I’ve been wanting to do a trail race for some time now. On my trip to Oregon last year, I went for a 10 mile trail run and I’ve been on only 1 or 2 since then. Not for lack of wanting to go, but for lack of trails. Austin isn’t exactly a hotbed of trails that are runnable that aren’t choked full of mountain bikers and day hikers. Sometime in the latter part of last year, I started following a company called Trail Racing Over Texas (TROT) and they put up posts about their upcoming races. Finally, in January, I found one I wanted to do. But, really, it was more than just 1 race…it was 3. I mean, I could do just 1, but why do just 1 when I can do 3 and earn an extra medal, right? I got the day before the race off from work and registered for the San Felipe Shootout, the Triple. I then proceeded to get excited about my first trail race. TROT would occasionally post pictures of the trails in the Stephen F Austin State Park and what we had to look forward to. The trails were all very nice and wide.
They had packet pickup for the 2 days prior to the race, however it was in Houston, which is about a 3 hour drive each way for me. Thankfully, they were also having packet pickup the morning of the races. I woke up at 3am and got ready and then made the 2-ish hour drive and arrived right at 6am. Another lady that parked 2 vehicles down from me was going to do the same as me: walk to pick up her packet, walk back to her car and chill for about 30 minutes and then walk back to the race start area.
TROT offers different options for your race swag. One option, the one I chose, was an official race shirt.
Another option, which the lady I hung out with pre-race (her name is Michelle) chose, was a TROT water bottle and a TROT buff. The third option I know had sunglasses, but I don’t know what else. I love my race shirts and have no use for another bottle. However, the buff would have been nice to have. But, I think if I really, really want one, I can buy it off their website.
The start was a little unconventional in that we started IN FRONT of the timing mat. I wasn’t aware of the reason until we were finishing up the 5K and going through the start/finish arch. But first…the 5K loop. We started off by crossing the parking area and heading off into a grassy area to a trail. There wasn’t mud or water right away. But within a couple tenths of a mile we hit our first bit of mud. I didn’t run through it, just walked. After all, we had an hour to complete the 5K before it was time for the 10K to start and I’ve walked a 5K in less than 50 minutes before. There were more patches of mud and portions of the trail were flooded. I’m not sure of the mileage, but at about 30 minutes in, we came to the water hazard. And by water hazard I mean the fording of a small river. The first portion came up to my waist. Then, you go back up on land and you think it’s over, only to turn the corner and have to do it again. Except this time it was up to my chest. Egads! After that, we slipped and slid our way out of the water hazard and slogged thru lots and lots of mud. I know the mile for this was 26:35. Between the water hazards and all the mud, I’m surprised it was that “fast.” The 5K loop was a little long at 3.6 miles. It ended with us going up muddy stairs to go through the start/finish arch, which is why we started in front of it. There was nowhere to stand behind it. When I crossed the timing mat, the lady handed me my single race medal and told me I had 4 minutes until the 10K started. FOUR MINUTES?!?!?! I looked at my Garmin and sure enough, it read 56 and some seconds. Damn. Went to the porta real quick and changed my socks and got lined up just in time.
The 10K started. I knew what to expect this time. The 10K was 2 of the 5K loops. I had 2 hours from the start of the 10K before the half started, and I wanted a few minutes to sit down between races. I figured if I could make sure I got both loops done in 56 minutes or less each that I would have at least 8 minutes to chill. The flooded sections of the trail that I had walked on the 5K loop I ran through during the 10K. As a result, I had TEN MINUTES to sit down and relax before the half started. Woohoo!
As we lined up for the half, somehow I managed to hit the pause button on my FitBit Blaze a second time, completing the run workout tracking. Dammit. Since I did this like 30 seconds before the half started, I didn’t have time to take my phone out of its Ziploc baggie, turn the camera on, take a picture of the Blaze and then put the phone back, I just cleared it and started up a new run tracking session. Ugh. Oh well. The good news in this was that I would know fairly exact stats for the half marathon since I was just pausing my Garmin between races and doing total distance tracking. Looking back, I wish I had purposely completed my runs between each race on the Blaze and taken a picture of the screen. Oh well. Happy turn of events…where the 5K was about ½ a mile over and, therefore, the 10K was a mile over, the half was only one tenth of a mile long. That’s fairly accurate in my book!
