Monday, March 5, 2012

Nueces 50 Mile Race Report

On Saturday, March 3, 2012, I had the pleasure of running 50 miles in the Nueces River Valley, on the western edge of the Texas Hill Country. As usual, Joe and Joyce Prusaitis put on an extraordinary ultramarathon. Their races truly are top-notch, both in terms of the course itself - which is beautiful - and in terms of the organization, volunteer staff, and aid the runners receive. I saw many familiar faces on the trail and at the aid stations, including newly-weds Doug and Jazzy Ratliff (congrats you two!)

My goal going into this race was to just have fun. I wanted to go out there and get caught up in the beauty of being out on the trail - to just do my own thing and listen to my music on my iPod and have a blast. And I did just that.

I drove out to Camp Eagle on Friday, checked in and got my race tags, and parked my car in the camping area and ate oranges and almonds and watched episodes of the Golden Girls on my laptop until it was time to sleep. By 5 am, I was well-rested and ready to start my adventure. I got all my gear together (which wasn't very much: one water bottle, a headlamp, nipple guards, and my iPod. That is really all you need to run 50 miles on Joe's well-organized course) and headed towards the start line.

The first few miles of an ultra are always my favorite miles. Everyone is excited and fresh. You have your headlamps and flashlights out. You feel like you are embarking into the the unknown and you feel anxious and happy, and maybe even a little scared, all at the same time.

Now, if you haven't been on the trails at Camp Eagle, let me tell you you something about them: they are tough! Okay, maybe not that tough, but they are definitely challenging. There are some big climbs throughout the course, and you feel absolute relief when you get to the top of a big hill because by then you have just had it with climbing! Then, you get to the quad-punishing downhill! And the trail is not smooth. It is rocky. You've never seen so many rocks in your life (unless, of course, you have run the Cactus Rose 100 at Bandera).

But, what rugged beauty! More climbs means more scenic views. You get to the top of one hill and you can see a beautiful expanse of the Texas Hill Country. You get to the top of another hill, and what is waiting for you on top? A giant, beautiful creaking windmill set against the rising Texas sun! This course has it all: water (you run along the river for a short portion of the course), bridge crossings (there is one long suspension bridge that you get to run across and several other smaller crossings), and wildlife.

On the last point about wildlife, let me tell you a short anecdote before wrapping up this race report. At about mile 42, I found myself face to face with a big buck standing right in the middle of the trail. Off to the side was a fawn. They both stood staring at me, no more than 10 feet away. I took a step toward the buck, hoping he might move. He didn't. He just stood there. Staring. Now, I've seen one too many YouTube videos of deer going crazy and standing up on their hind legs and attacking with their front legs to take this situation lightly. I mean, come on, I've just run 42 miles! I am tired as hell and have the strength of a marshmallow Peep. If that deer attacked me, I was totally defenseless. Worst case scenario: there were plenty of rocks to defend myself with!

But after a few second of just standing there, regarding each other with mistrust and probably waiting for the other to make the first move to get us out of this situation, I decided to take action. I ran at the deer with my hands in the air and screamed. The thing ran away. And so did I. As I ran towards the finish line, I smiled at what turned out to be a fun little adventure.

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