Unfortunately, my wife was not able to run at this one, but came along so the kids could participate. It was not particularly warm, but it was dry as gun time approached. The oversized inflatable helmet caught our attention as we pulled up to the event. Several vendor tents were up in the area, and bonfires were lit to ward off the cold. Bib pickup was a breeze and I took advantage of the fire pit to stay warm as I changed into my Skoras, which are my favorite trail running shoes. I have run in this park before, and enjoy racing on trails. The only downside to this location is that at any given point, it is likely the path is either ascending or descending. It makes for tricky pacing.
After a relaxed warm up with my two older daughters, I sent them back with my wife and their sister as I stretched out my legs a little more. People were still arriving and everyone was very polite as I explored more of the trail and tried to get a feel for what kind of performance I could expect. Gun time came quickly, so after a quick stretch it was time to take off the warm ups and get ready.
We started behind the helmet, so it was a careful beginning, trying not to bump our heads or each other as we exited. Once we had room I got in front and just ran what felt comfortable. I knew I had two identical loops to get through, so the key was to run as close to even splits as possible. The first part was uphill, meandering back to the road. There were a couple sharp turns that required slowing down, but the beauty of the forest and gentle trail was amazing. I got distracted and was brought back by a heaviness in my legs, confusing me until I remembered the terrain. Coming back down the other way brought only partial relief, as I tried to take advantage of it and increase tempo all the way down.
I checked my watch after passing the start line, and was a few ticks over 8 minutes. It was a bit faster than my projected time, which made sense later, as we found out the course was a bit short. Climbing the hill was definitely harder the second time, which was not made any easier by the increased traffic. I was catching the walkers, and tried to warn them as I came. Most of them gave me room to pass. The real trouble was several dog owners not part of the event, walking their animals without leashes. I had to dodge a couple and jump one. Not exactly optimal race maneuvers, but obviously no fault of the race organizers. It seems this, like Cook Park, is just a place where some dog owners believe the existence of a dog play area means the whole park has been created for their enjoyment. I finished the race with no major incidents, although due to the finish chute placement I was unable to make the sharp turn exiting the helmet in time. I believe that is the cause of the 10 second discrepancy between my watch and official time.
After a cool down with all three of my girls, it was time to cheer them on. The kids race involved some small barriers to jump over, a basketball shoot, agility ladder and a finish through the helmet. My two eldest ran by themselves and were proud to complete it. I ran with the littlest and her determination and speed made me proud to see what she will accomplish in the future. She even wore her medal all day.
This race had it all, great course, pancakes, friendly cheering volunteers, pancakes, and amazing awards. Yes, the pancakes were worth mentioning twice! This is definitely the first time I have received a genuine cowbell for winning, and it is one of my favorite prizes ever. The energy at this event and the cause it supported were great, and I hope that it grows next year.
You can find the full results here
1. Brian Bernier 32, 16:19
2. Joe Dudman 50*, 17:23
3. Kyle McDonald 23, 18:09
1. Kate Mann 24, 19:00
2. Kate Virden 22, 23:01
3. Chelsey Lind 24, 23:48
1. Tung Yin 47, 20:11
2. John Gonzalez 50, 20:22
3. Kenneth Varner 52, 20:46
1. Janelle Dickerson 50, 24:37
2. Janelle Furman 41, 25:08
3. Mindy Ogles 44, 25:26
‘*’- denotes Masters