- Live in North Texas? Need some trail miles in December? Isle du Bois may be your answer.
- The good: well organized, stocked aid stations, friendly staff, not too crowded
- The not as good: Mostly single track making it tough to pass, very twisty route with lots of back and forth in tight sections, limited lake views.
Whenever possible I try to swap out my long, urban training runs with either a) race events or b) trail runs (or both). Enter Isle de Bois – a perfect solution! The course description sounded like a scenic run through some woodsy trails. And so close to Dallas – no overnight trip necessary. A 40-minute drive just northwest of Prosper.
Isle du Bois has three distances – 18k, 36k and 55k– all multiples of their 18k loop. I opted for the 33k, since I wanted to be done before noon and only needed around 20-miles for that Saturday’s distance. And even though I procrastinated registering until after the entry deadline had passed, the race director still got me in – nice!
As luck would have it, when I woke up on race day morning it was icy cold and raining pretty hard. Whatever. I jumped in the car, picked up the pre-race “breakfast of champions” (egg McMuffin and medium coffee), and headed up to Lake Ray Roberts State Park. Navigation to the event and parking were a breeze.
Check in stuff was also easy. The entire starting area was dark, cold and soaked, but the registration desk was nestled in a tiny warming tent with some awesome hard-core support staff making the best of the tough weather. Great people.
During the race briefing (moments before the start) I’d estimate there were about 40-50 people huddled together, all trying to keep warm and most probably questioning their sanity. The rain was hitting us in sheets. Since I hadn’t looked at the course map and missed most of the race briefing, I figured I’d just wing it.
The course is nice, although a bit tight. It’s basically all single track, so passing or getting passed is challenging – especially when things started to get muddy. In addition, the trail coils around in tight curls, much like a game of Candyland, so you can expect to see lots of people both coming and going in sections.
Even with the bad weather, I was looking forward to nice views of Lake Ray Roberts, but other than one momentary glimpse, there just wasn’t a lot of lakeside trail. Even still, the rest of the trail was a nice mix of flats, some rocky areas, and by the end of loop 2 – muddy slogs.
Aid stations were great. There are only a handful, but each of those is well stocked with all of the usual ultra snacks (surprising, actually, given the shorter distance), unlimited good cheer, and smiling, friendly volunteers who seemed unfazed by the constant rain.
I used IDB to break in a new pair of Altras – and they worked really well. My feet were nice and dry the whole way. In addition, I tried out my Patagonia Houdini jacket on the first loop and can say that it’s definitely worth the money. It keeps you dry, breathes well, and when it’s time to pack it up, it basically disappears. A+
Instead of a finisher’s medal at the end, IDB hands out a bottle of local, Texas honey. Odd, but I just chalked it up to ultra quirkiness.
Nice race. Well organized. Perfect for a long trail training run.
Post script – just heard that David Hanenburg is closing down Endurance Buzz, meaning that IDB won’t be happening for the foreseeable future. Glad I got a chance – thanks Dave!