I finished the Cross Timbers Trail Marathon yesterday in over 6 hours. The first half of the race went wonderfully, hitting the halfway point in 2:45 with plenty of energy. I ran with an older gentleman named Mack from Vicksburg, Mississippi and a guy named Paul from Fort Worth. Both were very experienced runners and it was great hearing about the various races they had run.
The primary mistakes I made in the first half all had to do with nutrition and hydration. I had hoped that I could use the race to practice eating from the aid stations and drinking whatever electrolyte drink they had on hand. I spent hours walking on the trail lamenting the fact that I tried to use a race on a hot day to practice nutrition and hydration. At the 3:45 point in the race my stomach locked up and I couldn't keep anything down. Mack and Paul left me behind and the vomiting began. I threw up a few times but tried to keep running. Finally, my stomach completely emptied what appeared to be all the liquids I had consumed so far in the day. Not only was my stomach queesy, but the heat started taking it's toll. I couldn't even keep water down at this point so I became very dehydrated and considered dropping out at the last aid station. I had never been this dehydrated before and it was a very odd feeling. I poured a bunch of water over my head at the last aid station (2.5 miles from finish) and the water that ran down my face was saturated in all the salt I had lost. I felt very defeated at this point because my stomach felt terrible, my head hurt and I had zero energy. I kept thinking that there's no way I'd every be able to particpate in ultra events if I couldn't even finish a trail marathon. I also remembered reading online about some pretty epic failures other runners have had and the only way to get over the bad days is to focus on lessons learned and apply this knowledge in the future. I don't have a choice but to look at it this way since I've already signed up for the Grasslands trail marathon next month.
1) I haven't practiced eating real food enough and should stick to gels or shot bloks during races
2) Stick to water rather than Heed or whatever else they are serving (also need to practice with electrolyte tablets to replace sodium)
3) Take it easier than usual when temps get over 70.
Cross Timbers trail is a relatively difficult trail and makes Northshore seem flat as a pancake. There are a few sections that you have to climb/descend using your hands to navigate the terrain. The first 6 miles are definitely the most difficult and take a great deal out of you. The race is out-and-back so you get to cover this section twice. I was worried the course would be muddy from all the snow and ice from the weeks beforehand. Apparently the heat we had in the days leading up to the race dried everything out, so footing wasn't a problem. I'm very impressed by the 20 or so runners who participated in the 50 mile event out there. It'll be a while before I would consider trying 50 miles out there, especially in those temperatures.
My feet were uncomfortable during the last few hours, but no blisters formed and I didn't have any issues with toenails. Next race I need to use a little more Bodyglide on my feed just to be safe. New Mizuno running shirt kept me pretty cool and dry during the hottest part of the run.
While I spent many hours yesterday cursing the course, I'd definitely like to run the marathon there again sometime.