While Houston Dynamo players and coaches gathered downtown on Saturday to commemorate the groundbreaking of the Dynamo’s new stadium, assistant coach Wade Barrett was 70 miles north, achieving his own landmark moment. That morning, Barrett took part in the 19th annual Rocky Raccoon Trail Run, a 50-mile race in Huntsville, Texas, that tested his endurance, both physical and mental.
Barrett, a three-time MLS Cup winner, moved from California to Texas when the San Jose Earthquakes relocated to Houston in 2006. He played four years with the Dynamo before he hung up his boots in March 2010 and joined head coach Dominic Kinnear on the coaching staff. Although he signed on to coach for Houston, his passion for running and competitive races was something that could not be denied.
“Since I retired from playing, I've had my eye on running races like this,” Barrett said. “It’s something I love to do, and although I was disappointed to miss the groundbreaking, I put a lot into the race, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to do it.”
Barrett trained four months for the race and finished in a time of 7 hours and 5 minutes, good for fifth place overall. Although he hoped to finish under the seven-hour mark, in the end he was pleased to have even finished. In the two weeks leading up to the race, Barrett had one cortisone injection in each knee and was in enough pain that even walking seemed troublesome. As expected though, he stuck to his training regimen and continued working toward his goal.
“I think your ambition changes over the course of the race,” he said. “I wanted to go under seven hours, but the course was difficult, and at some point it turns into, ‘I just hope that I finish.' Around Mile 40, I stopped caring what place I was, and I just wanted to cross the finish line.”
Barrett built up toward the 50-mile plateau throughout his training, so the injuries that came up just before the race were especially frustrating.
“I set a pretty strict training plan for myself,” Barrett added. “It was a lot of time spent on weekends putting in back-to-back long runs, including one weekend with 38-mile and 30-mile runs. Then two weeks ago, I’m out for a short interval of seven miles, and my knee just blew up, and that’s when I got the first cortisone shot. On the Thursday before the race, I started to have issues with my other knee, and I had a second injection.”
A 10-year veteran of Major League Soccer, Barrett is no stranger to the allure of professional athletes. On Saturday though, the roles were reversed, and Barrett was in awe of the contingent of professional runners who graced with trail with him. One runner in particular left Barrett star-struck.
“Many of the runners are names that might not mean anything to anyone else, but they are big names to me,” he said. “One guy, Scott Jurak, who is one of the best runners out there, ran past me and said, ‘Keep it up, man!’ That was pretty special.”
Another competitor who pushed Barrett to compete this weekend was Devin Brown, a Dynamo season ticket holder who was recognized as the 2008 Dynamo Fan of the Year. Barrett said he met Brown at various Dynamo events, and their affinity for competitive running forged a friendship.
“He participated in the 50-mile race the previous two years, and this year he attempted the 100-mile race,” Barrett said. “It’s such an incredible accomplishment, and it was great seeing him out there. He was part of the reason I was so keen on doing this race in Huntsville.”
Although this was the first 50-mile race Barrett completed, he knows this will not be his last and maybe, one day, he can join Brown in the 100-mile competition.
“I absolutely want to do the 100-mile race, but with the Dynamo schedule and the Houston summer, it will be difficult to fit on into my schedule,” he said. “Right now, I want to focus my attention and my responsibilities on the Dynamo.”
With the groundbreaking originally scheduled for January 29, Barrett was excited to participate in the ceremony and then run the race the following weekend. Having captained the Dynamo for 138 of his 140 all-time Dynamo appearances, Barrett served as a key component for the Dynamo's success and is a major reason the stadium is being built. Although head coach Dominic Kinnear wanted Barrett on hand for Saturday's ceremony, he knew he could not deny Barrett an opportunity that he had worked so hard for.
“It’s pretty impressive,” Kinnear said. “When we first started talking about him coaching here, he said he wanted to continue to concentrate on his running, which was fine by me. I think we are all proud of him. Every race he has done he has always finished in the top 10. He is very dedicated and committed, and what he is doing is pretty incredible.”