Thursday, April 20, 2017

Boston: The Documentary - My Review

I saw a review of this movie, which bills itself as the "first ever feature-length documentary film about the world’s most legendary running race – the Boston Marathon" which said non-runners may be bored by it. I thought "Who the hell cares? Also, what is a non-runner?" I am so funny.

But then I got pissed at runners because after speaking with dozens of friends all over the country, the one-night showing of this movie (about the race which more or less is the reason any of us are running, tangentially in one way or another) was sparsely attended. This is why we can't have nice things, runners. We are such a navel-gazing society with our bling and our instagram pictures that god forbid we take a night away and watch a movie about running that isn't exactly about us. Supposedly, there are 30 million people in America who are runners. Why whenever I go to a movie about running are there 19 people in the theatre? (Makes me feel better that my own little documentary was so well attended in the few theatres it was shown in.)

But I have gotten off on the wrong foot here. This is a review about Boston: The Documentary.  As I mentioned, I will basically watch any movie about running. Even when I know it will be bad, I will watch it. I go in with moderate expectations and on occasions they are exceeded. With this film I had a little apprehension as the director, Jon Dunham, had done a decent job with his previous work, Spirit of the Marathon, but its sequel Spirit II: Electric Jogaloo, fell rather short. (I am kidding. Well, about the name, not about falling short.)  But it is Boston; you can't mess this up, right?

Fortunately, right.

There are probably eleventy billion people who have a closer connection to the Boston Marathon than I do. But I have a small but neat tie most don't. In 2008, after running a 3:01 at Boston, straggling through town, sitting on a hard cold sidewalk, and hoping in a conversion van with Race Director Dave McGillivray, I ran Boston again with Dave and his crew. Only a select number of people have done this very surreal jog and I am lucky to be one of them. As such, I am intrinsically interested in this race even if I have only run it in 2005 and 2008. (I have qualified for it for 12 straight years, though, so that is something.) What I was very interested in was what exactly they were going to do with the movie. How were the going to condense a century and a quarter to one movie?

First, it is indeed a full-length film. Nearly two hours long, (but under, just like the Nike-headed project that is trying to run the marathon under 2 hours) it covers a great deal. While the pinnacle of the film is the 2014 running of the Boston Marathon, it is not all about that race. But this 2014 race, the year after the horrible bombings, does serve as the final resting point for the film. Like running, however, it is the journey that makes the destination worthwhile.

If you are at least semi-steeped in running lore, let alone Boston, you have seen many of the images and know many of the stories told in this film already. That's fine as they bear repeating.  However, when the iconic image of Kathrine Switzer almost being Bill O-Reilly'd by Jock Semple (oh yeah, I'm topical, baby!) which we have all seen a million times, morphed into color freaking footage of the event seconds before it happened, I nearly peed myself. I didn't know that existed! A few other similar instances of well-known images were interlaced with footage or pictures that I bet few have ever seen. That alone was worth the price of admission for me.

There is definitely some time spent on the horrible tragedy of 2013 and it only took me a few second to remember how enraged I was at that whole saga. I just wanted to both stop it from happening and rain fists down on the two brothers who took something so special from so many.  I am guessing that race will never be a footnote but it is semi-comforting to know that time will hopefully heal a great deal of wounds.

Or maybe that is terrifying, now that I think about it. If that event has a significance which can be lost on future generations, how easily will I be forgotten as well. (Fairly easy, I guarantee.)  But I think that is why this film works so well.  It ties us all together into one race.  It brings all runners into this one shared room allowing us to feel that even once we are gone, our connection will live on in the next person to lace up a pair of shoes.

As the film jumps through time, taking us forward to the 2014 race, and then back throughout Boston's illustrious past, we are given an incredibly comprehensive, but no where near cumbersome, history lesson on this race. Heck, books (plural) have been written about singular years in the history of the 121 runnings of Boston. Somehow tying together so much history without necessarily glossing over important parts is a testament to some good filming and editing.

Without a doubt my personal bias comes through when Bill Rodgers is featured prominently near the end. I have had the great fortune and pleasure to be able to call Bill a friend over the past decade. There still is hardly any sport I can think of where a person like me could randomly not only be friends with a legend like Bill but be the one he asks to go on runs with when he is in the town you live in.

