Race Recap: Crazy Desert Trail Race

I decided to sign up for the Crazy Desert Trail Race because it was part of the Trail Racing Over Texas (TROT) series, I had already achieved a first place in their Horseshoe Trail Race, and I found the event really well organized and supported. I figured I should keep the momentum going, and see what I could do in another of their trail races. My one hesitation was that it is about a 7 hour drive from my home in Houston to San Angelo, Texas, where the race was being held at San Angelo State Park. I knew I wouldn’t be ready for a half-marathon, not an enjoyable one anyways, so I selected the 10k distance to make the long drive worth it. The other distances available were 100k, 50k, half-marathon, and 5k. I really like that TROT usually makes a variety of distances available.


My training for the race was not extreme. I did a couple of trail runs in the weeks leading up to the race, but I mostly just did easy runs. My overall focus right now is to build up my running base while escaping from the muck of chronic tendon & knee pain brought on by muscle imbalances. So, I run and foam roll, and I get sports massages, readying myself for some more intense speed work in the spring. The week leading up to the race I only ran twice, once on Monday, and I felt some nagging tendonitis trying to rear up. So on the recommendation of the trainer teaching my personal training course with NPTI, I took the rest of the week off until Friday, when I jogged a two slow miles to shake off some pre-race jitters.


Although I went over the race course that was sent out, even saving the route to my Garmin profile, I failed to note that the actual length of the course was 5.7 miles, not 6.2. This was not a big deal, but I’ll get to that later. The elevation climb looked mild, and I’ve been doing a grip of core work so I felt prepared to run the whole thing. If you aren’t used to running hills, the strain of keeping your torso relaxed and upright can be surprising, so make sure to do work that stresses the endurance capabilities of your core muscles.


The Race:

Warm up: ½ a mile and some stride-outs. I decided to conserve energy instead of doing an overly thorough warm-up  (and as you can see, I consumed it as part o the process, too)

Gun & First Mile: 8:25

1592CAAA-D75D-4AA4-9539-EC44217E8B0CI lined up in front and went out strong. There were maybe 6 people ahead of me after the first mile, and only one woman. As I watched her take off, I debated trying to keep up with her. She was moving fast, and I kept my eye on her but let her go, swearing to myself that she was the only female runner I would be behind. I fell into a line of runners, with about three guys ahead of me. I made my way past one, then another, until I was behind just one guy.


Mile Two: 8:32

This mile was a game-changer, and made the whole race more thrilling for me. I was still closely following the one man ahead of me. I wasn’t paying attention, and clearly neither was he, because we ran off course, missing a turn off. We realized our mistake about a 100 meters from the right path, which doesn’t sound like a lot, except to get to where we were, we had been navigating a dry creek bed and ducking under not one, but two barbed wire fences. Something didn’t feel right, yet we probably had taken five other runners with us. We heard commotion from where we came, looked to see people turning back and realized our mistake. When I saw the right path I felt furious. If I hadn’t been following so closely I probably would have seen it, but my eyes were on the runner in front of me, not the course. So 200 wasted meters later, with about ten new runners in front of me, I got back on course.

Mile Three: 9:05

I caught up to and passed the women that were in front of me, and most of the men. There were still two ahead of me, and one was not keen on letting me pass. At a place where a photographer was stationed, I had the opportunity to pass him, as there was more space, and I charged around. I’m eagerly awaiting the results of that photo! Right after I passed the guy, we reached a significant incline. There was another guy ahead of me, and he was walking. I decided to run it. The guy behind me was still on my heels, and though running up the hill didn’t give me a significant advantage as far as putting distance between us, I thought maybe it might tire him out and give me more space later. I’m very confident and efficient on hills, and after we reached the top he did wind off dropping back significantly while I pressed on.

Mile Four: 8:55

I kept up my pace. I was almost shocked at how good I felt. My calves were burning, and my breath was labored, but as I scanned my body I only felt like running faster. With two miles left to go (remember I didn’t know at this point the course was half a mile short of a 10k), I was running a sub-8, unprecedented on trails for me. I felt like the only thing I was racing was my own capacity for pain. The guy who had been walking on the incline in mile three had taken off, and I let him go. I was doing the most I could. Another runner approached me, and was on my heels the rest of the race, but he never made it around me. These last miles were my favorite part of the course, there was more technical running, and having someone on my heels was keeping me focused on the task at hand.

