Saturday, May 10, 2014

An Ultra Run

An Unofficial Ultra Run
By Paul

Today was an exercise in the purist form of ultra running.  Eight friends gathered with a common idea, a common goal.  With the support of awesome families and two other friends, ultra runners themselves, the eight set out to accomplish their goal.  With a single step an idea became reality in pursuit.  No race entry fees.  No need for permits.  No worries.

Some instigation, a little planning and in about four months an idea was given an opportunity to blossom.  We would run from Dallas to Fort Worth.  Our start Dealey Plaza and our finish line Sundance Square in Fort Worth Texas.


We would follow a route of 41 miles in length.  A route developed with feedback from the group.  With good intentions of promptness, we all arrived a bit late at a parking lot near the start site of Dealey Plaza in Dallas, TX.    An intended start time of 6 AM led to an eventual group start at 6:21 AM sunrise. Hamlin, Joshua, Reece, Jeremy, Chad, Jacob, Matthew and Paul, myself, started on our way.


From the grassy knoll, we began our journey west.  With the sun at our backs we head out down main street past Lew Sterrett Justice Center.  We ran across the original bridge bridging the gap in Dallas and down to the west/south side of the Trinity River basin just outside downtown Dallas.  This was a great way to start the day.  It led us all the way to Irving where we exited the levees and picked up access to the southern end of the Campion Trail, one of Irving's jewels.

Campion provided us our first encounter with our unsolicited support Libby.  To have unsolicited support for a run like this is great.  To have what Libby would provide us through the course of the day was stout.  Stout, our word to describe all things amazing, awesome, and other wise epic and unforgettable on this fine Texas day.  With her mobile ultra runners buffet she enhanced an already festive and beaming troop.  "Enjoy the next 3/4 miles," read a park sign, two park signs in fact.


I think they said that because they knew what the next mile would be like; a mile down a back road river bottom road next to a municipal waste facility.  Despite the odoriferous scent wafting on the steady breeze many smiles and waves carried us down the road.  A mere single driver opted not to wave back or budge as many blinked by with complimenting waves as we acknowledged their kindness for accommodating our presence on this tiny road with no shoulder and drivers heading into the rising sun.  Yes, super safe.  Not really.  But hey how smart are we?  I mean, we are talking about a group determined to run from one major city to another covering over forty miles on a pretty warm Texas day.

Just prior to reaching Lone Star Park and the Verizon Theater in Grand Prairie Libby greeted us again as we noted a rather unique piece of engineering in the parking lot.  We enjoyed snacks and refilled water to satisfaction.  Somewhere a road vanished and we turned left on Beltline.  This lead to a passing car with the horn of an eighteen wheeler.  It seemed the horn blast was strong enough to dislodge internal matter.  We validated this when we came upon Race Trac.  Joshua and Jacob headed in for facilities and water refills.  The rest of us carried on in a pedestrian manner along the course.


After much discussion and a photo op at the Palace of Wax we still had not enjoyed the company of Joshua and Jacob's return.  Forward we ran until arriving a mile or two down the road where Libby waited for our arrival.  As we began our already natural exchange Jacob and Joshua appeared at the base of the hill below the school parking lot that was our temporary aid station.  We reconvened and heard the irreverent recollections of the wayward two returning from the Race Trac gas station.  Continuing up the hill we had the pleasure of Josh's wife Lesli.  She shared some kind words with us before we continued up our hill and she to join Libby.

A few miles later and many less than desirable industrial buildings we opened the door to McDonald's outside Six Flags.  This compact bustling haven for those in need of a quick calorie bomb provided a wonderfully guiltless restroom immediately through the front door.  We all made our way in in turn.  Eventually crossing the freeway we dashingly navigated our way to the Six Flags Entrance sign and median.  A photo or two later, a couple of minutes off of our feet and an inappropriate lube application or two later we forged onward.

We made our way to the next encounter with our mobile support, now including Lesli.  Efficiently we moved passed the home of the Texas Rangers a home school book fair and the home of the Dallas Cowboys.  As we clipped through central Arlington a fast food establishment was assaulted and the group fractured in two.  Leading the way, Reece Hamlin Chad Matthew and Paul took step after step with purpose and ease nearing the marathon distance and arriving to the finest support crew just past the entrance to Randol Mill park in Arlington.  Our group now solidly split, we looked anxiously and curiously back on the path we had just run looking for a sign of the remainder of our pack.  We took our time and again grazed drank and replenished resources for the voyage to satisfaction.