On the first loop of the half marathon, I realized I was “over it.” I was over the mud. I was over the flooded trails. I was over the almost constant slipping and sliding. I was over the almost swimming I had to do to ford the small river. A very small part of me pointed out that I could quit if I wanted to. But the bigger voice in my head said that if I quit then I wouldn’t get my second medal and I’ve already done 2 of the 3 races, so why would I quit now? It didn’t make sense. So I just kept trudging along. But, there was no 4th race for me to hurry up and make a cut off for. In fact, I had until 5pm to finish up. I could literally walk the whole half marathon and still have a little time left over. The half marathon loops were a little different than the 5K/10K loops. I mean, they were mostly the same, but after the fording water hazards, the half turns right and goes to somewhat higher and less muddy ground. YAY! This helped my mood oh so much. The different scenery. The significant less slogging through the mud and ankle-knee-thigh deep water. There were a couple downed trees that we had to crawl over, but I’d rather do that than slog through the mud more than I already had to.
On the 5th loop overall, 2nd loop of the half marathon, I made a new friend! Her name is Dawn and her nickname is Ultra Princess. Her favorite distance is 50 miles. We started talking and talking and talking. We helped each other in and out of the fording water hazards so those areas were easier and not so stressful. My mood perked right up! Even though we walked waaaaaay more than we ran (cough*shuffled*cough), those final 2 loops of the half just flew by!
There was a guy running all 3 races, like me and Dawn were doing, named Chris. He gets 1 free TROT race each year. Why? Because he got a 3x3 inch tattoo of the TROT logo tattooed on the back of his left calf. Yep, he go their logo TATTOOED on him. I started talking to Dawn about that as we walked/shuffled/slipped/slid around the course and she knows the owners of TROT and the standards for the tattoo for free races deal. I’m kind of thinking of doing it. The tattoo will cost about $150-$200 and will pay for itself in just 3 free races (or, in 3 years). I’m going to run a couple more of their races before I decide. But, it’s a really attractive logo and, frankly, if I continue running trails, it’s a tattoo that kind of makes sense for me to get anyway. I think I’d get it on my right shoulder blade.
There was a guy that was stationed at the beginning of the very first portion of the fording water hazards. He was a super fun and happy guy and he was using his phone to take pictures of the runners (forders? swimmers?) as they went by his station. At one point I had an epic slip and fall and slide down the hill going into the water hazard and I asked if he got it on video. He didn’t. But he said that even if he had gotten it, he wouldn’t have posted it and I told him that if he had gotten it that he had better post it! I would want that video of my epic wipeout! There were a couple other times where I purposely sat down and slid into the water. Each time I hoped and hoped that the mud wouldn’t go up my shorts…I’m sure you understand why. Haha!
I was so very happy when I crossed under the start/finish arch for the 6th and final time. I was done. I was toast. I was ready to go. This experience was completely awesome and amazing, but it also sucked major ass at the same time. I will most likely NOT do this particular event in the future. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it. It was a LOT of fun, don’t get me wrong. I just happened to figure out what my mud limit was during this event…and it’s about 10.8 miles (the distance I ran between the 5K and the 10K). Mostly, I just won’t run ANY trail races during the early spring months. They have another race coming up the first weekend of May…the Wildflower Half…that I am really wanting to do. It’s at the Bastrop State Park.
Overall, it was really great to get over my inhibitions about getting dirty and muddy and I actually really enjoyed it! So, there might be mud runs that I do on purpose in my future! It took me 7:07:43 to complete the entire 3 race challenge (I paused my Garmin between races). In all honesty, I probably could have done it faster, but I was staying with another lady (my friend for the day, Dawn) and helping distract her because she was struggling.