The culmination into what unfolded in 2014, with *spoiler alert* Meb winning the marathon in what seems far too good to be true for the city of Boston and America itself, is bittersweet.  At one point, President Obama is giving an invocation of sorts and his rhetoric is well-spoken and thoughtful.  It feels like, even though he is known to play basketball, that he too might have a runner inside of him.  The sting comes when I realized that our current leader would have botched this moment so bad that the film would have been unwatchable. (And if you lament that fact I am talking about politics in a running movie then you missed the point of the movie entirely. From race relations, to charity runners, to women being told they were "not physiologically able to run marathon distances"  every single bit of Boston, and running itself, is intertwined with politics. We may run to get away from it sometimes, but it is always there.)

Fortunately, we are quickly swept back to the amazing moment when Meb crosses the finish line marking the first American victory in the race in 31 years. I obviously knew what happened but still expected Wilson Chebet to nip him at the line. I still get chills.

The best way I can describe this movie is that for the last 30 minutes, I had to pee. But there was no way I was going to run to the bathroom and miss a second if it. 

If a movie defeats my bladder, then you know it is a good one.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Pure Austin Splash and Dash Series (1 of 6) Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 12; 6th Edition 
84.4 miles run; 750m swam in 2017 races
Race: Pure Austin Splash and Dash Series
Place: Austin, TX
Miles from home: 13
Weather: 70s; sunny; humid

I was searching around lookng for some local races and came upon this series of 6 aquathlons (swim/runs) put on by a nearby gym in Austin.  Occurring on one Tuesday every month for the next 6 months, they looked like something I would be interested in at a very low cost. So, evn though one was coming up in a week, I decided I would throw my hat in the ring (or my goggles in the pool, if ou will.)

With the National Aquathlon Championships coming up October 1st here in Austin, I wanted to actually give these swim run races a go once again.  Back in 2009 I had a hellacious travel experience getting the the championships game in Asheville, NC (a state I am still boycotting stopping my 50 state marathon goal short one at 49) and was able to qualify for the World Championship race.  Life intervened and I never got a chance to compete at Worlds.  I hope to not only qualify again but go race in the champs this time when they occur in 2018. One surefire way to get better at an event is by doing many more of them.

November was the last time I swam a lap and it might have even been earlier than that when I last wet my gills. I had given some thought to a swim workout or two before the race but figured it wouldn't improve my standing much right before the race and first swim in 6 months might just make me sore. So, I figured I would go in cold, lower my expectations, still be disappointed, and then hopefully force myself back into the pool. The tired excuse of "well, I just haven't been working out" is, well, tired.  But this time it was at least true.

The format for the event was simple: one 750meter (ish) swim in an unbelievable cool quarry that Pure Fitness Austin apparently owns as part of their gym (I am extremely intrigued how much that cost or how they came to own it) then three loops of a 1 km(ish) loop around the quarry.  I say (ish) because, well, the race says so itself and without a doubt the 3 km (1.86 miles) is definitely 2 miles. Sounds nitpicky but .14 of a mile at 6:30 pace is another 55 seconds of running.

I arrived with plenty of time to get checked in, in spite of horrific Austin traffic from my home to the race site. I am still a relative newbie to multi-sport racing and each venue adds its own level of figuringoutness. A small amount of foresight did allow me to remember to bring a collapsible chair and a towel along with my gear. As I walked down to the quarry I could see that once you left the immediate area of the water, the hill leading up to start the run was extremely craggily.  Since I have the tender soft feet of a newborn I was extremely happy I had thought this might be the case and planned accordingly. 

You see, even though the race was just 2 miles of running, I wasn't going to go without socks.  Some people can do that and I find it amazing but that is just not my cup of tea.  However, I did not want to have to waste time putting the socks on once I left the water as that can be quite difficult. So, I opted for a pair of semi-compression Feetures socks that I would wear during the swim, and then when I transitioned they would protect my little tootsies as I made the jaunt over to my gear.  Similar routines have worked for me in the few other triathlons I have done so I assumed it would work fine here as well.

As I waded into the water for the floating start, the water was a perfect temperature. Some Austinites were wearing wetsuits but I was just sporting a pair of Speedo shorts. In such a short, fast race, worrying about a wetsuit (which I currently do not own) was hardly something I was going to waste my time on.

They started the countdown and at the airhorn (for some, maybe a half second faster than others) we were underway.

