I was going to do a top 10 trail races but changed it to my favorites. I did not know how I was going to put them in order so it had become a random list of favorites. I have been out of commission for over a month. I could do some hiking but no running. During the unwanted break from trail running I had a chance to look over some of the 40 plus races I have run over the last two years. I have missed trail running and speed hiking is losing it’s luster. I have finally been released to run but I lost much of the little endurance I had built. These are my favorite races in no particular order.
10. The Mammoth-I have run this race twice which is a rarity because I like to do different races. This was also my first trail race.
9. Waco Striders Cross Country Trail Race-This race was one of the most painful races I have run. Once again this was a rare race I have done twice. The below graph says it all.
8. Piney Woods Ultra-I did the 10K last year and will do the 25K this year as a training race. This is a surprising tough course that slowly breaks down runners.
7. Natural Bridge Caverns Trail Race-The only race that starts a 1/4 mile underground. It is not an overly tough race and the atmosphere was awesome.
6. Down N Dirty Trail Race-This is also a Waco Striders race. This gave me a second chance at a course that kicked my butt. I still was not ready for the final climb.
5. Run4Bibles-A race that is just five minutes from home. I also did their night race and the course is challenging. I love running this course and run it often.
4. Knob Hills Trail Race-This was a long 10K. It was actually 7.3 miles and I did not even get lost. The fun part was all of the crazy little hills.
3. Wild Canyon Ultra-One the most scenic and difficult races I have run. It is located at Caprock Canyon SP and if the canyons do not get you the weather will.
2. Mount Magazine Trail Run-My first true mountain race. The race course lead runners to the highest point in Arkansas. Plus two three mile climbs.
1. DanMan- This was my first half marathon. The course was not very technical but being a first made it a favorite. The after party was easily the best of all races.
These are my 10 favorite trail races. Most of these races were first or something different from usual races.
I really enjoy the races the Waco Striders host at Cameron Park. This is the easier of the two courses they have at Cameron Park. I must say easy is a relative term. The two courses are some of the toughest courses I have run in Texas. But I have not run in the Texas mountains yet. The thing that makes these courses tough is that you are always ascending or descending. There are very few flat areas and the downhills are technical. The course is not one of the more scenic courses but there is a nice view of the Brazos River before you descend to the finish. I was prepared for the extra mileage they always put in the races. This time it was only an extra half mile. The odd thing is that they did not have bananas for the runners. They had the usual water but then popsicles and donuts.
I really like that this year they have wooden medals and soft thin cotton shirts. I do not like the tech shirts or the under armour type shirts. Overall it was a good time and good race.
I signed up for this race because not only is it the oldest trail race in Texas but also one of the most difficult. What I did not expect was several inches of rain the night before and the morning of the race. The course was tough enough in perfect weather but now it is a mud run. As I mentioned before I do not like mud runs. The adventure was the trip to the race and the race itself was also strange.
First on the drive to the race I got lost. It was pitch black outside and raining hard. I am just driving along and the next thing I know I am crossing a bridge and I am in Oklahoma. I make a u-turn and five minutes later I see a sign welcoming me to Texas. I finally get to the parking lot and it starts pouring down rain again. Finally the sun is starting to rise and the rain stops.
Secondly the course was soaked and muddy and very difficult to run. As a large trail runner I especially struggled in the mud. Plus uphill in the mud is much worse with all the gravity working against me. I only passed two people on the course and they were both injured and in need of EMS personnel. I did meet several people on the trails that made it fun. I even saw one lady leaning on a tree eating pretzels. I finished in a very unimpressive time of 1:58:12 and last in my age group. I did get lost though, I might have moved up a place or two. Some of the views of Lake Texoma were very impressive but the 1000 feet of elevation change in mud was something I will not want to experience again.
The funny thing about this race is I want to do it again but it has to be dry. I thing the course would be awesome and I know it would be challenging.
Next up is a fun 10K close to home.
I will start with a little history of why this possible injury is sadly exciting. About two years ago I decided to start running to get in shape that was not round. I started off running all the time and quickly re aggravated a past knee injury. After a month off, I started wearing knee sleeves on both knees. I also realized that I could not run more than two days in a row before my knees were so painful I could not walk.
