Sunday, May 4, 2014

Breaking The Backbone

As I continue to prepare myself for my pacing duties at Thunder Rock 100, I increasingly try to challenge myself with my training runs.  It is quite difficult to prepare for a race in mountainous terrain or even terrain like the Texas Hill Country when you live in Louisiana.  So my best means of preparation for terrain like this is the widely unknown trail known simply as "The Backbone". 

This trail is a little gem, hidden deep within the confines of Kisatchie National Forest, in the little North Louisiana town of Provencal.  A trail that more closely resembles Arkansas than Louisana, The Backbone is an "ankle-turners" worst nightmare.  This trail consists of 7.5 miles of tough terrain, with lots of steep ascents and decents on large, rock-covered hills, rock-covered flats, sandy flats, and more roots and uneven ground than you ever want to see on a trail.  It is a very unique trail, which resembles no other trail that I know of in Louisiana.  Even her fraternal twin sister, The Caroline Dormon Trail, is a far cry from the terrain of The Backbone.  Even though these two trails share the same trailhead, and are separated only by one highway, the differences between them are astronomical.  It is almost like The Backbone is from another planet.

 So on Friday, May 2, 2014, I set out to do a quadruple crossing of The Backbone, for a total of 30 miles.  Good prep for Thunder Rock.  However, this would be no easy task.  It is difficult enough to run one out and back out there.  I was intent on doing two.  I started at 6am, and wanted to be done by 12pm, giving myself a 6 hour window for completion.

I had not run this trail since mid-February, when we had a rare opportunity to run it while it was covered in snow, so I had no idea what the condtions would be like.  The trail was fairly clear and runnable, which was a little surprising from a trail that prides itself on minimal upkeep due to it's "wilderness trail" designation, and leans very heavily on the trail users for upkeep.  What does a "wilderness trail" designation mean?  It means that there are no mecanical devices allowed on the trail.  All cutting and clearing must be done with hand tools.  Not even mountain bikes are allowed on the trail.  I finished my first out and back leg in 2:47.  Not a bad time for 15 miles on this course.  At the end of this lap, I re-fueled on a turkey sandwich and replenished my water, in preparation for my next 15. 

I was quite surprised that my energy level was still quite strong as I entered my third crossing, and I made it to the other side one second faster than my second crossing.  As I made my way back on my final 7.5, I did begin to tire some.  The heat was now in the mid 80s, and the hills, rocks and roots all seemed a little bigger.  Even though I was a little slower, I still felt good at the end, and that is an encouraging sign that my trail running has gotten much stronger in the last few months.  When I got done, I cleaned up and found a nice shady spot to have a little post-run food and enjoy my accomplishment of crossing The Backbone 4 times in one morning; something I haven't done before.  Tough runs are tough for a reason...........They make you better.

7.5 miles per crossing
#1- 1:21:47
#2- 1:25:12
#3- 1:25:11
#4- 1:35:32                 

Total Time: 5:47:43
Total Miles: 30



  1. Thanks and great right up. I would not mind getting up there one day soon.

  2. It is well worth the trip.