Flat Rock 50K umm 25K

I want to start off by offering prayers and condolences to the runner and his family that was struck by lightning and killed during the race.  It was difficult for me to write a running recap of this race due to this tragedy.

I have always wanted to run a race with a tight cutoff time. I did not expect this to be that race. I thought with 10 hrs for a 50K would not be that bad. My very first 50K was under 9 hrs. Little did I know what I was getting myself into. I know that about 179 runners registered for the race.  I do not know how many actually started but only 103 had finishing times.  I was planning to get pictures on the way back but that did not workout.  I do not know where to start.

The course was tough.  Let me restate this, it was the toughest most unique course I have ever been on. There are parts of the course, as a hiker, I would not even think of hiking.  I got close to 1400′ of elevation gain in the first 25K.  It is less than Piney Woods but much more difficult.  I guess the easiest way to explain this course is this way.  It is a mixture of Colorado Bend SP with the rocks, Cleburne SP with the short steep hills, Lake Mineral Wells SP with the squeezing and climbing crevices then throw in some Arkansas cliffs and Louisiana low land terrain.  The lack of wind made it a sauna the entire time.  Mind you it never got above 83 degrees but the humidity was about 67%.  The funny thing was people at the start complaining how hot it was going to get and might reach 85.  I was laughing to myself thinking I have not had one run in months that low.36516580c7a7dd4f36da935644458c8f.pngThe elevation profile is deceiving and hides the difficulty of the course.

I tried not to run stupid from the start.  I took it easy at the beginning.  It turns out that was the wrong strategy.  I should have ran hard at the beginning and at every possible place I could have run.  I did not think the hills were going to be that technical.  I am talking hands on ground going up and down these hills.  Did I mention two ladders on the course?  Plus water crossings and mud.  It had not rained in awhile and the course was mostly dry but every “obstacle” was extreme.  The course went down into a basin of a waterfall.i-FhRHndT-XL.jpg

I got to the turnaround 10 minutes past the cutoff.  I changed into dry clothes and did the math on making the finish cutoff.  I could drop three minutes per mile on the way back and make the cutoff.  I was feeling pretty good.  My legs were fine and I was hydrated and ate properly during the first half.  I was not low on energy but something in my mind said do not go back out.  The clouds were breaking up and the sun was out so I was not worried about rain.  Several others decided to try their luck and return and they looked much worse off than I.  The volunteer asked two more times if I was going back out and I finally said I am done.  I truly believe in divine intervention and I know that is the reason I did not try to finish the race.i-n9X63RD-XL.jpg

The rain eventually came and it was heavy but it did not stay around for long.  I would have got caught in it more than likely on one of the more runnable sections of the course. I think I could have made the 10 hr time limit but it would have been close and not very fun in the rain and on a wet course.  This was also the time the tragedy struck.  The runner was a quarter of a mile from the finish line.i-FrXvXp9-XL.jpg

I am leaning on doing it again next year.  I am going to run my usual dumb race because I know I will not be able to keep up a fast pace for more than two miles at a time before something slows me down.  So if anybody wants to run the most amazing course you will ever run, I am willing to do it again.  On a positive note, I wish I had gotten some pictures because the course had so many picturesque places and features.  I was awestruck running the course.

BTW, my legs are still sore.

Hidden Hills Half Marathon

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.FB_IMG_1558287448257.jpg20190518_082225.jpgFB_IMG_1558287604486.jpgFB_IMG_1558287620636.jpgFB_IMG_1558287611176.jpg20190518_103242.jpg

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.

