A bit over a week ago, Jess travelled to Texas to compete in the Big Cedar Endurance Run. What follows is her crazy experience; enjoy!
Have you heard of the Big Cedar Endurance Runs outside Dallas, Texas? No? Not surprised. This is a newer event (this year was the second running) by The Active Joe, a non-profit running organization in Texas. They offer a 50k, 50 miler, and 100 miler. Libby is the race director, who I got to know earlier this year at Western States. The Active Joe is a big sponsor for Western, and gets to have a sponsored athlete each year. This year, she chose my friend Robert Lopez, who I crewed and paced. As such, I got to know Libby in the process. She's an awesome woman who gives a lot to the running community so in support of her, I entered Big Cedar 100.
The course itself is mostly flat 25-mile loop with lots of little ups and downs (each loop has about 2,500 feet of climbing) in a park owned by a church. It is pretty much 100% mountain bike trail (mostly single track, some fields), and is pretty in a Texas trails sort-of way. Certainly not an epic mountainous course but offered the perks of being very runnable, having short distances between aid stations, inexpensive cost and excellent organization by the RD. So if you want to run a race in Texas, near Dallas, this is the race for you. The forecast was for rain, wind, and thunderstorms. Great! Unlike Cascade Crest this year, the saving grace, however, was the temps. The high for the day was about 70 degrees, with a low of around 60. I embraced the idea of insane weather and thought it could add emphasis to the "adventure" component of the event. Spoiler alert: it did.
It rained a bit before the race, but mostly stopped as we began. This dry out period led to wet trails, with tacky, sticky clay mud. It was so absurd it became laughable. In certain sections, I felt like I was wearing mud snowshoes.
The first six miles or so of the loop are quite nice-a bit rocky with stable dirt/mud. Then you got to the many sections of the crazy mud. Some were not too deep, just sticky and a bit slippery, but some were deep, shoe-sucking clay mud that added pounds of weight to your shoes. Quickly I learned not to bother trying to knock the mud off, because in the next step you would have a whole new layer surrounding your shoe. Eventually, though, the weight of the building mud would be enough to fall off and you'd enjoy a step or two without the additional weight. Occasionally I'd try to jog with the bonus weight on my feet, but often I walked for two reasons: it was so heavy and exhausting that I wasn't moving much faster than walking, despite expending much more energy; and the ground mud was so deep and unstable that it was very hard not to fall over. Needless to say, the first loop took over an hour longer than I anticipated, and I was shocked at how tired I was 25 miles in.
The good news was it started to rain sporadically in the second loop. It would rain hard for about ten minutes and then stop, which was fantastic because the water absorbed the stickiness of the mud: much less weight on my feet the second loop. The downside was that it became much more slippery. Oh and the bridges-I forgot to mention the bridges! There were probably about 15 bridges that you crossed (some multiple times) in the loop. Since they were for mountain biking, there was no siding/railings and they were slick, slick, slick. Adding to that, they weren’t all flat and straight across. Some were angled / cantered and many either went up or down, which made for some nice sliding! It was sometimes fun and sometimes a bit scary. My poor friend Robert fell on a bridge and bruised his ribs pretty hard. Again-adventure! This evolved as the big theme of the day and night. I embraced the adventure of it all. I moved pretty slowly and slipped around a lot but didn’t fall too often. It was quite fun, surprisingly enough.
As I was nearing the finish of the second loop the rain came in earnest and didn’t leave this time. It rained hard for hours. I spoke with the Libby at the start/finish and she still thought it would hopefully stop soon and then the water would drain a bit from the trails and we wouldn’t get totally flooded out.
It’s a shame that wasn’t the case. The rain continued and the third loop became dangerous. It had been fun and wild but now it was becoming crazy – and not in a good way. The trail was one long puddle (river?) and the creek crossings were rushing and high. Many of the bridges were under water so it was hard to know how deep each creek crossing was. I started to worry that I wouldn't have the gusto to do the fourth loop if the rain didn’t stop. Luckily it wasn’t too cold so my body temperature was ok, but it was raining so hard it was getting hard to see. When I reached the aid station 9 miles into the loop, the volunteers let me know that Libby no longer thought it was safe to continue. She had to officially close the race as the creeks were getting too high; in some spots in the fields the mud was caving in; and the snakes were coming out to higher ground (yikes!). The lightning and thunder added a nice bit of drama to the overall scene.
Thus I made it about 59 miles before having to call it a day, and what a day it was! I think it was one of the most fun adventures I’ve ever had, but also a bummer that the rain didn’t stop. It felt appropriate to call the race, but I still felt the letdown of not completing the distance I set out to do. So of course I signed up for another 100 miler in December. I have to try again, right? And it helped that another local Texas race director offered 50% off to those of us from the race to sign up for his December race (Brazos Bend 100). Hopefully the weather will be more cooperative this time around!
Whew-nice work, Jess!