Swim:

I immediately was caught in a little bit of a washing machine as people churned for position.  In addition, I could tell that wow, I was NOT in swimming shape.  As I jockeyed for a place to get my swim on, I had no idea where I was place-wise. Soon, however, I found some open water and began to do my best to get into a groove.

The water was fairly clear to see other competitors and for the first half I was decently sighting.  I was definitely winded but as we near the halfway portion, my lungs opened and I passed a swimmer or two. We then turned westward and the setting sun blinded me, making it difficult to see the buoys.  I was basically hoping the guy in front of me was going in the right direction and I think he was hoping the same of the guy in front of him.

There were a few buoys we had to keep on our right to guide us and when we got to a small dock it signified a hard right angle turn.  I almost swam headlong into the last dock before just barely missing it since the sun had hid it from my view. In front of me I saw a line of buoys I didn't recall when I first looked at the course but figured I had to follow them. I hugged them close for the next 50 yards or so.  Then, out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of the finishline. I apparently was starting to make another loop instead of just swimming toward the finish. Quickly I changed directions and began making a beeline for the finish. A little perturbed to add more distance than necessary, I just used that anger to fuel me to a quick end of the swim. I closed closely on the next guy in front of me but he still beat me out of the water.

Popping out of the quarry, I was a bit wobbly. I had definitely exerted myself.  My chair was off to the right and I quickly plopped into it to make a change. The socks did wonders for the ten or so steps I had to make over the rocks.  I threw on my shoes and a visor and began the climb out of the quarry as I slid my singlet over my head.  I definitely need to get one of those fancy-dancy swimsuits with my name on the ass. Maybe if I get remotely fast enough to wear one, someone will buy me one.  Although I don't have nearly the ass for "Rauschenberg."  I guess "Dane" it is.

Run:

Leaving the hill, the path around the quarry revealed itself to be a soft, crushed gravel surface.  Pleasant to run on but not to run fast.  Up ahead there was a guy who I thought had been the one out of the water right in front of me but this guy was running with a little dog on a leash.  It took me half a loop to catch him but sure enough: dog on leash; chip on ankle; numbers on arm.  Did the dog go swimming with him, too?!

The loop was .67 of a mile around, with more than a fair share of small twists and turns, roving
pedestrian traffic, a sizeable hill to climb each time, and was not a loop I would ever say was "easy." Nevertheless, I knew what was in store for the next two loops. Crossing through the timing mat in 4:24, I was hoping to pass even more runners ahead. I had zero idea what place I was in.

The second loop had me tracking down one runner who must have just killed me in the swim. But his running was suffering for sure.  In addition, as the ladies started 5 minutes after we did, beginning the second loop gave me an opportunity to have the first few fast females as rabbits to chase as well.  Unfortunately, while I was passing runners, none had been in front of me except for the one. I went through the timing mat in an identical 4:24 loop. That was interesting. 

I heard some footsteps behind me right as I was beginning the last loop but they quickly tailed off. I figured perhaps I had a pursuer and when I picked up the pace they figured it wasn't worth it.  Looking back I see now it was the overall winner. Thank god he didn't lap me. That would have been a kick to the manparts.

Throughout this loop I saw there would be no one else to pass so whatever position I was in would be my end position. But was it 5th? 25th? I had literally no idea.

I finished the final loop in 4:21 and could not have been more happy to be finished. Twenty-six minutes and two seconds has rarely hurt this much. The only question would be my final place. I grasped at my shorts as I doubled over trying to catch my breath. Sprints hurt!


When we gathered for the final results, I wasn't expecting much.  But when they said I won the Masters overall award, I was pleasantly surprised.  I was also happy to hear that the overall female winner, a 13 year old girl, did not beat me. You laugh but read that again: she was the overall winner. Who was 3rd place for the women?  A 15 year old. Egads, these ladies is fast! I finished 9th place overall (which surprised me as well) and two young boys also kicked my ass.  Good job to all of them!

This was a very good barometer for which to measure where I am right now.  I have no intention of coming in as unprepared for the other races. I fully expect significant drops in times, as well.  Placement, as always, depends on who shows up so another Masters award is up for grabs. But for now, a couple of 6:30 miles after a hard swim on uneven surface is not too shabby.

