Trail running is intimidating to me. Sure I run on trails, but they are lovely paved or crushed limestone trails. They are not grassy, muddle, steep, single track hills. Nope. I’ve only run on such terrain once, last winter in the snow on the coldest morning of the fall. It was fun, but not something I thought I’d do often. I was right. It took me six months before I did it again.
Last weekend, with some of my friends and fellow Daisy Troop moms, I ran my first official trail race. We decided on a whim last spring that it would be fun to run the Surly Loppet. If it wasn’t, we’d still get beer at the end. There were three distance options: 5k, 13.1k, and a half marathon. I opted for the 13.1k figuring that a little over 8 miles would be doable. After all, I had no idea how my fall race schedule would shape up.
I won’t lie, I was a little nervous. One because I didn’t run on a trail even once before the race and two, because this is how the course description starts:
“The Trail Loppet is challenging. There are big hills. There are narrow trails with rocks and logs. There are many intersections.”
Eek. I just hoped I didn’t get lost. And those hills…which don’t look so bad here. Only a few of them really sucked.
Like several places in the country, we were having unseasonably warm weather. Like 80-100 degrees plus intense humidity. Not ideal at all. Luckily with such a race, there was no time pressures or performance anxiety. I only had to go as hard and fast as I felt like it. There was also going to be ample shade which would give us some relief from direct sun on top of the oppressive heat and humidity.
We got to Theodore Wirth Park with about 10 minutes until my race started. I quick hit the porta potty and ran across the parking lot to the starting line. It was really crowded at the start and we started right uphill. The first tenth of a mile was paved before we moved to some grass and onto dirt trails through the trees.
I won’t go mile by mile because I rarely knew where I was at mileage-wise and it’s kind of a blur. I was happily running, music free, enjoying the scenery and the challenge. There were several times that I was forced to walk because those in front of me were walking. On a single track, there was no room to pass. Frankly, the few walk breaks were welcome. There were usually up very steep, root and rock ridden hills. I only almost bit it three times. I recovered and was happy that I didn’t end up scraping my face because we had family pictures later that afternoon.
I chatted with a few runners here and there as we ran. While I considered wearing my CamelBak I’d decided I didn’t want anything extra on my body. It was just too hot. I wished I had carried my own. There were only two water stops and I was sweating so much that I needed every drop I could get.
When I finished, I decided I wanted to do it again! It was so much fun. It was hard and dirty, slow and steady. It kept me on my toes and I didn’t once look at my watch wondering how I was doing. I didn’t care. I was far out of my running comfort zone and soaking it all up.
I met my friends who had done the 5k, grabbed a beer and waited for our other friends to join us. We already decided that we are going to make this an annual race. Maybe next year I’ll do the half.