by Bill (The Trailgeeze) Rumbaugh
10 March, 2007
It was a return to Cameron Park in Waco for the second annual running of the Waco Five – 0, hosted by RD, Tim Neckar of Houston. This year there was a 10-mile and 20-mile option as well as a kids’ no-mile event. The 50k’ers head out at 6:30, just barely daylight, the rest of the field heads out 30 minutes later. Thankfully that is enough of a head start that those running longer don’t get deluged by a lot of shorter-running speedsters wanting around them on the narrow trail. The format and organization of the race was first rate, and the success of last year’s inaugural running resulted in a lot more cars being parked in the area, it would appear that there were more participants this year, by a significant margin.
A lot of what I would write about the course would be repetitive from last year’s report. So an exercise, left for the interested student, would be to access it from the nttr.org reports website. Here is the link: http://nttr.org/html/waco2006_brumbaugh.htm
Some updates/expanded discussions/new information from this year’s running of the 50k course follow. After running a significant number of trail miles and participating in several events since last year, yer humble scribe sees things slightly differently than during my last exposure to this course. My first overall impression is that the 10.3 mile course is divided into three parts, punctuated by aid stations. The first section (0 – 3 miles) I dubbed “Tough it Out.” The next section (3 – 7 miles) is “Pay Attention” and the last section (7 – 10.3 miles) is “Very Interesting.” Then repeat an additional 2X for a 50k run.
In ‘Tough it Out,’ there is a flat, runnable section of well over one mile which ends in a tough grind up a hill with another tough climb coming not long after. A second flat section comes a short distance later, after crossing a bridge. Both flat sections are alongside the Brazos River. The first section became more exposed to the sun with each crossing. The last traverse was fairly tough with the sun pretty much directly overhead and not much shade. The Brazos is not moving fast in this area, and neither was the wind this year. The result was an inescapable assault on the nostrils due to decaying animal and vegetable matter along the riverbank. Slightly reminiscent of having to carry on a conversation with someone, such as a co-worker, who has really bad breath. It is unavoidable, but you have to get it done despite the unpleasantness. The same stench was encountered elsewhere along the first section, but in shorter intervals. Spring was definitely evident throughout the course, though, new leaves were emerging on the trees and bushes. There were many small blue flowers showing forth amid a sea of green at trailside in various places and the cheerful yellow of dandelions in bloom could be seen occasionally as well. The profusion of cedar berries on the trail noted last year was absent, a minor disappointment. The most pleasant sensation was that there were also a few small trees which had bloomed several days prior, and had begun to lose their blooms. Small white petals dappled the trail, accompanied by a heady whiff of sweet fragrance similar to honeysuckle. Very pleasant running. If the lack of a breeze kept the riverside odor from being dissipated, it did the same for the blossoms, a runner’s reward for getting through the less pleasant sections.
In ‘Pay Attention,’ the second of three acts in this play, one had to be alert for frequent trail changes. There are many trails in Cameron Park and wherever they cross is an opportunity for a wrong turn. There were plenty of them and quite a few trail changes were made in order for the mileage (kilometerage?) to work out correctly. In this section, I had allowed my concentration to lapse briefly and found myself headed up the wrong section of trail. I do mean up, too, it was a long rocky uphill of a few hundred yards. I did not realize my mistake, as there was orange surveyor’s tape along the way, so I was not alarmed. There was something odd about this section though, sort of a feeling of déjà vu. At the end of the climb, the trail emerged from the trees and I found my self looking at one of the park’s baseball fields. This was way too familiar. After the first aid station, the trail skirts a field before it turns and proceeds into the trees. I turned around and recognized the trail as the one I had headed down quite awhile ago. Was I destined to repeat this whole section looking for the correct trail? Would I miss it again and be caught in an endless “do loop” from which there was no escape? Not if I can help it, sez I, and I headed back down the trail. Where it turned right, I continued straight and at the bottom of the long slope I found where I had gone wrong. Sure enough, the trail was adequately marked. Not only with a streamer of surveyor’s tape, but TWO arrows pointing the way. I marveled at how I was able to miss them. I noticed this little section of trail crossings was labeled, “Mixmaster” by the way. So here I was back on track and feeling good. That was my only wrong turn of the day. Apparently I had company, though. I heard from numerous reliable sources that a certain person who got lost last year, done got losted again this year. For some reason she did not want Tom Crull to find out about it. He never reads reports, though, so your secret is safe with us, Sue! There is a short (~200 yards) of exposed trail near the Powder Keg Creek bridge where the pale rock holds and reflects the heat of the sun, and then its back to the shade of the trail.
In ‘Very Interesting,’ the trail takes us through the most interesting sections of the run. Soon after the 7 mile Aid Station, a short but steep climb takes us to a vista overlooking the river. This is where high tension lines cross the river, supported by the nearby tower. Eyes following the catenary of the power lines over the water, you can’t help but think what a great zipline that would make! Then it’s back to the trail. There are some other interesting but less singular features along the way, but the bamboo is the most unique part of this section. Somewhere in this leg on my third pass through it, I encountered a chubby gent who was sweating his way along the trail. He looked a bit familiar. I turned and asked if he was from Louisiana, he said yes. “Are you the Pastor?” He answered in the affirmative. I told him that I remembered him from last year. He and I climbed a tough section together last year. During the climb he allowed as to how he had driven in from Louisiana that morning and after the race would head back immediately because he had to preach the next morning. So it was the same guy. I shook his hand, and wished him well today and loped on down the trail. He was doing the 10 mile, and “trying to keep his faith.” The trail eventually leads through a few hundred feet of bamboo trees, their tall green trunks and thin leaves filtered the sunlight gave everything a green look. At this point you know you have this loop in the bag. Cross the road, climb to the top of a trail called “Root Canal” and then it’s mostly downhill to the Start/Finish area.
Altogether an interesting and fun course that is no pushover. Temps this year ranged from the 60’s into the lower 80’s mid-afternoon. The first two loops had worn me down and I walked more than I probably should have during the third, but I did manage to finish about 13 minutes ahead of last year’s time. Ryan Loehding won the 50k followed soon after by Scott Eppelman, a reversal of the finishing order of two weeks ago at the Cross Timbers 50 miler.