by Shaun Hurst
March 23, 2013
First of all when you name a race Grasslands Trail run, then you should be able to count the trees on one hand not by the number per square foot. Maybe that was a grasslands for a Dallasite or Houstonian, but not for a West Texas boy. But it was in LBJ Grasslands so I will let it slide. Speaking of West Texas home the beginning of the race felt a little like home. Rust red dirt under my feet and smokey blue clouds above my head. Like chasing thunder clouds on the panhandle prairie. Just not as windy. The start was fun with lots of whooping and hollering. But that soon was replaced by rolling thunder overhead. That feeling of chasing thunderstorms was soon to not be a just a feeling.
After about a mile of half walk slash half trotting congestion of 700 bright colored feet on a single horsetrack. A lead group came running back towards my slow peloton group. Apparently someone missed the blue markers that was repeatedly stated at starting gun. Luckily an old veteran told us to slow ones turn make sure to turn left. That didnt lessen the humuliation of being passed twice by those skinny tall gazelles running sub 7min mile pace. Those dark clouds continued to restrain themselves after the first few miles and I finally felt in a groove with the run. Without headphones my mind is free to wander. Some reason I reminded myself this used to Comanche and Quanah Parker territory. Both the area and Quanah at the front edge of two immiscible worlds. Another thunderclap startled me back away from Indians while wondering if they ran and rode horses barefoot.
That old wiley vet noticed those clouds looked a lot darker than earlier. And indeed he was right. So I decided to keep pace with my rising worry level. I kept rolling through the forest I mean grassland on the red dirt, caliche and sand. Dodging horse scat and tree stumps while the clouds held out almost like they were waiting in anticipation. Even the lightning was holding out from making an appearance to this theater but the thunder was making sure he was just hiding in the clouds.
Reached the first of the two aid stations in really slow time. But got to see some of the 50 mile hard cores scarfing down PBJ’s. I was amazed at the buffet when I walked up. Oreos, chocolate chip cookies, protein bars, apples and orange slices. More memories of home and soccer games in the wind with thunderstorms in background. Eating orange slices at halftime. I grabbed an orange slice and a water refill for the energy boost I needed for the real adventure about to begin.
As we began another crossroads with the full and 50mile racers. Fluroescent flashes of shoes went by as a full lightning bolt twisted visibly across the sky. Mutliple ducked heads waited for the boom which came quickly after the flash. I could see a short run across a dam coming up through a break in the trees. Heavy debate in my mind to stay in lightning rod forest or go solo and stick out to be lightning rod on the dam. Either way I would become fried in middle of this fake grassland. I and others quickened the pace and kept low as possible as more lightning blitzed the sky. Just as a group of us bright crossed the dam and exchanged knowing nods as to reaching safety together, a white pebble struck my arm. Then another and those knowing nods turned to confused frowns. Hail was falling and those trees I was complaining about earlier now become some respite from the concussive particles. After a mile through the hail and tree island hopping, the hail subsided but the lightning ripping across the sky picked up. The clouds then slowly became deeper shade of blue and dipped lower to a tipping point. Then buckets of water ballons dumped out on us. The horsetrail became snot glazen. Shouts of crap came not for others to avoid horse crap, but from rears hitting the mud. Yours truly included. I dont think the heels hit the ground the rest of the race. Those days of youth not stepping on cracks in the sidewalk came in handy. Another round of hail put a capstone on the rain as I rounded into the 2nd and final aid station for the half marathon.
Another orange slice for the road and 3 miles to go. Finally another quick sprinkle shower to make sure both shirts I wore were soaked. The sun tried to peek out as we ran up a dam to the road to the finish. Shiner in cooler to ease my cramps at the finish.