Another Top Ten List:Most Difficult Races of 2018

I have been asked the same question over and over again lately. What has been your favorite race so far in 2018? I was thinking that this list is going to be the same as my most difficult races of the year. The list is the same except for one race. The most difficult race did not make my favorite race list. I decided to do the most difficult list and wait on my favorite list. So far this year I have done every race distance I have wanted to do except one. My 50K is this weekend and then I have a couple more races planned to end the year with 25 races. I have done a 5K, 5 miler/8K, 10K, 15K, 20K, 25K and a 1/2 Marathon all on trails. I have done races in freezing weather and snow. I have done races in unbearable heat and humidity and pouring rain. The views from some of these courses have been absolutely breathtaking. All the races and training has been leading up to this weekend’s 50K. The following 10 races as difficult as they were are going to make this weekend easier but not easy.

10. The Wild Canyon Ultra 10K in Caprock Canyon State Park-The rain made the course wet and slick. The course was hilly and rugged but manageable to run. The views were by far the most impressive.20181114_123511.jpg

9. Rugged and Raw 10K at the Cedar Ridge Preserve-The preserve is my training ground and I am there about 3 times a week. A race here is just different. The trails are difficult on a normal day but this was a particularly warm and humid day. 20181114_124531.jpg

8. Rough Creek 10K at Rough Creek Lodge in Glen Rose, TX-This race is well known for the Rusty Crown. It is a torcherous uphill that is a definite leg killer. If that is not bad enough a steep downhill that tends to sends running crashing to the ground. 20181114_125300.jpg

7. Down N Dirty 8K at Cameron Park-I ran this race last year not knowing how hilly the course was going to be. I was not surprised this year and it still kicked my butt. The last climb after the 5 mile mark is the one that gets me.20181114_130102.jpg

6. Cross Timbers 5 Miler off of Lake Texoma-The rain made this course a muddy mess. This is one of the more technical courses but with the pouring rain it was down right impossible to run. The views were nice when the sun finally came out but it was a beatdown of a race.20181114_131043.jpg

5. DanMan 1/2 Marathon in Oklahoma-I wanted to get this distance done this year and nothing was going to stop me. I ran in freezing temperatures, rain, snow and mud. I finished and was ten minutes ahead of my predicted time. The course was not too tough but the elements made it a doozy. I only got half of the elevation profile.20181114_131951.jpg

4. Ragnar Trail Relay in Comfort, TX-The three courses were difficult but once again rain was what made this a difficult race. The 7.5 and 3 mile courses were not too bad but the 5 mile course was treacherous. It was by far the most technical and I had to run it night with bad lighting. 20181114_132702.jpg

3. Chupacabra 15K at Cameron Park-This is another race at Cameron Park but the start/finish is at the bottom. The course is relentless. It is always going up or down or a switchback. There is not a straight or level part on the entire course. It slowly wears a runner down.20181114_133339.jpg

2. Mount Magazine in Arkansas-They lure you in with a free race then you realize it is a trap. The heat and humidity were way too high for that early in the morning. The course was probably the most beautiful and dangerous. The cliffs are unforgiving and the climbs last for miles.20181114_134207.jpg

  1. Pineywoods Ultra 25K at Tyler State Park-I did not think I was going to finish this race. Another rain soaked race with high humidity and muddy trails. The distance was the longest race to date but I fell apart well before the finish. My legs gave out and I finished, barely. The race was not that technical or difficult but it was just one of those races where nothing went right.20181114_135316.jpg

The biggest factor in making these races difficult besides the elevation changes was the the muddy courses and high humid temperatures. The good thing is that these races make me prepared for anything. I like the weather prediction for the 50K. It is supposed to be sunny and dry with a temperature range between 46 and 62.  Hopefully the 50K will not make this list but the list of one my favorite races of the year.

See ya on the trails.

Piney Woods Ultra 25K

The race was held at one of my favorite state parks, Tyler State Park. The park is located in Tyler, TX which is about an hour and a half east of Dallas. The 25K distance was a new long distance for me. This year I have run a half marathon, two accidental 15Ks and an accidental 20K. Plus a 12 mile training run. I still was not certain how I would do at this distance. The course was sneaky difficult. The hills were long and winding. They were not overly steep but went on for quite a bit of distance. The course held up well under extreme rainy conditions the night before and the morning of the race. There were a few muddy areas but not too bad. My pre race estimated time to finish was 3:30 but that changed after a two hour first loop. I thought 4:20 was a good possibility. I was still feeling good and not too tired. At the 3:13 mark, my legs completely quit. I thought I was moving fast but I could not go very fast. I struggled to finish and was doubting my ability to finish a true ultra race. The funny thing was my mind was lucid and I did not feel tired but my legs just gave in. My finishing time of 4:41 was not good at all but at least I finished. I looked at some of my past races in rain and mud. I did not fair well in any of them. The main problem with the 25K was my wet socks and feet. I did not bring a change of shoes or socks. Lesson learned. I ended up registering for the 50K in November. I learned a lot about running longer distances and will put it to good use.42003551_253614308633182_2709355262370135353_n.jpg42202489_1448647401939549_3548392625792876544_n.jpg20180922_132036.jpg

