The race had a 10 a.m. start, fitting for those who may have stayed awake and celebrated bringing in the New Year. I fell asleep before midnight, so I missed the introduction of 2014. The weather was perfect, sunny, started out in the upper 30's when I got there around 9am. The high was to be 60-ish. It was very windy which made it feel much colder than the temperature suggested during the pre-race "meeting" that was held. I was told that trail races are laid back and this one really was. It felt more like a picnic than a race. There was only about 80-90 runners registered. The race was organized by Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and held at Cedar Hill State Park next to Joe Pool Lake which I never knew existed until now and hosted by the Park Police themselves.
I had no race strategy, just to run the course and enjoy the day. It took only half mile into the run and I knew I had dressed properly. I went with shorts and only two thin layers up top. I was no longer cold, and the wind isn't a factor in the woods. I trailed behind a guy and girl runner for the first three miles and it ended being just me and the girl, named Virginia for the next 3 miles. Pace was perfect, not sure what it was. Eventually she stopped to refuel and I passed her. I ran up on another group of folks about 15 min later, chatted with them for a few minutes and then passed. Another first time runner whom I met after the race had a great observation and brought up the fact that you can have nice long conversations with runners in trail races that you can't during a road race. After I passed this group of runners it was me on my own the rest of the way. What I found is that I run much better own my own, or if I were running in the front of a pack because I have a broader scope of the terrain. I was flying I know at around an 8 minute pace at some parts. I never stumbled or tripped once until right toward the end. I somehow kicked a stump which initiated a Charlie horse in my calf. Thinking to myself, "Damn can I not have at least one race without a leg cramp?" I don't know what it is about those cramps, possibly that I haven't been stretching at all lately. But it was very minor. I was able to stop, let it contract itself and hurt like hell and stretch it. Shout out to Coach Steve Griffin for giving me the heads up on how to handle those. Lasted all of 30 seconds and I was back on my way. I hit a couple more bends and to my surprise, I was back in the park and the finish line was right in front of me. I looked at my lying Garmin and it was telling me I still had just under a mile left to go. I wasn't sure if the Garmin was wrong or the course was wrong, I was like hey... I'll take it. Total time 2:00:07 for a 9:39 pace. My fastest pace ever recorded on the trails.The trail was well marked with pink ribbons every few miles to re-assure you that you were still on the course. There were three aid stations along the way. I only used the last one, where I took a quick gulp of Gatorade. I really didn't need it, but just stopped long enough to tell the volunteers how much of a good time I was having. The course was not technical at all, pretty flat and not many tree roots. However, there was some mild difficulty for the last couple of miles or so with a few dips and humps. The post race food was blackeyed peas and cornbread. Overall a very nice experience. I'll be signing up for this one again next year. So what do I think about trail races? They were no different than my weekly trail runs, which I love. I love them for the challenge and the scenery and it seems like it gives me a chance to think. I don't see myself every becoming solely a trail runner though. I still love to let it fly on the road. Nothing wrong with being a hybrid. But you will see more of these trail races pop up into my schedule.