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Cross Timbers 50-Mile

by Joe Prusaitis Lake Texoma, TX March 19, 2005 As usual, I had no idea how I was going to run… but I felt good. I had been running very strong these last few weeks, hammering my legs on the Austin hills. But then I did a bit too much way too quick and I have been sluggish for the past week. So, I really don’t know if my legs are going to show up. Joyce had also been running great, but has been a bit leg weary & tired. This trip is also doubling for taking her Dad to St Louis to visit relatives. Joyce has her mind more on her Dad than she does on the run. Mike got really toasted on a run with Henry & I two weeks ago and has really ramped up his training since then. This past week, he’s been paying me back by running Joyce & I into the ground. Big Rigg is feeling good. We had trained and traveled together, so we all have a pretty good idea of each other’s status, but none of us can really know what will happen until we start. So we each avoid any promises, assuming we’ll work it all out pretty quick Joyce & my plan was for a water start, Perpetuem from PawPaw Creek out and back to PawPaw Creek, a Boost kicker on the PawPaw return, water from there back to our car, Perpetuem from the car through the nasty 5mile loop, another Boost at the end of the loop, then repeat. The continuous plan was to pop salt caps every hour (or sooner) and take shots of Hammer at lest every 15 minutes or sooner all day. Due to the layout of our route, we only use one drop point at PawPaw Creek. We load & send a small 6-pack cooler with 4 pre-loaded bottles of Perpetuem and 4 bottles of Boost. We leave our car at Cedar Bayou with all the rest of our gear, including a cold ice chest with drinks and fruit, and a dry ice chest with dry goods and clothing. Unlike my last few runs, I actually have a plan, I feel good, and think I might actually be able to get after this one. I leave my camera in the room and wear my purple Clifton shorts with the smiley faces and front pockets. I just won’t do a long run without my Injinji tsocs. My foot gloves save me from the pain of blisters better than even my old favorites. I put on my running slippers, my rattiest pair of torn up holey Montrail Masii, a soft white Montrail hat, and a single water bottle in hand. My pockets hold a full flask of raspberry Hammer Gel, a 12-pack of salt caps, and my toilet kit. Cedar Bayou to PawPaw Creek (7mi): The first 7 mile section is nothing but fun. Lots, and I mean lots, of short steep hills. A constant barrage of quick climbs and descents that suit me wonderfully. I can always crash the downs, but now due to my recent training on hills, I also feel good enough to climb well (at least for now). I would visit with somebody on the climb, and then freefall ahead on the descent. The rapid fall carries me to the next runner, where I repeat the process. Thusly, I visit with quite a few people between Cedar Bayou and PawPaw Creek. I hand over my water bottle for a refill, grab my Perpetuem from my small drop bag, and continue. PawPaw Creek to PawPaw Point (3mi): This section is not very exciting for me. It’s mostly flat, but does sport a few good hills. It makes uses of a sandy beach, a few jeep roads, and plenty of turns. I know that this is where most people tend to get off course, so pay real good attention to the markings. As I near the end point, I start to see the leaders coming back on me. Tim, then Jack, and then Mark. Mark says something about getting lost which explains why he isn’t up front. Coming into PawPaw Point, I see Chisholm and Steven. My plans don’t include this station, so I touch the table and start back. PawPaw Point to PawPaw Creek (3mi): Chisholm and Steven come with me and we’re all moving well. I visit with Chisholm, as I stay right on his back, while Steven is just a bit behind me. I get to see where everybody else behind us, including Joyce & Mike, who are running together. Chisholm is going slower than I would be, which is good, because I’m running way too fast. He tells me to come on by, but I decide it’s best that I stay behind him for now. We reach PawPaw Creek rather quickly. Steven has no need, so he keeps going. I drop the empty Perpetuem bottle, slug a Boost, and grab the full water bottle they had already filled for me when I left it here a while ago. Takes me all of 20 seconds. PawPaw Creek to Cedar Bayou (7mi): I catch up to Steven by the time he reaches the trail, but we’ve lost Chisholm. So now I get to visit with Steven and learn that he’s just won a marathon and is running his first 50miler. I think this guy is way too fast for me. He slows down for me a few times and I tell him to not wait on me. He says he likes the company and seems to be holding back. I’ll bet he can really fly, as he sure is smooth and comfortable on the rough terrain. I’m still running very strong and feeling pretty good, but Steven doesn’t look like he’s working at all. I’m still popping 2 salt caps every hour and slurping the hammer gel regular as rain. Steven asks about it, as he’s not familiar with trail runs and wonders what I’m doing. Some of these sections have some awesome drops and we fall off them quickly. The climbs are not coming as rapidly now as they where a while ago. I’m not certain if the course is tougher in this direction or I’m just starting to get tired. I refuse to believe it’s me, assuming its best to think positive regardless of the truth. With the way this course twists in and out the coves and inlets, I can never tell where I am exactly until I am at the next major point. Steven and I come into Cedar Bayou together. I run past the aid on down to my truck, where I have all my supplies. I refill my water and set it aside for later, grab the next 12-pack of salt caps, refill the hammer flask and shove it back in my pocket, and then take the Perpetuem bottle. Steven has already gone ahead. Cedar Bayou to Juniper Point back to Cedar Bayou (5mi): Steven