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By Deborah Sexton
This is such a great race and I love this course. It has a wonderful combination of ups and downs, a little bit of terrain, but mostly wonderful sandy, pine-needle covered trails. You really get in some long runnable stretches on this course which after Bandera is a nice change.
If I could change one thing about this race, it would be the weather. It's just too cold for me. Last year, it was so windy, everyone grabbed their hamburger and ate it in the car. This year it was about 29 degrees at the start and I don't think it ever got past 45 degrees. Now most people think these are perfect temperatures, but I hate the cold.
Driving down with Tom Crull and Jay Freeman was one of the highlights of the trip. You can always count on great conversation in the way of stupid jokes from Tom, past race experiences, and general gossip, news, and catching up.
We left Tom's house around 4:30 a.m. and chatted all the way to the race. I had a great time just driving with Tom and Jay.
Ok here's a Tom Crull joke:
Tom told that joke about three times during the run as well and I still don't get it but maybe it's because I'm blonde.
Once we got to the race start, I cracked the door and the frigid air hit my face. It was going to take all I had to get out of the car. I asked Jay to pick up my packet so I could delay the moment as long as possible. But finally with about four minutes left to race start, I took a deep breath and jumped out of the car.
I looked for Brad Garrison and Goutham K, who I thought I might be able to keep up with. I was supposed to run with Tom but he has a bad habit of leaving me in the dust, despite his insistence that he wasn't feeling well and was going to go "slow."
There were a few hardy souls in shorts and I was wishing I had put on a second pair of pants. I saw Letha, who had done the Rocky Raccoon 50 miler last week, doing the 25K this week. Mark Dick made a rare running appearance without his unicycle to do the 25K. He was by far the most colorful runner.
And Ryan Loedling was there, after doing the Rocky Raccoon 100 miler last week to do the 50K this week. He ran a 16:15 at Rocky and came in fifth. I think he ended up third at Tyler. Man that is so amazing to me. He passed me on my second loop to finish.
The caravan I ended up with initially was Tom Crull, two ladies I met for the first time-Sharon and Terri Griffith, Brad, Goutham, and Sue Yates and her out-of-town friend Tim. They both also did the Ultracentric together this past Nov.
We stayed together pretty much through the first aid station and then started to break up a bit. It's a long steep climb out of that first one so I didn't linger and I am slower on hills than Tom. Brad and Goutham didn't even stop they keep going up the hill. We got to the turnoff and I realized Brad and Goutham had keep going up the hill and missed the turnoff so we all started shouting their names to come back they were going the wrong way.
Thank goodness they heard us and turned around.
We got to the second aid station on the course, which had the famous Red Spicer (Palo Duro RD) at it. It is always so great to see him and he helped us refill. Tom pulled off to do something but since I was already struggling to keep up with him, I didn't wait and Brad and I left together. Goutham was on fire and he breezed past us and I never saw him again. This was his first 50K and it looks like he finished it in fine style although I do not know his time.
Brad and I finished the first loop together and I grabbed a couple more packs of Clip 2 and set out again. I didn't see Brad anywhere so I guessed he hadn't waited. I ran about a half mile and didn't see him so I turned around and saw his white shirt coming. So I waited. We finished the second loop together. Toward the end, he started losing steam. He had been very sick the week before so he declared that he was done. I begged and pleaded for him to finish it out but he had had enough. Just as we were heading in, we spotted Tom Crull and Terri Griffith coming in also.
So I run in, grab some more Clip 2 and wait to see who's going back out. Tom is done. I don't see Terri anywhere so I set back out for my last loop which will probably be myself. Boo Hoo, I hate to run alone. But after about five minutes, I see Terri coming around the bend. So I wait for her and we had a wonderful last loop together. This was her first 50K and she held a very strong pace for the whole loop. I would have loved to slow down more but she kept moving and I was not going to lose my warm body to talk to.
She is an adventure racer so I learned a lot about that (she bought three boats and two mountain bikes last year) and I realized that I'm not rich enough to be an adventure racer. About a mile from the finish, her husband Ed came out to meet us with her two dogs. And we ran it in. We beat the cutoff by about 1 minute 30 seconds with a time of 7 hours 58 minutes 30 seconds. I was disappointed that was the best I could do but happy to finish and get out of wet clothes.
Melissa, an aid station worker, made me a hamburger and Tom and Jay (who were so ready to leave) urged me into the car and we drove home.
As I said, this is such a nice course. It's a good beginner 25K or 50K. It's not "easy" but less technical than even Rockledge as a course. You do a lot of winding and circling around in the woods and many of the hilly climbs are long switchbacks. So it's a good workout without really climbing hard.
Race director Paul Stone does a great job of logistics with well-stocked aid stations, wonderful volunteers, and a nice award at the finish. I also really like the T-shirt for this race. It's usually an earth-tone color with a woodsy graphic and the name of race.
Thanks Paul for hosting us another year.
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