Monday, February 20, 2012

Cross Timbers 50 Trail Run

I've actually done this race before. It was my first 50 miler ever, and only 3rd ultra in February 2008. See report here. You would've thought I learned my lesson then. Guess not. (Now I've completed 35 ultras and another 30 marathons. See full archive here.)

Trail runs are always tough but when you add rain and mud, it can get down right nasty, slow, and just obnoxious. But you push and fight and climb and stumble and fall and keep going towards the finish, sometimes wondering if you'll ever make it but you keep fighting and then you get there. I guess that's the long and short of it.

The trail around Lake Texoma would be a tough trail even in the best conditions. I believe it has a lot of similarities to some of the toughest parts of Flatrock, Psycho Wyco and Free State as well as Rockin' K. But add to it that it rained literally all day Saturday, the day of the race and the trail turned the clay to a sticky, shoe-sucking mud. Sometimes forward momentum up the hills was one-step forward and two-steps (skiing steps) backwards.

The start was at 6:30 and it was still pitch dark so started with a headlamp. Made a few friends on the trail and realized that I recognized some people from Tulsa I've run with several times before at Flatrock. Talking and sharing the stories really helps the time to fly. I was conservative for the first hour allowing my body to warm up and felt great through most of the first half.

The course is 12.5 miles out and 12.5 miles back on the same trail and then repeat. Of that 12.5 the first 6.5 is really hard, mostly a 5 out of a 5 scale (5 being the hardest kind of terrain to run on with wicked climbs, roots, rocks, and all that good stuff). The other 6 miles is more reasonable with longer runable sections but still with plenty of mud and rocks and climbs, etc.

The first 25 was really uneventful, though I was kind of discouraged with my time of 5 hours and 45 minutes at the end of 25 miles. I was working really hard out there - how could I be going so slow. The return trip on the hard 6.5 was atrocious with the mud becoming a sticky clay which almost pulls your shoes right off you. Makes climbing and descending the hills on the trail much more challenging and even dangerous. There was about a 4 mile section where I just kept thinking "brutality" as I was trying to get to top of the next hill.

Just after I left the aid station at the start/finish to start the 2nd half of the run the rain picked up harder and stayed pretty steady at this level for the rest of the day, into the night. The trails turned into creeks and were mostly all covered in water - this was our trail to run on!

Out of 50 miles I ran at least 30-35 by myself getting in some great solitude. At one point I even found myself practicing some of the ninja yoga labor breathing techniques we are learning in advance of giving birth.

Above two pictures are at the finish line. Weary, muddy and relieved to be done.

The last hardest hour to hour and a half was definitely the most challenging because darkness set in. I had my headlamp but, not thinking, I didn't grab my best headlamp for some reason because I didn't think I would be out after dark, hoping to finish well before sunset. Anyway, I should've had my best headlamp and an additional handheld LED flashlight. It was absolute darkness with no ambient light from any source. I was hunched over with my light pointed at the ground to make it possible to see the next step. The pace at this point was ridiculously slow and manuevering on the trail was just ridiculous. Unless you have tried to run on such trails in the mud in the dark you can't really imagine what it's like. My first and only wipeout came at mile 49, hitting my knee pretty hard on the ground. I was determined to stumble my way into the finish. I didn't pass anyone or get passed by anyone or really see anyone for the last 10 miles. All by myself in the dark woods. It was just what I needed this day. Somehow the sheer misery of 13 hours and 1 minute on the course and the pure victory of the finish line just seem to rejuvinate the soul and teach me even more lessons about discipline and perservance and patience and keeping my eyes fixed on the prize/goal and running my own race. I was definitely glad to be done but looking back I find myself even thankful for the journey and lessons learned.