Saturday, March 16, 2013

Toughest in Texas 20 mile race report

I've said it before and I'll say it again: residents of Waco are lucky to have Cameron Park right there in the city.  The park boasts miles and miles of trails, making it a playground for trail runners, mountain bikers, hikers, horseback riders, as well as casual walkers and nature lovers.  The trails are well-maintained single track, and the views from the bluff are terrific.  So I was delighted to return today for the Toughest in Texas Trail Runs.  I ran the 50K there 2 years ago; today the 20 mile race was more than enough for me.

The TNT Trail Runs, hosted by Waco native and Houston-based running coach Tim Neckar (, feature the best of the Cameron Park trails.  Tim puts on a great race, with well-supported aid stations and a clearly marked route.  Tim offers the 50K, 20 mile, 10 mile, and 5 mile distances, so trail runners at any level can enjoy the race.

My brother Mark and I started out together on the 20 mile race at 7:30.  The rather small field of 20 milers took off, with a couple of guys bolting out at the start.  We thought surely they'd falter, but they actually finished well.  The order of finishers, at least for the leaders, seems to have been the same as the order of starters.

I ran with Mark for 3 or four miles, to the first aid station.  But after that he began to put some separation between us.  I was reminded that he is much stronger on the uphills.  He took off ahead of me and ended up finishing over half an hour before me.  I guess there's no shame in losing to my faster, fitter, slimmer, younger brother.  (I still have him beat on the road marathon P.R., though!)

Not the actual snake I saw. Photo credit:
Once Mark left me, I ran alone.  A few of the 10 mile runners passed me near the end of the first lap, I passed a couple of 50K walkers early in the second lap, and I saw several other random bikers and hikers.  One other companion on the trail was a copperhead snake (as best I could tell).  He was planted in the middle of the trail.  I figured he would scurry away, but he just sat there looking at me.  I got a very long branch and poked it, again thinking he would flee.  I finally picked it up with the stick and set it beside the trail, then hurried past.  He wasn't too interest in me, thankfully.

After the second trudge up Jacob's Ladder, I finally finished in 4:36, good enough for 5th male overall.  That was about 20 minutes slower than my first 2 laps in 2011.  Today I was quite happy to be done, not heading out for the third lap.  The burgers and beans hit the spot, and there's nothing better than a cold Dr Pepper after 20 miles on the trail on a warm day.

Once again, many thanks to Tim for putting this race together.  Race or not, the trails at Cameron Park are worth a visit.  Here's a video a mountain biker took which shows a bit of the flavor of the trails. (Posted on YouTube by Jim Olmsted.  Thanks, Jim.)


  1. 5th male overall..awesome! That is one race I really hope to get to someday. I've heard that Cameron Park is really nice. Congrats and great job!

  2. Thanks, Julie! Cameron Park is a great place to run, and Tim puts on a nice race. You should definitely try to make it next year!