Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Armadillo Dash Trail Run 5K: The 2013 Recap

As a runner in New Orleans, it's not summer until you’ve had a post-run snowball, killed an iPod with sweat, or run a trail race through the Bonnet Carré Spillway. This summer, runners have the opportunity to run the path through the trees twice, thanks to two races taking place on the site twenty minutes outside of New Orleans in Norco, Louisiana. The first of these two races occurred this past Saturday morning with the Armadillo Dash Trail Run 5K, a race that’s part of the NOLA Trail Run Series.

I’ll admit I’m not a morning person. I wish I could wake up every morning during the week to get my run in before going to work. I accepted a long time ago that it will never happen. However, it is so much easier during the summer to wake up for an 8am race when the sun is already shining before my alarm goes off. It gets even easier when you have a friend meeting you to carpool to the race site. Fortunately, I’ve run similar races at this swampy location in the past and knew exactly where I was going.

The race site at the Spillway is situated near a boat launch on a peninsula jetting out in to Lake Pontchartrain. I’ve been told that the trail is technically a bike path, and judging by the obstacles and makeup of the course, I would have to agree that biking is the most suitable use. It’s a tight jungle of trees with dirt paths carved out by wheels of various sizes. These paths are what runners employ to run the race from start to finish. Thanks to the lack of precipitation over the past several weeks they remained dry, because they can turn in to a muddy mess after a couple days of showers.

The humidity was at a typical summertime high on Saturday morning, with the low-hanging branches of the foliage making it feel even more suffocating. Fortunately, those same branches provided ample coverage keeping temperatures bearable. Aside from the first half mile at the start and the same half mile at the finish, it was a completely shaded course. While the course was narrow in places, there were opportunities to pass fellow runners when necessary. There were even two water stops on the course that appeared out of nowhere as if they were a mirage. I believe they were provided by race organizers, or it possibly could have been moonshine distilled by the locals. Either way, the liquid was well placed after the first and second mile. Overall, the course provided an intimate experience with fellow runners, and had a completely different feel from the typical road race.

My biggest qualm with the course didn’t arise until much later that day after the race had long been complete. What I didn’t realize about running a trail on the terrain that the spillway provides is that my body would never get in to the relaxed state that it can adjust to during smooth asphalt runs. The constant and sudden inclines, declines, twists, turns, and hurdles kept me ever vigilant with tense muscles waiting to see what would be thrown at me next. The soreness that I’m still feeling three days later is not something that the “trails” of the St. Charles Avenue streetcar tracks can prepare you for. At least I came out of the weekend knowing I had paid my dues and gotten a good full-body workout.

The post race awards ceremony included the Louisiana RRCA presenting state championship awards to winners of the race. My reward? A Trenta sized iced coffee from Starbucks (that's the largest size possible, FYI), a new pair of running shoes, and sushi. In my book, that’s “Winning” all around.

NOTE: If you're interested in running the second summer race at this site, it is put on by the New Orleans Track Club. You can learn about the 26th Annual Spillway Classic Trail Run HERE. For info on the remaining two races in the NOLA Trail Run Series, click HERE.


  1. This looks like the same course that was used for the St. Charles Trail Race a couple years back. I can't remember if that race still exists, if they've changed the name, or what, but I do remember it being a surprisingly tough 5K (even more so with the strep I had at the time!). Looks like it was a fun time in addition to being a good challenge.

    1. Yes Katherine, as far as I know, this is the same route as the previous St. Charles Trail Race. I believe this run has replaced the previous one to stick to the theme of the trail series (armadillo, coyote, etc). It was incredibly difficult and incredibly fun. I am liking these race series that are being executed. Great challenges and helps mix things up.