• Quick Glance:
  • Host: RunningTRU  (Facebook)
  • Shoes: Huaraches/Barefoot
  • Venue: Eisenhower Park
  • Would I Run It Again:YES! This course kicked my butt and I LOVED IT! I am planning to go back and train at this location…OFTEN!
  • Muddy Sneakers Rating:5 out of 5 (even without mud!) This was an inaugural running of this event, and while there is always room for improvement and something to complain about…the growing pains of this race were not perceivable to the average Joe..

I can’t write a review of this race without first talking a bit about the organizer, my friend, Antonio. I have known him only a few short months, meeting him for the first time at the July SARR Monthly Fun Run, and cementing our friendship while we volunteered together for the SARR Women’s 5k a few weeks later. In the time I have known him, Antonio has proven himself a great guy. I have seen him volunteer to aid other races, give training advice and tips to fledgling runners, and just all-around be one of those always positive people you want to have around.

While we were working together to help everywhere we could be useful at the Women’s 5k, we talked a lot about barefoot running (I am trying to convert him) and he mentioned he needed a few more volunteers for his first event, The EisenHOTTER! He might have been joking when he said, “You could run the 10k, and then run it again and grab all the trail markers, but my kids will be grabbing the 5k markers, so you’ll only have to do the other half of the 10k”

“So a 15k?” Like the Rebel Race…NO! NOT LIKE THE REBEL RACE!

No problem.

Undaunted, I accepted his offer of volunteer services for admission, and have been excited to run this ever since!

My only regret is that I wasn’t at 100% for this event, because hitting this course nursing an injury sent me to the doctor’s office! The good news is, nothing is broken, but I’ll get more into that at the end of this post.

Enough of the back story, on with the review!

I woke early, had a light breakfast and headed out the door bright and early…well, maybe not bright as the sun hadn’t even started to peek over the horizon, but DEFINITELY early. I had packed up my Z the night prior, with my usual packing list,  minus a few odds and ends, (no mud) but sporting the recent addition of a headlamp. I had planned on running this event in my ZEMGear Terra’s (review part 1) (review part 2),
but last week running in regular shoes for a few days whilst trying to let my foot heal left me with some rather painful blisters, which the ZEM’s tended to rub against, aggravating them immensely. THE BLISTERS WERE NOT CAUSED BY THE ZEMs, ONLY AGGRAVATED, AS ANY OTHER SHOE WOULD DO! So don’t skip buying a pair of these amazing shoes based on blisters, they haven’t caused any! My only options to run in were my Trek Sports or my KSO’s,  as they do not move at all, or my trusty HOME MADE leather huaraches. A glutton for punishment, I chose the huaraches…

(In hindsight, I should have worn my Trek Sports instead… the trails were mostly large sharp rocks, and at around mile 4 my little piggies were huffing and puffing… after mile 6.2. I changed into my Trek Sports to run hobble along and collect the trail markers)

Finding the venue location, Eisenhower Park on Military Highway (off the 1604 loop) was VERY easy, and parking was plentiful. I immediately spotted a few fellow SARR members, and (after saying hello) I asked them to point me towards Antonio.
I parked, and headed down a dim trail to find him hanging the Start/Finish signs over the paved path the runs would begin upon. After exchanging quick greetings, I asked what I could do to help, and he gave me a few things to do…

We continued getting ready for the race start through the morning, and as the sun crested the horizon, Mrs Antonio arrived and she set up her table to begin the day-of packet pick-up and registration. More and more runners arrived through-out the morning, as well as a large group of volunteers from the Air Force NCO Academy. Right about the same time I was explaining to the AF volunteers that Antonio would be back shortly (he was out setting up a water point) I glanced to my right and saw another runner in huaraches!

Mustering all the swagger I could summon (without laughing) I walked over, pointed to the man’s feet and asked in disbelief,

“You aren’t planning on running in THOSE are you!”

The gentleman rolled his eyes,but then looked at my feet and chuckled. ( I suppose that, like me, he has heard this one before) We conversed a few minutes about our sandals, and it turned out his were the Barefoot Ted designed Luna’s (named after his Tarahumara buddy, Manuel Luna, if you don’t know these things, read “Born to Run”) He asked where I got mine, and was genuinely surprised when I told him I had made them… I must admit though, the thicker sole and elasticized leather of his footwear gave me some serious sandal-envy! I need to get some! (or at least bite a little of the design)

I chatted with the other runners, discussing the age-old topics of barefoot vs shod running, and I was happy to find that, while the barefoot crowd had minimal presence, the minimalist crowd was attending in dominating numbers.