Mile Five: 9:22

Go-time. Believing I had a mile and a half left- the 1.2 plus the extra distance I had run when we went off course, I decided it was time to shake out everything I had left. This wound up being my slowest mile, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. There was some more technical footwork required, and including multiple cattle-guards, which I swung off fences and stepped over rather than jumped over- trying to avoid rolling an ankle.

Mile 5.8: 7:23 (8:23 pace)

At 5.7 miles I saw the U-haul that TROT had parked in the lot, and realized then that either my watch was off or the course was short. It was bittersweet, as I realized I had more gas in the tank, but as I crossed the line, and realized I had averaged an 8:48 pace for a trail race that I really hadn’t trained to I was pretty proud. I hadn’t lost my placement after the detour after all, coming in 2nd for women.


My take-away experiences from this race are significant. I really pushed the entire time. I didn’t get discouraged from the set-back of going the wrong way, I used it as an opportunity to challenge myself more. I ran with tenacity and used my head. Philosophically, I thought about how I broke my ankle in a race two years ago, and I’d gladly trade losing my place and some time in a race over that experience ten times over, that I had driven half a day to get here, and a set-back is only a loss if you don’t use the opportunity to better yourself.

Trail Run in Scotland: Great Glen Way, Part 2

Day 2: Invergarry to Invermoriston, 16 miles


The second day of my Great Glen Way run, I woke up before 5 am. I didn’t need to get up till 8:30 at the earliest, so I tried to go back to sleep. I think I dozed a little, but I mostly day-dreamed and game planned for a life I wanted to spend traveling, running, and writing. I had breakfast in a sunlit dining room while I chatted with my hosts at the Glen Albyn Lodge. I had requested a packed lunch the night before, and was presented with a sandwich, crisps (chips), and sweets for 6 pounds before I left.


I caught the Great Glen Way a kilometer or so down the road from the B & B. It started off as a nice winding playground of a trail, with small climbs and descents- more fun than work. Not even considering digestion cramps from breakfast, I ran alongside Loch Oich until the trail met the road again, at a town called Aberchalder. There, I stood still and stared at a boat as it went through the lock, heading to Loch Oich from the north. I understood the concept of locks, but hadn’t witnessed it in person before. It started to rain a bit through the process and I took off.


The path then followed the Caledonian Canal once again. The main excitement of that stretch came from the frequent costume changes I went through. The weather would change suddenly and drastically, from cold rain to sunny, partly cloudy skies. I was constantly putting on or removing my jacket and gloves, and putting away my camera or grabbing it from my pack to snap the incredibly blue sky when the rain would let up over the canal. After 5 miles, I was in Fort Augustus.

Fort Augustus was downright bustling after the lonely stretches I had just completed solo. There were more boats going through the locks there, and many people were out as well, despite the temperamental weather. It was the largest village I had passed through since leaving Fort William. There was a visitor’s center, eateries with enticing menus, local craft shops and whiskey tasting spots. My drop bag was left for me at the Lovat Arms Hotel, which I located without a problem. I settled in with my packed lunch and the goodies in my drop bag in the living room area of the hotel, in front of a lit fire. It had started to rain a little more steadily at that point, and I relaxed on a comfortable couch, perusing my photos so far and the map of the route ahead. Once finished, I went to the visitors’ center and purchased a magnet featuring the Caledonian Canal. Magnets are my go-to as souvenirs, because they are small, plus I’m always in my fridge and thus get constant reminders of my travels.

As I went over the map while I was nestled into the Lovat Arms, I was trying to make a decision- high route or low route? From Fort Augustus, I could climb or not climb, and still arrive at the same point. I knew about the two “high routes” on the Great Glen Way, and one started after leaving Fort Augustus. I had told myself I wouldn’t do the high route- the mileage I was doing was enough. I was tired, and my muscles and tendons were too unpredictable. However, when I got to the fork in the road, I chose the high route. It’s a cool feeling when “what you would do” kicks the ass of “what you did do”.

Once I was through the main ascent, the terrain alone was surreal. The forest I had been climbing through gave way to barren, rolling hills that had once held trees that had since been farmed. I made sure to keep looking south every now and then even though I was running north, because the southern views were more interesting. I came across a couple trekking together, and offered to take their picture, as I saw they were taking turns snapping each other. They were heading north, but going for the southern views as well.

