I want to start off by offering prayers and condolences to the runner and his family that was struck by lightning and killed during the race. It was difficult for me to write a running recap of this race due to this tragedy.
I have always wanted to run a race with a tight cutoff time. I did not expect this to be that race. I thought with 10 hrs for a 50K would not be that bad. My very first 50K was under 9 hrs. Little did I know what I was getting myself into. I know that about 179 runners registered for the race. I do not know how many actually started but only 103 had finishing times. I was planning to get pictures on the way back but that did not workout. I do not know where to start.
The course was tough. Let me restate this, it was the toughest most unique course I have ever been on. There are parts of the course, as a hiker, I would not even think of hiking. I got close to 1400′ of elevation gain in the first 25K. It is less than Piney Woods but much more difficult. I guess the easiest way to explain this course is this way. It is a mixture of Colorado Bend SP with the rocks, Cleburne SP with the short steep hills, Lake Mineral Wells SP with the squeezing and climbing crevices then throw in some Arkansas cliffs and Louisiana low land terrain. The lack of wind made it a sauna the entire time. Mind you it never got above 83 degrees but the humidity was about 67%. The funny thing was people at the start complaining how hot it was going to get and might reach 85. I was laughing to myself thinking I have not had one run in months that low.The elevation profile is deceiving and hides the difficulty of the course.
I tried not to run stupid from the start. I took it easy at the beginning. It turns out that was the wrong strategy. I should have ran hard at the beginning and at every possible place I could have run. I did not think the hills were going to be that technical. I am talking hands on ground going up and down these hills. Did I mention two ladders on the course? Plus water crossings and mud. It had not rained in awhile and the course was mostly dry but every “obstacle” was extreme. The course went down into a basin of a waterfall.
I got to the turnaround 10 minutes past the cutoff. I changed into dry clothes and did the math on making the finish cutoff. I could drop three minutes per mile on the way back and make the cutoff. I was feeling pretty good. My legs were fine and I was hydrated and ate properly during the first half. I was not low on energy but something in my mind said do not go back out. The clouds were breaking up and the sun was out so I was not worried about rain. Several others decided to try their luck and return and they looked much worse off than I. The volunteer asked two more times if I was going back out and I finally said I am done. I truly believe in divine intervention and I know that is the reason I did not try to finish the race.
The rain eventually came and it was heavy but it did not stay around for long. I would have got caught in it more than likely on one of the more runnable sections of the course. I think I could have made the 10 hr time limit but it would have been close and not very fun in the rain and on a wet course. This was also the time the tragedy struck. The runner was a quarter of a mile from the finish line.
I am leaning on doing it again next year. I am going to run my usual dumb race because I know I will not be able to keep up a fast pace for more than two miles at a time before something slows me down. So if anybody wants to run the most amazing course you will ever run, I am willing to do it again. On a positive note, I wish I had gotten some pictures because the course had so many picturesque places and features. I was awestruck running the course.
BTW, my legs are still sore.
The race was amazing. The race was held at Palo Pinto Mountains State Park. The state park is not open yet but the runners got a sneak peek of what the future of the trails might look like at the park. The park is located in Strawn, TX which is about an hour and a half west of the DFW metroplex. The hill country of Texas makes up most of central Texas and this area in the northwest part is beautiful. It has the hills and flowers and some great views.
The race offered distances ranging from 5K all the way up to a 50 miler. I chose the half marathon because I am starting to like this distance. It is long enough to feel like hard work but short enough to recover fairly quick. The half marathon course consisted of two out and backs over a changing terrain. The trails held up well from the rain overnight. They were wet and had some muddy spots but overall in good shape.
The first out and back was a feeling out process and not difficult. The course started with two small but steep uphills. The first major climb came after a water crossing. The water crossing was not too deep so I rock jumped to keep my feet dry. The top of the climb had great views but I could not get good pictures because of the weather. It was cloudy and very very humid. It was smoove sailing down the hill to an area filled with wildflowers. The trail went into a forest type area in which the trail turned a bit muddy. After the muddy section was the turn around point of the race. I decided to get most of my pictures on the way back. I was feeling good and I wanted to get the picture before the second out and back. I got to the start/finish ahead of my three hour half marathon pace.
I started the second out and back drenched in sweat. My shirt and shorts were soaking wet. My shirt was feeling heavy and my shorts were clinging to my legs. My nutrition and hydration was still good but my clothes were an added weight. I had to tuck in my shirt to keep my shorts from falling down. The water crossing was a bit deeper but crossable without getting too wet. At the top of the climb the temperature dropped at least ten degrees. The sky got darker and thicker clouds came rolling over the course. I made it almost to the muddy part when it started to rain on and off. I got to the turn around and the sky opened up. It started to rain consistently. The thunder and lightning started after I was out of the now swamp like muddy section. I could see lightning bolts go from cloud to ground. As I started up the backside of the biggest climb it started to pour. At the top of the climb, it started to hail. By now the trails were flooded and muddy. There were mini waterfalls on the big hill. The water crossing was shin deep. The rock jumping idea was scrapped and I just ran through the water. I finished drenched and exhausted. My time of 3:17:13 was slow but I was happy just to finish.
Overall, I really liked to race but better weather would have made this race great. I did get to see another Texas state park. I have week till my next race in this same area.
This has become one of my favorite races I do yearly. The unfortunate thing this year has been the rain. I did get to run with my sister which is always fun. I talked this race up to my sister on how hard it is but fun. The other bad part was I ran almost daily since my 50K and my sister is recovering from an injury, so we ran very slow. The course is not very difficult when running at a slow pace. The last half mile climb is usually the leg killer but it was not hard at all. Once again the Waco Striders provided a great medal and the shirt was just as cool. The weather did not cooperate since we ran in thunderstorms the entire race. I really do not like running in rain. There was a good turnout and some fast times despite the weather. I do not know if any pictures were taken so the only one I provided is the medal and the the course below. It does not look like much but there is some serious elevation change and a few nice views.
My next race was the Tanner Higgins Warrior Run but it was cancelled due to rain. Next up is a trip to Oklahoma and the first in my camper.