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Halloween Night Trail Race

Posted October 27th, 2013 at 02:00 PM by Black Spurs
Updated October 27th, 2013 at 09:08 PM by Black Spurs

About a week or so ago, I was notified that I had won an entry into the Q50 Six Mile Halloween Night Trail Run at Fountainbleau (pronounced Fountain Blue) State Park. I figured I would run it because I had heard some good things about these races, and I have not raced any this year. We got to the packet pick up early and just sort of looked around the park. I had no idea what to expect. In short, this race was billed as a “trail race”, but it was really a cross country race. There was virtually no real “trail” to speak up except for about 1 ˝ miles of dirt/limestone single track that was wider than most single track that I am accustomed to running. The rest of the three mile loop was a combination of beach, grass, parking lot, and asphalt road. I was not very excited about it to be honest.

I met Ed Melancon before the check in, and we talked about the upcoming race at Cajun Coyote. This will be Ed’s first 100 miler, and I expect him to do pretty well there. As more folks started showing up, I realized that there were quite a few more people than I expected. I figured there were quite a few road runners in the bunch because there was a great deal of stretching and bounding going on around the start line. Ed was the only person other than me drinking a beer before the race. A few folks looked at me oddly; Ed lifted his Amstel Light with a nod of approval, and I did the same with my Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

My two girls participated in the kid’s race, and they had a great time. I think my youngest daughter may have been the first girl to cross the finish line, but it was a bit of blur with kids everywhere and no real organized finish. This is the first trail race my girls and my wife have attended. And although I really don’t need any level of moral support to do these things, I was happy to have them in attendance. And I think they had a good time. After all that, we got lined up for the start of the race.

For this race, I just wanted to run as hard as I could and try to keep the splits pretty even on each of the two loops. I wasn’t crazy about the sand or the grass, and figured it might slow me down a bit. I like dirt, roots, and rocks. It was a little warm, but when the sun dropped below the horizon, the temperature dropped pretty quickly. I was glad of that, but there was still a thickness in the air. We stepped off the starting line a little late, and I realized I was pretty far up front. I must have had about 12 to 15 people in front of me. I figured many of those would be three mile runners. We got spread out pretty quickly as we made it to the beach and then onto the long stretch of grass leading up to a foot bridge and a 90 degree turn onto the asphalt. I looked back and saw what seemed like an endless line of head lights. I was running pretty hard; the grass and sand felt like it was dragging me down. But once we hit the road, I felt better. We had a short out and back on this loop, which gave me a chance to count runners. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the count. It was around 12 runners ahead of me. I got to the 1 mile mark at around 7:30, which is faster than I expected. I liked that pace and got in behind a couple of three mile runners and stayed there despite feeling compelled to go faster when we hit the actual trail part of the race.

We came off the trail and made it back to a road crossing that took us past the old sugar mill, which was a pretty neat ruin sitting under some picturesque live oaks. Of course, you couldn’t see it at night, but I got a good look at it prior to the race start. I was really feeling good, and I had to fight very hard to keep from breaking out from behind these two guys and just blasting off. Even though I know better, I sometimes want to go too fast, too soon. I had to really force myself to stay with these two guys until they peeled off to the three mile finish. We crossed that road and were back in the cross country mode of running across grass. Then, we hit one more section of sand before the 3 mile folks turned back to the finish line. I only had one guy in my sight at this point. But I knew I couldn’t be too far back from the fast group of runners.

Suddenly, a skinny guy and a tall guy blew by me. Oh no!!! So, now there were four of us. The skinny guy was further back than I expected, and I didn’t figure he would hang around too long. He had on a bright yellow singlet that said something about Clint Eastwood and asked the question, “Do you feel lucky? Well, do you punk?” So, I tucked in behind Eastwood and the tall guy, and we all three went to work on taking down the guy I had in my sights originally. He had a shaved head and ran shirtless. And I was pretty sure he wasn’t going to be able to hold us off for long. We made our way along the beach and into the grass until we reached that foot bridge again.

The shirtless guy missed the bridge and ran through the ditch. Eastwood and the tall guy hit the bridge, but they followed the shirtless guy to the left instead of the right. I hollered “Wrong way, guys!!!” They turned and Eastwood and the tall guy blew by me. We left the shirtless guy behind at that point as we made another left to hit the out and back. I wasn’t sure if I had what it was going to take to hang on with these two guys, but we only had a couple of miles to go. I was going to see what I could do. The race that was important to me was taking shape.

On the out and back, I counted a fast pack of 5 guys running in a tight group, with three stragglers for a total of 8 guys. Maybe some immortals were ahead of them, but I knew these guys were fast. I laid in behind Eastwood and the tall guy to see if I could hang on, and we were pushing it pretty good. The tall guy took the lead, but Eastwood and I were keeping him on a short leash. I was right on Eastwood’s tail. At the 2 mile mark on this course, there was a Tiki torch. That torch gave me a real boost on the first loop because I realized I only had a mile to finish the loop, and I was feeling great after running pretty hard up to that point. I wanted to see if the same thing would hold true on the second loop. It did. I felt fine. But, I kept thinking Eastwood was going to break bad on us and leave us standing in our tracks.
We hit the torch, and I told Eastwood, “One mile to go.” He didn’t respond verbally. He just made a move on the tall guy. I followed suit right on his heels. We came out of the woods and crossed the road in a tight, single-file line. Then, my toe caught one of those road reflectors.

My world turned completely upside down; my left shoulder hit the pavement at the perfect angle, and I barely missed a step as I rolled right back up on my feet and kept running. WHAT!?! The tall guy said, “Oh my God!!! Are you okay?”

I laughed and said, “Oh yeah. I am fine.”

I figured Eastwood was gone for sure. But I was still right on his heels. We got in the grass again, and I eased up beside him and passed him. To be honest, I couldn’t believe how awesome this was going. I wasn’t tired; I wasn’t fatigued, and we were running pretty hard, especially on that grass. Then, I started looking back periodically. I was putting some distance between us and made it to the sand and the hard right turn just before turning into the finishing chute. I could see the lights of the finish. I pushed on past another 3 miler. On the last few feet before the chute, Eastwood put on a heck of a late surge, and I only came in a nose in front of him. Tall guy wasn’t far behind.

By my watch, I finished in 42:44. Eastwood said he had 42:42. But I haven’t seen the final results posted yet. It was not a chip timed race, which is fine. I know if I had a good race or not regardless of the chip time. And I am not sure where I placed. The lady said she thought it was 12th or 13th, but I don’t think there were that many people ahead of us.

Anyway, Eastwood, the tall guy, and I stood around and you would have thought we were the only three on the course. We were all pleased with our race. I just had a great time getting into a competitive focus and pushing the pace at an appropriate level.

I can always look back on races/runs and think about things I wish I would have done differently. I can’t say that about this race. This race was the most beautiful thing I have ever done as a runner. It was absolutely perfect.
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  1. Old Comment
    Black Spurs's Avatar
    The results were posted. I was 10th male and 11th overall. I swear I thought that lady was a 3 mile runner. Anyway, the guy who won was turning out miles at about 5:13 per mile (31:08). How does anyone run that fast? The second guy was hitting around 5:20 per mile. I didn't see them when I got the count on the out and back for loop two. They had already finished the out and back and were down through the woods. And I think Eastwood was part of a team that ended up disqualified because they separated from each other. It was great night, and I am glad I chose to participate in the event. Thanks for reading.
    Posted October 29th, 2013 at 08:36 AM by Black Spurs Black Spurs is offline
 

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