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ER_trail_logo….continued from Weekend Double Header Part #1….

I got home after successfully conquering the Gladiator Rock’n Run in short order, and Mrs MuddyJ had started getting the Thing’s set to go. My second race of the weekend, The Enchanted Rock 25k Trail Run, was set to start early in the morning, so rather than getting up WAY too early, we decided to make a little family trip out of it.

But first, I had to put away my new autographed action figure:

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now my MuddyJ action figures aren’t so lonely!

Then it was time to load up the car and family and get going!

We met up with Mrs MuddyJ’s parents (Oma and Opa for those in the know) for the weekend in Fredricksburg, and spent an enjoyable evening exploring the town and eating dinner together. Our newest family member, Dexter, a boxer/hound mix we rescued from a life on the streets -literally- would be joining us, and I am pleased with how well he was behaved and mannered… here’s a few quick pics of him:

So, an uneventful drive and an enjoyable evening saw me and the rest of the family early to bed & early to rise!

Morning came, as it invariably is prone to do, and we all woke early and thanks to the foresight of Mrs MuddyJ, we all had a hot breakfast in the hotel room. She had questioned how we would have breakfast the evening prior, and we made the supermarket in town one of our stops…I swear that without that woman, I would be most certainly be done for!

It was a short drive from our hotel to the parking area at the Tin Star Ranch. Since there is limited parking at the park, all race participants were assigned areas in which to park. Shuttles were provided for transportation to and from the race site, and the end result was a severe lack of congestion with happy runners all around…..

And this is what we got to see:

800px-Enchanted_Rock_Panorama_2012The shuttles dropped us off in the starting area, which was quite small, and I got my first look at the trail surfaces. According to reports I had gotten from friends, I probably wouldn’t need any shoes for this event, and my first look at the trails confirmed it. A quick trip to the potty for a PRD and off came my “J”uaraches – cause not wearing shoes in a port-o-potty is where I draw the line!

20131110_070356As is Redemption Race Production’s custom, a pre-race briefing was given, and then we all bowed our heads as a pre-race prayer was said. I kissed Mrs MuddyJ for luck, hugged the Things Three and gave ol’ Dexter a scratch behind the ears for good measure.

I stepped up and took my place in the starting chute, focusing on my pre-race mental state… preparing myself to hit exhaustion and not give in,  and to deal with anything the trail could throw at me while I wasn’t wearing any shoes…

As there was a 10k option, the 25k runners were released first, and I quickly discovered that I had started far too much towards the rear of the pack. The trails narrowed quickly, and with every technical section the pack  slowed to a crawl, sometimes stopping completely. I tried to keep my cool, knowing there was plenty of race to make up lost time, but frustration quickly got the better of me, and I sprinted at every opening that presented itself until I had a clear enough trail in front of myself to settle into a pace without worrying over whether or not I was going to run over someone as they stopped to walk over some rocks or pick their way carefully up or down a small hill.

The trail opened up onto a paved parking area, and I slowed to save my feet the suffering that comes with running barefoot on solid surfaces that hide tiny pebbles from being easily spotted-and therefore landed upon. This would prove to be the only flat portion of the run, and the flat path turned into a considerable ascent. The trail surface here consisted of tiny pebbles, which were rounded and smooth, with some muddy sections, and other sections of exposed rock … everything was smooth, and I shortened my stride to maintain my cadence as I climbed the trail. The ascent was a gentle but long climb…but the same could not be said for the descents… every drop in elevation was a rapid drop, usually a few hundred feet, occurring over a short distance. I attempted to make the most of these sections by sprinting all out and allowing gravity to do its thing and the I did well recovering from these sections on the next uphill grade…..it still doesn’t make sense to me that I was using the uphill sections for recovery, but hey… it worked!…somehow….

Overall the effect of the course made me feel like I was constantly running uphill, and the downhills brought me more challenge than relief. The course wound all the way around the base of Enchanted Rock, and the final leg was a VERY technical rock strewn section alongside a bubbling creek… this would prove to be my favorite section of the run over the entirety of the course, because it was tough and interesting, and also because it was right before the lap area/starting line… on my second and third loop the good folks at RRP managed to catch some really blurry images of me moving fast through the base area:

I maintained a pace that was just over the point of effort where I would have trouble conversing while running. I have been adhering to a strictly ketogenic diet for the last few weeks, and the result is a seemingly limitless pool of energy…. hello ULTRAS! I stopped at each aid station and grabbed some water, but that was all I needed for this race to keep a strong pace…

I bebop’d along as I listen to the music playing through my headphones, keeping an eye on my heart rate more than my pace…The second loop came and went without much incident, and I was feeling great as I started the third and final loop I would have to run before headed straight up the rock, which is a 130 meter climb over the course of about 1/2 a mile.

