My First 25K Trail Race
Go West Young Man
All I could see was a wall of water on my windshield as I drove through a torrential downpour that slowed traffic to 35 mph on I-10 going west toward Fort Davis, Texas. It’s about a six hour drive from my home in Austin and I later learned that people who left Austin just after me got stopped on I-10 by Highway Patrol because of that storm. Thankful I didn’t have a nine hour drive!
When I arrived at the Indian Lodge in the Davis Mountains later that day, I saw my cell phone reception disappear. An uncommon feeling to have and it urged me to let go and walk around to see who was hanging out by the pool on such a beautiful day.
Spectrum Trail Racing asked me to photograph their Sky Island 25K/50K trail race, but I also wanted to run the 25K! So here’s what I needed to do on race day:
Wake up at 4 a.m.
Get myself race-ready
5:30 a.m. - Meet at the starting line at to capture the 50K runners
6:30 a.m. - Come back to the starting line to capture the 25K runners
7 a.m. - Set camera down and run!
Run for almost 3 hours
Finish the 25K
Pick up the camera and photograph the finish line area for the next 5 hours.
I went to bed on Friday night and dealt with my typical day-before-the-race restless sleep with a 4 a.m. wake-up call in the back of my mind. Saturday morning came quickly and I drove to the starting line in the mist and darkness just before sunrise. I could see the 50K runners turning their watch timers and headlamps on. They would about to embark on a one-hour journey through the trails and switchbacks of the Davis Mountains until first light breaks around 7 a.m.
The 25K runners had it a little easier. No headlamps were required since the race director decided to push the starting time back 10 minutes. Thank God! I don’t want to have to carry something extra, even if it’s just a headlamp.
I also opted to not use a fitness tracker for this race and it made it so much more enjoyable. I never worried about how fast I was going or how many more miles I had to go. I just ran. That may be scary for some, but I was racing more in-tuned with how my body was feeling. I also tested SpiBelt’s H20 SpiVenture for the first time. I didn’t really like vests or backpacks as my fuel and hydration choice. The belt felt very comfortable during the entire race. The only problem I had was making sure I tightened the water bottle lids on just right. 4/5 stars!
I was surprised to see, pass, and get passed by many friends who I didn’t know were even racing! This really brought my spirits up. The 25K course included running the Primitive Loop (12 miles) + Indian Lodge Loop (4 miles). I began my descent which led to the entrance of the Indian Lodge Loop and I was shocked to see a Mule Deer cross right in front of me. Nature! Good thing it wasn’t a mountain lion as my IT bands were screaming at this point.
The terrain of this trail gave no mercy by way of flat surfaces for my feet to land on. It just seemed like I was catching my fall after tripping, twisting and landing awkwardly. That’s what makes trail runners tough as nails. Road runners have it easy!
As I was gingerly descending down the trail I saw a group of people that had stopped, which was unusual. As I came up on them, I saw that my long-time friend Carrie who had a bad fall on the descent of the Primitive Loop. She landed on a sharp rock that punctured a silver dollar sized hole in her right quad. I could see inside her leg.
Carrie is one brave and tough woman. Let me tell you. Well-prepared, too! She carried a tourniquet and other medical supplies. The bleeding had stopped and she encouraged everyone to continue running—help was on the way. There was NO WAY in hell I was leaving her until professional help arrived.
It was misty and cold so I sat down and hugged around her to try to stop shivering while she STILL encouraged me to go run. HOW COULD I LEAVE HER? lol
As soon as Spectrum’s safety team arrived, I started running again and I’d dedicated my finish to her. Thinking of her as I made the 4-mile, 800-foot ascent and descent to the finish line—passing six people.
It didn’t matter what the chip time was going to be. I was there to photograph, run a distance farther than I ever have before, and have fun! The cowbells rang and people cheered for every runner that crossed the finish line for hours on end.
But first pizza…
I continue to learn from and apply what I gain from these endurance races. Listen to your body, your gut, your heart, and keep moving.
Funny enough, once I got cell service in downtown Fort Davis, I got a text from Carrie saying how she got stitches and was drinking beer in Alpine at Zilker Brewing Co.! Probably before I even had my first post-race beer!