 

The Narrows Wichita Mountains

This was my third trip to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Lawton, OK.  I have been hiking two to three sections at a time.  I have heard about the Narrows from other hikers, so I decided to check it out.  The trailheads here are poorly marked and the trails are not marked, so finding the trail and going the right direction took some help.  Although the trail markings are nonexistent, the trails are a blast to hike.  After getting directions from a fellow hiker, I took a one and a half mile out and back turned it into a two mile adventure.  It had rain plenty the past few weeks and the river had a brisk flow.  The trail had several steep inclines and the elevation gains and loses were quick and long.  I did lose the trail once but I was down in a valley with only one way out so the only thing I needed to do is hike up.  It was fairly crowded for my taste but not overly crowded.  There are many overlooks on the trail and the temperature was perfect for the lizards that were out sunbathing. 20190419_160813.jpg20190419_161831.jpg20190419_162807.jpg20190419_155753.jpg20190419_154404.jpg20190420_165516.jpg

Next up was a hike gone almost terribly wrong that involved bushwhacking.

Down N Dirty 8K

This has become one of my favorite races I do yearly. The unfortunate thing this year has been the rain.  I did get to run with my sister which is always fun.  I talked this race up to my sister on how hard it is but fun.  The other bad part was I ran almost daily since my 50K and my sister is recovering from an injury, so we ran very slow.  The course is not very difficult when running at a slow pace.  The last half mile climb is usually the leg killer but it was not hard at all. Once again the Waco Striders provided a great medal and the shirt was just as cool.  The weather did not cooperate since we ran in thunderstorms the entire race.  I really do not like running in rain.  There was a good turnout and some fast times despite the weather.   I do not know if any pictures were taken so the only one I provided is the medal and the the course below.  It does not look like much but there is some serious elevation change and a few nice views.28424171_10211889389570407_7131194681041561580_o.jpg

My next race was the Tanner Higgins Warrior Run but it was cancelled due to rain. Next up is a trip to Oklahoma and the first in my camper.

Red River National Wildlife Refuge

The Red River National Wildlife Refuge is located in Bossier City, LA.  It was just a fifteen minute drive from Shreveport.  I expected a flat hike through marsh wetlands. This place was a bit different than what I expected. There was no elevation change but that is expected at wetlands but the terrain was varied.  In some areas I was hiking in sand and other parts dense forest.  It had rained several days before and some of the lower wetlands were flooded.  I did hike on every trail in the refuge and only missed about 2 miles of trail.  I enjoyed the views of Lake Caroline in the middle of the refuge. The trails were clearly marked and it would be difficult to get lost once on the trail system.  I had a hike of 6 plus miles but the map stated there is only 5 miles of trail.  I did have to back track some  due to the flooded trails.  There was wildlife in abundance and if you are a bird watcher this place would be awesome.  I also caught a glimpse of deer.   I was expecting to see alligators but I was lucky enough to avoid that creature.  20190324_103329.jpgDeer crossing the trail20190322_094647.jpgLake Caroline20190322_094539.jpgRandom tractor20190322_083551.jpgCool looking trees20190322_090342.jpgSandy trail20190322_092907.jpgFlooded trail

Next up is a trip to Kansas to run a 50K.

Grasslands Half Marathon

The Grasslands Half Marathon is located on the grounds of the LBJ National Grasslands in Alvord, TX. The city is about 45 minutes north of Fort Worth.  I have heard about this race for about two years but did not think I could run a half marathon until last year.  I liked the location and the race director is a good person so I signed up for the Rockledge Rumble.  Yes that is a different race but the same race director. Rockledge Rumble was cancelled because the trail was several feet under water, so I transferred my registration to the Grasslands Half Marathon.  We still had rain days before this race but the trails held up very well. There were a few muddy spots in the low lying areas but overall they were in good shape.  The trails were fairly wide but some single track.  The trails also were made of compact sand for many miles which was different to run on .  I was using this race to train for my upcoming 50K just like Rockledge suppose to be for also. I wanted to hold a slow and steady pace but finish under three hours. My first half marathon I worked hard to get under three hours.  This time around it was quite easy and my running partner and I had to slow down several times because we were going too fast. I finished in 2:57 and change but I felt great.  I was not tired and I felt like I could run it again faster. The weather was perfect.  Sunny skies with the temperatures staying in the low 40s to mid 60s. Plus who can argue with beer and BBQ at the finish.FB_IMG_1552768414726.jpgFB_IMG_1552768427092.jpgFB_IMG_1552768450001.jpg20190316_080355.jpg20190316_080325.jpg

It was a good day of running and next up is crossing the state line for some fun in Louisiana.

