Horseshoe Trail Run 50K: Fun In The Mud

What’s a trail race without a little mud, rain and a whole lot of falls? That’s what I told myself before making the drive from Dallas to Houston for the Trail Racing Over Texas Horseshoe Trail Run 50K. Word from the trail was that the course was nice and wet and close to 40% underwater. Sounds like the perfect way to spend the day running on one of the toughest mountain bike trails in Texas, right? Heading into the race I had planned to run it as a long training run and push the pace only if needed. The course conditions ensured that the race would be a grind right from the very start.

Imagine running 31 miles through this.

The race went off promptly at 6AM, ran down a short stretch of road and then immediately jumped onto the trails of Jack Brooks Park. I went out in the front of the pack at the start, not being able to resist taking the lead. I let my flashlight guide the way once on the trails as it was still pitch black out. I managed to only start down the wrong trail a handful of times before realizing my mistake and correcting my path. I expected the first 10K loop of the course to be a learning experience and knowledge gathering session. I tried my best to remember the easy to run sections, where to take it slow to avoid falling, how long each water section was and the exact route.

The course was worse than I expected and with 4 loops and a few other race distances to follow I knew by the end of the day it would be very difficult to move fast, if at all. I ran with two other guys for the first 2.5 Miles or so until we approached one of the many wooden bridges along the course. This one was particularly long and slanted. The combination of mud, water, and bad balance caused me to take my first tumble of the day into the murky water. I popped back up and continued onward as I heard two more splashes behind me. I attempted to take advantage of being the first one off the bridge and picked up the pace, ultimately being reeled back in and crossing the first loop side by side with one of the other runners, Zach Szablewski, who I learned had an impressive 50 Miler PR at JFK of 6:24 in 2014.

End of the 1st 10K loop. Photo: Don Davis

Zach and I ran the entire second loop together. We chatted about PR’s, what trails we both trained on and about goal races for the 2015 season. This loop was pretty uneventful and I managed to only take two spills, both within a 10 foot span. We completed loop two side by side again and headed out for the third of five loops. We continued to run and chat until we hit Mile 16. At this point we went up a slippery climb and I dug my fingers into the mud to gain a better grip and pull myself over the hill. I made it to the top and slid down the other side that was coated with slippery mud. I turned around and didn’t see Zach coming down so I pressed on and after finishing the loop, restocking my bottle with more CarboPro HYDRA C5 and dumping ice water all over myself I headed back out. I passed him as I left and he finished his loop indicating that I had put about 2 minutes on him over the final 2 miles of the course.

This is what the majority of the course looked like. Photo: Don Davis

The next two loops were some of the hardest running i’ve ever done. There were spots where I simply couldn’t run and had to work hard just to keep my balance. You were now only able to navigate up the climbs by grabbing trees and branches and pulling yourself up, otherwise you would get half way up and immediately slide back down to the bottom. Every runner that I passed was encouraging and said great job and I returned the compliment right back each time, hoping that it would help feed their motivation to continue. Loop four was my slowest so far on the day, but I learned later that I extended my lead by 13 Minutes over those 6 Miles.

As I headed out for my fifth and final loop I just told myself to focus on running the spots that I could and maintaining my lead. I did everything I could during that lap to keep on moving. Time wasn’t a factor at this point, but I knew I could still finish sub 6:00 if I kept the pace up. The final loop was by far the worst of the day in terms of time, but I embraced the conditions and ran down the finish chute to the overall win in 5:58:56. Zach Szablewski who I had run with for the first half of the race finished in second in 6:32:27 and Gabe Leatherwood, the other person I ran with for the entire first loop, took third in 7:07:38, just to give you a perspective of how tough the course was.

A huge congratulation goes out to all of the runners who braved the conditions and finished the 5K, 10K, 25K and 50K race distances. Although it was an extremely challenging day, it is one that I won’t soon forget. Thank you to Trail Racing Over Texas, Robert Goyen, Team TROT, CarboPro, Altra Running, Feetures Socks and Victory Sport Design for all of the incredible support. I can’t wait to run the Trail Racing Over Texas Habanero Hundred Relay next on August 22nd. My eyes are set on winning the TROT Cup!


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