by Paul Tidmore
(Ray Roberts Lake, Lake Lewisville, Grapevine Lake)
December 31, 2007
3_lakes_boondoggle_smAw man—if that wasn’t about the stupidest thing I’ve ever done running. OK—where did I put my phone. Crap! I can’t get it out my bag with these stupid mittens on. Oh—he found his first. “Hey, y’all come back. Paul left his bottles in the car!”
Brian had gotten hold of his wife, Rhonda, before I could hit Ginger’s number on my speed dial. It was dark and about 30 degrees outside, and in rushing to take a last-minute pit stop, get all my gear, try to snap a quick photo, and head down the trail by 6:00am, I started running without my three bottles of drink! We had only made it about 100 yards from the parking lot before I realized my error, but thanks to the modern convenience of cell phones, Ginger was able to turn around and bring my bottles to me so we could finally get this adventure underway.
A few years ago, my brother, Brian, and I had started trying to get a long run in together over the holidays. On one run, we started at Brian’s house in Flower Mound, ran down to Murrell Park, jumped on the Northshore Trail and ran out to the far gate, then we hit the roads to the Pilot Knoll Trail on the west side of Lake Lewisville. On that run, we had discussed connecting the two lakes we saw on that run with Ray Roberts. Due to other commitments, injuries, etc, we had to postpone the run until this year.
We both took a little time looking at maps and driving along parts of the course to find decent road routes that would connect the different trails we would be on. We also wanted the run to be somewhere near 50 miles in length. Finally, our goal was to be self-sufficient, which we were able to accomplish with four gallon jugs of water Brian had stashed along the course. Everything else we needed would be in our packs. We knew neither of us was in particularly good shape, and we also were concerned about the predictability of the weather, as a cold front was due to hit sometime in the afternoon. That said, we packed quite a bit of stuff in terms of calories and extra clothing, and we both also carried three water bottles not knowing how long we might actually be between our water stops (and also not 100% sure all the water jugs would still be where they had been left).
The plan was for us to meet at Brian’s house at 5am, then our wives would drive us up to Ray Roberts where we would start our run just behind the dam at the northern end of the Greenbelt Corridor Trail. After the bottle fiasco, we finally took off a few minutes after 6am. Knowing we’d be finished before dark, I decided to just use a single-LED keychain light for the first hour or so on the trail. It was pretty dark and cold out, but we kept a pretty good pace and had an uneventful run until reaching the FM 428 access point. When we looped around to go under the bridge, we saw signs saying the trail was closed. There was no way, however, we were going to turn around or run FM 428 into Denton, so we decided to stick with our plan and continue down the trail until reaching the parking lot off of Hwy 380. That was where Brian had our first gallon of water stashed, so we took a few minutes to refill our bottles and make some shoe and gear adjustments before heading out on our first long road stretch.
I was not looking forward to this section, as it would be about 11.5 miles with all but a few being on pavement. There was also one stretch about ¾ of a mile long along Mayhill road where there was no sidewalk or even shoulder for that part. On top of that, it was rush hour time in Denton, and there were lots of cars out on the road leaving us almost nowhere to run for several minutes. The last mile or so along Mayhill did have a little dirt and grass path where we finally were able to get away from the road and traffic before turning onto the Denton Rail Trail. This is part of a Rails-to-Trails project, and we ran the next 1.3 miles on the crushed Limestone surface. We arrived at our next intersection and got back onto pavement for the next few miles through Corinth.
Soon after crossing Swisher Road, Post Oak Road dead ends not very far from Lake Lewisville. Brian was able to find a place near this intersection where we could climb over a gate and get onto the Elm Fork Trail. This is where Brian had stashed our second gallon of water, so we made our way up the trail while refilling bottles. There was no trashcan anywhere in the area, so we emptied the jug and decided we’d just carry it to the next trashcan. When we arrived at the Old Alton Bridge a few miles later, there was still no trashcan in site, so we decided we’d keep on carrying the empty jug. It felt a little funny carrying a piece of trash along the trail when there was so much trash everywhere from the recent flooding, but we both agreed that we just wouldn’t feel right adding even one more piece of litter to the trail.
The next section of the trail, the Pilot Knoll Trail, is primarily equestrian use, and it was very soft and sandy and had apparently had lots of horse travel on it over the past few days. It certainly made the running difficult in places, but it was still better than the pavement we had spend much time on before arriving here. We continued on the trail to the Bishop Road access point, by the Pilot Knoll campground, and over to Chinn Chapel Road where our third gallon of water was stashed. There is no parking area at this trailhead, which meant no trashcans. We left the empty jug we had been carrying for the past several miles with the jug that had been stashed here, and Brian said he’d come back and retrieve them after we finished the run. I took a moment to sit down for a few minutes while refilling my bottles and mixing up a couple of bottles of drink. I don’t eat much solid food on long runs or in races but prefer to get most of my calories in liquid form. I had made enough drink mix to easily complete this run and had put the powder in little ziploc baggies containing about 290 calories each with plans of drinking one every hour. It was here that I had my first solid food of this run, but it honestly didn’t taste that great, so I stuck with the drink mix, as it had been going down well, and my energy levels had been pretty constant all day.
We were both really dreading this next section the most, as it would be 7+ miles of pavement with the first few being down Chinn Chapel Road—lots of cars and no sidewalk/shoulder. I couldn’t believe how many cars would pass by us on this stretch! We finally made our way down to Waketon, took a right, then went over a few blocks to Bridlewood. We took Bridlewood south to Quail Run, turned west until getting to Flower Mound Road, then headed south to Skillern. Not much longer, and we would be off the pavement for almost the rest of the run and on the home stretch toward finishing.
Our last jug of water was near the picnic table by Twin Coves campground, and Brian had only stashed it there in case the water fountain by the picnic table wasn’t working. I filled two bottles here, added some drink mix, and we got back on the trail. This proved to be our favorite section of the day and definitely was the best trail we would see. We had agreed that we’d take the longest sections possible toward Rockledge, and we each called our wives near Murrell Park to let them know what time they would need to pick us up at Rockledge. The rest of the run was pretty uneventful except for one quick roll of my ankle and a couple of trips by Brian on some little stumps and roots hidden by the leaves. All had great saves, so we did end the day with no falls between us. We didn’t see many runners, but lots of bikers and a few hikers were out enjoying the beautiful day. As for us, we were ready to finish our day, and we took the last steps on the trail and onto the parking lot at Rockledge Park where both of our families were waiting for us.
Many NTTR folks know that I really only race once, maybe twice, a year, but I love “boondoggle” type runs like this. It was a lot of fun, but I realized that I’ve definitely lost some of my fitness (maybe “Fat Ass” vs. “Boondoggle” would be more appropriate this time of year???). I actually never felt that bad from a cardio standpoint, but my legs and feet felt pretty fatigued for many parts of the run. Oh well—I’ll continue to enjoy the rest of the holidays knowing that I’ve got lots of work to do before I race again.
Happy New Year to all!!