Government Canyon State Natural Area

Government Canyon SNA is located 10 minutes northwest of San Antonio. I was hoping it would be like Hill Country SNA which is about 45 minutes away. I was surprised that is was not really like Hill Country SNA. The area has been inundated with rain so parts of the park were not hikable. I did get to all of the possible overlooks and some were nice. There were some blocked views at others but overall not too bad. The trails were very rocky and I had issues with my ankle I had twisted a few days earlier. I did get 9 miles of peaceful hiking. The hike had some good elevation changes but nothing steep. They have several trail runs out there but I will not run them. I would return to see the rest of the park.  DSC01497.JPGDSC01493.JPGDSC01486.JPGDSC01476.JPG20190128_140006.jpg

This was a fun hike but I would like to see the rest of the park when they open the trails. Next up is a short trip to Arkansas. I hope the rains have not closed all of the trails. I might have to do some concrete trails.

Trinity Groves Dallas, TX

I like running on all the trails I can find in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Being a trail runner and hiker, for that matter, is that weather sometimes determines how much outdoor time I can enjoy. The rain in 2018 was the second most in the area since they started recording rainfall. The most just happened to be 2015. The rain floods the trails and the they get closed for weeks at a time. I would usually trudge to the gym and get a workout there but I found with the help of my running buddies a great place to get some trail time. Trinity Groves on the west side of downtown Dallas. The trail is crushed gravel and drains really well, so running can be done even on raining days. The light from downtown Dallas keeps the trail lit fairly well, so I can run at night with or without a headlamp. I have been running here regularly but am anxious to get to some less urban trails. The trail is flat and fast but you can add hills when running down into the levee. This part gets flooded when it rains a bunch and the Trinity river rises and covers the lower trail. The is an out and back for the most part but you can run a 16 mile loop, so I heard. I particularly do not like out and back runs but when returning on this trail you get great views of downtown Dallas the entire time. The lights of the city keep the run interesting especially during any event. The buildings in the city will have a light show that correlates to the event. FB_IMG_1539225142284.jpg43098483_1956246097731987_6609849695248318464_o.jpg43053753_1956246164398647_7220257267763904512_o.jpg43110257_1956245897732007_6908378015701401600_o.jpg20181219_182051.jpg

The very distinctive bridge in the background is the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge.

Next up is my first run of the year. I need some revenge at Tyler State Park.

Cooper Lake State Park

Cooper Lake State Park is located in Sulphur Springs, TX which is about an hour and fifteen minutes east of Dallas. I will do this blog as a trail run instead of a hike. The trail was set up to hold a trail run and it does every year. After hiking the trail, I got a message from a friend stating he runs a race there every year. I actually have already signed up to run the race. Back to the trail, it is a wide trail. Most hiking trails are single track trails, but this one was a wide trail like jeep trail. The trail was relatively flat and straight. It was a lollipop out and back. It was also very simple to navigate. The only bad thing is that it did not hold up well after the rain. It had not rained in a few days but it was still muddy most of the trail. There were some good views but nothing special and that is good when trail running. I am easily distracted and will stop and take pictures during a trail run. The best part of this hike was all of the wildlife. I saw over a dozen deer and they were even photogenic for once.20181218_113957.jpg20181218_115306.jpgDSC01464.JPGDSC01459.JPGDSC01466.JPG

This was hike 49 of the 52 Hike Challenge Explorer Series. It was also supposed to be the last hike but I got one more in a fews days later. Completing the hike challenge was difficult due to injury and rain, lots of rain.

Next blog is the last hike then some fun lists blogs and an adventure of a different kind.

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.