The written guide claimed I’d be running 20 miles that day, but since I was picked up in Laggan at the Eagle Inn (see previous post) and driven to Invergarry, I actually wound up running more like 16. I finished in Invermoriston. It was another great place to end a day of running- I arrived before check in, so I went to a coffee shop for a snack and free wi-fi.  I also visited this awesome craft shop, where I purchased leather wristbands that would have probably been at least $30 in the states, but were going for 3 to 4 pounds each.


My B & B that night was the Bracarina House, but I had dinner at the Glenmoriston Arms, the hotel next door. I had booked my meal there before even leaving for my trip, as I was advised that it was the only place to get dinner in town and it could fill up quickly. I had a steak. It was delicious, and I devoured it like a hungry raccoon. I met two older gentlemen who were also walking the way. I would find them a few more times. Martyn & Dic were from Wales, a few decades later in life than myself, and did hikes and walks most weekends. They trekked mostly local to Wales, but with trips like the Great Glen Way sprinkled in. They claimed weekend averages of 14 miles. What a life! The last time I met up with them, I was sitting on a train on the way back to Edinburgh, and they happened to be across the aisle- at that point, it was the fourth time we crossed paths. I had taken this running trip to see what I could do, and these dudes showed me.

Trail Run in Scotland: Great Glen Way, Part 1

I have returned from my first running themed vacation! It was in the Scottish Highlands, on the Great Glen Way, a 77 mile trail that runs along the Caledonian Canal and its lochs, including Loch Ness. It was an incredibly fun and gratifying experience…


I have returned from my first running themed vacation! It was in the Scottish Highlands, on the Great Glen Way, a 77 mile trail that runs along the Caledonian Canal and its lochs, including Loch Ness. It was an incredibly fun and gratifying experience…


Prelude: Edinburgh to Fort William

I landed in Edinburgh a few mornings before I was to begin the run. I wanted to give myself a cushion for both late flights and jet-lag adjustment. My right leg was threatening tendonitis, but I was trying not to be apprehensive about the run ahead. The day after I landed in Edinburgh, I walked by a hotel offering a special on massages, and I signed up on the spot. It was one of the best massages of my life, because it saved the running trip, but I wouldn’t find that out for a few more days. I did some sightseeing in Edinburgh, including a very gentle 2-mile jog around the University of Edinburgh campus the day after the massage.

My absolute favorite thing that I did while in Edinburgh was luck into a tour of Greyfriars Kirkyard. At breakfast with a few young women from my hostel, I mentioned that I had heard it was where J.K. Rowling drew inspiration for many familiar names in the Harry Potter series. Their interest confirmed, we all set off for the kirkyard (cemetery), and were there about 15 minutes before we were approached by an older gentleman who offered us a tour, donation only. It was one of THE BEST tours I’ve ever been on. It included and pointed out information from the books, but interwove the history and current events of the cemetery, Edinburgh, and Scotland. I learned so much from our guide and am glad we didn’t just poke around on our own.

Mind and body ready to soak up more of Scotland, I took a train from Edinburgh to Fort William, where the Great Glen Way begins. My itinerary from Macs Adventures had all the details of getting around down for me. I was staying in B & B’s each night during the run. In my latest travels preceding this trip, I’d either used Air B & B or stayed in a hotel. I’d opted to stay in a hostel in Edinburgh to revisit my youth- but I will probably not stay in a hostel again if I can avoid it. Little things pop up now and then to remind me I’m no longer in my 20’s, and sleeping in a top bunk and showering in a communal bathroom are just a few aspects I find barely tolerable. At my first B & B, Myrtle Bank Guest House, I had space to spread out, relax, and prep for my run. I went back into town to grab dinner, a few short sleeve shirts because the weather was warmer than I expected, and some sustenance for the drop bags the company was going to stage for me on the longer runs.

I liked Fort William. People were finishing their walks from either the West Highland Way (another trail) or the Great Glen Way, while others were preparing or coming back from climbing Ben Nevis- the UK’s highest mountain. I would love to go back both to spend more time in the town and go up that mountain. I met some older dudes at dinner that were climbing Nevis the next day, and drinking heavily. I deduced I could handle the hike.

Before I went to bed that night, I looked out the skylight, and I was dazzled by the nightscape. I always get stunned when I see how many more stars there are than are visible from my backyard in Los Angeles.


