Mile 20-ish – Run-walking through the local park not feeling all that spunky. Keep moving. Follow the orange flagging. Then I see a dead bird right off our path. 100 meters later, another one. Strange. I smiled to myself and thought, “It definitely could be worse!”
Last weekend I headed up to Wichita Falls, Texas to run an intimate little 50 km trail race called The Duel. The Duel hosts trail runs on Saturday and pavement fun on Sunday. With highly sporadic training, more zeros than I care to mention, I thought this would be a good way to get in a longer run before my 100 mile attempt at Rocky Raccoon in a couple weeks. Plus it would be a new trail race and trail system to experience.
The morning and entire day provided the most glorious weather. Calm. Sun-filled but cool morning temps that may have risen into the 60s by the afternoon. Near perfect conditions. A day designed for a run in nature. After a brief chat with some of the tribe – Josh, Mark, Leana, Nick, and Jonathan, it was time to play.
The course mostly danced along the Wichita River on the Wee-Chi-Tah trail system. It would be flat. Other than that, I had no idea what it would be like but wasn’t too concerned.
The 50 km course was essentially two loops and included a couple additional mini-loops to dial in the mileage.
At 8:04am our small group of 50 km and marathon runners were sent off by the shooting of a rather sizable shotgun/rifle in the air. That was enough to put a little hop in your step in the early going.
After a quick scamper on the bridge to cross the river, we were groovin’ on the singletrack trail system.
The trail was in great shape with very little technicality so you could let you mind relax for much of the run.
It didn’t take long before a big feature of this trail became quite apparent – it is one twisty mo-fo (in sections). Fortunately the course was marked extremely well, but there were a few times you just had to trust yourself that you were running the correct route as the trail twisted back in the direction you came from, crossed over trail , etc. Then you would see an arrow pointing in the direction you were running, OK, all is well.
Another interesting feature of the course was that it felt a bit like a running museum tour of some type. I observed, ran along, ran over, ran through more interesting objects than I ever had in a trail run.
Running through the aid station was an uplifting affair. High energy. Refill bottle and go.
It was also great to see Teresa and Tony helping guide and support all us runners on the cross-country mini-loop sections.
Finished the first loop (half mary) in 2:20 feeling fine but not spunky.
The second loop progressively turned into a run-walk affair. I had no interest in pushing any kind of effort but was disappointed that I was already feeling poo-ish. Along the journey, my mind would wonder to Rocky Raccoon and question the intelligence of attempting 100 miles when I am not feeling all that great at mile 15.
Throughout the first half of the second loop, I would see Rene Villalobos a short distance behind doing his consistent, non-wavering stride. He will be catching me soon.
He walked with me and chatted for a few meters and mentioned how his legs are a bit tired…ya know, from running Bandera 100 km the weekend before. Rene got back into his steady trot and moved on with his adventure. That was a bit of a humorous dagger, I had to chuckle…ouch!…chuckle, chuckle…ouch!
20 miles into it, still moving – mind, stomach, and body feeling good but legs are less interested in playing. More of a hike than a run at this point. Weather – beautiful!
Then there they are. One dead bird. Then another. Poetic. Keep moving.
After knocking out two mini cross country loops, Teresa and Tony directed me to one additional mini-loop for the 50 km runners-only and it was…an experience…like being in a war zone experience…like being in a bomb fallout experience.
The park system had done some massive ground clearing. All the big tree appeared to be left intact but everything else was shredded and cleared with the big stuff placed in large burn piles. There was still plenty of leftover debris to keep it interesting.
The flagging led us along a section that felt a bit like running on a broken glass field that required a bit of caution or at a minimum some additional awareness. Uneven footing. A variety of wood debris. The remaining dagger-like bases of small trees that had been cleared…don’t fall. An area not to drag your feet as plenty of objects were waiting to grab hold.
The flagging then directed us near and around the smoldering big gray ash mounds of what remained of the burn piles.
Where am I? More chuckling to self. Did make me think of war zones and disaster areas.
Before too long, I was back to the friendly faces of Teresa and Tony. Refilled my water bottle and started the final journey to the finish.
Run. Walk. Run. Run. Walk.
One more time across the pedestrian bridge and to the finish.
Finished in 6:18-ish.
A tough day on the trails but still a darn good day.
Thanks to Sandy Monson for putting on the event and all the supportive and helpful volunteers!
Rocky Raccoon 100 huh? I will give it my best shot. Would appreciate any positive vibes on Feb 2.
Be active – Feel the buzz!
David – EnduranceBuzz.com