Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Grasslands Half Marathon Race Recap

20130321_164844What a crazy fun weekend!?!  It was great to have my sister, Denise, here visiting from Ohio.  We all agreed that she brought the cooler weather with her.

Northshore Trails

Practically straight from the airport, we went and ran trails at Northshore Trail in Grapevine.  We ran the southern part of it running to Rockledge Park and back to the parking spot near Murrell Park.  It was a fun 4 mile run that she really enjoyed.  She was totally surprised at how dry the trails were compared to Ohio trails.  She left snow back home on Thursday.  She also wasn’t used to the off-road bikes on the trails.  They’ve got horses on their trails back up north. 

20130321_171936It was fun to just have a conversationally good time with her on the trails.  Normally when I go to Northshore, I try to put the hammer down.  We definitely stopped and smelled the roses and took a bunch of pictures.  I told her about Rockledge Rumble 30K that I ran back in November.  Of course, I had to show her where I fell during the race. :)

We pretty much chilled on Friday in anticipation of the Grasslands Half Marathon on Saturday.  By chilling, I mean that we went to a pet store at a doggy day care place.  Denise is a huge dog lover as she loves to train her Weimaraner, Jackson and other dogs.  We also had to go to a nearby running store.  We visited RunOn! up in McKinney.  She bought me a super cool lightweight Brooks jacket that was on clearance.  Thanks, girl!  I got to use it on Saturday at Grasslands.

Before the race, Denise was praying for rain and colder temperatures.  She was stressing about running in the Texas heat.  I don’t mind the colder temps, but I’m not a fan when combined with rain.  I jokingly would tell her that I was praying for no rain and comfortable temps.

20130323_081037Grasslands Half Marathon

Everything that I’ve been told and researched in anticipation of Grasslands was that there’d be a lot of sand, cow patties, and pastures. I wasn’t let down.  The rain did help to make the sand firmer to run in, but later in the race it was a slipe-sliding crazy time!

When I checked Weather.com before we left the house it definitely looked like we were going to have some rain during the race.  Well, the rain and lightning started while we were driving to Decatur.  I wasn’t feeling great about this, but then again, I survived the 2011 Dallas White Rock Marathon.  :)

484242_4052887620988_133954543_n-croppedWe found our way to the parking, grabbed our race packets and stayed warm in the car for awhile.  Once we got out of the car for the pre-race briefing, the rain luckily stopped.  I thought there was some hope of no rain for the rest of the rain.  I was definitely wrong.

Dean from the Frisco Running Club rode along with us to the race.  We got to share race stories coming and going to the race.  Before the race, we posed for a FRC group photo.  Denise was made an honorary member of the group.

My race strategy???  I wanted to get as close to 2 hours as possible.  I figured with the course being less technical than Northshore, flatter, and more straight-a-ways, I’d have a chance to get some speed going for this race.

After a 10 second countdown, precisely at 8:30am, we were on our way.  As usual at the start of any race, we were pretty packed.  Whenever I run with Cairo, I like to keep him in my sights as it gives me comfort.  He told me that he’d be behind me the whole race to let me set the pace.

      Lost Already!?!

The race started at a pretty quick pace as we were initially headed downhill.  As we’re all clumped up together, you’re just focused on watching the ground and the person in front of you.  Being the Lemmings that we are, we followed the runners in front of us.  After about .6 miles, one of the lead runners took the wrong path, which in turn had everyone following along the wrong path.  It took awhile for all of us to figure this out as we weren’t seeing our blue markers on the trail anymore, just orange ones.  Uh oh!  It was probably a funny sight as we’re all looking at each other trying to figure out what to do.  So, some of us went back while others were determined to continue straight ahead.  Hanging with another father-son duo, Cairo and I found our way back to the correct blue trail.

wrong way

So, after going a quarter mile out of our way and a quarter mile back on course, we were ready to get back into a groove.  As most trail runners would tell us… these were bonus miles or a bonus half mile.

splitsThe beginning of the race there was a lot of sand which felt like running on a beach.  After our mishap in the beginning, it was kind of neat to catch up to the race from the back.  We were able to see all of our running friends as we caught up to them.  They had the common question of where’d you come from?  When we caught up to Denise, I made sure to holler and scream for her.  She was definitely in her environment as she was embracing every challenging part of the course.