 Onward and upward!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Brazos Bend 25k Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 12; 5th Edition 
82.4 miles runs in 2017 races
Race: Brazos Bend 25k
Place: Needville, TX
Miles from home: 161
Weather: 70s; sunny; humid

I signed up for the Brazos Bend 25k the week before the race.  Mainly, after my last race's debacle, I was looking for a little redemption.  I had also heard good things about this race prior to even running the aforementioned debacle, which was put on by the same company: Trail Racing Over Texas.  Note, my calling the race what I did had nothing to do with the way the event was put on, which was top notch, but rather some strange breathing affliction which hit me partway through making it almost impossible for me to finish.  Read more about that here.

But with the Salt Flats 50k coming up here in three weeks, I did not wish to go into this race without something good under my belt.  I hoped the supposed flat and very runnable course touted here would do that for me.  The weather wasn't going to be much better for my racing tastes than it was at the other race but it didn't seem like it would be worse. That's saying something for Texas.

I stayed in nearby Rosenberg as I did not want to make the 2.5 hour drive the morning of and am not nearly hearty enough of a soul to camp out the night before a race.  I can run a long way and do things others cannot, but I also want a nice comfy bed, my own toilet and Pawn Stars on History Channel the night before a race. I did still get up earlier than I would desire just to make sure I made it through the gate of the park, the walk from the parking lot and setting up my chair to sit down and wait out the start. I made it to the park just fine, used the facilities, milled around a bit as I cheered on the 50k starters and tried to get psyched up.  I wanted a top 5 finish but more than anything I wanted a good race.

First Aid Station: 4 miles

When the gun sounded two guys shot out of the gate.  I knew if they were keeping that pace, I
wasn't catching them.  If they weren't, well, they would come back to me.  I initially let them go not because of any major design by rather because, as has happened in probably 99% of the races I have run, people were starting in front of me (and others) who should not be starting there. Until the very last race I run, I will never understand why people line up in a place that all but guarantees that dozens of people will be forced to immediately pass you. Never.  Will never, ever understand that.

Two women I recognized and a chap I ran against at the San Felipe ShootOut (Brett) also were in front of me, after I finally extracted myself from the slowly flailing arms and legs of the out-of-place. Up ahead was one exceedingly tall chap (named Tim) who I immediately felt some sympathy.  Not just because of how hard racing with that much frame much be but just day to day life. I am 6'1'' and the world isn't really built for me.  He was 6'5'' if he was an inch. Just not fun.


For the first half mile, as the course did some small twists and turns to get out of the starting area and skirted through the two Horseshoe Lakes, I fell into a rhythm.  As I hugged the curves and cut the tangents, I didn't even hear a young guy come up from behind me. Wearing Vibram Five Fingers he passed me and I swore a bit. I hate when anyone wearing those shoes passes me. This distaste is irrational but it is my pet peeve. Now, from my count, I was in 8th place. And *spoiler alert*, that is where I would stay for the rest of the race (even though the end results say I finished 7th, for some reason they do not list Tall Tim.)  You can now stop reading if the end result is all you came here for. 

Still here?  I will continue.

My biggest concern was how shaded the course would be during this race.  To say I was nervous given my previous race is an understatement.  However, for this time of day, I would say that 75% of the course was under some canopy of tree. I knew this may change as the day went on but if I could get an hour or so under shade, I could power through the rest. The other runners in front of me quickly spread out to their respective positions and once there, stayed almost the exact same distance in front of me the rest of the race. I almost think that if I had just matched their initial bursts I would have been close behind them at the end  (I was able to see a couple of their Strava splits and this bears out.  Interesting that the first few miles more or less decided the entire race. Just two people changed positions after this first mile.)  But truth be told, I was concerned about how my lungs were going to work, my legs were going to function, and I just decided I was going to let this race come to me.  Whatever it gave me, I would take.

There were no mile markers to mention and not much to go off of with regards to pace. As we quickly began passing runners doing the other races, it was a confidence booster. Granted it does nothing for your overall standing but passing anyone always helps you mentally.

At 1.5 miles we had a 180 degree turn for an out and back and I got to see how close other runners were behind me. Some I recognized from the Shootout were in positions I assumed they would be in and a few others I did not recognize.  I think I saw virtually every other runner behind us and a few shouted my name. I returned greetings and tried to stay as far right as possible. For some reason, even though I was the 8th person to pass people, some were still running three abreast. The looks of "Yeah, but why?" I would give them if I wasn't wearing sunglasses would probably be meme-worthy.

As we approached Elm Lake, I saw a photographer taking pictures not of runners but rather the water. Could it be?!

