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.
We finally got some good weather in the DFW area. The temperatures have been in the 80s with the rain diminishing. I headed down to Cleburne State Park for another 25K. My first 25K did not turn out well but I finished. I can say the same for this 25K. I have run two 50Ks and some other longer runs since my first 25K so the distance should not have been a problem. The run was actually 17.4 miles so I got a bonus two miles and I did not even get lost.
The shuttle to the race was not a good start. We were crammed in a cargo van sitting on the floor. I am tall and not that flexible so the ride was hard on my knees and legs. After the packet pick up I was ready to go. The run consisted of two loops of what was posted as 8.33 miles a piece. The first loop could easily break the spirit of a runner not use to the rocky hilly terrain. The aid stations were place at the start/ finish and the half way point of the loop. I knew things were bad when right before the first aid station at the first loop when a runner doubled over and stumbled off the trail. I got to the aid station and sent a volunteer back to check on him. I later saw him finish his first and only loop. The course had plenty of short steep hills that were tough and valleys that did not seem to bad. There was one water crossing that got my feet wet which I do not like and one I jumped over. I finished the first loop in just over two hours. I got some runner food at the aid station. Talked to my sister and got updates on some other runners in the running club I run with. One runner had already dropped out and another was not looking good trying to finish the 50 miler.
The second loop started with some Tylenol and a salt tablet. My nutrition was holding up under what was now a sunny hot and humid day. I got to the first water crossing and my feet did not dry as fast as they did on the first loop. I got to the midpoint aid station and my feet were hurting but is was not too bad. I learned a lesson from my previous races and filled my water bladder. I did this for two reasons. First, it already had a mix of electrolytes in it and secondly I ran out of water on my last long trail race. I was feeling fairly good when I got to the second water crossing. This time I took my time and made sure I could make the jump. This is the part of the course that is the toughest. I made it up the first short steep hill but I struggled. The second steep hill was longer and that did me in. I could not get back up to speed. I was just walked and walked. I could not even run the douwhills due to the technical nature of the trail. The downhills were also steep with switchbacks, rocks and roots. For me, the added danger was low hanging branches and leaning trees. I finally made it to the last climb and it caused me to stop twice. I was now starting to pass people that looked worse off than me. I also caught up to a running buddy. Ahmed and I ended finishing the race together but it was painful. We now got to the rolling valleys section. The valleys were not as steep but they seemed ten times more difficult now. We were able to run down into the valley but getting out got more and more difficult. We got to the end and wanted to have a fast finish and mistimed our run. We ran out of gas and had to restart our sprint finish. The top of one those fun hills.The beauty of the course.The tree rock and root section.The section before the jump across.Feeling good on the first loop.Ahmed and I on our sprint finish.We did it.
I can easily say that was the toughest race I have ever run. The heat and humidity took a toll on many runners and the DNF percentage was higher than usual. My toes were bloodied and I broke three toenails. I survived and had fun.
The rain has closed most of the trails so my Arkansas race is a no go and so is hiking but I have a special blog next.