by: Nicki Klein
Let me start off by saying that I love trail running. I mean, I LOOOOVE trail running. I will gladly pick running in the woods or up mountains over roads any day. And I love to trail race. Because racing hurts. And if I’ve got beautiful scenery to distract me, that’s definitely a plus. One of the great things about the Q50 Trail Extravaganza is that it gives us trail runners an opportunity to run 1, 2, or even 3 trail races in a single weekend! Q50 Trail Races puts on a number of races every year, often held on trails in the New Orleans vicinity. Cesar Torres is the race director of these races, and if you’re looking for someone to encourage you, cheer you on, and make sure you have a great race, he’s your guy. The first time I signed up for one of his races (the 1/2 marathon at the 2015 Trail Extravaganza), he called and thanked me for registering.
This year’s races were held on Saturday, February 20th, and Sunday, February 21st. Options for races included a 10 miler Saturday morning and a 5 miler Saturday evening. The next morning, a 52 miler, 39 miler, full marathon, and half marathon were offered. Registering for more than one race “saved” runners money. The races were held at Bogue Chitto State Park. A $2 per car fee was collected at the gate, a small price to pay for the park to be closed to the public so we could run uninterrupted.
2016 Q50 Trail Extravaganza Opening Ceremony Saturday Morning
I arrived Saturday evening in time to pick up my bib and almost immediately start my race (the 5 miler). Because of the recent weather, and lack of rain, the trails were exceptionally dry, which means the sandy paths weren’t packed. It felt like running on a beach. Uphill. That made for a tougher course than expected, but it was marked well with tape and flags, and volunteers instructing runners where to go.
One interesting tidbit about the Q50 races-you’ll never see water cups or bottles. According to their website, “Q50 Races has a profound commitment for the protection and preservation of the Environment. We value our recognized reputation for not providing paper or plastic at our races, never leaving a trace of liter or waste at our venues, as well as our policy of BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle).” So if you don’t bring your own container to drink from, tough! And another interesting fact-you may never see water cups or bottles, but you’ll ALWAYS see the race director. I think I saw Cesar 3, maybe 4 times, during my 5 mile race. As I came around a pavilion to reach the finish line, two people were holding a finisher’s tape-this is something you usually only see when you’re the first person to cross the line. At Q50 races, EVERYBODY gets to “break through” the finisher’s tape. It’s a fun feeling!
Finishing the 5 miler-1st Female (photo courtesy of The Louisiana Running Company-they took hundreds of pics and provided them to runners for free)
Receiving my handmade plate award for the 5 miler
After I finished my race, I stuck around talking to friends, cheering on other finishers, and eating jambalaya and red beans cooked by the New Orleans Mission. Eventually, I made my way to a friend’s reserved campsite where a group of us sat around and snacked, drank a beer or two, and talked about the races we’d be taking part in within a few short hours.
I woke up the next morning at 4:30am to head back to the starting line in time for the 6am 52 and 39 milers start. Soon, the runners were off.
I helped these ultra runners refill their water, change shoes, and refuel until my 1/2 marathon, and the full marathon, started at 9am.
The start of the full and half marathons Sunday morning (photo courtesy of The Louisiana Running Company)
Although I hadn’t pushed myself too hard the night before because of my race on Sunday, I still felt pretty weak throughout, and struggled to maintain my desired pace. Meeting new people, and first time trail runners, and chatting on the course definitely lifted my spirits, as did seeing some of the ultra runners out there…how can I complain about 13 miles when they were running 3 times as much, or more!
Running alongside my friend Liz, who finished 1st Place Female in the 52 miler (notice us both carrying our own water-mine courtesy of Orange Mud)
The race culminated in another finisher’s tape, and more food and beer.
Finishing 13.1 looking rough
Thanks for keeping my beer cold, Backpacker Baton Rouge!
I didn’t get to stay to watch all the runners finish, because I had to catch a flight to Vegas (that’s another story), but I was excited to see my roommate’s first place marathon finish (he’d also placed first in the 10 miler and 5 miler on Saturday), and see my boyfriend as he went out for his final lap of the 52 miler (his first ultra!).
My roommate, Francis, clinching another 1st Place Overall finish (26.2)
Besides the great people and beautiful courses, Q50 races are notorious for their awards-each finisher received a handmade “medal,” and the 52 mile runners were awarded a handmade cane for their hard work. 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place overall finishers in each race were given handmade pottery-there were plates, jugs, serving dishes, and other similar items. They’re absolutely beautiful, and one of a kind.
Receiving another handmade award for my 1st Female 1/2 Marathon finish
The 2016 Q50 Trail Extravaganza weekend was so much fun. Camping, friends-both old and new, food and beer, and TWO days of trail racing…you can’t beat it. As always, thank you to The Backpacker Baton Rouge and Orange Mud for gearing me up, and Forge Racing for supporting and sponsoring my running endeavors. They too put on some great trail races all over Louisiana, and are even holding the first ever 100 mile race in the state of Mississippi during the Equinox Camp Fest the weekend of March 18th. I’ll be running my third ultra, and my first at the 50 mile distance, that weekend. Come join in the fun, or stay tuned for the race recap!
Other helpful websites:
The Backpacker FB
Forge Racing FB
Ales and Trails FB
Nicki Klein’s Instagram
Nicki Klein loves to run, especially in new places, and ESPECIALLY on new trails. She started running in 2011, ultrarunning in 2015, and can be found most days running around the LSU Lakes with her dog. Nicki also enjoys backpacking, hiking, rock climbing, cycling, SUPing, and generally spending as much time outside as she possibly can. Combining those activities with family, friends, and a good beer or two, and you’ve got her ideal day.