Big Cedar 50K: Beautiful Disaster

The Big Cedar Endurance Run is the first 100 Mile trail running event to take place in North Texas. Ultra race choices included a 100 Miler, 50 Mile and 50K. The race took place at the highest point in the city of Dallas, Prayer Mountain, the home of the Big Cedar Wilderness Trail system. The course consisted of wooded rolling hills, single dirt track, rocky/rooty sections with a mix of ATV trail.

Race Kit

After I ran the Rockledge Rumble 50K two weekends ago, I immediately started looking for another race as I caught the ultra bug near the end of my running season. I chose the 50K, which had 85 feet of elevation gain per mile, not wanting to run anything longer. My goals going into this race consisted of racing for the win and hitting a sub 4:30. I had never set foot on the trails that the race would traverse until the weekend prior to race day.  On my trip, I was able to scout a small section. The views and fast terrain along with the climbs were amazing and it was fun to discover a new trail for the first time, too bad things didn’t quite look quite the same on the day of the race!

The course was smooth during a pre-run

The 100 Miler started on Friday, November 21st at 9:00AM. The field was highlighted by Sabrina Little, 24-hour and 200K Road American Record Holder. The race started off well, with the first three runners coming through the first 25 Mile loop on 16 hour pace looking strong with Little in third. Over the next few checkpoints, she moved into first before dropping at Mile 50. Around 1-2AM the weather took a turn for the worse, changing from clear skies to torrential downpour, changing the runnable course into a sloshing mud fest. Out of those who started the 100 Mile, 80% DNFed, an insane percentage. In the end, Matt Zmolek emerged in first with an impressive time of 22:35:11 given the circumstances. The conditions caused the Race Director to cancel Saturday’s 50 Mile and allow those runners to downgrade their distance to the 50K, either starting early at 7:30AM or with the rest of the 50K runners at 8:30AM.

Just A Small Snapshot From A 100M Runner Of The Mud That Made It Feel Like Running With Bricks

Photo: Ace Gallegos


I started my section of the race in first and stayed there for the entire 50K. I had company, running with two other runners for the first 3 miles before pulling away. By 6 Miles I had created a gap of 3 Minutes and continued to add time to that lead throughout the race. Over the entire distance, I passed every single runner who started an hour earlier at  7:30 with the exception of one, crossing the line only 38 Minutes behind him, meaning I took the overall victory by a margin of 22 Minutes with a finish time of 5:15:07. Like the 100 Mile, the 50K saw a great number of DNFs as well with only 46% of the field finishing the race.

Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 6.37.01 PM

Photo: Tracie Akerhielm


This race really turned out to be a “Beautiful Disaster” for me, like the song by 311. It was fitting as that was my bib number. Beautiful in the sense of the things I learned from this run and a disaster for the weather, mud, and things that went wrong for me during the run. To start off, 5 Minutes before the 50K went off, I went to turn on the GPS on my Garmin. Unfortunately, the screen popped up with an update that said it would take 4 Minutes to complete. This wasn’t something that I had the time for so I restarted the watch. That turned out to be a bad idea as the watch turned off and back on and I thought GPS had been acquired. When the gun went off I clicked start and began my race. I was running for around 10 Minutes or so and looked down at my watch which showed 0 as the distance and time and with every attempt to start the watch up I was given a message telling me to acquire GPS. I have never run a race let alone a training run without relying on my GPS. This impromptu run-by-feel race was refreshing to just let go and enjoy running, but also a little scary since I didn’t know my overall time or mileage. I was able to rely on Aid Stations to update me to where I was, which turned out to be all I needed.


The second thing that went “wrong” was the fact that the 50K had two different start times. This meant that there were 20 or so runners who I had no idea where they were on the course or how they were running. If I was able to start with the other quicker runners then I could run off them rather than running blind. Finally, the weather was actually great, only raining for 10 Minutes during the race, but the fact that it down poured the night before made the easy sections difficult, the climbs extremely difficult and the bridge crossings dangerous (some runners reported crawling on all fours over them to ensure they didn’t fall over). There were many times that I was literally skating along on mud trying to regain control and find traction. Most uphill climbs required grabbing onto trees and pulling yourself up and every bridge meant running quick to gain momentum in order to make it 3/4ths of the way across before tip toeing the rest to avoid sliding backwards. On my course pre-run the week before there were several stretches of half a mile to a mile that I knew I could run low 6-7 Minute miles on, but the rain and mud made these the most difficult sections. With every step, your shoes would sink in a few inches and accumulate mud, adding a few pounds and requiring much more energy to go the same speed. Despite all of the things that went wrong, I learned to run in tough conditions and make adjustments on the fly when things don’t work out the way you want. Overall, I was pleased with my performance and I am in awe of the 100 Mile finishers. They are truly incredible and deserve a great deal of praise.
Things I Learned:
  • Test your gear before every race. Whether it’s turning your GPS watch on 30 minutes before your race or making sure the nozzle on the bladder in your running vest is working properly. This will save you grief in the long run.
  • Make sure you have gear for all conditions ready for race day. Buy minimal shoes if that’s what you prefer, but bring along a pair of shoes that are designed for more technical running/bad conditions so you are prepared for every possibility that the day may throw your way.
  • Learn from your races. Use every run as an opportunity to fine tune your nutrition/hydration strategy, your pacing, and overall race plan.


The North Face Better Than Naked Shirt, GTD Short Tights, UltraTrail Shoes
Amphipod Hydraform Handheld ThermalLite 20oz Bottle, Amphipod AirFlow MicroStretch Race Belt
Smartwool PhD Compression Calf Sleeves
Bottles 1, 2, 3, 5: Tailwind
Bottles 4, 6: Nuun
Clif Shot Energy Gels: 5 Mocha (Caffeinated) and 1 Vanilla
 Total Caloric Intake: 1,500
Race Data
Official Results* Still Being Corrected
Next Up
Brazos Bend Trail Races Marathon on 12/13! If you’re looking to end your season with a 100 Miler, 100 Mile Relay, 50 Miler, Marathon or Half Marathon on a fast course, check this race out. You can sign up here with code TRAIL for 10% off.
  • What are the toughest conditions you have raced in?
  • What tips do you have for running in the mud/rain?
  • How many calories/hours do you typically plan for during your races?
Thank you for taking the time to read this post and I hope to hear from you in the comments below!

11 thoughts on “Big Cedar 50K: Beautiful Disaster

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