YABRR: Toughest N' Texas 2021 Edition
AKA: Bonus Miles Version
Thanks, as always to Shellene, for being the sane one in the family. Thanks to Tim Neckar for having the thankless job of being a Race Director of a small race, and thanks to Tracy Moon, for getting folks back on track.
Shellene and I ran the 14th Annual (ish) Toughest N' Texas race this weekend. It's a small event, with 16 runners in the 50k and 13 in the 20 mile (more in the shorter distances). If you've never run Cameron Park in Waco, you miss out on some rather fun hills.
The race starts with the 20 mile and 50k runners mixed together, and this year there was a 3 runners every 5 seconds wave start. Right before the start one of the 20 mile runners was looking for a running pace of 8-10 min/miles. Mary was visiting from Colorado, and wanted a good workout. I think I was in the 5th wave, but moved forward quickly, and ended up running with the Colorado Kid (don't worry, nobody killed her) for a bit.
About 1.5 miles in we came to a trail intersection with 3 sets of flagging, and an arrow on the ground pointing to the center path, so off we went - in the wrong direction. After a little bit, it became obvious that something wasn't right as runners were coming from another direction. The four of us grouped up until we figured out we were really off course and decided to head back to where I thought we had gotten lost. We got there and there was about a dozen runners total all confused. Tracy Moon is a local runner and he guided us in the right direction. One of the runners was very annoyed and said he was going to call the RD and demand his money back. That told me he was not a trail runner. Mary and I followed Tracy down the correct trail. For the rest of the lap if I was a bit concerned I'd wait for him to confirm. We did miss one turn, there was flagging but the trail had been filled in with deadfall - it was the right trail though.
As we continued on the first loop, we passed runners who had not gotten lost. I surprised Shellene when I passed her. The smarter runners got to that intersection and considered how the trail was flowing and instinctively went the right way, never even noticing the arrow on the ground. Those of us that missed it picked up about 1.5 bonus miles (if they went the loop I ran). That meant that it was now a true 50k (always look on the bright side). When I got to the first aid station, I told the volunteer where the lead pack had gotten lost, by the time we got back to that intersection (going the right way this time), Tim was there taking care of the issue.
I finished the first loop with the second place 20 mile runner, and Tracy right behind me. The second loop was an exercise in bug eating. The inchworms were continuing to drop, and since I was now clear of most other runners they were fresh when I got to them. Ah well, extra fresh protein. This time I didn't miss any turns (tried to though on one), since I was using the breadcrumbs on my watch. The same cannot be said of the 2nd place 20 miler. He had dropped me at the start of the loop, but was going up Jacobs Ladder as I was passing it on my last loop - I never passed him, so I know he got bonus miles somewhere. At one point another runner was coming towards me, and I told him I thought he was going the wrong way, he was sure he wasn't since it was the way he ran his first loop. I figured out where he made his mistake. At one point there is a short road section, and painted on the ground was the markers. If you missed those markers, you would end up on Sidewinder heading to the River Trail and miss California 56 completely. I liked running Cali 56, so I am glad I didn't miss that turn.
It was getting warm on the third loop, so I ended up stopping for water at both aid stations (I had only stopped at the start/finish for my first and second loops). I also managed two low speed falls, having no trouble with the high speed descents I managed to find a few hidden roots while walking uphill.
Finished with good splits (2:09, 2:02, 2:12) and felt like I had plenty left in the tank (I was right, I didn't blow up during the Sunday run). The negative split for loop 2 was due to the 17 minute scenic detour on loop 1.
Speaking of blowing up. Remember, Race Directors are human and make mistakes. The fact that there was a miss-marked turn on the course was annoying, but it wasn't intentional, and all the lead runners (except maybe one 20 miler) missed it, it really had no affect on the results.