As the start time grew ever closer, Antonio took to the mic to give some pre-race instructions… I was slowly going into race mode, so nothing was sticking to my brain really… but I recall him stating “the 5k runners, remember this Red, White and THROUGH…. the 10k Runners need to follow RED, WHITE and BLUE…”… and then he went on to talk about how the course was laid out, and how the trail would make you wish you had stayed home at its most challenging and technical points! He was spot on! He wished us all luck, asking the faster runners to lead out the pack, and we all lined up on the thin paved portion that the Start/Finish line was located on.

This event was manually timed, but it was very inexpensive (as 10k trail races go) so I didn’t really hear anyone grumbling about it. My only complaint about the start was that I didn’t hear the actual “GO!”…I just started running when everyone in front of me did.

We ran on the pavement for a short while, maybe a km or so, and then the course veered onto a nice soft mulch covered trail. I kicked on the afterburners here, putting some speed down during this portion, even though it was early in the race, because this surface was so soft and nice to run on. I have run in Eisenhower park wearing huaraches before, so I knew what I was getting into. I would be slowed down a lot throughout the rocky trail portions. It was around this point that I began to suspect the (still hurting) injury to my foot wasn’t in good enough condition to really RUN this race, so I began to slow my pace, dropping from an 8:30 (ish) to a 12:30 (ish) pace and changing my goal from “Finishing Strong” to “please, just let me at least finish this” The mulch was a dream to run upon, with the beautiful trail snaking its way through the shade of the trees flanking it on both sides. It’s surface was almost root free, and broken only by the occasional (and easily spotted) boulder edges sticking out, and shifts in elevation were short, though it seemed a constant uphill.

We emerged from the shaded mulch trail and into the glaring Texas sun to hit the first water point and begin the more technical portions of the trail. Sufficed to say, this is where the poop hit the fan…the nice mulch we were running on gave way to sharp-edged rocks, with boulders inlaid sporadically throughout the path. I grabbed a cup of water from a volunteer, downed it quickly on the run, dropped the cup, and picked my head up to settle into a trail running rhythm. Due to the ultra-thin (3mm leather) nature of my huaraches, I spent much of my time during this portion nimbly hopping from outcropping to outcropping…I must have been quite a sight for all those behind me to laugh at a bit. The trail raised a bit in elevation, then took a fairly steep downturn, and I was now in a world of hurt…I just can’t seem to get the hang of running downhill in bare feet…I slowly picked my way downhill, mindful of faster runners coming behind me, and trying to keep out of their way. A few hundred meters and the trail evened out and smoothed a little, though the smoother texture was very misleading, as half-fist sized rocks were strewn about randomly, each one seeming to attempt to leap under my arch and leave me with bruised feet!

At the end of the downward grade, the course to the right, into a wall! Well OK, not a wall really, but a “staircase” formed from the rocky outcroppings. I was faced with a choice: I could run from side to side up the hill, to places where each step would be low enough to step to, OR I could resort to quadrupedal movement, and have some fun while getting an upper body workout in the middle of my 10k! I decided to go with QM’s and exhausted myself getting up the hill! At the top, I stood up, and started an easy trot, still going uphill??? How the heck am I still going UPHILL!? A few twists and turns later, and I was looking over the edge of the cliff!…wait not a cliff, steps again! I took these very carefully, as my left ankle was starting to feel a bit tender by now.

When we hit the bottom of the steps, the trail almost immediately turned back onto a paved trail for a short time, which then returned us to that oh-so-wonderful mulch trail again…back to pavement and I was facing down a decision: Should I listen to my ankle and hit the 5k finish line, or should I ignore it, run through the pain, and turn right onto the 10k loop.

I turned right…. the good news is: Nothing is broken!

The nice soft mulch-covered trails and pavement disappeared at once, replaced by trails the made the Spartan Sprint’s winding and rock-strewn paths seem almost easy in comparison! The trails at the Rebel Race were rocky, yes, but at least those rocks were SMOOTH! Every stride attempted on these trails seemed a gamble, because if the rock was not loose, it was SHARP…and vice-versa!

These trails are glorious! I will be returning to this location to train in the future!

After running uphill on these horror-film inspired torture trails for what seemed to be FOREVER, I finally hit the midway water-point. I charged straight through,pausing briefly to guzzle a water and a Gatorade handed to me by one of the aforementioned Air Force NCO Academy Volunteers. Remember earlier when I talked about “RED,WHITE AND THROUGH” VS. “RED, WHITE AND BLUE?” I don’t know what is wrong with me when it comes to an out and back course, but I made the wrong choice and wound up shaving about a 1/4 mile of my course….this misjudgement of mine also left me back on my least favorite downhill portion… I would have rather gone the other way….