comes up behind me as I find the trail. He had gone the wrong way but discovered his error quickly. This 5mile loop is the toughest section of the course. It has numerous climbs that are a bear; of course this also means it has some awesome descents as well. We bang away pretty well. Steven is stopping to walk every now and then and this suits me fine. If he didn’t, he’d be long gone by now. The three guys in front of us come by us after a few hills. Steven goes past a marked turn that’s not clear. I call him back as I turn up a steep climb that goes strait up a real leg burner. Left at the top and then down quickly into the Juniper Point station. This is another non-stop station for me, so I touch the table and head down the trail, leaving Steven at the table. He’s back with me by the time I reach the uphill turn that he almost missed earlier. Robert King is moving up the hill as Steven comes in behind me. Again, we get to see all the others behind us as we work up and down the hills. I’m starting to feel it in my legs, slowing just a bit. Steven creates a short gap that I can’t close on these hills. He’s powering up the hills better now than he was a while ago and I’m slowing down. Joyce & Mile come by along with everybody else. Soon, I am back to my truck at Cedar Bayou. I drink a short coke, grab a banana, drop the empty Perpetuem bottle, shoot a boost, and leave with my fresh bottle of water. Cedar Bayou to PawPaw Creek (7mi): I walk past the aid station where Steven is. We’re done with 25 miles, and starting the second half right now. Steven leaves with me. I was starting to bonk on the way in and even with the refuel, the buzz won’t be back too quickly. Steven goes past the trail turn and I call him back. I tell him that’s the last freebee. I will no longer be able to keep up with him, so he’ll have to find his own way from now on. He laughs about that and takes off. He moves down the trail so quickly that he’s gone from view in a minute. Damn, he’s quick. I run down the checklist of all my body parts looking for issues and making sure everything’s ok. I can’t seem to get the motor going. I make myself run, but it feels as if I’m literally dragging my legs. Awkwardly I stumble off each drop, and stubbornly I push my carcass up each climb. I get dizzy now and again. I decide to try my mountain learned breathing control on the climbs to avoid blacking out and this seems to work. I do the forced exhale and regularly controlled breathing on the climbs and although slow, it feels much better. Slowly I seem to be moving down the trail, but when I check my times and key points, I discover that I have not slowed as much as it feels like I have. Last loop, I was just gliding down the trails with no effort, riding the thermals to each new ridge. This loop, I trade the glider for a freight train with square wheels hauling a load up each hill. And now I’m alone and talking to myself as well. Even my smiley face pants are making me angry. I start to cuss each one of the faces, telling them to shut up. I reach the big stair climb after Cripple Creek and climb it with more effort than I thought I had. Larry’s 4mi mini-station is at the top. I had buzzed by this station both ways on the last loop without consideration. I stop this time and drink a coke, leaving just as another runner comes up from behind. I figured they’d start rolling me up soon: the first of many. I leave before he does and make myself run again. It’s a good long easy downhill that lasts about a mile and I run the whole thing, probably without bending my knees. When I reach the turn at the board plank, I find him right on my back. I let him by and try to hang on, to steal some energy, use him to get me going again, but it is too soon before he’s gone. I’m with him only long enough to learn that this is also his first 50 miler. What’s with all these rookies? They’re all kicking my butt. The little bit of energy I do manage to steal from Larry does keep me moving better than I have been for a while. I roll into PawPaw Creek a worn out man. Mark Henderson comes rolling in from the other side at the same time. He dumps a few cups of cold water on his head. That looks pretty damn good, so I do the same thing. I decide against the Perpetuem this time (I don’t even know why), and refill only with water. One boost and a few orange slices and I leave feeling much better. PawPaw Creek to PawPaw Point (3mi): I’m surprised nobody else has come up on me yet. But I’m starting to get it back now and may be able to start moving strong again. Tim & Jack come by me going the other way, but I don’t see Steven for a long time and then Larry just a 100 yards down from PawPaw Point. This gives me a boost as I was thinking that I was totally destroyed, but regardless of how I feel, I seem to be doing ok. Again, I dump ice-cold water on my head and neck, washing the salt out of my eyes. Oh yes, this feels so good! PawPaw Point to PawPaw Creek (3mi): I think I’ve got it back, at least for now. I see many of the others come rolling by in various states of duress. Joyce & Mike looking as worn as I am. I start to fantasize about catching Larry and Steven followed with nightmares about being caught by the rest of the field. My highs are high and the lows so low. Maybe I could use some sugar. I charge all the way back into PawPaw Creek, where I again douse my head, eat a few oranges, plus a few gummi bears, and leave again with water. Pawpaw Creek to Cedar Bayou (7mi): I really get it going again, even start checking my watch and calculating the possibilities. That’s when I hit the ground, and hard too. No cute little tumble and bounce back up. It’s a ground pounding thump and groan. I rip the skin off my left elbow (the watch hand) and scrape my side. I get up slow, cussing at the happy faces again. Just shut up! The boy scouts on the next ridge don’t giggle at my pants for the first time as I stumble past them. Anyway, no more thinking and scheming. I need to watch