During the week leading up to the HTC Race Series Veteran’s Day 5k/10k/half marathon, the weather forecast predicted heavy rains to start about twelve hours before the 9am start of the race, which would have made this cross-country race at Sandelie Golf course quite the muddy mess. Thankfully, clouds moved in more slowly, and the real downpour didn’t start until well after most runners had finished the run. This was my first cross-country run (unlike my son, who just finished his first middle school XC racing season), and considering the hilly terrain and soft, uneven surface, it went well and was quite enjoyable.
Leading up to race day, HTC had sent out several emails about packet pickup and race-day information, so I knew that parking was going to be in a field half a mile away from the golf course with shuttle buses taking participants to the start. There was a bit of a traffic backup driving into the parking lot, but I’m not sure what caused it since there were plenty of signs and volunteers do direct cars. Parking rows were marked in the grass lot with spray paints, so the rows of cars were reasonably organized. We hiked from the car up the hill to the street (with a quick stop at the coffee and cider tents to grab a hot drink!) where shuttle buses were arriving steadily, and we made it to the start area with plenty of time before the start. We picked up our race packets (in nice cinch bags), including a long-sleeved technical event shirt, dropped off our gear at the gear check tent, and still had time for a bathroom stop (there were plenty of those!) and to check out the military vehicles parked in the parking lot.
The 5k, 10k, and half marathon were going to start staggered by about 5 minutes, and 5k participants were asked to line up first. We took our spots in starting chute (my son quite a ways ahead of me), listened to the National Anthem, followed by a brief speech and thank you to all Military Veterans and current military personnel.
The course was very nice, and not near as confusing as it looked on the race website (although it was slightly changed from the picture on the site). The trail on the grass was marked with colorful flags, and at there were markings on the ground as well as volunteers announcing the path in the three spots where the 5k took a different direction than the 10k. Since the 10k started about five minutes after the 5k, the top 10k runner passed me about one mile into the race, which happened to be a tight downhill/uphill section to cross a creek, but the 10k split to run an extra two-mile loop soon after, so the bottleneck was very short lived and not really an issue.
For most of the course, the running surface was trimmed grass (as typical on a golf course) which was slightly damp from overnight dew and drizzle, but not muddy or soggy. Some steeper parts of the course were gravel access roads with a grassy edge and center between the two gravel tire tracks. It was tricky running down those trails, especially in parts where there were also fallen leaves on top of the rocks and gravel. The 5k had two water stations, which were well stocked and staffed, and also two places with porta-potties. With less than 800 participants in the three distances combined, there was lots of space to spread out and have room to move.
At the finish, names of runners were announced as they crossed the finish line, and every finisher received a finisher’s medal in the shape of a dogtag, as well as a water bottle. Foam flip-flops were also available (the disposable kind, like you may get at a spa), which I didn’t need but could have been really nice if the course had been any muddier. Spin Catering was serving food (a delicious vegetable soup!), Barefoot and Full Sail were pouring wine and beer. Several vendors were offering samples and merchandise, and military personnel were happy to show off their vehicles and accommodate pictures.
The rain picked up a little bit just as the 5k award ceremony started at 10am. The top three finishers in each age group received a very nice event mug, and overall winners also received a bottle of Barefoot Bubbly and LED Lenser products. The shuttles to the parking lot started running again at 10am as well. Due to the tight and windy roads, the drive back to the field was a rather large square to loop around the block.
Overall I really enjoyed the race and thought it was well organized. Thankfully the weather held up and it didn’t become a mud run this time.
Full results are posted on the event website.