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Thunderbird Trail Half Marathon

Posted December 19th, 2012 at 05:59 AM by Black Spurs

I donít know where to begin to talk about the Thunderbird Half Marathon 2012. I guess I can review what has been a year of many ups and downs concerning running. I had a good run at Rocky Raccoon in February for my first 100 miler and spent the rest of the year working towards the Pinhoti 100, which ended at mile 36. I did quite a few things wrong in my training; I had plenty of miles on trails. But I wasnít mentally prepared like I had been at Rocky and Cajun Coyote before that. I ran smart races at those two, especially at Cajun Coyote, and after the debacle in Alabama last month, I was just a little depressed at the thought of not running another race anytime soon. Then, I was reminded about this half marathon. I kicked the idea around for about five minutes and signed up. I had three goals:

1. Run a smart race
2. Keep my pace under 12 minute miles (50K pace for me)
3. Get a top 3 age group placing

I have never had a race this close to my house. Usually, I end up camping out or staying in a motel close to the event. This race was about 45 minutes from home, so I got to sleep at home last night, which was nice. I ate my normal pre-run breakfast, peanut butter on wheat toast. But this morning, I added a piece of sweet potato pie and a cup of coffee. I kissed my girls, and headed out the door.
I arrived at the place to find a few people I knew, which was nice. I also met some folks from the Louisiana Ultra Running group on Facebook. I spent a great deal of time talking with Tim Hutchinson, a friend with whom I have run a few miles with over the past year. Tim is a good runner, faster than he lets on. However, he is also quick to point out that he tends to go out too fast in long races. I tend to think I go out too slow, but I go out as fast as I can. Earlier this year, he DNFíd at Rocky Raccoon. Heíll be back in 2013, and we discussed 2012 Rocky, 2013 Rocky, and my own DNF last month.

We got lined up around 8 AM, and someone did a countdown. We took off through the muggy air, most hoping the rain would hold off until the race was over. Tim and I were talking as we ran down a gravel road toward the single track about a quarter of a mile from the start. This year, the race was going counter clockwise, which meant the best downhills would now be the worst uphills. And believe me, this course has some nasty climbs, short but intense. I felt pretty good, and figured I would try to get up close to the front and see what happenedÖ We got onto the single track, and I had flashbacks of my kamikaze Pinhoti run (see goal 1: run a smart race). I was running with the top 10 or 12 folks, and it felt slow, at first. We made it through the first series of quick ups and downs with some extremely sharp turns. Some of these turns were almost like doing 180 degree turns. It was tight, which is why I decided to step up to the front in the beginning. I didnít want to get boxed into someone elseís pace. Then, we got along this creek bottom with some really smooth running. After a few miles, I looked around and realized that this 18 year old kid who couldnít have weighed more than 120 pounds was behind me. He was a cross country runner who just finished a nice season. I knew I had no business being this far in front, and I figured I would pay for it later. About the time that thought went through my head, I caught a root and did at least two summersaults, rolling off the trail. A lot of folks passed me as I laughed at myself.

I got my act together and started running again. We eventually got to a series of switchbacks; yeah, I said switchbacks, steep ones. I cruised down these and back up the other side and made it to the first aid station. I topped off my water and took off again. At this point, I had a bit of trouble. My heart rate spiked out on some of the uphills. I decided to back off my pace a little bit and get a little more consistent with my pace. It didnít take long to get into a nice groove, and it was smooth sailing from there. A couple of more folks passed me on the back end of the first loop, but I wasnít really concerned about it. I knew the hills would take a toll on them as the second loop came. I made it through the first loop about a minute under my scheduled time, despite having some difficulty along the way.

I had not eaten anything on the first loop, so I took a bag of Honey Stingers out and ate them while I walked down the trail. I canít eat while I run, or at least, I donít like to. I started running at a nice pace. And, I started feeling good. On this section, I ran for a very long time without seeing anyone at all. Finally, I start catching people. I told each one I passed that they losers and should just give up. Ok. I didnít do that, nor did I think it. But wouldnít that be funny in an inappropriate way, which makes it funnier on multiple levels? Anyway, I got to the aid station where I was offered vodka, which I accepted. I took a nice swig of Absolut and rolled on down the trail. About a half mile after the aid station, I took one of the strangest falls I have ever experienced. I stumbled and my knees went into my chest, and I just sort of keeled over in slow motion. I donít know what that was about, but I donít think it was a sip of vodka. I got up and continued running, passing a couple of more people.

By this time, I was really feeling good, and I was running at a pace that I would be very comfortable with at just about any distance. I just kept feeling better and better, despite the muggy conditions. The hills were getting steeper for others, but I was feeling great, running comfortably. I came across one guy who had passed me earlier like I was standing still. He was walking and just jogging along. I was running these hills pretty good, but when I caught this guy, I passed him walking while he was running up the hill. I only mention this because I have always thought of myself as someone who can walk very efficiently. I did that very well on that hill, and that little, insignificant event did a lot to help renew my confidence with longer races where the deliberate walk is a necessary strategy.

Finally, I caught another Marine Corps veteran. I know that because he had a big USMC tattoo across his back. He had pretty much been reduced to a walk at this point, and we were on another hilly section when I caught up with him. I squeezed by and never slowed down. I made it to the gravel road again and turned the corner to the finish line.

Reading this story, you would think I had a PR race, but I was far from a HM PR today. I finished in 2:32, which is a testament to how difficult this course is, not that I am some sort of great runner, but I am faster than 2:32 on the road or smooth trail on my worst day. The winner, who was a very fast runner, finished in 1:49 and change.

I won a six pack of Tin Roof Voodoo Bengal Pale Ale (local beer) as a door prize. And during the awards ceremony I was talking to the overall winner about the course when my name was called as my AG winner!!!! What!?! I laughed and said there must be a mistake. But, I have the bobble head AG trophy to prove it (no idea how many in the AG, but I know it was more than just me). I think I was 26th overall, but I donít know how many people were in the race, probably 25.

All in all, 2012 has been a stellar year for trail running for me. I have learned so much, which means I have figured out that I donít know much. And, in my last race of 2012, I accomplished every goal I started with, which has never happened before today.
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Total Comments 3


  1. Old Comment
    Creole's Avatar
    Black Spurs, I always enjoy reading your blog about your races. Keep them coming for us please!

    Posted January 3rd, 2013 at 06:34 PM by Creole Creole is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Black Spurs's Avatar
    Thanks. I have some pacing duties to do at Rocky Raccoon this year, 40 miles of it provided my brother gets the first 60 done. I think he will. I am very excited about helping him get that 100 miler done. I'll do a report, and I have a special surprise in a couple of months... Stay tuned. It will be good if you like these stories. Again, thanks for reading.
    Posted January 11th, 2013 at 09:25 PM by Black Spurs Black Spurs is offline
  3. Old Comment
    Black Spurs's Avatar
    A hint at the surprise: I am hoping for a double whammy of sorts.
    Posted January 11th, 2013 at 09:26 PM by Black Spurs Black Spurs is offline

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