The first aid station was a welcome sight as Cairo and I were getting used to the terrain.  It was great to see Kevin Luper at the aid station.  We ran together way back in my DRC training days.  After the first aid station came some heavy downpour of rain along with some heavy thunder, dark skies, and lightning.  With the lightning being so close, I really think that most road races would’ve closed the event.  It was getting pretty close for comfort.


After dodging the lightning & thunder brought the next challenge of the hail.  Oh hail!  Thank God, that it was only pea sized, but nonetheless it was pretty crazy to be running through it.  The hail stopped for a while and then we got a second wave of hail for good measure.  It was funny to see a runner taking a picture of the hail.  The hail, lightning, rain, & thunder, just made me want to run faster.

After about mile 8 or so, it seemed that Cairo was falling further behind me and I was running more with Dean.  Before the race I told Cairo that this was not his goal race and to not go all out of he wasn’t feeling it.  When I got to the second aid station, I fueled up with some Gatorade and topped off my water bottle.  The volunteers were so awesome and accommodating.  I asked them to please look out for my son, told me his name and bib number.  I told them to tell how proud I was of him!  I said that he was probably 5-10 minutes behind me.  I had no idea how far back he would be.  Come to find out, he was about 2 minutes behind me.  The volunteers encouraged him and told him, “Go, catch your dad!”


2nd Aid Station & Finish

Once done at the 2nd aid station, I looked at Dean and said this is the last stretch, let’s knock it out.  Before we could knock it out, we had a bad stretch of muddy trails that really slowed us down with how slippery they were.  It was pretty discouraging.  It was an art to find a place for good footing.  You also had to avoid the thorny branches all along the trail.  We finally got to some drier and higher ground and were able to get some traction going.  Once that I knew that we only had a mile to go, I really let loose and put the hammer down.  The hard part of the finish was the majority of the last mile was uphill.  I pushed hard at the end and was real happy with my time of 2:10 considering the weather conditions and the bonus half mile.

579029_10151340058840671_358452230_nAfter I finished, I caught my breath a bit, chatted with Dean, and then went to find Cairo.  I got to the end of the parking lot and saw him coming.  I ran with him to the end as long as I could before he kicked into his Cross Country style finish.  His finishes are always so strong!  I call them cross Country style finishes because at any Cross Country meet, you’ll see everything left at that finish line.  Super proud of Cairo as he did well in his first trail race.  We changed into some dry clothes and then found Denise after she finished.  The post-race barbeque was awesome. 

20130323_105021The only slight negative is that the finisher’s medal was smaller than the average race medals.  Yep, I’m probably getting spoiled with medal sizes from other races.  I would definitely run this race again.  I think the weather is going to be the biggest variable with this race and really any trail race.  I would do the Half Marathon again, not sure about the Marathon, or 50 mile distances.

It was great to meet up with all of my runner friends, before, during, and after the race.  This is what I love about racing… sharing the joy of running with friends.  We all experienced the craziness of the weather and the course.  We’ll probably be talking about this one for awhile.

20130323_120257My sister, Denise had a great time at the race.  She enjoyed the mud and the weather!  To us, Texans, it was downright COLD.  To her, it was a reprieve from her winter.  Totally proud of her as she had a big Trail Half Marathon PR out there.

I’m glad that she had the opportunity to run some trails with us here in Texas.  I guess I’ll have to schedule a trail race up in Ohio sometime next year.


brian72975 said...

Fantastic job, Mark!

LifeisaRun said...

Sounds like a great weekend!! Great job to both you & Cairo out there! Glad you mentioned surviving White Rock Marathon 2011, we feel as fellow survivors it is important to remember that race and our survival. Haha