I have a week off of trail racing so I will get some hiking in in Oklahoma. After that I have seven weekend races each weekend until the 50K.

Piney Woods Ultra 10K

My first official trail 10K. I have already completed three road 10Ks but trail running is a whole other monster. I was confident of being able to not only but also finish in a good time. I previously ran an “8K” in Waco that was actually a 9.5K so the distance will not be a surprise. I had also previously hiked in Tyler SP so I thought I knew the terrain. I must have missed the part that had a hill that was long but not to steep but long. Did I mention it was long? The course was a loop so I did not get a chance to run the hill as a decline. The course also had many other smaller hills but that one hill was a leg burner. I really liked the course though. It was very scenic and I just love those tall pine trees in east Texas. The drive in the morning was also very nice. Driving through east Texas is picturesque with all the ponds and farm land. My time of 1:24:26 was good but I thought I could have had a better time. I took 5th in my age group and was four minutes out of the top three. I do not expect to place in a 10K race anytime soon. I am trying to finish in the top half of all males first then go for placing in my age group.20170923_110400.jpg20170923_102103.jpg20170923_102115.jpg20170923_102358.jpg

It was a fun race and I talked to some runners with CHRC that I have seen at Cedar Ridge Preserve. It was a fun atmosphere. I also talked to the winner of the 25K, he was a nice guy.

The next trail race is once again at the Cedar Ridge Preserve and this is a bigger race than my first race at the preserve. This will be a more difficult 10K but at least I have ran these trail weekly.

2017 Top Ten Hikes

This list will consist of only hikes I have done this year. I will also bore followers with an all time list at the end of the year because I have one more trip planned this year. Next year I will be doing less hiking and more trail running trying to move up to the 20K and 25K distances at some time next year. This year was my most active year hiking ever. I have hiked over twenty state parks and a handful of other parks. I really want to finish the 52 Hike Challenge within the year and I am on pace to finish early. I have completed 48 hikes this year and I have two months to get four more hikes done. The majority of my hikes have been in Texas but I did get into Oklahoma for a weekend of hiking. I had adventures in the high hills of central Texas. I was blessed to see all different parts of Texas from the piney woods to the hill country and also the west Texas desert and the great plains. I had a difficult time narrowing it down to ten hikes and it might change depending on the day but here it goes:

10. Tyler State Park, Whispering Pines Trail-This really short trail was visually electric.20170222_102938_001.jpg

9. Lake Mineral Wells State Park, Penitentiary Hollow-Not really a trail but it a rock climbers paradise with bouldering and lake views mixed in.20170304_135240.jpg

8. Pedernales Falls State Park, Pedernales Falls Trail System-it is as long as you want it be but you must go down to the falls for a spectacular view of the water.20170122_133632.jpg

7. Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, Kite Trail-bouldering over mini waterfalls, what more can I say.20170930_173833.jpg

6. Enchanted Rock SNA, Summit Trail-I felt very accomplished summiting The Rock.20170406_095152.jpg

5. Inks Lake State Park, Devil’s Waterhole Nature Trail/Valley Spring Creek Trail-This combination of trails is the hidden gem of Texas.20170405_183904.jpg

4. Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, Little Baldy Mountain Trail-Another summit but this one combined hiking and rock climbing.20170930_183728.jpg

3. Lost Maples SNA, East-West Trail/East Trail-one of the toughest uphill hikes I had before #2 on this list but worth every step.20170711_180348.jpg

2. Hill Country SNA, Merrick Mile Trail/West Peak Overlook Trail-this was a great hike with better views. I later found out of a similar hike with even better views, need to see to believe. 20170712_092155.jpg

  1. Colorado Bend State Park, Gorman Falls Trail-I was just so amazed at these falls.20170405_143220.jpg So there is the 2017 top ten as of today. I could have easily expanded to a top twenty. I have enjoyed my hikes this year so far and am looking forward to my next set of hikes and hopefully they can crack this list.

