Saturday, June 9th marked the 3rd race in the 2012 Forge Trail Series. The Hells Hills 10K and half marathon was held at Lincoln Parish Park in Ruston, LA.
I rode up with race director, Jeff Beck early Friday morning. We intended to leave Thursday evening, camp that night, then mark the course Friday morning so we could take it easy that afternoon. However, a back injury had Jeff immobilized all day Thursday, and we were both worried about what that would mean for Friday and race day. But he soldiered through it and toughed it out for a couple days, doing much more than his doctor, physical therapist and wife would have approved.
We began marking the race course shortly before noon. He had his bike and did the first part of the half marathon course, which had more splits and intersections, while I tackled the 10K and second part of the half marathon course. I was on foot, and ran bits of it, stopping to put up arrows, tape and to take a few pictures. The trails at Lincoln Parish Park are very well marked already, so it was a pretty easy job to mark it do runners would stay on course. But I did manage to lengthen it a bit by adding a short hilly section not originally on the course map. I didn’t hear anyone complain, so it must not have been too bad.
Check out some pictures from the race course below:
Of course I had to take a break to hydrate while marking the course.
We had finished by 2:30, then put up a few banners at the pavilion near the start, then headed to find a campsite and a well deserved beer.
Before long, some friends and fellow racers joined us at the campsite and we headed into town for a bite to eat at Portico’s, just a couple miles up the road. It was late when we got back, and everyone crashed almost immediately.
The 4 AM alarm came much too early, but there was work to be done. Jeff and I found a convenience store up the road and grabbed about 150 pounds of ice to keep the water, sports drinks and post-race beer cold. We then unloaded a trailer full of race gear, drinks, ice chests, PA system and many more things for the race.
By 6 AM, I was headed to some road crossings to set up the aid stations with water coolers and sports drinks while Jeff got the race numbers and shirts ready for packet pickup. Racers began filing in shortly after 6:30, and a steady stream was picking up their gear until 8:00.
Remembering I had a race to run myself, I gathered my things and took a few pre-race pics with my good friend and Rouge Orleans teammate, Kristin.
Apparently, I was doing something wrong.
Runners lined up at the start, butt to butt, as the 10K runners took off in one direction, while the half marathon runners headed in the other direction. The gun went off, and so did the runners. I was running the half, which meant one loop around the lake, which was about 1.3 miles. Then we headed into the woods and dirt trails. I kept a nice pace to start, somewhere in the group about 10 runners back. I only passed a couple of runners in the first few miles and felt pretty good. The trails were very dry and in great shape. You had to watch your footing though, as rocks and roots were abundant. The first few miles were relatively flat, with only some gentle rolling hills. The second half, however, was a different story.
I refilled my water bottle at the first aid station, roughly 4 1/2 miles in, as it was beginning to warm up. Shortly after the mile 6 mark, we hit the section that I had marked the previous day. You would think I’d have an advantage, knowing what was coming. But no, at mile 7 1/2 it happened. One of those rocks jumped up and tripped me, sending me sprawling out on the trail. Once again, I scraped my left hand and dirtied up my water bottle (sweat plus dirt equals mud) and I was tasting dirt with every subsequent sip.
We hit a long section of switchbacks up a hill and I knew the second aid station would soon follow. I filled my bottle and took a gel and was briefly reenergized, even though I got passed by a runner as i refilled. The next couple miles were filled with gnarly up and down sections that sucked the remaining energy out of me. I got passed just after mile 10 by the eventual female winner. She had been close to me for a bit, then I wouldn’t see her for a bit before she caught up again. That happened twice. When she finally passed me, she said she had fallen twice, and her bloody knees were proof.
I was sucking wind at this point, but the toughest climb was ahead, followed by the steepest downhill. I was toast after both of those, and I realized that I went out too fast, while the late night and early morning took their toll on me. I passed the finish area, but still had another mile-plus loop around the lake. Everyone cursed Jeff for that one. It was much hotter for this loop, and my right hamstring decided to cramp up with a mile to go. That made the last mile take a whole lot longer than it should have, and again I got passed. This one cost me first place in my age division, which was tough to swallow.
I finally crossed the finish line just in time to break 2 hours on a tough course. Yet, it was good enough for 7th overall, so despite my struggles, I had a good showing.
I refueled with a Stone Ruination IPA and some homebrewed wheat ale so graciously provided by Bobby and Jamie Love, as well as some freshly made jambalaya from
I helped distribute awards and door prizes, then broke down the setup and packed the remaining things back in the trailer. Reality hit that we had 13 miles of course markings to take down, which was mentally draining. All I wanted to do was break camp, shower and get on the road home. But, we must leave the trails as we found them, so the course markings had to come down and the aid station trash had to be picked up. Now I know why many races go paperless and don’t give out sports drink bottles. It was amazing to see how many runners just threw their trash on the trails. That would never occur to me, but I don’t litter and I carry a handheld bottle to refill.
Finally, everything was put away and that shower was fantastic. There’s something to be said for getting clean before a 4 1/2 hour drive home. I made it home for 10:30, and immediately crashed.
It was a great weekend out on the trails. The hard work was worth it, and I got to run a great race. Those are some fantastic trails and there’s some great camping there. I fully intend to return with the whole family for a more relaxed weekend sometime soon.
See race results here.
Be sure to sign up for the 4th and final race of the 2012 Forge Trail Series, which is the Battlefield 10K on October 13th at the Port Hudson state historic site in Jackson, LA.