By Joe Prusaitis
Capt’n Karl’s Run at Pedernales Falls 60K starts with a bit of single track, and as much as I try to begin at the back, there are others who come in behind me and then bumble about in the rocks and high grass, passing me where there’s no room to do so. Race director Chris McWatters is standing at his post to send us down a mile out-n-back and this is a wide enough jeep road that finally allows all the poor trap-ees behind me to escape and sprint past. I take this opportunity to visit with my friend Michael through here, as our run is more akin to a walk. By the time we reach the fence line, I can’t imagine many are behind me. Not that it matters, as I’m determined to stay within my own means tonight. As much as I want to spread my wings and push a bit, I hold back. Not that I’m running slow just to go slow. More specifically, I intend to stay comfortably loose and relaxed.
It takes us about 30 minutes to go around the duck pond and back to the bottom side of the field where we’d started, and the only reason I know this is I can hear the yell when the 30k starts, which was to be 30 minutes after we, the 60k, had begun. By doing a bit of math, I know we’re two miles from the first aid station, meaning we’re three miles into the loop. It’s funny, how all this processing goes through my mind in the moments after I hear the yell. I say it’s funny, because I know how quickly my ability to process any thought will diminish as the miles slip by tonight. I know the longer I run, the dumber I get.
I’m soaking wet just 10 miles in, and all those around me are soaked as well. It’s getting dark now and dusk is causing some odd behavior. Some have not put on their lights yet and only do so when I ask if they have a headlight. It’s odd to watch some run full bore into the off-trail underbrush, only to wake up, back up, and continue on the correct course. There are more than a few places where the course turns quickly or passes between side-by-side trees, which leads to some entertaining circumstances. Every time somebody flies past, I have to remind myself to let them go. Not that I could have hung on so much as to not get sucked into anything other than my intended lazy walking run.
The park land is mostly mixed oak and juniper. The majestic oaks with their huge crooked arms twisting down to the ground seem to offer a playground of opportunities, while the Junipers simply scream “Don’t touch me!” I know this park is thick with rattlesnakes and it bothers me to run through the heavy stands of grass overhanging the trails in the creek areas. It’s a wonder that I run faster in these hilly areas, more from trepidation than any other reason. Blind as a bat and dumb as a rock, I charge through there nervous as hell. But I don’t see or hear any snakes, and am happier for it.
Getting to a high-powered hard rock aid station, the music is booming, but the activity is all but gone. Besides all the lights being out, there are two motionless shadows in chairs and one person standing to wait on me. I flee quickly from the sound and blissfully drop out of range, down the road and into the trees. Now and again I hear something and turn to look, but never do see another person, or even a light. Each time I think I’m closing on somebody, it turns into a reflective tag dancing in the breeze. But, nothing’s moving but me: no snakes, birds, skunks, or even the expected rain that never does come.
Odd as all that is, the temperature has dropped into the high 70s and it’s that more than anything else that allows me to get this done. There’s not a dry place on my body, which forces me to run wide legged at this point. But mostly I’m glad it’s not the typical 100 degrees. At this point, I no longer bother to check my watch or make any other adjustments. I know I’d trip or bog down or stop, so I don’t dare do anything other than run. I’m sure I’m moving rather slow but my facilities are sleep deprived and dysfunctional, so from my perspective, I’m hauling ass. I cross the finish in 9:59:04 and stop, hyperventilating a moment and hang my head, exhausted. It was all I had.
The RD, Brad Quinn, the medic, John Kuss, and my friend Julie are the only ones there. There can’t be more than a few behind me on the course, but I’m pleased with my sub-10-hour run, even if just by seconds. I’m not capable of a summer 60k in Texas, so I feel as if I stole it.
This race is one of four races, with each venue getting consecutively more challenging, called Capt’n Karl’s Trail Series. The format is 60k/30k/10k, starting at 7 p.m. with dark coming rather soon after, such that only the 10k might finish in the twilight. With Texas weather being so nasty hot and humid in the summers, nighttime offers the best possible option to run for any distance, and so this series lives and thrives with approximately 400 in each of the events. It’s an all-night party that slowly simmers down to the last few the following sunrise.