Without sight of our friends we moved along the road of pursuit.  A tempting pool, healthy downhill, and a few somewhat shady miles later we entered a suburban portion of east Fort Worth.  The terrain was beginning to evolve as we entered the second half of our venture.  Our oasis appeared near the top of a house lined street.  We attained an update on our partners in crime drank grazed joked and headed up the hill.  Some interesting miles later we found ourselves working our way up the hill KTVT 11 calls home with Chad leading the charge.  We then zig-zagged our way through a charming neighborhood.  This provided us our final encounter with our support for the day.  We were all certainly feeling the effects of the miles and the increasing heat.  With the knowledge group two was moving forward steadily and our destination within grasp we moved out with tiring legs.  An excellent resident and true Aggie, dressed in Cowboy boots tall A&M socks and shorts, was tending to his garden around a lamp post on the far corner of his corner lot atop a hill with a brilliant view of downtown Fort Worth and the Trinity river.  We were all stoked by the view here and had a friendly conversation with our friend in passing.  He did us the favor of taking a picture and assured us he would let our friends know we send the word to hurry-up in good humor.

Some tangents and a dusty road later we discovered FWMBA "parking lot" and trail head off of E 1st.  With some mild skepticism we headed off the road and onto the very welcome single track trail.  You could tell this trail was only sculpted by and used for mountain bikes from the slopes and design.  This did not detract from the embrace we offered it, though the humidity could have been far more desirable.  In the woods sturdily into the trail we came upon a large length of tree trunk fashioned into a bench.  We took advantage of this shade laden lush surrounding and surreal seating opportunity to enjoy an impromptu snack and drink.  A split in the trail led to a moment of truth.  After some logic and map referencing we chose wisely.  The trail carried us on along the base of hills running parallel to I-30 but unseen from the freeway and it unseen to us.  The trail led to a grassy field and the final yards of concrete where the Fort Worth Trinity River Trail ends east of downtown.  As a Fort Worth policeman backed his truck into a field of high grass behind a large construction vehicle we trekked onward to make our return to the roads.

Crossing I-30 I enjoyed a moment as I watched the traffic whiz by below.  My haste and turn south away from the evident downtown just previously in our view led to an inquiry as to my cognitive state.  Reassuringly we moved on to a right turn onto Lancaster toward downtown.  If you have never been to Fort Worth Lancaster in this area is one of those places you definitely do not go at night if it's not your area and you rarely go to it in the day unless you are perhaps volunteering at a facility or in need of said services.  We strategically walked ran and viewed our surroundings as the road seemed to never end.  This one mile stretch seemed like ten.  With members of the 100+ homeless and in need sharing opinions and advice as we passed we maintained a healthy cadence.  Let's just say we were told we were crazy for running down this road by one of the residence and it wasn't because of the traffic.  Another expressed her astonishment at the site she was beholding.  With positive vibes for the well-being of our soon to follow troop we scooted on to downtown Fort Worth.  


An opportunity to view a facility where an epic film and epic film star shot a famous scene should never be passed.  So we crossed the road and entered the Fort Worth Water Gardens.  What a visually and audibly stunning piece of art.  Some water and a hula-hoop challenge later we regained our focus.  The last ten blocks clicked by briskly.

We arrived at our destination around nine hours after embarking from our starting point 41 miles away.  Certainly not an unbeatable time but perhaps the most enjoyable time that will ever be had over this course and the distance regardless of setting.  After some congratulatory exchanges and a rest on the ledge of a snazzy cafe we parted with Chad.  

The Flying Saucer, on 3rd not 4th, would serve host to our post run hydration and nutrition needs.  The place was hopping when we arrived in our running attire and I in my split shorts and sunburn.  As the rush declined our service excelled and we enjoyed the meal before us while recalling the journey and peeking around occasionally for the remainder of our group.  Not too long later the three J's arrived to join us.  Congratulations again shared we carried on in our jubilation.  From the "x" to "Da Spot" & "Soul Food" we recalled the day.  Not even heavy traffic could damper our spirits as we concluded the tasks to complete our journey.

This is ultra running.