What is a Shoot-out Anyway?
The San Felipe Shoot-out was an inaugural trail race put on by a wonderful outfit: Trail Racing Over Texas. This Houston based company is generating some buzz and has created a number of exciting trail races across the state of Texas. I can’t say more about how well this race was executed. Great communications, great venue, great logistics and most importantly a great atmosphere. The races were held at Stephen F. Austin state park in San Felipe, Texas, about 50 miles west of Houston. The weather was perfect for the races after what was a wet an gloomy week. Despite all the rain, the trails were almost in perfect condition…couldn’t have asked for better. Race date was March 28th, 2015.
So what is the shoot-out? Well, it is actually 3 races (5k, 10k, 13.1) held back-to-back on the same day. You could either run an individual race or participate in the shoot-out which involved running all three races back to back. The 5k started at 7:30 AM, 10k at 8:30 AM and the half marathon at 10:30 AM. I went with the shoot-out for a total mileage of 22.4.
Lay of the Land – The Course
The course was mostly a single track hiking/biking trail in San Felipe State Park. Being SE Texas, it was pretty flat except for a few dips that went down to small creeks and some elevation change around the Brazos River. The trail was primarily under a nice forest canopy so it kept the sun at bay. There were very nice areas that ran along the Brazos River. Nothing too technical, but enough twists and turns and mud to make it fun. The 5k was one loop, 10k was the 5k route twice and the half marathon was 3 loops of the 5k course with a few added out and backs.
Should You Run It? – A Short Review
In a nutshell, yes. It was a well produced race. It had some great swag (2 medals for the shoot-out, a nice large one for the 22.4) and a very nice race tee. The support was excellent with two aid stations per loop with all the food you’d expect at a longer distance ultra (all sorts of snacks, bars, goos, pickles, drinks, Nutella and Jelly, and onward). It was a serene and peaceful course where you could hear owls and woodpeckers. A great escape from the city for a morning. The trails were easy, pretty free of rocks and roots and not very technical…pretty safe for the non-trail runner. The neat part was hanging out and talking to other runners between each race. It was a wonderful introduction to the world of trail racing. I can’t say enough good things about the event. Rob and Rachel Goyen (the RDs) know what they are doing!
Play by Play – The Race(s)
First off, this was a lot of firsts for me. It was my first trail race, and it was my first staged race (other than a relay where you have a bit more time between stages to recover). Really I just went in this to play around a bit and see what I could do on the trails. I also wanted to get some trail time in prep for my first 50k in April (Brazos Bend, also a Trail Racing Over Texas Event). So, no real goals here other than to have fun and enjoy a day off from work out in the woods. Strategy was simple, hold back in the 5k and 10k and save enough gas for the half. I wanted to run even splits on the loops in the 10k and half but that didn’t end up happening. I also was going to see where I was in the overall standings after the first two races…if I had a chance at a top 3 finish I’d go all out in the half.
Race morning didn’t go so well for me. I must have messed up on my eating on Friday because I had a bad case of the you know what’s in the morning. I went 3 times which ain’t good. I wasn’t feeling too great going into the 5k, but I figured I’d see what I had and take it from there (after guzzling 2 bottles of Gatorade to try to rehydrate).
5k – Took off with the lead pack in the 5k but things spaced out quickly. The guy who won is a 2:20 something marathoner…can’t compete with that. It was early so it was still cool, and the trails were a bit muddy due to the recent rains. I learned my first lesson of trail racing – my minimalist shoes don’t handle mud very well. Despite me slipping and slidding around I was able to finish 6th overall and the 4th male. This set me up well to stay in the hunt for a top 3 finish in the shoot-out. I finished in 21:14 – not bad.
Had a short break (40 minutes) to recharge for the 10k. I ate a bit, drank some fluids and felt a lot better.
10k – Knowing the course helped on this, as I knew what to expect. I handled the mud a lot better when I learned to use the grassy areas to avoid slipping. The start of the race went much the same, with 2 fast guys and 2 fast gals quickly getting some distance on me. I went into the 3rd place male spot and held onto it for the race. I chose to carry water on the 10k which was a good idea because it was starting to get warm and I had no plans on stopping at the aid stations. Had a decent time in the 10k and finished in 44:34 – over 2 minutes behind 4th place overall, but good enough for 3rd overall male. I beat the 3rd place dude from the 5k by 30 seconds, so moved into 3rd overall male for the shoot-out – sweet, I have a chance.
Had a longer break (75 minutes) to recharge for the half. I at a bit more, drank a few more fluids, had a few conversations and did some stretching to stay loose for the half. I felt way better after the 10k…body recovered. Time to nail the half and hold onto 3rd.
13.1 – Slightly different course but mostly the same. By this point the trails were in really good shape as most of the mud had dried up. Went out and pulled into 3rd male early and was able to hold on for the race. The usual cast of characters shot into the top 4 and I hung as 5th overall. It got a bit toasty on the half, so I was actually pretty happy that the course was short (by a lot, like 1.2 or 1.3 miles). My legs were feeling it after doing a staged race, but I definitely felt better than I normally did after 20 miles of a marathon. The half was a bit more challenging because I ended up having to lap a lot more people, which gets tricky on a single track trail. I finished the half in 1:25:13, good enough for 3rd male in the half and to win 3rd overall male in the shoot-out! Got some really cool awards (see below) – two rain sticks (3rd male 10k, 3rd male 13.1) and a hatchet (3rd male shoot-out). Awesome day!
On my drive back to Houston I reflected on how awesome this event was. I had run 6 marathons already this year and was really looking for a marathon that weekend but there were none in the area and I couldn’t get that far away from work for the weekend. This however ended up being a great event, and introduced me to staged races and running trails. I enjoyed staged races far more than I thought I would, and didn’t find it that difficult to stay loose and recover in between (my biggest concern). I will do something like this again.
So what did I learn from this event? First, trail racing is awesome and is extremely fun. Making sharp twists and turns is pretty neat. It was pretty easy on the upper legs (less impact), but definitely gave my feet and ankles a bit more of a workout than I’m used to on roads. Second, if I’m going to do more serious trail racing I need to get a real trail shoe. The Altra Zero Drop Adams are not going to cut it on a more technical trail. I need something with more grip. Did well with what I had, but avoiding some slips and slides will improve time. Hopefully I can find something with not too much cushion but with a trail running sole. Lastly, trail racing is a new and different world from the roads. People are much closer, much friendlier and a lot more talkative. It is definitely a more tight knit community than road running. I can’t wait to join Trail Racing Over Texas for the Brazos Bend 50 later in April. I know I can expect another great event!
Lifetime Numbers: 5k – 4, 10k – 3, 13.1 – 4
2015 Numbers: 5k – 2, 10k – 1, 13.1 – 1
Times: 5k – 21:14, 10k – 44:34, 13.1 (actually 11.8) – 1:25:13
Lifetime Rank: 5k – 2nd fastest, 10k – 3rd fastest, 13.1 – not counted, short course