Arriving near Elijah Bristow Park, I was pleased to see signage aiding racers along the journey from the
main highway, along the back streets to the park. The bigger and brighter the signs a race can use to help participants maneuver, the better, I say!
Parking was easy, especially since I wasn’t afraid to park in the puddles. Knowing all of us would have soaking wet feet sooner or later, I was able to obtain prime parking and get my feet wet just a tad before the start of the race. After the race, this proved to be an especially wise parking decision. More on that later.
Packet pick-up was super simple, and I was quickly handed my bib, which held the chip timing device, and my participate t-shirt. I always purchase these if they are offered for races. The tech shirt was nice, coming in both men and women specific sizing. It would be super cool if, in the future, the shirt would have the date of the event as well as the event logo, just for my own personal “scrapbook” purposes. Complimentary Gu Roctane Ultra Endurance water bottles were also handed out prior to the race. Nice touch.
At 9:30 a.m., the 50k participants started. For the remaining distances, the 25k, 10.4 miler and 5.2 miler,
we started in staggered fashion beginning at 10 a.m. Prior to each distance leaving the start line, detailed race instructions were providing. The main message we all heard was … lots of water crossings, lots of mud, have fun! I was a tad nervous, not of the water, but the general trail conditions. Originally, only 2 water crossings were scheduled to be on the course. However, due to the solid rain the area has experienced after the snowfall, 3 additional water crossings popped up onto the course. For those participating in the 50k event, which was 6 loops on the 5.2 mile course, that meant 30 water crossings. Wow. (Great job to those who completed that endeavor, by the way!).
As I was participating in the single loop (5.2 mile) option, we were last to start, at approximately 10:10 a.m. To get to the trails, we ran through grass that was more difficult for me to run on than the actual trails. Once on the trails, it was a joy to see the mud, huge mud puddles (that were 1,000% unavoidable – you had to go through those suckers and they were ankle deep!), tree limbs, trees at one point, and other trail hazards that made the course so much fun. And I really mean that, it was a blast! Two of the water crossings were waist deep, the other three about knee high. Not knowing what you would experience in the next 5 seconds, and knowing at one moment it may be flat and clear-ish, then the next minute you are nearly waist deep in clear (or muddy!) water, just made this race unforgettable in all the right ways.
At two points in the loop-course I lost valuable time. Once, there was a single track trail that jutted off to the left, but a messy, tree branch laden trail lay straight ahead. Not knowing which direction to go, I took the path that was clear, only to find a couple of huge tree trunks obstructing the path. This, of course, lead me to believe I took the wrong path. Then, at the ‘loop or go back to the start’ portion, while the instructions made sense if you were participating in the 10.4 miler, 25k or 50k, it wasn’t clear for the 5.2 miler racers. I made a ‘please let this be correct‘ guess and went to the left. I ended up being right, but I didn’t know for sure for about half a mile. Being new to trail races, I don’t fault anyone but myself for this, but have to say – the clearer the course markings, and the more, the merrier! In total, my mistakes cost me 3-4 minutes, which put a damper on my finish time goal.
Aid stations were located at two points on the course, and offered water and Gu gels (that I could see – there may have been more!). The volunteers that were covering the road crossing(s) and finish line were incredible. Thank you for volunteering, and for all you do for us racers!
After crossing the finish line, I wanted to see what my final time ended up being. To my surprise, after losing valuable time on the course, I found out I was first in my age group — woot! This meant I received a medal, and that always puts a HUGE smile on my face! The post race refreshments included Plank Town Brewing beer, which was very nice, and Chapala catering, KIND bars (yum, yum, yum), fruits, water, and other assorted post-race refreshments. Excellent job on this.
Getting back to my car, being covered in mud (it could have passed for one of those ‘mud runs’), I found the cold, crisp, clear water my vehicle was parked in to be such a lovely sight. I was able to wash my shoes, clean my feet, and get most of the mud off of me prior to getting in the car. I know a number of people were wondering what this crazy girl was doing using the water as a personal bath for my legs, but it worked! And I was able to get into dry, clean socks and shoes for the drive home.
This was the first race in the Run Big Trail Series, by Level 32 Racing, and I have to say they nailed it. I am super excited to participate in the second race of the series, the Shotgun Trail Blast, on April 5th.