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  • Quick Glance:
  • Host: Redemption Race Productions
  • Shoes: Vibram Five Fingers (KSO)
  • Venue: Breath-taking Hill Country, some of the best panoramic views that Texas hill Country has to offer
  • Would I Run It Again: More Appropriately: what would it take to make me miss this race?
  • Muddy Toes Rating: 10 out of 10!

1534950_687730464583145_1951750865_oWell, 2013 was the “Year of the Tri” for me, and while I don’t plan on leaving the Triathlon world completely, I do plan on focusing more on Obstacle Course Races and Endurance/Ultra-Running- It’s just cheaper that way…

…and I can consult The Doctor for Training advice:

This race holds a special place in my heart because it was the first trail race I ever attempted, and then I returned to run the 1/2 marathon distance last year, as well as the Natural Bridge Caverns T-Rex Duathlon later in the year! I plan to continue to run it each year it is available. I have seen it grow over the last three years, and this year was no exception, despite unfavorable and uncooperative weather!

Enough with the history lesson,on with the review! Allons-y!

In a successful effort to further stand out from the myriad of events/racing organizations,  Redemption Race Productions (RRP) has really stepped up their game this year in an effort to further distance themselves from everyone else putting on a race this year. As if their races weren’t already awesome (spectators eat free, awesome venues, port-o-potties on course) they have upgraded their event shirts to a New Balance Tech-Tee, and the swag bags were backpacks- and nice packs at that…none of that burlap sack stuff that other “rockin and rollin events give out….”

So race morning came and brought with it a bleary day….cold with a misting rain blowing in. The forecast was dismal: Temperatures were slated to continue dropping as the morning continued. I woke early and drove out to the Caverns, having been there enough by now that I could time the drive perfectly. I opted for warmer clothing than I had worn during the NBC Duathlon in December, and set my mind to the task at hand.

Upon arriving at the event, I was amazed by the sheer number of people in attendance. The first year, it was sizeable, and the following year saw that number double- This year the race had a record number of attendees- and each race now started from the belly of the cave.

I made my way inside the visitors area and chatted with other runners as we all waited for the start time to arrive. I saw a lot of familiar faces, and many people commented on my decision to wear my VFF Kso’s. I merely explained that the cold and wet weather didn’t lend itself well to my Juaraches, and I considered my VFF’s to be a suitable alternative.

All runners were summoned from the warm confines of the building to gather outside for the pre-race briefing. Brian, the race director, welcomed and thanked everyone for coming out, and warned everyone of the pitfalls they faced ahead on the trails. He warned against littering and poor sportsmanship, as well as safety concerns for running in the cave…

The races would start in the following order, 13.1, 10k, 5k… so the half marathon runners left the race briefing and immediately started to seed into the cave for the time trial starts. No stranger to the caves, I stripped down to as little as possible while inside the claustrophobic interior in an effort to prevent heating up while inside just to get out into the cold and freeze!

I started with about 2/3 of the pack in front of me, and the time trial start left me waiting inside the cave for much longer than I wanted to be in it. When it was my turn to go, I was chomping at the bit and ready to go. …

And then I was off like a bat out of hell sprinting from the starting line to the first no run/no pass area, then speed walking and taking off through the next portion to pass the two runners ahead of me… I throttled back when I hit the final ascent, but maintained a brisk pace, despite being momentarily blinded by a camera flash!

1625596_697868433569348_1028203277_nAnd then, the cave portion was over, and the race really began. The course was relatively unchanged from the previous year, so I had a better idea of where to let fly and where to throttle back. When compiled with the cold weather, my knowledge of the course left me feeling much better than I had the previous year and the miles ticked by.

Before I had a chance to realize how far I had gone,  I arrived at the aid station I had used last year to pass a kidney stone mid race… I stopped in and checked, happily voiding only the usual stuff…sans stones of any sort!

The temperature dropped as the race wore on, and as the trails got harder and harder, I pushed my pace to the edges of my limits and kept pushing… the hills that had bested me in previous races met with a new and determined racer this time, and I flew along the rock strewn fields the course wound through.

I broke through…. despite the bitter wet cold and tough trails, I was having the time of my life… I finally realized what I had been doing wrong- In the past year, I had been so focused on improving my running that I forgot what fun it could be… and then as suddenly as I had forgotten, I recalled why I started running in the first place.

This was supposed to be fun!…. and lo it was fun again! And I was running in beautiful hill country!

I checked my MotoACTV and saw that I was coming into the final 3 miles…and, thinking that maybe I was forgetting to have fun( or worrying about pace and numbers)  a large boulder jumped up and bit me right on the top of my right great toe…

oh that poor toe… the abuse it takes…..

I stumbled, recovering my footing without going down. I thought about stopping to check it out, and then decided no matter what, I was going to run it in anyway-there were no shortcuts back…

So I kept running as the final insult came. The pregnant clouds above us came to their full term, and a freezing rain/sleet/ice cacophany of nastiness rained down upon us all.

I reached down deep, into previously untapped reserves, and let my legs fly with my feet churning madly beneath me….and I covered the final 2 miles of the race under 15 minutes… I hit the asphalt of the final finish approach and sprinted flat out, leaving it all on the slippery tarmac to cross the finish line in 02:12:02—- over 31 minutes better than my finish time in the previous year (02:43:12) HELL YEAH!

1795532_697126520310206_1202587399_nahhhhh a heel strike!

I passed the finish chute, and kept running…. straight to my car to grab warmer clothing and apply some first aid to my toe… which  was only a minor cut, but looked to be much worse from the outside!

So, with that..I’ll say goodbye for now,….

Next up, I’ll turn my preview into a REVIEW when I tackle the upcoming Trails ‘n’ Tribulations OCR!