Paul and I headed to Waco this past weekend for a 50K race/training run. Springtime is in full swing, so I was looking forward to running in warmer weather.
It was a breezy morning, but I was excited to run this race again. Cameron Park is such a hidden gem in Waco, and RD Tim really goes out of his way to maximize the best of what the trails have to offer. Last year the trail was under construction, so a few miles of each loop were on the road. It was still a tough course, but nothing like this year. As a mountain bike trail, you are either running up or down the whole time. There are very few sections of running flat for more than about .5 mile. The highlight of each loop, this year, was a climb called Jacob's Ladder. Last year we didn't have the bonus treat at the end of the loop. The "ladder" consists of 88 concrete steps. They are not just stair steps, but mini climbs for someone with short legs. There were some other trail bonuses, but I will get there in a moment.
Right before the race started we got an awesome surprsie of Chris!! She is someone we met at Transrockies this past year from Flagstaff. She was originally from the Waco/Austin area, so she used the race as an excuse to visit folks. I was thrilled for her to be there because I knew that she would push me. I knew she was an incredible runner from her performance at TRR (she and her partner were 3rd or 4th in the open mixed and Aliza had told me how awesome of a runner she was as the week in CO went by), but I had not seen her climbing in action until Saturday. We take off, and Paul is out of sight in a moment. We hang together in a group of about 4. We have moments of not knowing where the course is, but we seem to be finding our way. We go through the first aid station and then spread out. We continue on, and at some point I pass mile 4 and 5, keep running and then pass mile 4 and 5 AGAIN!! UGG! What have I done?!? After about 10 minutes I get to the perimeter trail and take it thinking I would just go back to the aid station. Fortunately on the road I see the RD and he heads me in the right direction, and then proceeds to remark and fix the course. After I get the next two loops correct I realize I added about 1.5 miles...oh well, this is supposed to be a training run.
I have no idea where I am compared to the others, so I just push on. As I turn on the road to hook back to the last .5 of the loop I see Cris heading out on her 2nd loop. She is about a mile ahead of me. I head up the steps and then around the corner to finish loop one.
I head out for loop two. As I am about a mile into loop two I see the RD and he asks if I have any prob with the turn markings. I said, "all good." Then a little before mile 2 of the loop someone is standing on the trail and points for me to climb up a bamboo jungle. I look at him funny and he says that most folks missed this on loop one. We were one of those groups, hmm. Sure enough as I start scrambling up the bamboo I see a trail marker. WOW, crazy route and climb :) His fixes were great because this loop went much smoother. I had many less pauses to make sure I was going the right way. I appreciate him getting on the course and making those during race corrections.
With the trails the way they were set-up, it was nice to be able to see Chris and a guy in a green shirt ahead of me. I could tell I was catching up, but didn't know how close I was. It was when I hit the stairs I saw them both just ahead. On the way down to the start finish I caught the guy, switched out my bottles, and headed out.
Up the bamboo again, and I saw Chris right ahead of me. When we got to the top I saw her stop. I thought she was stretching a cramp, so I asked if she was ok. She asked me if we were headed correct, and I told her that I had done the bamboo on loop two. She said that loop 3 was her first time to be sent that way. We laughed at the fact that we had both messed up the course as one point or another. Off we went together. We hit one section that was a long, not steep, uphill. She slowly pulled away from me. I kept seeing her, but with the uphills I couldn't stay with her. UGGG! I am not a strong uphill runner :( I was able to stay not far behind, but just couldn't stay with her. I caught back up to her as she was refilling her camelbak at the last aid station. I was able to run through, and started one of the last long uphills...of course she caught back up again. I was able to stay right ahead of her on the flats and downhills, but she would pull away on the uphills. She was just so smooth on the ups. She got to the steps about 20 sec ahead of me, and I pushed the road down to the finish but finished behind her in about 5:24.
Major bonus to have her there because I ran stronger than I would have on my own. Even with the harder course, 3x88 steps, and bonus mileage I actually finished the same time I did last year so I was pleased and her to thank for it!
Paul, of course, won. He said that he didn't feel great, but he didn't have anyone to run with or push him and had a huge week of training leading up...this is also two hours longer than his last race :)
Sunday morning we headed to Bastrop for a soft run. I am so proud of him for the back to back run as I know he would have rather been on his bike. I know he will thank me at Sonoma! I don't know if all of this running is for him, so we might have to find an adventure together that offers a bit more variety. But, it is such a treat to do this together!
Pics to come soon! I know, for sure, there is one of Chris and I.