Is it spring yet? I thought it was supposed to be anyway. No such luck!
On Saturday I tackled my first trail race in almost two years. I’d been toying with signing up for the Mile Run Trail Challenge earlier this year and decided to go for it while I was still down in Costa Rica. Maybe I was inspired by my surroundings. Who knows?
I signed up on my own and figured I’d go out and just try to enjoy it. It ended up that several people from Ki’netik also signed up so I was happy there’d be some familiar faces there for this adventure.
And an adventure it was. From the time I left my house to the end of the race.
When I initially Google-mapped Mile Run, it told me it’d be a 45 minute drive. Easy enough! I got up pretty early Saturday thanks to Frasier and decided to check the timing again. Thankfully I did because Google said it would now take two hours. The route was red in spots meaning slow or stopped traffic. Despite the race not starting until 10, I was out the door minutes later at 7:30.
After hopping on the highway suddenly snow appeared on the side of the road. Odd since the chance of snow had been very small. However, the weather is always weird up along this highway so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. Eventually I saw one of those digital signs with a message about the highway being closed in what amounted to be about a 30-mile stretch. There’d been a multi vehicle accident due to the snow squall.
I took the detour as suggested, but I knew it would take forever so I started trying to find an alternative. The app on my phone was sort of helpful, but it just wanted me to get back on the highway. Obviously that wasn’t an option so I took to reading the map like we did in the “old days.” I soon found another option. It meant traveling on snow covered roads, but at least I wasn’t going insanely far out of the way. I ended up coming in on a road suggested via Facebook by other runners. It made for quite the bumpy entrance as it was a rutted old forestry road that also wasn’t plowed. Really love having my Jeep at times like these!
After parking and picking up my number and hoodie, I sat in the car debating what to wear. It was only 20 degrees and still snowing. I was thankful I’d at least had the sense to wear my tights, but I only had two layers meant for slightly warmer weather. I knew once I was moving I wouldn’t be cold, but I wasn’t sure how often I’d be hiking vs. running and was worried about getting cold during those times. Once a few gym friends arrived, one of them offered me an Under Armour long sleeve so I ended up with that, a long sleeve dry fit and a jacket, a combo which proved to be perfect.
The race organizers ended up postponing the race about 30 minutes to let more people arrive. It was a sold out race of 450, and 400 made it to the start. The highway also reopened right before we started so at least we’d have an easier trek back home.
In order to spread the field out, they added on a bit to the beginning of the race having us run downhill and then back up on paved road before we headed across a stream onto single track trail. There was a little bottlenecking at the stream crossing, but things opened up quickly and we were on our way.
I found the first section to be a bit technical with lots of rocks. The fresh snow added a whole other dimension to it. I found myself looking down and slightly ahead to see where I’d be stepping next, while keeping a little distance between me and the person in front of me so I could see better. This might sound terrible, but it also helped me know where not to step if they tripped or slipped.
The first aid station was around mile 3.25. I have to say they had some great snacks at the aid stations. Road races tend to be a bit boring with gels, water and gatorade. But the aid stations for this race had chex mix, pretzels, peanut M&Ms, plain M&Ms, swedish fish, etc. It was nice and honestly, a couple pretzels and a few M&Ms tasted great and kept me going. Maybe not the healthiest things, but neither are half the gels out on the market.
The next section of the course was pretty nice. Mostly rolling hills and not a lot of rocky areas. Apparently there were good views along this section, but you either couldn’t see them due to the weather or I just wasn’t paying attention.
The next few miles were fun with both trail and forestry road mixed in. Despite predictions all the snow and ice would be gone, at times we saw snow almost a foot deep and the fresh snow covered a lot of frozen snow pack and ice on the roads. I ended up falling twice, once on the road after slipping on ice (I popped right back up like it didn’t even happen) and once I slipped on some snow/mud and almost ate a plant 🙂
Somewhere between miles 8-10 there was a nice steep climb. We all wondered aloud if the lead runners actually run something like this or if they hike too. Regardless, thanks to all those who came before us we had some nice steps smashed into the snow to use to climb.
After the last aid station it was all downhill from there. This included another stretch of really technical trail that I found frustrating to walk. When it’s flat and/or downhill I don’t want to walk (I don’t really like walking uphill either to be honest), but I also wanted to keep my ankles in tact. Eventually you head into two water tunnels that run under the highway. The water was ice cold and ankle deep, but the ground is cement so you can run without worrying. I was warned to stay to the left after the second tunnel so I wouldn’t plunge into a pool. Definitely glad I heeded that advice!
Then it was all uphill to the finish.
After the race, I changed to dry clothes and shoes in the car before grabbing a group photo with everyone.
I was pretty hungry on the way home and decided that after that I deserved a McFlurry and stopped for one on the way home. I never have those so no judging!
Overall it was a fun race. It had its difficult technical parts, as well as a nice mix of forestry road and snowy trail. They posted some pictures the next day from going to pick up the trail markers.
They also had a nice set up at the end with burgers, drinks, soup and beer, although I didn’t partake. I definitely love my hoodie too!
I think I’ll probably try to add a few other trail runs to the race schedule this year. They present different challenges and experiences than road running and road races, and the down-to-earth atmosphere and people definitely make it a fun time.
My next race is the Garden Spot Village Half on April 11. In the meantime I have a 20-miler to get through this coming weekend and then it’s taper time!