15.53 Miles, 3:02:29, 11:14/mile pace.
It felt totally great to run this awesome course on this awesome day!
I planned for this run down to the last detail. I started hydrating heavily Thursday evening, and continued throughout Friday. I loaded up on carbs. I rested the legs for two days prior, and I'm so glad I did. This course took about all I had to give. I practiced my yoga both morning and evening on Friday, finishing the evening session just before going to bed, feeling totally loose and ready. I mixed and bottled my gatorade the night before and had my hydration belt and cooler packed and ready to go. I laid out my running clothes and shoes, and set my alarm for 4:30 AM, figuring I needed to leave about 5:30 for a 7AM start. Lots of great planning, and I only missed one tiny detail. When I set the alarm time, I forgot to flip the switch to "alarm." I woke up Saturday morning, looked at the clock, and saw "5:13." I scrambled out of bed, got a quick bowl of cereal, grabbed my gear, and got out about 15 minutes late. It worked out OK; I got to the starting line about 7:05, and the race had not quite started.
This was a very enjoyable event, on a perfect morning, 58 °F with low humidity. It was staged at Sam Houston Jones State Park, just outside of the Lake Charles/Westlake, Louisiana area. Part of the charm of the event is that it was an unofficial, unadvertised race. Very relaxed and friendly atmosphere. No sign up forms or fees. Costs a dollar to get into the park. Runners just find out about the race by word of mouth, and attendance grows a little every year. The race organizer, local runner Duane Lewis, measures the route very accurately with a wheel counter, and marks the course clearly. Although there are no entry fees, Duane even buys finisher’s medals.
The park is beautiful, and the course is great and very technically challenging. I was surprised by just how challenging it is, containing one feature I wasn’t prepared for: hills—lots of them. Most of the surrounding area is fairly flat, but these trails are quite hilly. I had to train myself quite early to greatly shorten my stride on the inclines. The course goes up and down, twists and turns, and has lots of roots and uneven footing. The surface varies from hard dirt, bare or covered with leaves or pine needles, to soft sand; from deep woods where the runner has to duck under branches, to river bank. I paid close attention to footing after several near-trips on roots. After many early close calls, I decided it would be a major victory just to finish without a fall or a twisted ankle.
I wanted to run this race mostly to enjoy the trail experience, and wasn’t worried too much about pace. I also stopped a few times to take pics. In his race info email, Duane suggested that trail conditions may knock 2 minutes off of normal pace. That sounded like a lot to me, but he knew better than I did!
I also got to run with dailymilers Jeremy F, and William F. We all plan to go back next year.