When I first read the description for Kevin’s Cup 8K Trail Race, I was intrigued and a little scared. The description included this: “mud, creeks, trails, brutal ankle twisting switchbacks, bone-jarring down-hills, lung-searing up-hills and more.” I convinced a couple of friends to join me, without mentioning any of those words except “trail.” My running hasn’t been stellar lately, so I knew this would be a slow one for me, but I wanted to experience this challenge. After a very rainy week, race day was pretty dry – what a treat!
The costume theme for this year’s race was Year of the Clown. It inspired many colorful and creative costumes, but I tend to be more of the boring type and opted for regular ol’ running clothes. As Kevin himself gave some pre-race instructions, he noted that the course would be different than previous years due to some downed trees, etc. The course was about a mile of road/trail and would be followed by 2 loops, which, of course, would include the most challenging hills and terrain.
The group of around 125 set off. Not long after we had started, it seemed very quiet. The usual chatter and laughter was almost non-existent. I’m not sure if it was about focus, nervousness, or just how the group spread out, but it was oddly quiet. There was still occasional friendly words exchanged among runners along the way, but it felt more like a solo nature run at times. Fall is a perfect time to run the trails throughout Mary S Young Park. The morning was mostly dry, with some light rain for a short time – so excellent running conditions. The peaceful run on leaf-covered trails didn’t last forever. We soon encountered some good hills – both up and down, some water crossings, the challenging terrain of a rocky shore, and a minimal amount of mud on the trails. All to be encountered twice. The end of loop 1 meant running through the finish line and heading back out for a 2nd loop. I was so beat after loop 1, I was having crazy thoughts of calling it a day. But, since I had no real reason to quit and I didn’t want to have tell anyone that I quit, I soldiered on. I was a bit demoralized after looking at my watch at the end of the first loop. I was moving slower than I had imagined, but I had to take it down a notch for loop 2. I was able to pace myself better knowing what I was going to encounter, and the 2nd loop went by much faster than I expected, even though the course was closer to a 10K than an 8K. I was definitely in the back of the pack and I could tell when I arrived at the finish line for the final time that things were being wrapped up on the course. Again I felt lousy about that, but I reminded myself that I wasn’t last and that I had finished.
After getting changed into some warmer dry gear, my friends and I headed over to Round Table Pizza with the rest of the racers and volunteers for free pizza, beer, and some interesting prizes. Round Table was standing room only by the time we arrived, but there was still pizza and beer to be had. The prize drawing was entertaining. Kevin, who has been putting on this race for 26 years, was quite the character with a great sense of humor. Prizes ranged from 6 packs of beer to a gallon of Elmer’s Glue. I really wasn’t sure if I wanted my number to be called or not! I am somewhat pleased to say that I did not end up with any of the prizes, but we all went home with a commemorative glass and a good trail run completed.
While I was disappointed in my performance, I enjoyed the challenge of Kevin’s Cup and do plan to run it again. That disappointment also fueled my running motivation. I had let myself be lazy on the running front for way too long. This week I got my butt back in gear. I have a plan and I have no excuses. So, a big thank you to Kevin’s Cup for challenging me to the point of frustration. I needed that. Next year will be better!