Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Rough Creek Trail Marathon Race Report

The RD, David Hanenburg, warned that the 3 mile section of the course called the "Rusty Crown" was going to be an experience.  And wow, he was not kidding!  If you were not going straight up, you were heading straight down.  But let me start from the beginning..

Rough Creek trail run is held at Rough Creek Lodge which is in Glen Rose, TX.  The lodge and surrounding area is just beautiful.  We got a big break on the weather because it was overcast the entire day with highs in the upper 70's.  Most of the course is exposed with little tree cover so if it had been as hot as earlier in the week with full sun, well, I imagine there would have been some suffering on that course.  But it was perfect, beautiful weather and I came ready to run! The options were 40 mile, marathon or  half marathon.  For the marathon, we would complete two 13.5 mile loops.
Waiting to hear "GO"

Dave and I before the race

Tanya and I at the pre-race briefing

Beautiful church at Rough Creek Lodge

I used my Nathan Intensity hydration vest for the day to minimize aid station time.  I packed Sport Beans, a couple Mocha GU's, some S! caps and water.

At 7am (40 milers and marathoners), David H.said GO, and we went.  The half marathoners would start at 7:30 am.  From the very start I could tell it was going to be a great day!  Beautiful scenery, perfect weather, good music on the mp3 player (the new Mumford and Sons song is awesome) and I felt good and relaxed and ready to take on whatever the day brought.
The first mile

The first 2 miles or so were gently rolling hills, nothing crazy, just rollers on wide trails with pretty views all around.  Coming in to the first aid station which was the Rusty Crown AS, I saw a hill/small mountain in the distance that looked a little like a ski mountain with "slopes" going up and down and all around.  Someone in front of me commented that it was the Rusty Crown and said that they were trying not to look, because if they ignored it that it would go away.  :)   I passed the aid station, just calling out my number as I went by and headed towards the Crown, not really knowing what to expect.

The first climb was steep and rocky and I started to get an inkling of what the next 3 miles had in store.  Here is the Rusty Crown, the trails go all the way around the "mountain", weaving their way up and down it.
The Rusty Crown
I took it very VERY slow and worked my way around the mountain.  It was some of the steepest grades I've probably ever tried to run (or even hike) up and down but in a strange twisted way was kinda fun!  I dreaded each hill but also felt satisfied when making it up the hill and am pretty sure I had a half grimace/half smile on my face the entire time!
On the Rusty Crown

There was one hill in particular, Tanya and I named it "The Beast" and it was impossible for me to climb with just my legs so I ended up bear crawling up the last 1/2 of it.  I'm tellin' ya, the Rusty Crown is NO JOKE!  Challenging but has some beautiful views at the top.  The climbs and descents are rocky and technical and I recommend taking it SLOW.  Fun stuff, though!
People crawling up "The Beast"

Picture looking down The Beast

Straight up!

I was afraid that my legs would be toast after I made it off the Crown but I actually felt quite good.  I went back through the Rusty Crown AS, this time grabbing some Fig Newtons.  My legs were feeling really good and the smooth flat trail felt wonderful.  I made my way back to the dirt road and headed towards House Lake.  The trail here was totally runnable and mostly flat so I tried to make up some time since I was so slow on the Rusty Crown.  House Lake AS is the turnaround point and I got to see and cheer on a lot of runners on this little out and back section.

As I headed back towards the start/finish (halfway point for me) I did start to feel a little tired and achy and wondered how it was going to feel to start out for that second loop.  I tried not to think to much about it so that I didn't mentally bonk.  Coming in to the start/finish I beelined for the bathroom and then headed back out quick, before I could think much about the fact that I still had 13.5 miles to go.

The first couple of miles went fast and before I knew it I was back at the Rusty Crown AS.  Teresa was there and asked if I wanted some Coke.  I said no, just grabbing a few Fig Newtons again and heading towards the Crown.  Funny thing happened though, I started thinking about that Coke back at the AS and was craving it so much I couldn't WAIT to get back and ask for some!  I never drink Coke during a race but it sounded SO GOOD.  I again took it very slow and steady and once again bear crawled up The Beast.  It was THE BEST feeling in the world to be on the road heading down off of the Rusty Crown and knowing I would not see her again till next year.  The second I came into the aid station I asked Teresa for some of that yummy Coke and downed two cups of it.  It was like rocket fuel!  I grabbed a couple of Fig Newtons while one of the AS workers filled up my pack with water.  I headed out knowing I had 8 miles left and I was determined to run it all since it was mostly flat.  Although tired, I really felt pretty good so when I left the AS I turned up the tunes and started running with all my heart.

On the second loop

I kept up a solid pace and when I made it back to House Lake AS I just told them my number and headed straight back out.  I think this was about 22 or 23 miles and I knew that the finish line would be about 27.5 miles so I put my head down and kept repeating the mantra "Do the work" and it kept me moving.  After I got to 26 miles I could smell the finish line and got a little extra kick.  I was really wanting to make it in under 7 hours but I could tell it probably wasn't going to happen.  That's my goal next year.  :)  As I made it onto the paved road and wound my way around to the finish line I could see Dave and I felt choked up for a moment which happens every time I see him at the end of a long race.  It only lasted a second and then I felt just purely happy and had a big smile for him.  After passing him I could see the finish line and there was Larry Flies and David Hanenburg...I flew through the chute and could finally stop.  7:05 finish time and damn proud of it!  Garmin said 27.7 miles. So many times I second guess myself after a race and feel like I could have ran faster or pushed harder and this race I can truly say I left every single thing I had out on the course.  It's an awesome feeling. :)

Smiling at Dave..finish line in sight!

David H. waiting at the finish line to welcome in all of his runners


Elevation profile for the marathon

The post race meal was AMAZING.  Vegetarian or meat soft tacos, watermelon and cake.  I sat down and ate in the screened in pavilion and cheered in some runners.

This ended up being one of the most memorable and fun trail races I've ran.  Endurance Buzz Adventures does a wonderful job and always puts on a race that feels like a great adventure.

Dave and I headed back to town where I rested a bit and then headed out for some BBQ with Holly who drove up from Dallas just to see me.  Great weekend!  Already excited for next years race!

Thank you to Larry, Teresa and ALL of the volunteers and to David and Wendy Hanenburg.  You guys are awesome!


  1. What a great experience. I'm so ready to finish up these road races I have planned and hit the trails! This is much more exciting than trodding along the asphalt!

    1. I have a feeling you'll love it!

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  2. Wow, that's one beast of an incline. Nice work!

    1. There are many more like it, that's just the steepest one. That race was a doozy! So much fun though. :)

  3. Awesome Recap! This was my first trail race ever and I had a blast! I'm so proud of myself for surviving the half!!! Thanks for including the pics and elevation map- I've been trying to tell my family and friends just how steep the rusty crown was but words can't describe it! I'm hooked and also can't wait until next year. Everyone that did the marathon and 40 are my heros!!! God Bless

    1. Congrats on your first trail race! You picked a tough but good one. I was struggling to describe just how steep some of those climbs were also, I don't think it can be described?! It just has to be experienced! :P

  4. Awesome job on those hills! I have friends who ran this one and all they could talk about was the elevation gain. Sounds like you got yhe job done, and had a great time to boot. Great finish time as well!

  5. Thanks for the pictures! You look so happy, must have been a great day:)

    1. With some decent weather and scenic trails it's usually a great day for me! :) Great race, I think you'd like this one as well. Although I know 40 miles is probably pretty short for you but the Rusty Crown would make it interesting and give you some good training for one of your mountain races I bet.

    2. 40 miles sounds about perfect for a new me:)

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