Grasslands trail marathon
Here are generic notes or recommendations and below are details about the particular years.
Travel from Dallas – Leave by 0345 for the 50 mile and 0445 for the marathon which start at 0700 and 0800 respectively. But shoot for leaving 15 minutes earlier!!
Departing Dallas at 4:45 got me into the parking area there by 0615 and I was registered by 0630. There is a start / finish drop zone to quickly leave a bag at. Race overview will typically be at 0655 so be there for instructions in case there are details not to miss.
Shooting for 0430 departure, I left Dallas at 0435 and arrived at 0615. I had not registered and registration was quick. Trail races are not big and the registration and packet stuff was quick and easy. I dropped my bag at the start / finish drop zone, put on my HR monitor and put a little water into my one bottle on my Jurek vest. I walked around with my Sprinter head lamp but ditched it just before the start as it was approaching sunrise. In retrospect, a tiny hand held torch would have been worth carrying for the first 15 minutes as it was really pretty dark. I did want to warm up slowly but not that slowly.
I had loaded up with about a 600 cc water plus around 9 grams of mixed Na and K salt and some Mg citrate in the morning. I made a big thermos of coffee with cream plus butter – around 700 cc from 60 gm coffee beans and drank half that morning and saved the other half for the drop bag.
The marathon consisted of two loops. Being used to running 10-12+ miles with just a water bottle or nothing, I could have left the vest for the second loop. There were two aid stations on this loop, plenty for going with just a bottle or nothing at all. There was plenty of sand in spite of recent rains. Maybe less than last year but more than I remember in past years. But the amount of sand was totally tolerable for a marathon. I did the 50M last year and remember more but maybe just because it was a longer race. The surface was generally nice and light ideal layer of sand to spots of unavoidable deep sand for up to maybe 100 yd.
I skipped the first aid and I think got just a bit of water on the second aid station around 8 mi. I generally only got a bit of water in my bottle at subsequent aid stations. I spent about 5 minutes at the S/F point but could have done better with almost no time there if I had prepared something to drink plus an extra bottle an snacks.
At the half I mixed up a bottle of roughly double strength DIY chocolate UCAN
- 30 gm corn starch
- 5 mg cocoa
- 10 gm xylitol
Then added some of the BP coffee to the mix to warm it up. Very good but the fats in the coffee eventually hardened in the bottle.
Finishing time was 5:15:52 – 29 out of 81 starters
Winning time was 3:16
BBQ at for the finishers this year was very good. In past years this wasn’t so.
I got all my stuff ready the night before. The marathon distance at Grasslands consists of a 12.8 plus a 13.5 mile loop from the start / finish with a drop bag / aid area at the start. The running surface in good weather and on this day was ideal for the most part, mostly dirt horse path through wooded areas. There were a few segments of bumpy trail where horses had left footprints in the dried mud and there were some sandy segments that were sandier and slower than optimal, but these were a small part of the course. Each half had two aid stations with water, sports drinks, gu’s and snacks.
I left dallas at Dallas at 4:45 and that was about perfect timing for starting the marathon. It is an easy drive . . . Denton, then west on 380 to Decatur then north for 7 miles. The marathon race was to start at 0700 and the 50 milers had already been going for about 15 minutes when I arrived at the park at 0615. The RD decided to start the marathon at 0715 to let the 50 milers come through the start / finish without the congestion of the marathon start. I had preregistered and packet pickup was quick and easy.
At 7:15 there was plenty of light for the start and we headed off along the white trail of 12.8 miles. Very early on, the entire lead pack of about 15 runners went straight along a path over a dam when we should have turned left. We ended up doing about an extra third of a mile but spent about 8 minutes in the process of both doing the extra distance and deciding where to go. This was the first of three poorly marked areas that many got confused with. The trail was in good shape throughout the course with just enough sand to provide a soft running surface although there were a few sand pits along the way and a few rough areas with dried horse footprints.
I skipped the 4 mi aid station except to check the zipper on my SJ vest. At the 8 mi aid station I filled my water bottle with the sports drink du jour (forget what it was). A cold front was moving in and we finished at around 48 degrees and stayed overcast – could not have been better.
I managed to step in the one muddy spot on the entire course at around 11 miles and thus changed shoes at the halfway point and this ate up about 9 minutes. I changed into my old Vibram Five Finger KSO Treks. This turned out to be a great choice and I managed to pick up the pace on the second half by about 45 sec per mile. I passed 12 runners in the second half and wasn’t passed by anyone.
This was a great race in spite of the poor course marking at several locations. That is frustrating but is sometimes a part of running trail races.
I wore my Ultimate Direction Scott Jurek vest and carried my phone, one water bottle, a few gu’s. One bottle per 4 mile segment was about right for the 50 degree temp. The race could have certain been done with just a hand held bottle or even just by drinking at the aid stations.