I was feeling good, and pushing it hard up an exposed stone section when I failed to lift my right foot high enough to clear a small outcropping and stubbed my great toe…the one I broke earlier this year… and boy did I stub it hard…

I made it the top of the climb, ignoring the splash of crimson that had spread across the top of my foot as I ran on. I plopped down on a rock next to the trail to assess the damage, fearing more than anything else that I might have done enough damage to have to drop out of the race…

The wound, though ugly and bleeding, proved to be worse looking than it actually was, and I decided I could make it to the next aid station, about a mile away. I hobbled along, assure other runners I would be fine as I passed them, and when I came upon the aid station, I asked if they had a first aid kit…which they didnt..it wasn’t that the aid station was poorly stocked, but the first aid kit had gone with a rescue vehicle that was at the time I in the process of evacuating an injured runner.

I was annoyed, but I get it… I mentally scanned the trail ahead, and I remembered a medic stationed another mile and a half up the trail. After confirming he was still there, it was also confirmed he would have a first aid kit…

I ran on, picking up and motivating another runner along the way… we kept each other in high spirits until I made it to the medic. They had radioed ahead and he knew to expect me and his kit was already out. He asked if I needed attention, and I said,”nope, I just need scissors, gauze and medi-tape…oh and something to irrigate the wound” he had everything but water to irrigate the wound, so I cleaned the dirt off as best as I could without it before I clipped it and dressed  the wound as best as I could.

Then I was off to the finish…with the medic still in shock that I wasn’t wearing any shoes…

I hit the creek section hard and fast, trying to make up some of the time I lost treating my silly wound, and I tore through the base camp area and onto the first section for the final time before getting to the Enchanted Rock ascent entrance…

I passed the Welsch sisters and their father Rodney playing alongside the trail as I found my pace increasing, and they  not only remembered me from the Natural Bridge Caverns Half Marathon, but also that I shun shoes… and they cheered for me! It was a great feeling to have such icons of the running world recognize little old me…

I made it to the base of the rock, and I was handed a bottle of water to take on the trip to the summit and I was told “hey man, I read your recent post, glad you’re okay”

I thanked him for his sentiments, and the water. I quickly gulped it down and tossed it in a receptacle before I hit the final ascent to the summit..

…the run to the summit quickly became a slow trot, which then slowed to a walk, which then slowed to a pace that saw me scrambling over boulders with my hands just to maintain movement towards the top…

…the final half mile of this race took me longer than any previous two miles I had run that day! unbeknownst to me, Mrs MuddyJ and the rest of the troop had headed straight to the top of the rock when I had set out a few hours earlier. Mrs MuddyJ got some great candids:

And the aching drudgery that was the run up the rock finally showed me and end…i redoubled my efforts and found my final sprint, covering the last 50 yards in a fraction of the time the previous 50 yards had taken me…

And just like that I was done… the Things Three were happy to see me, of course, as well as Mrs MuddyJ, Oma, Opa, and of course, Dexter:

With the wind blowing, the chill on top of the rock was brutal, so we headed down in short order… All the climbing running I had done started as a soreness in my glutes, and as a result going down the rock was WAY harder than it was to go up in…seriously… I had to take little baby steps…

We made it down as the awards were being given out, and I collected my second hard-earned finisher’s medal of the weekend…no records were set by me this day, and no podium finish…but this was a race where ‘just finishing’ is worth bragging rights!

2013-11-10 11.33.44So what’s next?

I have a few weeks off before my next double header, where I plan on taking down the Illuminations Half Marathon, followed by the Natural Bridge Caverns “T-rex” Duathlon:

IlluminationsHalf NBCDu_logo

…and assuming I survive those, the very next weekend ALL of the MuddyJ family is participating in the Windcrest City of Lights 5k the night before Red and I take down the Spartan Beast:

CoL5K_Logoheader21….but before I bid you all adieu, do you all remember this guy, Alan, who won a free entry to the Gladiator Rock ‘N Run? Well he suckered coaxed his friend into joining him, and I am happy to report that they had a great time as well…although I keep getting random reports of some guy trying to pass himself off as Russel Crowe:

Well, time to go for now…


Stay Muddy, My Friends!