In preparation for next week's Tough Mudder challenge, I ran the Flirt with Dirt 10K yesterday morning. It was my first ever trail race so I really had no idea what to expect in terms of pace, timing, or trail-running etiquette. (The Mudders ran at Maybury a few weeks ago but that was a lot of stopping and starting, wondering where to go, getting lost on horse trails, etc. Plus there were only 6 of us so etiquette was hardly an issue.)
The race was at Lakeshore Park in Novi, a place I never knew existed until this weekend. It's a beautiful park with rolling hills, grassy fields, picnic and playground areas, and lots and lots of trees. Because it's a small area and parking is limited, I got there early. An hour and a half early, to be exact. Better early than late. It gave me plenty of time to have some water and my banana, use the bathroom (a REAL one, not even a Port-a-Pottie - SCORE!), and catch up on my Zynga games.
So the race started right on time, without much fanfare. Who needs that anyway? They just informally asked us to line up by pace times and that was that. We ran down a slightly sloping hill, through a field, down a dirt road, and into the woods. And we were off!
I quickly realized that this was going to be like no race I'd run before. And that it would be nothing like Maybury. Those were hiking trails. These were bike trails. In most places the path was just narrow enough for your two feet, with sloping grass embankments on either side of you. To get around someone you had to run up onto the grass. I was nervous about twisting an ankle and I wasn't that hell-bent on a certain finishing time. But sometimes I got stuck behind people who were really slow and then something had to be done. Usually I would let people know I was passing them so they could sort of scoot over a little but it was pretty tight in spots for the first couple of miles. Later on there were some clearings that made it easier to get around and ahead of people.
I was watching the ground constantly for tree roots. The ground was relatively flat but there were spots where the roots created steps so there were some ups and downs from those. There were some slight inclines but nothing too challenging.
The trails were full of constant twists and turns and switchbacks. You were always guessing at what was coming next; never knowing what was going to be around the next turn. That made it was more interesting than a road race and it made the whole thing go by really fast. I was amazed by how quickly the miles passed!
Unfortunately, those twists and turns also made it a little difficult to stay on the correct path. Just before mile 5 I passed up a few people, including a kid who was walking. Then a few minutes later I came around a bend and all of a sudden all those people were ahead of me again, including the kid who was walking! Clearly I had gone the wrong way. Not to be left behind, I put on a burst of speed and passed all of them and then some. I hightailed it through the last mile of the course and up the final sledding hill to the finish line. I finished strong, with a chip time of 58:19. Like I said, I didn't have any expectations going into it but was happy to have finished in under an hour. I must note, however, that my Nike+ shows that it was 7.1 miles, not 6.2 so I actually did even better than my time shows!
I talked to a few people after the race who noted the same thing about the mile 5 mix-up, so I wasn't the only one who went the wrong way. And there were a few other spots where I'd passed people and then somehow they'd be ahead of me again . . . without passing me. I don't know how they got ahead. Did they know shortcuts? Were they cheating? Or were they vampires? (Nah, too sunny.) I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and chalk it up to a poorly marked course - even more so than I realized, I suppose. Oh well. More running for me! Because like I said, it was all about the experience today for me. And I LOVED it!! I can't wait to do more trail-running!
This is one that I'll add to my list for next year. It was small (I think only 600 people total between both the 5K and 10K), the location was great, the tee shirts are super cute, and their post-race bananas were ripened to perfection. Plus it was just enough of a challenge without being too difficult and it felt completely exhilarating to be out on the trails - such a nice change from a traditional road race!
Whole Soy & Co. vanilla yogurt, banana
Somebody That I Used to Know / Gotye
Little Talks / Of Monsters and Men
Vertigo / U2
Kiss with a Fist / Florence & the Machine
Dear Rosemary / Foo Fighters
Machu Picchu / The Strokes
Sixteen Saltines / Jack White
One Engine / The Decemberists
From Now On / The Features
Take the Heartland / Glen Hansard
Supermassive Black Hole / Muse
Mercy / Duffy
Immigrant Song / Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross Feat. Karen O.
Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground I / The White Stripes
Chop and Change / The Black Keys
E.T. / Katy Perry
Love the Way You Lie (Ft. Rihanna) / Eminem
Paradise / Coldplay
Have you run a trail race before? Do you prefer trail running or road running?