Distance : 50 miles
Finish : 10:28:20
Rank : #13 (overall)
The race was a 3 loop of 15.5 miles trail in Camp Eagle. Camp Eagle is located in the Texas Hill Country at the headwaters of the spring-fed Nueces River.
ThePavilion Hall to Texas Aid Station
The race started from the Pavilion Hall, which was also the finish line and the main aid station, where we could grab our drop bag. Karen and I started in the middle of the pack, it was dark and a little bit chilly. I was not well prepared for this race, I only had 2 weeks of training before took a few days off for recovery. So my original plan was to run it nice and easy.
The first 5+ miles was a pretty cool trail. It s kind of buffet for trail running. There were a lot of switchbacks trails, a rolling hills that were runnable yet it was definitely not walking in central park. The trail was pretty much a single trail with a few openings. I think most of it was pretty rocky.
It s pretty hard to see on the 1st loop since it was dark, but on the second loop, I could see an amazing views from a view spots. I remember there was a play house on the left hand side of the trail after we passed the Pavilion Hall parking lot. Somehow it just reminded me of Peter Pan headquarter. At this point, I looked back, tried to find Karen, but we got separated and had a few runners in between us. I believe Karen would do well and probably she would catch up with me soon, since she is a stronger and more discipline runner then me. So I went on with my run. Then, about a half of mile from there, when the trail started a bit rocky, just before a sharp left turn, I could see a cable tower where kids (or me) could slide down from it. Up to this point, I was running with a group of runner and passed a few runners once in a while. It felt so much better when the sun came up, still a bit chilly but my body started to get warm and more ready to do running then a few minutes ago .
From there, things started to get more interesting, there were more steps, uneven rocky grounds, and a lot of up-down-left-right that kept my brain occupied. And I am not sure what I was thinking, I picked up my pace and started to pass more runners at this section.
Probably around mile 4, on the top of the hill, there was a kind of fire-camp ring , and from there, the trail started to descending and less rocky. And, there there, I could find Texas Aid Station at the bottom of the hill. Texas Aid Station was the 1st and 3 rd aid station in the loop. They had everything that I needed, from PBJ sandwich, oranges, any kind of sodas, banana, salt tablet, and world nicest volunteers.
Texas Aid Station to The Wall Aid Station
I stored my headlamp in my running vest and grabbed my sunglasses, then I was ready for my PBJ sandwiches breakfast. From this aid station, I continued my run and back to the trail. Immediately, I was greeted by steps of rocks and roots. A good excuse to take time and eat those sandwiches from my both hands. I fell once and got bloody fingers from protecting my sandwiches. Man gotta eat.
The break did not last long. The trail become a rolling hill that was a little technical, though it was runnable but I had to be careful if I did not want to get rocks as my breakfast. Again I started picked up my pace and passed more runners. One of them was Dana Munari, a strong runner from San Antonio who I met at the hotel (3rd place overall)
After a good decent hill, there was a sharp right turn into a little down hill before it got back into a rocky trail opening with small spiky trees on both sides. Then it become more a rolling dusty hill with loosing rocks, nothing was crazy, but it just a long line that I could see the path probably for a good mile away. On the left side of this long dusty road, at the top of the hill, there was another cable tower. On my second and third loop, there were kids who were using the cable slide, and they were cheering at me. Too kind. I started to descend this hill until it got steeper towards the end.
At the end of this steep downhill, there was a huge cross that I could see it from far far away. Actually, there were 3 crosses in the whole trail loop. (I believe) But this one was the biggest one. At least it was in my mind. It became my bearing, like a north star. I focused my sight onto the cross and eventually I would get closer to it.
When I got into the foot of the cross, there was a junction where I needed to take the right pathway. It started back into a short switchbacks single trail until I got back into the other side of the cross junction, and I ran back on the dusty road again. At the end of this road, there was a viewing platform that was facing the river valley, it was pretty scenic. I turned left and I ran on this cliff along the river valley for a view minutes before I ran down into a single trail, going to the bottom of the cliff. This down hill trail was also a spot for the kids to do rappelling activities.
Before the race, I was a little worry about the name of this upcoming aid station, The Wall. I have been in a few trails or races, where the locals/the race director named a section as The Wall, and it s literally a wall. I had to half-scrambling to pass that section. But as my relief, this aid station was an exception. The aid station was just facing the wall, a long tall cliff rock wall. The Wall aid station was also a drop bag aid station. The volunteers were so great, they were always coming to us before we got into the aid station and tried to help us with anything they could. One of the volunteer had shin injury that she needed to use her boot/brace, on the trail, yet she was buzzing around helping runners with her widest smile.
The Wall Aid Station to The Texas Aid Station
This section was very deceptive. It started with a very scenic run, where I ran along the river, next to rock cliff wall. The wall could be pretty ancient, I thought that Dr. Jones would be so happy to explore it. I crossed the river thru a suspension bridge, which was a lot of fun and weird, and there was the starting point where the race begun. From here to the Texas aid station, it would be a never-ending rocky hills, and it was wide open for the blazing sun. In this section, every time I thought the trail would be a downhill or flat, on the next turn there would be another hill was waiting for me. There was one hill that got a special place in my heart. It was about a half mile from the bridge. It was covered with loose rocks, so it was pretty easy to slip and scramble for footing on the hike. It has almost no shade from the furious Texan sun. It seemed like it was a never-ending ascent with plenty hidden turns. I thought I was passing its top, wait, no it was not the top, I turned left and there was another one, and on and on and on. I called this hill as the heart breaking hill. At this hill I met with another runner from San Antonio, Cara Bass. (second place female) She told me that the temperature would get really hot in a few hours. Then, somehow I got the idea that I needed to cover more miles while the temperature was perfect. Again I sped up my pace and passing more runners.