This race is known for being in a park where there are active alligators. Apparently great pains are gone to make sure they don't bother runners but they are apex predator lizard missile and there are no guarantees. As I approached the man with the camera I looked in the water and lo and behold there was a little dinosaur sliding through the top of the morning stillness. I was so excited! I momentarily spaced out and my speed dropped.  But it was worth it!


We left the lake, and went through a moss-covered tree-lined section and over a wooden bridge.  The bridge was cool but a little narrow when more than a few people were on it. A little of trail etiquette goes a long way and at no point in any race should probably be running three abreast.  Speaking of abreast, outside of Utah, I have never seen so many fake mammaries in an ultra race. I saw this proliferation of silicone at the Shootout as well. A curiosity to say the least. I think this is a sign that ultras are becoming more and more mainstream. Looks like the diehards are going to have to embrace some other ridiculous thing to move onto (Oh, look.  Barkley Marathons just got unprecedented publicity in the past week or so. Total coincidence, I am sure.)  But I digress.

The aid station appeared and I didn't stop. I looked at my watch and was happy. Not elated. I had forgotten to look at the exact miles for each aid station so I couldn't be too happy. If this was 4.5 miles, I would be over the moon. Varying degrees of moon overness would go down the closer I got to four miles. Regardless, in hindsight, seeing the first four miles were all under 7 minutes per, even on a "easy" trail, shocked me. If I had known how fast I was running at the time, I would have been happy. But as I couldn't catch anyone, my pace felt lackluster. But in reality, it was one of the better starts to a race I have had in a while, in conditions far from ideal for me.

Second Aid Station: 7.7 miles

This section had us backtrack around a totally awesome lookout post that I sorta kinda wanted to run
up. I know there is a marathon somewhere in Wisconsin or something where you have to ring a bell after climbing a fire tower.  I would never want to do that in a marathon but in a trail ultra I could see the fun. But as the race didn't call for it, I decided against it.  Plus, I didn't see a bell.

We then we retraced our steps along the cool wooden footbridge (again, people not running single file) under the trees and back to Elm Lake, circumventing it the other direction from previously. I saw not one but two gators! I was loving it!  I began to wonder when they would come out on the paths as was warned they might and if this would be the last I would see of them (unfortunately, it was.)

On this crushed gravel path, I saw I had gained a little ground on the runners in front of me. It was difficult to actually ascertain which runners were in our race as so many other runners in the other races were on the course.  However, here and there, no shirt colors and memorizing runner forms, I would catch a glimpse. As we ran nearby the starting point, and turned away, I was feeling fairly good. Then we hit the quicksand.

OK, not actual quicksand but for half of a mile we were running in cinders along a path that I had walked to the start early in the morning. It slowed everything down to what felt like molasses and right here the sun was beating down. I thought this might be the beginning of the end for me as I was feeling quite drained. But getting out of both the cinders and he sun, crossing a road and onto a paved path (with a patchwork of cracks filled with tar that was so extensive they should have just tarred the whole path) and I immediately felt better.

We crossed another road, did a sharp 45 degree angle, ran about a half of a mile and the other aid station popped out of nowhere. As I was sporting my Camelbak, I didn't really need anything to drink.  If there had been less people milling around I might have grabbed a cool glass of Fanta or something but alas. The wonderful thing about ultra/trail aid stations is that they are smorgasbord.  They are also traps for grazers and tend to draw you in, making you unaware of someone who might just want to grab a cup and go. I skipped it all and kept going. Time wise, going by what I thought it would take me to run this race, I was slightly over halfway done. I was still feeling fairly decent.


Third Aid Station: 10.9 miles

There was no shortage of people around me here even if there wasn't a single spectator.  Runners in all the different races were coming and going so there was always some activity. Nevertheless, it was easy to feel alone simply because, like repeating background in a low budget cartoon, the people you are not racing against can tend to fade off into the background.  I tried to "goodjob" every person I passed but more often than not didn't waste my breath on those wearing headphones.

As I had more or less acquiesced that I was in the position I was going to be in for the rest of the race, I will admit I sort of fell a bit out of race mode.  Without any mile markers I had no real idea of my speed but it didn't feel fast at all.  As such, I was passing time looking at all the gear people had.  Compression sleeves, handheld water bottle, hydration packs, taped shoulders with fancy colors, knee braces, trucker hats, and every discernible shoe which has ever been made. It truly is amazing how much product is tied up into running - a sport which really doesn't need much product. But good for all these companies trying to make a buck.

