Tuesday, February 26, 2008

My First 50

I planned on leaving early on Friday afternoon from the office to get down to Lake Texoma. So instead of leaving at 5, I left at 4:53. I arrived in Whitesboro, TX a little after 9:00 pm and laid out everything (obsessive tradition) for the next morning’s run and went to sleep. My alarm went off at 4:30 am and I jumped out of bed and “cooked” some oatmeal in the hotel microwave and got ready.

By 5:20 I was on my way to the race start which was only supposed to be about 15 minutes away. The directions were simple and straightforward. I took a wrong turn following a sign that I later saw and I don’t know why I turned there but eventually I ended up 15 miles off the beaten path and hoping I could figure out how to make it back to the main highway. At 6:00 am I started to get a little anxious. I was hurriedly retracting my turns back to the main highway to go just a few minutes further to the race start. Finally at 6:15 I found an adequate all-day parking spot at the Cedar Bayou Marina & Resort and, yes, ran over to start line to get my packet and info and race bib. I quickly pinned it on my shirt (I’m still learning that real trail runners pin their race bibs to their shorts) and stashed my drop bag in the appropriate place to access later during the run, filled my water bottle with HEED and pockets with things I’d want on the trail and made my way to the starting line just in time. It was still dark at 6:30 when someone said “Go”. I started the timer on my watch but probably didn’t think to look at it again for a couple hours.

I followed a guy on the trail with a flashlight until the sun came out about 30 minutes later. He was keeping a steady consistent but reasonable pace and he looked like a pro. His name was Dan and he was from about an hour away somewhere in Texas. I followed him for about the first two hours or so before we even started talking and ended up running together for the rest of the day. We arrived at mile 10 in a very respectable 2 hours and 9 minutes. I was very happy about that but also knew that that sort of a pace was not sustainable all day. Around mile 15 I experienced some serious left knee pain that left me gasping for air for about ten minutes as I kept running hoping it would go away. I had experienced this same pain on every run throughout the last two weeks. I don’t know why or how but eventually the knee pain went away and I never felt it again the whole day!

I had prepared myself to not think about the distance and just focus on getting from one aid-station to the next. Throughout the day that strategy was working. The Cross Timbers trail around Lake Texoma was very well marked with white ribbons and a very nice trail but very challenging. I heard the overall elevation climb was over 10,000 feet throughout the 50 miles. At mile 25 (6 hours), I was feeling very strong and confident that I would be able to finish. After about mile 35, I remembered that these were all new running miles for me since I had never gone that far. I was amazed how much I was still able to run between mile 30 and 45 on the flats and down hills because I was hydrated and had plenty of energy (through food and supplemental energy, electrolyte, and sodium gels and capsules). Around mile 36 I was running through a relatively flat and rocky area and my left foot rolled over a rock. I heard a “snap snap”. The guy behind me heard it too, I think. I tried to walk it off for a couple minutes but then realized I needed to loosen my shoe laces because my foot was swelling. I remembered a phrase that some crazy ultrarunners say: “It hurts up to a point and then it doesn’t get any worse.” My left foot hurt pretty bad but then I tried running on it and it hurt but not any worse than before so off I went. I had to loosen the shoe laces to give room for a swelling foot a few more times.

At mile 45 we passed back through the main aid station with just a 2.5 mile out and back left (possibly the toughest terrain of the course?). I got out my long sleeve shirt and gloves and head lamp to prepare to finish in the dark. We jogged or walked as briskly as possible those last 5 miles, up and down those rocky trails in the dark (a challenge in itself!). I tripped and fell several times during this period but I laughed every time if I remember right. Once you come out of the trail you have to run about 1/3 mile or so downhill to the finish line. I ran that last section with great pleasure and a great sense of accomplishment, finishing at 7:48 pm!

After the race I ate some food that didn’t settle too well. About 7 miles down the highway on my way home I had to pull over to throw up in the ditch! After that I realized that there was absolutely no way I would be able to drive home the 4 ½ hours to Wichita feeling so exhausted that I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I pulled over in the first town I came to and at the first motel I found and got a room and went right to sleep by 9 pm. I woke up early the next morning to drive home in time for church. First of all I learned that it’s one thing to drive home by yourself after a marathon but I won’t ever try to drive home by myself after a race like this. Secondly, I need this foot to heal (currently swollen and bruised) before I can start running again, I guess. But I think I’ll be okay. I was very encouraged and excited to finish this race!

Event website that will eventually have results and possibly pictures and a nice “Virtual Tour”:

Info from the website about the Cross Timbers trail: “Mostly narrow, hilly trails with some rocky and hazardous areas. Some call Cross Timbers the 'Toughest Little Trail in Texas’