The Prickly Pear 50K
Saturday, March 15, 2008
McAllister Park, San Antonio, TX

By Thomas “T.O.” Okazaki

“Oh no, not again!!” I watch my hand held water bottle and hat go flying off down the rocky trail as I tumbled over my left shoulder this time, landing into a cloud of dust with a big thud!

I slowly get up and examine the damage. I have already fallen once before an hour earlier, here at the Prickly Pear 50K in San Antonio. At least I was symmetrical now since I went over my right shoulder the last time. I love trail running!

What was I doing here anyway?? Oh yeah, I was looking to try out a different trail race that I have never run before in Texas and this one seem to fit the bill. It was right before Grasslands and since I was already planning on volunteering at that event, the Prickly Pear gave me a perfect opportunity to get in a good solid trail run beforehand.

Couldn’t beat the price! A $50 entry fee for a well supported 50K trail run. Compared to some road marathons that now charge over $100 plus now (and don’t hardly feed you anything), what a bargain! I love trail running!

The Prickly Pear is put on by the San Antonio Road Runners Club and race director Bill Gardner puts on a good, solid trail run. This race has two events, a 50K, which starts at 7 AM and the 10 Miler which starts at 8:30 AM. The 50K is 3 three 10 mi loops with a short out and back to an aid / drop bag station in each. The 10 miler is a single 10 mile loop. The Aid stations at approx miles 2, 5, 7 and finish. The 7 mile station is a drop bag station and is 100 yards from the start /finish. starting at 8:30. All aid stations are well stocked with water, Gatorade, ice, Hammer Gel, typical ultra snacks, sandwiches and candy, boiled potatoes and salt. All runners treated to some fabulous fajitas, rice, beans and Alamo Golden Ale at the post race party. Outstanding!!

Due to daylight saving time, the start of the 50K was in the dark. The trail quickly becomes a single, windy twisted track. I heard later on there were many instances were a lead runner would stumble and fall, taking 4 or 5 others with him to the ground, piling on top of each other! I love trail running! Heh, heh.

I finally settled into a nice group. Of course the lead runners weren’t paying attention to the very well marked course, and all twelve of us ended up doing at least several bonus miles trying to get back on track. I love trail running!

With most of the runners now so far ahead, I was pretty much alone for the rest of the run. At least the 10 mile loops seem to go by quickly. This is an excellent run for anyone wishing to try trail running for the very first time. McAllister Park is located within the city, just north of the airport, so your never too far from surrounding neighborhoods and little danger of getting really lost. In fact, some of the locals were flying a giant kite on this sunny and windy day. You could figure out which part of the park you were at by looking for it fluttering in the sky.

Now there were some small creek crossing last year due to heavy rains, but not this time. There was one really technical section that reminded me of Turkeys N Taturs up in Tulsa, OK, but for the most part, the trails here are very runable with some rocky sections mixed in.

I was having a decent run until the final 10 mile loop. San Antonio had a record high of 96F that afternoon. About 5 miles from the finish, I started to throw up a lot and could no longer keep any fluids down. I was cramping badly in my legs. I tried taking more e-caps but I would just throw it back up again. I was really getting sick of the flavor of Heed at this point. I… love…. trail…. running!

I kept plodding along down the course. With about 3 miles to go I spotted a city park bench, just 10 yards off the trail and sat there and rested for about 5 minutes and assessed my deteriorating situation. It was around 2 p.m. and just scorching hot outside!  I know I was badly dehydrated at this point. Just how much danger was I risking by continuing on? My left kidney hurt when I went to the bathroom. There were not that many runner left on the course at this point. I hadn’t seen anyone else in quite sometime. The last thing I wanted to do was pass out on the trail somewhere and have no one find me right away.

I have had some really bad luck with hot weather at Palo Duro and Sunmart this past year. My most important goal was to at least try and finish. I wanted to beat the heat this time. At least the friendly volunteers at the last aid stations several miles back had some ice, which really helped.

The last few miles were tough, but I staggered across the finishline at 7:48:48, beating the cutoff. I love trail running!

Special thanks to NTTR’s Laurie Underwood for sticking around after her finish earlier and seeing if I was OK after the run. She had won an age group award which was a glass beer mug, etched with the Prickly Pear logo on it. Too cool!

 I received a glass etched finisher’s medal and enjoyed the adventures of the day by downing cup after cup of ice cold drinks! I love trail running!



 

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