Finally about six months ago I accidentally left my knee sleeves at home and ran a 5 mile run. I had no problems that day or the next. Even though I still wear the sleeves I know I do not need them but they make me feel comfortable. I ran many times without them with no problems since the initial oversight.
This weekend I ran three days in a row. My knees are fine but my hamstring did not make it. Day 1 was a slow flat 6 mile run on concrete. I slowed my pace to 11 minute miles since I was going to do a race the next day. The race is where the problems started. It was a 10K trail race on trails I am very familiar running. The first three miles were at a good trail pace of about 10:45 minute miles. Then it hit me, a huge cramp in my hamstring. I massaged it and continued. Twenty minutes later same hamstring cramped again. I stopped stretched and continued. I felt fine after the race but my pace went up 4 minutes per mile the last 3.4 miles.
My hamstring was sore the rest of the day but I thought nothing of it. The next morning was a very slow 3.5 mile trail run with the local running club. I had no problems during the run but the rest of the day I had problems every time I bent my leg. I am also sore today and it is painful to stretch.
The good news is that I can finally run three days in a row. I can also up my mileage to prepare for the half marathon in April. It will be my first. The bad news my hammy is possibly strained.
I wanted to up my mileage so I will be prepared to start doing 10Ks by the end of the year. I picked this 5 miler over another 5K. I missed this race last year when the medal was an all purpose tool. The race was moved to Fort Worth on the Trinity Trails. The trails are flat and fast but not much of true off road trails. The course was concrete, gravel and some grass and sand. They basically moved a road course ten feet away from the Trinity River and called it a trail run. Despite the lack of a true trail, this is a Run Project run so it will be a good atmosphere. The after race party was awesome with an 90’s theme for some reason. Plus as the name would suggest they had beer. There was a bunch of people dancing and it was also kid friendly. I cranked out a 51:08 which was good for fourth place. I missed third by eight seconds. I was really happy with my time so the close fourth place finish was not too disappointing.
For the next trail race, I upped my distance again. I was prepared for the craziest of the Waco hills.
I decided to step up my mileage by doing a 5 miler. I found a very cool challenge put on by the Waco Striders Running Club called the Huaco Cuatro. The first of this four leg challenge was at Cameron Park in Waco, TX. I did not look at a course map nor did I see the terrain of the course. I have driven through Waco many many times and the entire city looked flat. I will get to that surprise in a bit. I got up early to make the hour and a half drive to the race. The weather for the race was great. It was a bit humid but not bad for spring time in Texas. I did not have a problem finding the park but I could not find the start. I was doing race day packet pick up so I was planning on getting there forty five minutes early so I have time to get my bib and get ready to run. I was at the park but I could not find where I was suppose to go. I was asking people where this part of the park was and they did not know. While I was driving around lost for thirty minutes, I realized this park is very hilly. I could tell that the hills were steep but it was hard to tell how steep the hills were from driving. I was really about to give up until I took one more drive up a long hill and just kept going like I was leaving the park. All of a sudden another parking lot was on the horizon and that was where I needed to be. I got there after packet pick was over but they let me get it anyway. The race started five minutes late and I was ready two minutes late. The group of runners were friendly and so were the race presenters. I liked the atmosphere of the race and I am glad I found the start. I was still a little nervous about the distance. I have never done a run this long. I did not even do training runs this long at this time. The race did not go well for me. The run was actually 5.7 miles of the toughest hills I have ever run. The distance combined with the crazy steep and long hills were leg killing. I have never experienced hills like these. The race director must like putting runners through pain. If the hills were not enough the last mile was mostly straight up another agonizing hill to the finish. I was just happy to survive. I was also questioning doing the next three races. The post race refreshments consist of the normal bananas and water which are a must for me plus some awesome breakfast burritos. This still has been the toughest race of the year for me. I have done longer races but nothing like these hills.
I have run much more since this torture race and recently did a 7.5 training run in the same time I finished this race.
After a sanity check, I prepared for my third race in three weeks with a trip to the Houston area again.