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2017-03-11 - Crazy Desert Trail Race

~66 miles @ ~15.5 min/mi

TROT Crazy Desert Trail Race 100k buckle"#FUROB? No! You need shirts that say #TYROB!" Race Director Rob Goyen is really a super-nice guy — not at all like his faux-cruel reputation that led to a line of naughty-hashtag tees. His T.R.O.T. (Trail Racing Over Texas) "Crazy Desert Trail Race" on 11 March 2017 turns out to be inadvertently long: instead of three laps of ~33.4 km (~20.8 miles) each circuit includes a free bonus of 4+ miles. When runners report the mistake, in real time RD Rob announces that the third loop will use the "Half Marathon" bypass for a final ~16 mile orbit — a grand total of ~66 miles (~106 km, plus or minus a few percent). As soon as Rob tells me the good news he gets a big "Thank You, Sir!" and a sweaty ^z bear hug. Now I have a chance to "run my age" in miles and get more distance per dollar than originally promised. What's not to like?
In northwest Texas, San Angelo State Park features prickly pear cactus, limestone hills, scrub brush, and the official Texas State Longhorn Herd. Buzzards circle lazily overhead. Huge cattle stare, then step aside to let runners pass. Thick clouds and cool breezes keep morning temperatures down. My ~25 mile first lap comes in at ~5.5 hours, an unexpectedly brisk pace of ~13.5 min/mi. Then the sun comes out, breezes fade, and the next 25 miles becomes a warm speed-hike in ~7 hours at ~17 min/mi. Humidity is low; sweat evaporates fast. By GPS I achieve the original 11 hour, 66.7 km cutoff — yay! After ~12.5 hours, mile ~50, I'm back at the start/finish area, ready for Lap 3.Crazy Desert Trail Race start area
Crazy Desert Trail Race prickly pear cactus and ZBelinda Jared joins me now. She's a veteran ultrarunner with two 100 mile finishes, a relentlessly cheerful attitude, and a delightful Australian accent. Darkness soon falls, temps drop precipitously, and gusty north winds bring chills. I zip up my trail shirt and run with thumbs held inside fists for warmth. Belinda starts to feel nausea and then becomes seriously cold. Wisely, she decides to drop at the mile ~58 aid station before hypothermia sets in. Unwisely, I go on ahead with the promise to wait for her at the point where the Half Marathon trail branches off from the 100k course that we followed for loops 1 and 2. Extremely unwisely, I fail to specify how long I will pause. After 15 minutes I'm getting nervous as well as frigid. So I proceed, accompanied by infinite guilt. Thankfully, Belinda is safe!
Alone now in the dark, it's mission-critical not to fall. Gopher holes produce strange 3-D optical illusions as headlamp's light sweeps over them. My calves cramp up when I pause to shake pebbles out of shoes. The left hamstring gets tight and twingy. I roll the right ankle but not seriously. A foot drops partly into a pit on the trail, but no harm done. Shoes slip on scree-pebble slopes, but I don't take a tumble. The 100k mark goes by just short of 16 hours. Stiff winds blow down the final aid station, but with only ~4 miles to go it's "No worries, Mate!"Crazy Desert Trail Race desert butterfly
Crazy Desert Trail Race mile 1 path and Z"Do I kneel for you to put the ribbon around my neck and dub me 'Well Done'?" At 17 hours 7 minutes, a bit after 11pm, I arrive at the finish line, shake hands with Rob and another race official (Kelsey Lake) and accept my first-ever ultramarathon finisher's buckle. In 27th place of 29, I'm the leading non-Texas-address finisher. I'm also the last non-Texas-address finisher!

My face is sunburned; my neck aches. I'm grinning like a jackass eating cactus.

"Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here Buckle!" Well, that's not the meaning of "buckle" that Gerard Manley Hopkins had in mind for his poem "The Windhover", but the beautiful verses echo in my mind as I run. Back at the car, I find the battery dead — perhaps I left a dome light on? And the phone battery is dead too. Oops! Fortunately my brother Keith has lent me a charger-pack, and come Sunday morning a friendly race official gives me a jump-start.

"We got this!" as a wise and graceful friend (who gave me a "Superman" ring — thank you!) often reminds me in times of stress, and as I remind myself repeatedly during long solo hours.

And it all turns out OK — as always!

Crazy Desert Trail Race finisher buckle and Z

(trackfile - incomplete! - actual distance approximately 65-67 miles) - ^z - 2017-04-07