The blog will be about trail running. The trail runs and hikes have gone hand in hand on many occasions. I like going to trail races just to hike the park at times.

Huntsville State Park

I finally made it to Huntsville State Park. The park is located about an hour and fifteen minutes due north of Houston, TX. I have been in and through Huntsville several times due to working as part of the Texas Criminal Justice System. I never knew there was a state park in the city. The city is the main hub of Texas’ prison system and there is plenty of wilderness surrounding the city and the prison units. The city is also the location of the Texas Prison Museum and the Sam Houston National Forest. This park is very similar to Tyler State Park. They both have large pine and loblolly trees, a lake in the middle, sand trails and trails that are flat and long not too steep trails. The biggest difference besides Huntsville SP is not a CCC park is that this park has alligators. 19225247_1197364920369444_8649442819603695297_n.jpg

The signs also warn to keep pets close and also small children. I was travelling alone so I just would need to save myself. As for the trails, there are over twenty miles of trails that lead all over the park. I decided to hike the 5K I would be running the next day. The 5K covered several trails including Dogwood Trail, Chinquapin Trail and another no name trail. The trees were tall and the terrain was diverse. I could not believe how green the park was at a dry time of year. 20170617_161700.jpg20170617_163154.jpg20170617_164931.jpg20170617_165139.jpg

I also got a rainforest feel at the park. The trails are along the arms of Lake Raven and even though they do not cross the lake they are close enough to create fauna diversity.20170617_165431.jpg20170617_165320.jpg20170617_165840.jpg20170617_165133.jpg

I had a good time hiking this park and I even came in 3rd in my age group in the 5K. I did not see an alligator but I did get a scare which I caught on video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5TugoKXCXsc

My blogs will be a return to the central Hill Country of Texas. I get a chance to hike four parks in two days and I made the most of my time.

Tyler State Park

I had heard good things about Tyler State Park before my first visit. I did not think much about the park before the visit but some friends said it is a great park and a must see in east Texas. It is located in Tyler, TX which about and hour and forty minutes due east of Dallas. East Texas is known for huge pine trees and Tyler State Park did not disappoint. The trees are about 100 feet tall but they look much taller from where I was standing. Walking through this park is just mesmerizing, one of the pictures I took is actually my start up screen on my computer. This is also a CCC park so there also rock structures mixed in with all the natural beauty. This is my favorite east Texas park of the five I have been to so far. The gem of the park in my opinion is the Whispering Pines Trail. It is only two thirds of a mile long but it has everything the park is about in this short distance. The trail has spectacular tree views, water features and a good change of elevation. The park also surrounds a lake and the attached pond. My first trip here I hiked the aforementioned Whispering Pine Trail and the Lakeshore Trail. Neither trail had significant elevation change but I knew that parts of the park must have some trails with challenging elevation changes since the paved roads in the park had dramatic elevation changes. I will get to those later. You can see the CCC workmanship on the Whispering Pine Trail early as you will pass either the children’s wading pool or the rock waterfall depending on which way you start the loop.20170222_105439.jpg20170222_102818.jpg20170222_103440.jpg20170222_104429.jpg20170222_105636.jpg20170222_105032.jpg20170222_104314.jpg20170222_103257.jpg

Hiking on the Whispering Pines Trail I also crossed over creeks on small bridges that were fed by the natural spring called Beauchamp Springs. Beauchamp Springs also feeds the rock waterfall. I had my hiking partner, Dade, with me that day also. 20170222_105420.jpg20170222_103702.jpg

The Lakeshore Trail was another relatively flat trail with more picturesque views of the trees and the lake. A beaver dam separates the lake from the pond, appropriately named Beaver Pond.20170222_111427.jpg20170222_111543.jpg20170222_113553.jpg20170222_111533.jpg

The trails were clearly marked and there were plenty of tree and plant description signs so you know what you are looking at. The park map and trail map are clear and precise so it is hard to get lost. You will know the difference between the loblolly pine and shortleaf pine just by reading the plaques by each tree.

I had a wonderful time here and for a long time wanted to come back and see the other parts of the park. I was lucky enough to find two trail runs that the park was hosting. I did the Pineywoods Ultra 10K yesterday. At this run I found out that this park has trails with elevation changes that are lung busting. The hills were not too steep but they went on, for what seems like miles. I did get a few pictures after the run but nothing like the first trip. The drive out here was great with the low lying fog hovering over the grasslands and lakes. It was very surreal looking at the fields at times that I have only seen on TV. I get another chance in January to visit the park as I have another trial run. I should get to do some hiking before the run next time.

I think I will stay in east Texas for the next four state parks.