. . . and if the 20+ miles of great multi-use trails
Huntsville SP aren't enough to satisfy you, head for the
Lone Star Access Trail that exits the northeastern part of the
park and meanders for about 129 miles in the adjacent Sam
Houston National Forest! One of these years we'll have to
check out this National Recreation Trail. On this visit we didn't even have
the time or energy to explore
every trail within HSP, let alone the national forest.
Triple C Trail at a major junction with the
(location of a very busy aid station during
the Sunmart races)
last entry I briefly described
the three longest trails in the park (Triple C, Chinquapin, and
Prairie Branch) and showed photos from several vantage
points. In this entry I'll show more pictures from several
training runs we did that covered various parts of the
Sunmart 50K and 50-mile courses. Since both Jim and I are using Sunmart as a training run for ATY, we aren't tapering as we would
for a goal race. I'll also talk more about our goals for this race
and our training since the last update.
Here's the park map again:
The 6.8-mile Chinquapin Trail, in orange, encircles Lake
Raven. The 9.5-mile Triple C Trail (green lines) hovers
close to the park boundaries most of the way. The 1.5-mile
Prairie Branch Loop (purple) is just above the "You Are Here"
marker on the map (this map is at the trail head next to our
campsite). And the Dogwood Trail is in blue; we run on less than
a mile of it where it parallels the park road.
SUNMART VS ROCKY RACCOON COURSES
Jim and I wanted to become familiar with the trails used in the
Sunmart races before Saturday. Even though we've both run the
50-miler, and Jim's done the 50K, it's been a while and many
race courses do change some over time. This year, in fact, the
first loop of the 50K was changed only a few days before the
Trail work on new section used in the 50K
(Triple C Trail)
Two major running events are held in Huntsville State Park:
Rocky Raccoon 50- and
100-milers in February and Sunmart 50K and 50-miler in December.
They are organized by two entirely different groups and use the
All four races start and end at Raven Lodge, the site of the
largest aid station and the turn-around point for each of the
multiple loops that are run. This is also the only drop bag
location in the Sunmart races and the main crewing/drop bag
location for the Rocky races.
Workers construct the large start/finish
arch for Sunmart on December 3
Rocky 100 incorporates parts of the
Chinquapin, Triple C, Prairie Branch, and Dogwood trails in five
20-mile loops. Fifty-milers at Sunmart run parts of those same
trails but in a different 12.5-mile configuration,
repeated four times. The Sunmart 50K has a 6.7-mile loop at the
beginning, then a longer loop (about 12.2 miles) that is run twice.
Scenic spot near Big Chinquapin Creek
on the Triple C Trail (Sunmart 50K only)
If you're interested in more details about either set of races, check
out the course descriptions on the race web sites. There is a
map of the Sunmart courses at this
link on RD Roger Soler's
website. It's a pdf file and may take a little while to load.
SUNMART COURSE TOUR
Jim ran the 20-mile Rocky loop several times back in February
but had forgotten parts of it. I also ran some of the trails in
the park in February but was on the Rocky course only in the
dark while pacing Jim. We figured it would be good to have some
familiarity with the Sunmart course loops we'd be running. We
covered them in three training runs this week.
The Sunmart 50K has three loops of varying
distances. It uses the Triple C trails more than the 50-miler because the wider trails can better accommodate the
500-600 runners in the shorter race than the single-track
Chinquapin Trail. The 50-miler has four identical 12.5-mile
loops that are run predominantly on single-track trails
(Chinquapin, Prairie Branch, and Dogwood) with an out-and-back
section on the Triple C Trail.
Cody and Jim inspect some of the trees that
fell during Hurricane Ike (Chinquapin Trail)
The photos in this entry are mostly from the 50K course. If a
section is used exclusively by one race and not the other, I'll
ARE WE READY FOR THIS?
We sure hope so!
Although Jim is registered for the 50-miler, he has decided to
switch to the 50K at packet pick-up tomorrow. Some races allow
this, some don't. Sunmart not only allows runners to switch
races the day before the race, it also allows race
registration on the day before the race. That's pretty rare
for an ultra these days when some races meet their runner quota
in a matter of minutes during on-line registration. Sunmart has no
runner limit. There have been about 800 entrants in
the race since we first ran it in 1998.