After I passed these lovely hills, there was a nature amphitheater. I thought it was pretty neat, probably for the boy scouts camping performance. After a few more small hills for about a mile, there was the lovely Texas aid station. Every time I saw them after the breaking heart hills, I felt I like a kid just found a candy land. Not only for this aid station lovely charm, but also it would be less than 3 miles more to the Pavilion.
The Texas Aid Station to The Pavilion Hall
When I got into the Texas aid station, I got caught up in the middle of the kids race. These little devils ran like coyotes. They were so fast, nimble and had no fear. They really made me work out, and all of them, of course, dusted me off behind.
Anyway, this section was the most scenic one from the whole loop. It started with descending a downhill. It was a fun playful downhill, not so technical but at the same time it was pretty entertaining. After I got out from the single trail downhill, there will be a few game areas. I crossed a road towards the river. Quick note, on this road, at my left hand side, there was a steel bridge just a few centimeters below the river surface. When we drove over that bridge, it felt like we were in a waterpark ride. It was pretty fun.
Then, I got into the river, it was so pretty. I was running by the river and surrounding by tall rock cliff wall, hills, and amazing view of the valley. It was just gorgeous. I started to follow a single trail again, just before crossing a water play house bridge. Then the trail led me to the Camp Eagle housing area on the cliff in front of me. I passed a small park on the right and started to climb a pretty steep stairs. Every step of this stairs was decorated by an encouragement card. The one that was always playing in my head was, “Afraid of being slow, be afraid of standing still.”
After I passed the stairs, there was a junction for 10k race and 50 mile race, I went to the right and ran across the second suspension bridge. From here, it was about a mile away to the Pavilion Hall, too bad that the trail was not getting easier. There were a few uphill, switch back and short dirt road before I got to see the lines of flag along the Pavilion Hall entrance.
By the time I got into Pavilion Hall, the temperature was already pretty warm. So took out my long sleeves layer. I grabbed sandwiches and oranges before I continue my second loop.
Just before the first aid station, I caught up with Annabel (female first place), and was behind her for a while. She was such a strong runner, steady pace no matter it was flat, uphill or downhill.
After the Texas aid station, on the hill before the dusty road, when I went to relieve myself, I saw Dana passed me. And when I got back to the long trail, he already passed Annabel. I think it was a mile before the Wall, where I could pass her.
By the time I got into my breaking heart hill, I started to meet more runners from 25k and 50k. Some 50k runners passed me, I wished I was them, they were doing their last loop. When I got into Texas, it was probably by noon and the sun started with its cooking. The heat started to beat me up.
This was the last loop where things were started to crumple.
When I got into the aid station, I changed my shirt to no sleeves shirt, and it took me more than 10 minutes because it was stuck in the bottom. I was so frustrated that just tried to leave as fast as I could, to make up my lost. Then I forgot to refill my Nuun, forgot to get some food, and probably the sun had cooked out half of my brain. I saw Annabel passed me when I was wrestling with my drop bag.
I tried to shake off the heat in this section, but I couldn’t beat the heat. I felt whole my body started to fail me, my heart beat started to play its own hip hop music, and I couldn’t really control my breathing. I was pretty scared for a second that I had to stop just to calm down myself. Suddenly, there was another runner passed me. It broke my lame excuse to take a break, so I commanded my legs to start to move again. I met Joe (the event organizer) with his mountain bike at one of the small rocky steps, he greeted me and check how I do. Probably I looked horrible.
By the time I got into Texas I felt my whole body was over heated. And I had to stay there for about 10 minutes to cool down my body and my mind. Also I tried to put down a little food into my stomach slowly since I felt I could not put anything in my mouth.
Then I started to move on. I tried to run a bit careful since I still have a long way and tons of uphill ahead, so I took my time on the uphill and did more hiking then running.
When I got into The Wall, I change my shirt to long sleeves. Thought it would help to protect me from the sun.
At that time, Cara caught up with me and we pushed each other the whole section to the Texas aid station. Combination between hills and the sun were not really helping, but at least the long sleeves helped. On the last hill before the Texas, I had a mental breakdown cause I was expecting Texas aid station on a few hills earlier. Cara gave a good run on this last stretch and did a quick stop at Texas. On the other hand I was taking my time with drinking more ginger ale and put more ice cubes under my hat.
Then I continued my run to the finish line. This 3 miles felt like forever. But finally I got into the finish line. People in Pavilion Hall were greeting me with big claps, cheers and smile. A local runner, Jeff, brought me 2 glass of soda and a pack of ice. People were really nice at Camp Eagle, actually they were cheering at us the whole course.
At the end, I was pretty happy with this race. Tho I was struggling for the last loop, me and my brown skin got beat up by the heat, but I was way faster than my original finish time plan. The event was well-organized. The people were so kind. The trail was so much fun. Karen won 4th female overall place. It could be my best race yet. Thank you Joe!