Before I expected it, the two lead runners, separated by mere feet came back toward me.  Either they were blasting it or I was slowing down as I did not expect to see them so quickly. It turns out they were indeed running fast but so was I.  Next up were the overall female runner and Tall Tim. Thirty seconds behind them were the second woman and Brett. I could see up ahead was the turn around and Vibram guy was coming back to me. I wasn't really expecting to be turning around so quick and this gave me pause. Were we just going to run back to the start or were we going to pass it to add on some extra miles.  No time to worry about it now.  Turn around and head back.


Fourth Aid Station: 14.1 miles

Regardless of how much further we may have to run back to the finish, I at least knew how far it was to get back to the next aid station, time-wise.  I felt like I was slowing here as I lost sight of all the runners I was racing in between the rest of the participants. I could have sworn I was running over 8:00 per mile but I only had one single mile of 7:30. Again, it was just the relative nature of running against fast people which made me feel slow.

As we headed back the way we came, I did not know it but I was lessening the gap between me and the other runners. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop and my tired overheated body to cramp or tire. However, even though I felt I was slowing, I still felt good.  In and out of the next aid station I went without stopping, again drawing from the ice cold reservoir of my Camelbak strapped to my
back.

To The Finish: 

I was trying hard to figure out how much was left of the race based on runners in all the other races. It involved an elaborate using of the maths and who I saw where based on what race they were running, but in the end it did nothing but occupy my mind for a bit. My slowest mile of the whole race came after the aid station as I dealt with a dicey situation passing a few runners, and then making just a slight misstep in the wrong direction.  A "wrong way" sign quickly put me back on course but this would be the only mile that wasn't under 7:30 for the whole race.

I passed a few runners doing the 50 mile race and I just felt bad.  They told me "Good job!" and all I could think was how happy I was to be running 1/3 the distance they were.  As I got closer to where I knew we started I looked at my watch.  I knew there was no way that we could just finish back at the start without making some sort of loop to add on some distance.

Back onto the cinder path I traveled, getting ready to push for what I thought was the last mile.  Up ahead I saw other runners in all the other races simply heading toward the finish arch. It suddenly dawned on me that this was indeed the finish and  before I could even begin to muster some sort of a finishing sprint, it was all over. I finished 8th overall in a time of 1:46:34.

My time was exponentially faster than I thought it would be for two reasons:
1. The course was undeniably short. My guess is half of a mile.
2. I ran WAY faster than I thought I was running. I can't tell you how pleased that made me when I plugged in my data and saw so many sub-6 minute miles.



As I stated earlier, I was very worried how this race was going to go with my breathing problems at the Shootout two weeks prior. I was worried how everything was going with my training for the Salt Flats 50k. I have been home more these first three months of the year than any time in the past decade. As such, my miles are the highest they have ever been, even if I have not been putting in individual long runs. This ace gave me the confidence I need heading into my last two weeks before Salt Flats to try and defend my title there.  Now, if I can just get some nice weather there, I should be ok.

I was beyond happy that I liberally applied some Body Glide as I was, per usual, sweating like a
whore on Nickel Night. A few weeks ago I went for a ten miler and forgot to apply the Glide. I ended up with some of the worst chafing you can imagine from such a short run. This picture does not even do it justice how I was torn to shreds on both sides of my body, around my torso, and in places that can't be pictured. So, to come out chafe-free from this race was a huge win.  I wore my Features socks and they kept my feet fantastically blister-free.  The aforementioned Camelbak Circuit continues to be an outstanding pack and I plan on using it for Salt Flats as well. I opted for the Julbo Aero sunglasses as they had a lighter lens and I wasn't aware how dark it would being in the park at the start of the race.  All in all, my gear choices were all spot-on.

In spite of the short course, the race was once again excellently put on by Trail Racing Over Texas. There is indeed a nice festival atmosphere to the races they put on without being too much about not competing. They want you to have a good time, they encourage all types of runners or all shapes with very generous cutoffs yet at the same time they don't have disdain for those who have the gall to want to run fast.  That is a very nice and rare combination. Kudos to Rob and his crew at TROT for another well-run event. (Although, damn it, Master's Awards should start at 40, not 50. I am old! Give me a trinket when I am the fastest old guy!)

If you get a chance you need to put one of these events in your racing plans.  You will not be disappointed.