Jim and Cody run up a hill on the Triple C
as park personnel work on the course behind
them (first 50K loop)
Jim would like to get in a good 50-miler before ATY but he
doesn't feel prepared for the pace required to finish Sunmart
within the 12-hour time limit. He could probably do it, but he'd
probably also regret it! And he doesn't need to be going that
fast. This is our last long run before ATY. The closer we
run/walk Sunmart to our intended pace at ATY, the better. Since
the 50K has a very generous 11:15-hour time limit, we can
go whatever pace we want and not have to hustle to beat a
Jim and Cody climb a hill on the rolling
Triple C Trail (50K course)
We both have the same plan for after the race, too -- a fairly
long run on the same trails on Sunday. Double long runs have
always been good preparation for us for races longer than 50
miles. If we go at our planned ATY paces at Sunmart, we should
feel OK to do another long-ish run on Sunday.
That's the plan, anyway.
The reality is that I'm definitely not as well-trained as I hoped to be right now. I
suppose I've said that many times before races, but this time
my qualms about being able to finish the race (not just getting
a decent time) are quite legitimate.
Triple C Trail (50K only)
A week after running faster than I should have to finish the New
River Trail on October 10 (and still coming in nine minutes over
the time limit), I strained my left hamstring on a too-hilly
training run. It's been a problem ever since.
Bridging over wetland area at north end of
I really backed
off the miles for six weeks and only began running steadily
again at Fort Hood last week. My leg didn't hurt walking or
cycling, so I focused on long walks and bike rides. I also got
more frequent massages and chiropractic treatment before we left
home, did more gentle stretching, stopped using the quad and
hamstring machines at the YMCA (because both hurt the
hamstring), used the whirlpool, iced the area, and got a
nifty little ProStim TENS unit from my chiropractor so I could "get wired" every day
(the electrical stimulation is supposed to speed healing).
Intersection of Prairie Branch, Chinquapin,
and Triple C trails
at north end of Lake Raven. Sunmart runners
turn right and run along the lake.
Apparently all that rest and babying has helped my hamstring
heal. I've finally been able to run and walk comfortably during
several two- and three-hour workouts since we've been on this
trip. However, I have no idea if I can do it for 31 miles
without straining the muscle again.
Sunmart has always been intended as a training run for both of
us for ATY at the end of the month, I have no pressure (other
than ego!) to do well Saturday. Time on my feet and Doing No
Harm are paramount. I will drop out if the hamstring starts to
hurt. Period. If necessary, I won't run another step until ATY,
just to give it more time to heal.
Jim and Cody walk along the lower Prairie
Branch Loop Trail close to the lake.
Figuring out how to prevent my hamstring from hurting at Sunmart
is my challenge. I've gotten up to only three hours of running
since I hurt it, longer just walking fast. Can I go another five or six hours (eight to
nine total) with no pain? I have no intention of running as fast
as I did at the New River Trail race. A 16- to 17-minute pace
would be better training for ATY.
I've considered walking the
entire race at Sunmart but I don't know if I have the mental
strength to do that. Seriously. It's such a runnable course and I want
so badly to do some running . . . Thing is, walking the
whole race might
protect my hamstring enough to allow me to run more at ATY. I'd
hate to get 25 miles into Sunmart and have it start hurting
again (worse yet, 25 miles into ATY).
Blue flagging on the Prairie Branch Loop
directs runners up the hill
to the aid station near our campsite.
We're both looking forward to the race, seeing old friends, and
making new ones. Unfortunately, there is no list of entrants on
either the race web site or the race director's web site so we
don't have any idea who is coming other than a few folks on the
internet ultra list serve who have said they're running the
race. At packet pick-up when we ran the race in 1998 and 1999 we
received nice booklets with the names of the current year's
entrants and the previous year's finishing times; we hope
they've maintained that tradition.
Next entry: pre-race activities
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and
Tater (in spirit)
© 2008 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil