Cane Field Classic – Port Allen, LA (2016)

I’ve had this race on my radar for a few years, but with October being a huge race month, I couldn’t work it into my schedule until this year. This was my bucket list race for Louisiana purely for the machete you receive if you complete all 3 races. This race was voted the coolest race in Louisiana and its popularity is clearly growing with extra spots opened up for the challenge this year.

The flights from Charlotte to Baton Rouge (or New Orleans or Lafayette) weren’t great and either had a layover which meant double the travel time or had terrible fly in / out times, so I opted to fly into Jackson, Mississippi and rent a car. I would need a car to get around while I was in town anyway and the overall cost was cheaper than if I would have gotten a direct flight into Louisiana.

I picked up my race packet Friday night which was easy enough – no lines and easy parking near the store. Unfortunately, it seems that most people didn’t take advantage of the Friday pickup as there were over 200 people who were waiting in line Saturday morning before the race to get their goodies. With a runner total of just over 360, it caused quite a backup. The races were set to go virtually back-to-back-to-back, giving runners 15 minutes per mile to get through each of the courses.

Part 1: 1 mile

Due to the packet pickup backup, the first race ended up starting at 8:17 (yay Garmin tracking!). The 1-mile loop was a fairly wide swath of cut grass / field which was helpful since it was a mass start. There was a lot of jockeying for space in the first half mile before it felt more spread out. I was hoping to finish the mile around 9:00 and as I got closer to the last quarter mile, I could hear them announcing the first finishers (first place finished in 4:55!). I pushed through the finish and finished in 8:19 as 19th female across the line. My Garmin had the loop a little short, which would’ve put my finish time around 8:50, but I’ll certainly take it either way.

Part 2: 4 miles

After the first race, I took off my jacket and then stood in line for the porta potties. The second race had an extra 5 minutes before we got started again. This time, I started a little closer to the front to try to avoid some of the backup I ran into in the first course. The start was the same for the first tenth of a mile or so before we headed out into a field between the high growth sugar cane. Runners spread out a little faster this time and just before the second mile, we saw the leaders coming back towards us. From the field, we made a turn into a section beside a small stream. This section was a little more technical because it wasn’t flat like the field – there was some downed sugar cane and generally just a lot of uneven ground. We then turned back and ran up through another field before meeting back with the field that we came in on to head back to the finish. During this loop I definitely started to feel my calves burning a bit more. I was glad I had my compression socks on, but there wasn’t much to do about the uneven footing, just keep an eye out and try not to trip myself (success!).

Official finish: 39:10, 31st female

Part 3: Rows of Hell (2 miles)
Based on the first two races, I moved up in the starting chute (but not far enough). This race started going out the same way as the first two races for probably a tenth of a mile or so and then we went to the end of the cane field before heading back and forth down the rows. It was overcrowded for the entire race which was kind of a drag, especially when we had to keep walking because of the backup. At one point the RD (I think) was yelling at runners for not being in the right rows – people were going two rows down instead of just one, but I think that’s probably an expected consequence of the number of racers on a single track so quickly.

Having to run up and down each row meant we got to see the same people over and over again. The last row was up against the big high cane field and then we were back into the wider field to head back to the finish line. As you can see from the map, lots (and lots and lots) of back and forth. I think there were about 20 rows that we went through, though it’s really hard to tell on the map from Garmin!
Official finish: 20:37, 23rd female

After finishing the race, I got in line to get my “finisher’s medal” – this year’s was less of a machete and more of a Crocodile Dundee / Rambo knife and comes with its own sheath so I can wear it on a belt (not likely). Some people have asked, and yes, it is as sharp as it looks and could easily be used.

Overall results: 1:08:07, 32nd female

A few days ago, the race pictures were posted to Facebook and I got an email from Amy at Gypsy Runner who saw my shorts in the race picture and wanted to make sure I saw it. I love these shorts and finally got a good race picture too – double win!


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