Back over the “wall”,  a short sprint uphill, and then down another “staircase” and the trail smoothed over a little, shaded slightly from the scorching Texas sun. This portion continued downhill mostly, snaking and weaving to and fro as trails tend to, and then proceeded to rejoin the paved portion of the trail…

Since I was certain the rest of the trail was along decent SHADED pavement, I paused the doff my huaraches, deciding to finish out the course completely unshod. The trail wound downhill, and turned into the finishing area…. I crossed the finish amid encouragement from some of the other Road Runners in attendance
in the almost embarrassing (for me) time of 01:16:13, as recorded by my MotoACTV.

I kept on running out to my Z, grabbing my TrekSports, my cell-phone and a small light weight back-pack in preparation for my second loop to sweep the trail markers…

I took a few minutes to rest, and Merv, another volunteer who would be working the sweep with me, suggested we set off in opposite directions, with him going the “right way” and me working the course reversed. I agreed this was a good idea, and after some re-hydration, and a few packets of sport beans, I checked with the finish line to see how many runners were left out there.

Only one.

Since there was only one runner remaining, I headed backwards up the course, grabbing trail markers as I went since there was nowhere to turn and go the wrong way. My thought was that I would meet this final runner along the way, and give them either a few verbal directions, or simply run them back in. When I got to the place where the trail entered the pavement, I hadn’t spotted another runner yet, so I decided I would simply run them in if I came across them, thinking that maybe they had overheated and hit a short-cut to the finish line…something like that…

About a mile later, with a bag full of trail markers that were no longer hanging in the trees slung on my back… I met up with the final determined athlete. She was moving at her best walk, moving at her own speed…I waved as she approached and explained who I was and what I was doing. I walked with her along the rocky path, until it met with pavement again. After a right turn onto the pavement, there was no way she could make a wrong turn (there were no turns on that section until the finish line) and we parted….

I ran back up the incline, having a much easier time maintaining a pace in my Vibrams than I had in my huaraches… The only thing worse on this course then running the hill in the middle…was running it BACKWARDS….but up and over and back down  I went…

Merv met me at the bottom with a bag full of trail markers in his hand. I explained about going back with the final runner and then re-running the hill. He was simply glad I got to do the hill… we decided to go back the way he had come, preferring to run a distance over the effort or going over the hill once again…we struck up a brisk walk, running side by side when the path was smoother, but neither of us really wanting to push it. It was getting hot by now!

Once we hit the pavement again, I doffed my Vibrams and we trotted on down the path to staging area, maintaining a brisk, yet conversational pace. We turned in our trail markers, aided Antonio with a few more things, shared some black coffee, and the day, as well as the event was done.

This being the inaugural running of this particular race, I am very impressed with how few problems arose, and how any that may have arisen were handled efficiently instead of being excused. I look forward to running in more RunningTRU events, as this was a shining example of how an event doesn’t need to be huge or expensive to be AWESOME.

The RunningTRU philosophy: “ Running doesn’t have to be just for the elite, it can be a great way for everyone to stay fit, connected, and best of all to make a difference in this world.” (taken from the RunningTRU Homepage)
Once I got home I promptly showered and re-hydrated, limping a little to favor my left ankle. I sat down and put my feet up. To my horror I then noticed the reason my left ankle was so tender: It was TWICE the size of my right!

The good news is: Nothing is broken!

I kept it iced and elevated for the remainder of Saturday and Sunday, and went to see the doctor on Monday. Thankfully my PCM is an avid runner and is a member of the minimalist camp. This left me able to explain what happened and not catch hell from a doctor who opines that “shoes are necessary” Between the two of us, we determined that it was an overuse injury, stemming from changing my gait to baby my injured right foot.

After taking some X-rays to rule out a stress fracture (none apparent), I got a  prescription for Celebrex to aid with the swelling, as well as instructions to NOT RUN for at LEAST A WEEK, ice it often and keep it elevated when possible. It’s been two days, as I am finishing the body of this article on Tuesday, August 21st, and the swelling has decreased significantly, along with the pain. I have since had to mark my foot with large “x’s” written in marker, to aid the Thing’s Three in avoiding that side of my body!

In other words, I am on the mend!

Stay Muddy My Friends!

 

 

 

 

 

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