Participants were directed to park in a field and shuttled to the start area. There was a tent city in an adjacent field and a lot of students milling around. Porta potties were in abundance and getting checked in and acquiring my number was easy. Luckily a buddy of mine was working the event, so my daughters could hang out near him and watch me race. I had no idea what the competition was going to be like in the open heat, and was just hoping to run relatively fast and have a lot of fun. I studied the map quite a bit, as the course had a couple of loops and I did not want to get off track. After a short warm up and some stretching, I ran into an old HS teammate that is now a coach and chatted with him at the start.
After some pre-race instruction, it was time to go. We cut across a field, and many participants were in front of me as I started easy. We headed across the property on a dirt road and I settled into the lead. Looping back the way we came, the mud pit awaited us just shy of the one mile mark. Looking to hold my lead and momentum, I was given a reality check when on the third step in, the pit decided to keep my leg. Knee deep in mud and water, my upper body swung forward and I got a face full of the mess. Laughing, amid the cheers and shouts of the spectators, I clumsily extricated myself from the mud and continued onward, a little worse for wear. Two shallow river crossings cleaned off most of the mud, and the forested trail on the far bank was a little tricky.The rest of the race consisted of going around the fields and a very short road section. I was having too much fun to notice if there were markers for the second and third miles. I was a little confused as we ended up on a road we had previous traversed, in the opposite direction. A volunteer quickly affirmed that I was on the right track and at that time the run got interesting. Another runner caught and passed me, so the game was on. The last section could be loosely called road, but it was grassy and mostly rough. We traded the lead at least twice, continually surging. By the time we got back in sight of the finish, he was just in front of me. The last section is a somewhat windy, narrow bark dust trail. In spite of my best efforts, he held me off through the finish as I was a stride behind him. It is not often that a race has a major affect on me, but this one has definitely stuck. The RD and volunteers do an amazing job. The hordes of students cheering on the runners makes it fun, and the fact that this is a true cross country race make this one of my new favorites. Runs like this are few and hard to find, and we need to make sure they have the support to continue on. My favorite part was showing my young daughters the mud pit, and watching the middle school girls run through. They are not much older than my girls and definitely inspired them as they turned to me after and stated that they both wanted to do the 5K next year. If there was any question of me attending this race next year, that definitely eradicated it.