Sunday, December 12, 2010

Texas Trails 2010

What a difference a year makes!  Last year was the inaugural run for the Texas Trails race (at least without the Sunmart sponsorship) and the weather proved to be the biggest issue for most.  With a starting temp of below 19 degrees (highly unusual for us here in the Houston area), this year's temps of 57 at the start seemed perfect!

I signed up for this race as a motivator.  I needed something to encourage me in my efforts to get to the start line at Rocky this February.  I think that this race did exactly what I needed it to do and I am glad I ran it.

I had no real time goal for the race, as I was treating it more as a training run as well as an opportunity to run with Stacy and catch up on things.  We stuck together for the entire race, implementing the 8:2 method and finished strong, feeling great, and feeling even better today!  Our finish time was 6:22 and though it was not a PR (mine is 6:14) I know that if I had been after a PR, I would have reached it.  I really was more interested in just enjoying the run and taking in the whole experience.

I saw many familiar faces, which is always nice.  I met a few new ones as well.  I think the thing I love most about trail running is how encouraging most of the other runners can be.  Hearing, "Great Job!" as a runner passes by does a lot to lift the spirit and speaks to the notion that we really are all in this together and though we all can't win the race, we are each inspired by an individual's efforts.

Speaking to my own efforts yesterday, I felt great the whole day.  My hydration and nutrition felt like they were spot on.  I took an S-cap every hour, ate every 5 miles, just a little.  I felt like I needed salt more than I usually do, and at the end of the race, I could see a lot of salt on my clothing.  I've not experienced that before.  I was glad that I stuck with the S-caps as it would have been easy to think that I didn't need them in yesterday's cooler temps (compared to our summer runs).

I ate 5 honey stinger chews every 10 miles and alternated with some potato chips and tomatoes and grapes that I had in my cooler.  The aid stations were lacking, to say the least, but twice I was able to grab a salted potato.  I also had a few doses of Coke (something I never drink off the course, but find very helpful during long races) and at the final loop, I did an Emergen C which I think gave me a nice boost to finish the race with.

Stacy's friend Mik was there as support, and he was great!  He knew instinctively how to help and it saved us time.  Thanks Mik!  A few other folks were at the start/finish line for that final loop and one of them offered to fill my Nathan bladder.  Again, saved me time and allowed me to use the port-a-potty which is always a good thing.  Thank you, Carmen!

Stacy and I were consistent in our pacing. We ran 8 mins and walked 2 mins the entire race.  No real issues while running physically.  I never felt like I was bonking which I think speaks to consistent nutrition.  We finished the race feeling strong.

I am really not one to complain about an event, because I feel lucky to have the opportunity to run, but this race, I have to say, is one I am not sure I will run again.

Upon arriving at the race, which was not a large race by any stretch of the imagination, I was directed to a parking spot.  I was not allowed to decide where I would like to park.  I have run several races in Huntsville, but have never had this experience.  I arrived 1.5 hours ahead of the start time yet I had to park the farthest from the start line.  I wasn't excited about it, but I accepted it.  One gentleman I overheard wasn't as accepting as I.  He asked the race volunteer if he could possibly park closer and the response he got  was, "Sure, come back in 30 mins!  You are running a 50K, a few more steps won't kill you!"  I was in shock.  It wasn't said jokingly, it was rude.  The man explained that he had several things to carry and would really have liked to have parked closer and again the volunteer chided him to come back in 30 mins.  Wow.

Next, I went to the Lodge to pick up my race packet.  I was told by someone to locate my number on a list outside of the lodge and then tell the packet folks what my number was.  I don't carry my glasses with me, so locating my number on a list of other runners with type at a small font size is not something I can do very well.  I prayed that I had the right number and headed to pick up my packet.  As I approached the table, I was instructed to pick up a plastic bag and fill it myself.  LOL  I know this sounds spoiled, but really?  There was absolutely no packet preparation done at all by the RD.  The bags were still folded and in a stack.  I picked one up and was asked what size shirt I would like.  I am pretty certain I indicated that when I registered, but whatever.  From there I went to retrieve my bib.  I told the volunteer my number and I was handed a bib and timing chip.  There was no label indicating that it was indeed my number.  There was no cross check of my name with the number, they just took my word for it.  I have never seen anything like it. 