where the hell I’m going. Seems like there’s at least 6 or 7 different groups of scouts hiking this trail, with groups from 3 to 20 people each. They must have been warned about us, as they’re all pretty nice about getting out of the way and cheering us on. There are others as well, but they all clear the way. I wonder if it might be the way I look. The awful ugly purple smiley face shorts, stuffed with flasks and other oddities, the blood dripping down my arm, the dirt, sweat, and grime caked on my face and clothes, the bits of trail debris attached to my body from the last fall, the look on my face, or maybe just the stink that precedes. Well, for some reason or another, they get out of my way. I start to hallucinate and it makes me laugh. I have so thoroughly used myself up, pushing harder than I have in some time. My brain might not be getting enough oxygen. What I think is a tent is an uprooted tree, a branch laying across the trail becomes a snake, and then the little black bugs that start to buzz round my head might just be sunspots on my eyes. For some reason, I enjoy these illusions and the levity makes me run even faster. It amazes me that I have made it all the way back to Cedar Bayou without being passed again. Mark Henderson is done and cheering in Tim as he approaches the finish. Once again, I douse my head and face with ice-cold water. Cedar Bayou to Juniper Point back to Cedar Bayou (5mi): I’m ready to be done, so I run right past my truck. The final 5miles. I’m hoping to apply the Joyce Plan: ‘So tired that you run faster so you can hurry up and sit down’. Wishful thinking only, of course. There aint no way I can run faster on this last five. It is the toughest part of the course, with enough teeth to rip me up. I crawl up the first few hills, as Jack goes the other way towards the finish. After a few more hills, Steven goes by with his brother, who’s pacing the last 5 with him. And then the big uphill slog, where Larry heads back the other way. This beast is killing me. Takes forever to crawl up and then catch my breath to stumble down to Juniper Point. Again, I douse myself with ice cold water and then start back: the longest 2.5 miles. Sure seems like 10. I would have thought that Drew or Robert would have been here by now, but still nobody. I manage a stumbling walk/run thru a few hills before I see Mariela come charging up towards me. I must have a mile or more on her, but where the heck is Drew? Takes me a minute to form the words, so that when I turn to yell back at Mariela about Drew, I see him coming up from behind. I must have missed him on the last little donut loop at the end of Juniper Point. Damn! I hate getting passed at the end of a long tough run like this. But he’s obviously doing much better than I am. As he nears, I step off the trail to let him by. Instead, he pulls up behind me and says he wants us to finish together. Well aint that too cool. So now I got some company, which will help me with some energy to get this thing done. We get to visit a bit as we finish off the last few hills together, seeing many others just starting their final 5mile loop, including Mike & Joyce. We’re surprised to find the road before we expect it, and the finish line. Mark hands me a beer 20 yards out, which I share with Drew as we cross the line together. 9:47 I think! It’s just good to finally be done. Post Mortem: The plan I laid out for Joyce & I worked great for me, but not for Joyce. I stayed on the Hammer and salt all day. I did the Perpetuem on the 1st loop but not the 2nd, which came in handy for Joyce as the Boost gave her intestinal problems, so she used the Perpetuem that I didn’t use. I could have used some hard candy on the 2nd loop, and should have a lot more calories at the end of loop 1. I would have been a lot better served had I planned a good meal prior to starting the 2nd loop. I was depleted and rolled through a continuous series of highs and lows from that time. I was amazed I ran as well as I did after 25miles for feeling as poorly as I did. I was using this run as a trainer for the summer 100s and wanted to kick myself pretty hard today. I went out way fast, just following what felt good at the time. I figured I’d bonk if I went out hard, but wanted to get some long hard hilly miles in, rather than the conservative approach. The Hammer flask and salt was perfect, but I am still not certain about the boost or the Perpetuem. The reason I wore the ugly smiley shorts was because they have two large front pockets where I can carry my stuff without wearing a pack. It was very nice to just carry a single hand bottle. Joyce & Mike seemed to work well together today. I think they both benefited from each other at various times. Joyce had a bad spell in the middle but is damn tough near the end of a run and would not back off. Mike gave away time waiting on her, but may have benefited with the rest so that he could carry on well the whole day. By the end, we where all thoroughly used up and happy with it. No blisters between the three of us. Nothing tweaked or bad hurt, but one heck of a good hill workout on 50 solid miles. The Event: Cross Timbers is an excellent run. It’s hard to beat the awesome collection of trails. This is trail running at its finest. A tough challenge very much worth doing. Tony Bridwell and his wife do a good job with a very short supply of volunteers. The course is marked and you can follow it just fine, but you really have to pay attention. If you are snoozing at the wrong time, you could easily miss a turn. Pay attention though and you should be fine. The coolmax shirts are also a nice upgrade. I am well aware that a race is only as good as the volunteers you get to help, so I am impressed with how much they do with so little help. I would think that if Tony could get a few more volunteers, this race might be even that much better. Thanks for all you do Tony. You did well. joe prusaitis
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