A friend of mine ran the Grasslands Trail Marathon last year and bragged all year long about how miserable it was in the mud and muck on a cold, windy, snowy/rainy day. I got tired of hearing him tell me about it so I signed up for 50 miler there this year!
The course is on the President LBJ National Grasslands near Decatur, TX (just 30 miles west of Denton off of I-35)(serviced by the US National Parks System). We drove down after work Friday and camped out 100 yards from the start/finish line in a really nice remote park and campground.
Sarah ran the half-marathon with an 8:30 start time. She said she was surprised by how much sand there was but had a nice time. As she finished she thought the distance was “just right” and was glad to be done because it was starting to get “hot”. She finished 189th – results here. The first time I saw her after my 7am start for the 50 mile was after about 30 miles and I still had 2 more loops to complete, one of 11 miles and the other of about 9. The 50 mile course consists of 5 major loops and one small 5 mile “correction” loop to start off with in the early morning before sunrise. I didn’t take a headlamp and just stayed behind someone who did and tried to step where they stepped etc until I could see which didn’t take more than 20 or so minutes. Each loop is a different color and the course is actually really well marked and really clear. A few times I wondered if I was off course but in the end I never really was.
Overall, I say Grasslands is much like the Rockin’ K course except a lot more sand and no bluff loop, meaning the ups and downs aren’t as bad. And no water crossings at all this year. My feet never got wet at Grasslands. It was the third Saturday in March and the temperatures climbed into the mid 80s. Felt like the mid 90s to me. By noon it crazy hot and my head was pounding and I was going through a little more than 2 bottles of water per hour. This was especially hot considering winter was just getting over.
As far as I’m concerned this is a race I want to do just once. But it’s not anything negative about the course, organization, or RD’s. They were all just great! The aid stations and volunteers and organization was all class act but the course was stinkin’ tough. I was really shooting for 10 hours and if I would’ve been tougher I still think I probably could have done it but I faded a bit in the end and finished in 10:50. Only 26 people finished and I finished 14th among them. I don’t know how many started but I’d guess 50% or more dropped out. 50 mile results here.
This was my first race of anything marathon or longer since the Run for Missions 2010 on November 1st. While I had a good break from racing, I did get some good winter training in and am ready to have a successful and fun April and May busy with running marathons and trail ultras.
My (Adam) conclusion: everyone should run Grasslands at least once!