Monday, February 21, 2011

Cross Timbers ½ Marathon Trail Race

I have never run on a technical trail but always wanted too. I never seem to figure out how to get on one. All the trails are a good 45+ min from my house and I never seem to have the time to add that time to my run. Last December I decided to find a short race and sign up. I signed up for the Half and I signed up Christopher my 12 year old for the 5 mile. I picked up Christopher after school on Friday and we drove out to Lake Texoma. We went to pick up our packets and have the pre-race meal. Went back to our cabin were we watched Simpsons on the laptop and fell asleep before 9 PM. We got up at 6 AM and got ready to go. I put a bagel in the oven but I forgot about it and burned it. I threw it out and put in another bagel and timed this one for 3 min. It was too long and it burned too. I put in a third bagel and finally got this one right. We drove to the start were we saw some friends Neil and Jennifer that were running the full. After they took off at 7:00 AM we got ready for our start at 7:30 AM. Christopher legs were very sore from running track all week at school and after he warmed up he couldn’t get his legs loose so he decided to sit this one out. Because of the size of the field 120+ people they were going to have us run 3 loops (1/4 mile each) around the roads till we hit the trail.

Mile 1 - 7:38 ¾ mile was on the roads. We went out at a 7:15 pace. I wanted to go a little faster but I wanted to keep some people with me. I didn’t want to be the first person on the trail. I hit the trail around 3rd place. After a couple hundred yards 4 or 5 guys coming flying past my little group. They were running our same pace on flat ground and uphill but they were much faster on the technical decents.

Mile 2 - 9:08 I was still trailing two other guys and just trying to learn how they handled the trails.

Mile 3 - 11:03 I hit some more technical areas so I stayed behind these two guys. They were slowing me down on flat parts but I had no idea how my legs would hold out over the long haul so decided to hold back.

Mile 4 - 10:12 I hit the first water station and took one very small cup of water and took off. After the stop I was in the second position as one of the guys took a little longer at the rest station. This mile started off pretty easy and I could hear another guy coming up on us fast. We hit a road for 100 yards and the front guy let me pass and the fast guy behind us came by me. I jumped on his tail and let him pull me along.

Mile 5 - 9:53 This guy was the real deal. I was starting to form an opinion and some of the routes he would take I would second guess after we got there. This is where the people of the race started to show how different they were. At one point he told me we were on the tougher path and needed to drop down. We are also catching some of the marathon runners and they step off the trail to let us pass and they say words of encouragement.

Mile 6 - 9:52 By the end of this mile the fast guy starts to pull away from me. I knew the winning pace from last year was 9:50 so I didn’t see a reason to push and harder that this pace.

Mile 7 - 11:12 There were some really tough technical sections in this mile. We hit one section were we had to climb with our hands up a rock face. Saw the three lead guys coming back here. The leader Tim had introduced himself to me before the race and encourage me as he went by.

Mile 8 - 12:45 Hit the turnaround water station. The 4th guy left shortly after I got there. I had 2 cups at drink and I looked around in amazement for another min at all the candy and treats. I was in candy heaven but I was afraid to eat that stuff. I thanked the volunteers and then took off.

Mile 9 - 10:32 I was passing all the half and full runners still heading out. They were so nice. If the trail was narrow they would step off the trail for me to pass.

Mile 10 - 11:06 I was getting tired here and I think I hear someone behind me and I look back at switchbacks. I find it hard to look at my watch or look back on the trails. It takes everything when I am running alone to watch my step and keep finding the tape markings on the trail.

Mile 11 - 10:39 I start to see the guy in front of me but then he disappears and I think I am imagining things. Am I this tired? I fear I will get too tired and fall. I continue to focus on my steps. As I see the other runner more often I start to pick up my pace. By the end of this mile I have caught him.

Mile 12 - 11:18 We get to the last water stop and the guy there tells us we are 6 min behind the #3 guy so it is up to the two of us to battle it out for 4th and 5th place. I look at the other runner and say let’s go. I take off pretty strong and I gap him pretty fast.

Mile 13 - 9:59 I keep saying to myself “I want 4th place”. So I keep pressing and just hope this guy doesn’t have a big kick. Not sure where you would kick on a trail.

Mile 14 - 12:01 pace Just when I think I have it in the bag. I run up on two young teens. The girl is down and she hit her head on a tree. She appears fine and she is with this other teen so I figure she is fine so I move on. Going up the last big climb I trip on a root and fall on my hands. As I get back up I am breathing very hard so I walk up this hill and then I start to run again when I get to the top of the hill. A couple more turns and I see the finish.

Total was 2:20:05 for 4th place overall

I really enjoyed the race and I had to adjust my mindset. It’s not about time and more about placement and for most of the runners just finishing. I had a good time at the finish line visiting with other runners. I already signed up for my next trail run. I am running the Jemez 50 mile trail race in May.


  1. Congrats on such a strong race! I think it would actually be harder to run a short race as your first trail race, because you go in to it with the mindset of running fast.

    I love that you casually sign up for a 50 miler after your first trail run :)
    Bummer Christopher wasn't up for the run, hopefully you'll have more father-son races in the future.

    The part when you realized you couldn't look at your watch or look behind you is a pretty valuable lesson...mother nature's just waiting to trip you with a big 'ole root.

    Oh- I'll make the toast in Jemez ;)

  2. Trail running is hard and you are so right about it not being a race like road races. Excellent work out there!

  3. Nice trail race report Nick! Skipping the full and going straight to the 50 miler huh? Beast!!!