Sky Island Race: Spectrum Trail

I see that I’m getting some traffic in anticipation of the next Sky Island race coming up in two weeks. So I thought I’d share more photos of the course.

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This will be my fourth year lining up for a race that I probably have no business running. It’s tough! I’ve managed to finish three times. The 50k in 2016 and 2017, and the 25k with my husband in 2018 which is the post that most people are reading . This race is tough because we don’t have terrain like this in many places in Texas so it’s hard to train for, plus I’m just not very fast on rocky trails. The Davis Mountains State Park  is located in the high desert of West Texas, 544 miles from my house.  The race has  pretty strict cutoff times which I will be chasing. I have to cover two loops of the first mountain of three in a maximum average 16:46 pace. That includes four big climbs and descents. That’s been around my pace this long, hot summer on much easier trails, so…. But something keeps me going back for more. One thing is the beautiful scenery, and the other is I like the challenge, even though it stresses me out and I’ll be wiped out afterwards. Courageous or clueless runners will travel from all over Texas and converge on the state park and the tiny town of Fort Davis for the weekend, where the locals seem very happy to see us. I’ll be staying in a rented house with a group from the Dallas area. I’m riding out there with a friend from the San Antonio area.

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I usually enjoy long solo trips, but this is not a drive you want to make alone. There are some long isolated stretches of nothing but highway and dry West Texas. Don’t forget to gas up often and make sure your tires are in good shape! Bring water, snacks, a good spare tire, a flashlight in your vehicle in case of emergency. Also be aware that cell service is very spotty! You can’t count on your phone GPS to work properly, so download the map. Two years ago I was driving to the race with a guy from Austin and we were chatting so much that I forgot to fill up the gas tank. We literally rolled into Iraan on fumes and a prayers! I will never forget that! And our phones would not work so we weren’t sure how far the next gas station was, but it was far. Here is the race report from 2017. I was not really blogging much at the time so it’s more like a rambling journal entry.

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The restaurant selection is pretty limited in Fort Davis. We got burgers at the Drug Store. You may want to bring your own meals if you’re picky or on a special diet. But they do have a good selection of food, alcoholic beverages and ice cream at the friendly Porter’s grocery store.

If you have time to do a little sightseeing before or after the race, Alpine and Marfa and the McDonald Observatory are not too far. Alpine has a very nice museum at Sul Ross University. Last year we drove the 75 mile Scenic Loop, got lost because our phones didn’t work, but eventually realized we were going the wrong way, turned around and found our way. Always gas up your vehicle in West Texas and carry water!

On to the photos! The course is full of rocks, cactus, little shade, and lots of climbing and descending single track. Last year we used trekking poles. Don’t be too afraid of wildlife. It’s out there, but in three years I’ve only seen one javelina.

A few tips: the aid stations are not close together, so don’t forget to load up each time. Be careful, a few people have gotten injured. Bring a hat, shades, headlamp and jacket. Lube your feet and wear shoes with a rock plate. Take in plenty of calories  because you will burn a lot! It’s very dry out there, drink extra water and take in salt. Your feet will get wet if the creek has water in it, don’t worry about it! They will dry. WATCH for course markings! It’s possible to get off course. Good luck out there! Say hi if you see me!

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