I do not depend on aid stations during my races.  I pack as if there won't be any, and I am glad that I did yesterday.  That being said, I know other people who were in need of things and having paid for a race with aid stations, did not get the support they should have.  I do not think that this says that we are "spoiled" because if a runner knows that there will be aid on the course, they plan for that.  If the same runner knows that there will be no aid or very minimal aid, they will prepare for that as well.

The aid stations were poorly stocked.  There were no electrolyte caps as promised.  There was little assistance to help runners who needed bottles filled, hydration packs filled, etc.  Stacy was looking for some fruit  and was handed an entire apple.  Slices would have been more helpful.  Granted this was a 50K and not a 50 or 100 miler, but honestly, I've seen more help at a 5 mile race than I saw yesterday.  There was absolutely no enthusiasm from the aid station workers.  It was almost as if they didn't want to be there.  I do not remember this being the case last year. 

At the finish, another runner who had completed the race was handing out finisher shirts and medals.  Last year when I ran the race, I found out a few days after the race that I had placed as 2nd Female in my age group.  I contacted the RD and he mailed out my award several months later.  I am not a collector of awards, but I think this one bothered me because there was not one person at the finish line when I finished to hand out awards, shirts or medals.  This year, it was a runner who had run the race himself.

I decided to check out the stats of the race to see if I placed this year.  We found the list of finishers and the only age group listed was 0-99.  When I saw the RD, I asked him if he was going to be posting the age group results later.  He stated that he decided he wasn't going to break the results into age groups this time and just gave everyone a medal.  He asked me if I got one and I said yes.  He said, "so than you can't complain!"  I wasn't complaining, I was inquiring.  Today when I was checking the official results, I noticed that the 12.5 mile race was divided into age groups, but the 50 K was not.  Very strange.

I was eating some tortilla soup that the race provided and he followed up by asking me if I liked it, being polite, I said that I did.  I asked him if he made it.  He said, "Yes.  I paid for it, so I made it."  I don't know that I have ever run across such arrogance. 

At the finish, several of us were sitting around chatting about the day and the RD approached us to ask us how we liked the race.   Stacy informed him of how she felt about the aid stations.  He squirmed and we could tell he really didn't want to hear any feedback unless it was  positive.  Another runner mentioned that he had lost his electrolytes on the course and could really have used some.  He suggested that next time he should have them at the aid stations.  The RD's response, "Well, there were bowls of salt out!"  The list of aid station provisions clearly stated that electrolytes would be available.

I can live with poor aid stations, lack of supplies, and no awards.  That isn't what I run for.  I do not think I can stand an arrogant RD though.  I will give him the benefit of the doubt that maybe I misunderstood him or perhaps he was having a bad day, but I would caution anyone that considers running this race next year to be prepared to be your own support and do not expect anything else from the race except a nice trail and spending time with others that love the trail as much as you... which in the end is what it is all about anyway.


  1. Congratulations on a good race!
    I'm sorry to hear of the problems with this race and hope the RD gets his act (and attitude) together as appropriate. I'm hoping to do this race next year and would see this event live up to SunMart's past example.

  2. Sunmart was such a well organized race that this seems like an unsuitable substitute.

  3. wow, Karen. Thanks for the write up. It helps when experienced runners detail good as well as bad race experiences. This sounds a lot like the bad experience I had at my last road marathon. Nothing was as the RD had promised.
    Great work out there!

  4. Hmm, sounds like a good experience, regardless of the logistical shortcomings. Just think of it as the day you outclassed the establishment!!

    Regardless-Viva Huntsville Trails:)

  5. Great report and congratulations on a strong performance.

    Also thanks for the warning on this race. A little disorganization may be tolerated, but a rude and arrogant race director cannot.

    Maybe I'm just spoiled by Joe P's races.