Day One: Fort William to Laggan, 23 miles

The next morning I woke up and had breakfast, left my larger luggage and drop bags at reception for transport, and set off through town for the trailhead. I decided to walk the first two miles, of the total of 23, to be done that day. I had to digest my breakfast, and also wanted to give my legs a chance to warm up. I was praying and praying that once I started to run, I would find that the tendonitis in my knee had let up. I don’t know if it was the praying, the massage, or both, but something gave and after walking for a couple of miles, I tentatively started to jog and found that everything was feeling fine!

The trail leaving Fort William winds though a couple different settings. I was in the woods for a bit, I walked though neighborhoods, along the road, and saw sheep. The neatest part about it is the view of Ben Nevis. The rest was honestly a little dull. After a few miles the trail starts following the Caledonian Canal, which runs from northern to southern Scotland. I saw my first set of locks, which carry the boats between the northern lower  bodies of water and the higher ones in the south. There are several along the canal, between each of the lakes (Got that? It goes loch-lock-loch) There weren’t any boats going through, but it was a quiet and pretty setting nonetheless. I passed local exercisers, and a few gentlemen that were walking the trail with packs. The next twelve miles took me along the canal, on a paved path, to Gairlochy, where the adventure really started.

In the small town of Gairlochy I was supposed to pick up my first drop bag from a B & B, but either I had the wrong place or someone hadn’t timed things right, because no one was there. I called Macs Adventures to locate it, and they lead me over the phone right to the place, but no one answered the door when I rang. It wasn’t a big deal though. My Osprey pack holds 1.5 liters of water, and I wasn’t even halfway through. I can drain that thing in two hours running around Southern California, but here the weather was moist and cool, and I was feeling great, so I decided I could make it to my next stop just fine. In fact, I lucked into pretty good weather for most of the run. It was cold at times, and there was some rain, but I had prepared myself for much less temperate conditions.

Upon leaving Gairlochy, I turned off the road and found myself on this beautiful, winding single-track through the woods. The next ten miles were enchanting. As the trail came upon the water of Loch Lochy, I thought of fairy tale kingdoms. I hope “Loch Lochy” translates roughly to “Lake Lakey”, but I haven’t concluded my research on this subject yet. I found myself on a road, passing by country houses, before turning onto a path that lead me through the woods and along the lake. I found a sign describing forest fauna and flora, and “holly” was featured! I continued on, passing by a group of five middle-aged men and a younger couple, before reaching farms and seeing my stopping point, The Eagle Inn, a bar/restaurant built into a boat on the water.

Less than a mile from the Eagle Inn, my progress was interrupted by farm animals. A lamb was fenced in, and there was a sheep right on the path, trying to encourage the lamb to come through. It was pitiful- the lamb kept sticking its head through the wire of the fence, but that was all that could fit. They were baa-ing at each other. The sheep stared at me as I approached. I know more about outer space than I know about sheep, and I didn’t want to entice an attack, so I patiently waited, then decided to edge forward, hoping the sheep would back off. It did, at least enough to where I could bolt through. I had read not to bother any of the farm animals along the trail, and in addition, thirty-two years on planet Earth has taught me not to mess with mothers and their young.

The Eagle Inn was a perfectly lovely way to end my twenty three mile run. Despite hitting my head on the top of the low doorway each time I entered and exited, I enjoyed myself. The two groups of people (5 men & couple) that I passed caught up with me there, and we talked about our journeys. One of the men put my blog in his phone for a family member, which I really appreciated. They were surprised I had started in Fort William that morning, as walkers tend to do Fort William to Gairlochy in one day and Gairlochy to Laggan the next. I called the proprietors of my next B & B, Glen Albyn Lodge in Invergarry, to let them know I had arrived, and waited for my pickup. I could have done another three miles from the Eagle Inn straight to the lodge, but I was beat.

That night I ate at the Invergarry Hotel. It was half a mile away from the B & B and walking there felt like a death march. Dennis, one of the owners of the B & B, recommended the haggis, but I couldn’t stomach that. I think I had a burger. After dinner, I went straight to bed; I was asleep before 9:30pm, which lead to me being awake at 4:45 the next morning…

I don’t want this post to be too long, so I’ll put the next two days of running up later!


Recap/Details of Run- I recommend all of these things!