putting on my headlamp for the second time that day was a mind fuck. There was something about the realization that I had been running since before the sun was up and I would be running well after it set… A huge mental barrier for me in and of itself.

Mile 57 onwards - ‘Pain’


In terms of a psychedelic journey, this was my ego death of the run.

Everything that I could hold onto for comfort just dissipated.

There was nothing for me to find relief in.


I lost full control over my bodily functions. I lost control of my mind.


I watched my headlight waver from side to side as I marched through these miles. I looked only down, watching the asphalt move like a conveyor belt under my legs.


The headlights of the van, my only reference point as to where I was at, what I was doing. Everything was shutting down and each step was an agonizing pain from the bottom of my foot, up my leg, and into my lower back.


The last three miles I was having to stop and piss every few minutes. I am still not really sure what that was about. Just my body shutting down.


And my ego dying.


And then the finish line was bittersweet.

Bittersweet because I felt myself quit and give up a few miles before the finish. I knew that I didn’t make it to the finish line of my own accord. Ya, I was the runner, but it was only through the people that I surrounded myself with that day that I was able to finish the final few. The ego death came from knowing that I needed the people around me, whether I wanted them or not. I was only as strong as those around me.


And that was it. Bottomline. And the end of Part One. The Hill Country Hundred.


After the experience, the run, I am left to return to the lesson I set out to find. Did I find it? Learn what I wanted? I think so.


But it's a funny thing about these kinds of lessons. They don’t just come and go. They aren’t a box to be checked or something to add to a resume. The value comes in the lesson that shows itself to you next. The next experience nodding its head at you. The stream of opportunity, challenge, questions ionized. Catalyzed. By you, for you.


And so I am left after my run with fond memories, a new reference point of my own limit, and these questions running free in my head:


How much farther can I take this?

What are my limits?

Do I do a 100 mile race?

Do I do a 200 mile race?


Again, how far can I take this?