This was by far my favorite trail race yet. I LOVE this course! I loved the mixed terrain and especially the fast down hills where I felt like I was a little kid dancing in the woods. Honestly, I was a bit amazed with my own confidence in how fast I was maneuvering the down hills and the rocky terrain by the 4th loop, it was almost an out of body experience. Oh, and I love the loops. I would do a 100 out here if given the chance – Joe?? It is definitely a well supported, well run race with great volunteers, plus fun goodies (cool race medal, technical shirt, great burgers and Shiner beer). I highly recommend it!
Wild Hare is held at Bluff Creek Ranch in Warda, Texas. It is a 7.85 mile trail that is used mostly by mountain bikers and it is a great mix of semi-technical single track, with sections that roll up and down with a good mix of flat and open trails. Note, I am flat lander, so what I call rolling up and down, others may not even notice. There are only two big climbs on the course, both in the second half of the loop.
There were 4 races going on simultaneously – a 50 miler, 50K, 25K and 10K. The 50 milers started at 6 am, 50Kers at 7 am and 25Kers and 10Kers at 8 am. I like this set up because it brings more people out for the races, but I do wish there was an easy way to distinguish which race any given runner was competing in … this will become important later in my race report.
The 50K was 4 loops on the course with aid stations at 3.5 miles and at the start/finish line. It is pretty spectator friendly because the aid station at 3.5 miles is within sight of the start finish line, so spectators can easily walk back and forth between the two spots to cheer and support their runners.
My goal for this race was to keep my lap splits as even as possible, run strong but not blow up and to not lose too much time at aid stations. I skipped my hydration pack for this race and opted to just carry a handheld and used that and pockets on my clothes to carry a couple nutrition items. I had easy access to my gear and crew (my patient and devoted hubby, Doug) at the aid stations so I didn’t need to carry much. I had peanut butter crackers for my pre-race meal and joined the 100 other 50K runners on the starting line.
Race morning was chilly, so I layered up in a beanie, gloves, running capris, running tank, bolero and running vest. I knew I would be taking layers off as the day progressed, another reason I loved the looped course. I started with the top 25% of the field and waited to find my stride. It takes me a good 5 miles for my body to take over for my mind when running trails. The first 5 miles are typically when I will have an early ankle roll because I am over thinking, so I was diligent and a happy that I was not running in the dark. I don’t like to run bunched up with a lot of other runners because I like to have full view of the trail, especially in the early miles. This becomes less important as the race progresses after I have found my stride and I am in my comfort zone. So, surprisingly, after just a couple of miles I found myself, well, by myself. Basically I was in between the top group and the rest of the field and I stayed here most of the day.
Loop 1: I found my stride and locked into my race pace (which varies depending on lots of factors, including how I feel on any given race day). The cool weather definitely helped on Saturday. I ran the entire lap, even the two steep up hills. I have run this course before, so I got re-acquainted and was happy to not have any issues. I stayed on top of my hydration and nutrition - PowerBar Energy Blasts for calories.
Loop 2: Got rid of the beanie and gloves, filled up on water, added sunglasses and a headband and inhaled a quarter PBJ at the start/finish before taking off. Felt a lot more confidence heading into loop 2. I chatted with a few more people on this lap, which I always enjoy (yes, I am THAT runner) and was happy to see Doug at the aid station. I ran the entire lap again, but was a bit slower on those steep uphills. PowerBar Energy Gel and a quarter PBJ fueled this lap.
Loop 3: I took off my remaining layers and felt awesome in the brisk air in a running tank and my leggings. At this point, I started to wonder how many women were ahead of me … hmmm. I passed a few and I knew there were a few ahead of me, but how many? I tried to ignore my competitive inner dialogue (like a devil on my shoulder) reminding myself to run my own race (the angel), to keep moving forward but I still found myself stalking a woman in a yellow t-shirt ahead of me. It was great to have a pace bunny. I ran into more traffic this lap and chatted briefly with the people I passed, some doing the 50 miler, some 25Kers. I passed the woman in the yellow shirt towards the end of the lap but it was because my natural stride and pace dictated it was time to pass. More PowerBar Energy Gels and PBJs. I had a few random cramps, but ran through them ok. I ran the entire lap, but walked the two steep uphills, which I swear were getting steeper each lap. The brief walks and change in my stride helped me stretch my hamstrings.
Loop 4: Doug was supportive as ever and wished me well on my last lap. I stopped to re-tie my shoes because they were loose and I didn’t want so much play in my shoes. While I was adjusting my shoes, the lady in yellow shirt passed me. Crap! I had to tell myself that it didn’t matter, I was racing my own race. The start of this lap hurt. My hamstrings were getting tight and I had a few random aches and pains, but I kept telling myself to keep moving forward, that my competition was running and I should be too (in this case, it was good to use my competitive spirit), and that it would feel better if I just kept going … and it did. It didn’t take long for me to pass the lady in yellow again. Once I hit the aid station, I took off knowing that I had just over 4 miles to go. There is a three quarters of a mile open section of trail as you leave the aid station to the next technical portion of the trail – the gas pass. I took my time here, and then let it ride in the gas pass, knowing my horse to stables adrenaline would get me home. Again, I power walked the steep up hills and enjoyed one last PowerBar Energy gel to power me to the end.
With three or so miles to go, I got passed by a woman that I was hoping was running the 50 miler because she seemed like she was flying (turned out she was in the 50K). Towards the end of the lap, I saw a woman in a green hat that I thought might be in the 50K but I was not sure. I had reeled her in for most of the last lap but I thought that she was too far ahead to reach, and I was trying to run my own race. Well, with less than a half mile to go, I was on her tail and she started to pick up the pace, so I kicked it into high gear, but it was not quite enough to catch her (she was in the 50K … remember me saying it would be great to know who was running each race, maybe I need to pay more attention at the start!). I came in 6th by 6 seconds and missed out on the cool rabbit trophies, but enjoyed a Shiner Wild Hare Pale Ale as a consolation prize after tacking on 4 bonus miles as training for Rocky Raccoon.
It was a great race. I tried to be encouraging to every person I came across all day long, competition or not and to thank all of the volunteers who were so helpful. I had a great chat with the two ladies who came in fourth and fifth afterwards and then took off for my bonus miles. I thought they were going to hurt, but turns out, I was so relaxed now that I was no longer racing, they were actually faster than my times on my fourth lap (lesson learned – RELAX to go faster)! I finished my 35 miles feeling strong and knowing that I could have kept going, I will call that a positive training and race day! Oh, and I PR’d the race by 18 minutes!
Lap 1 – 1:19:04
Lap 2 – 1:21:51
Lap 3 – 1:25:53
Lap 4 – 1:28:31