A trail run in October typically means plenty of rain and muddy trails. But this year’s Stub Stewart Trail Challenge was anything but typical. The day was unseasonably warm and the trails were 100% dry and hard packed. What a great day for my first ever Stub Stewart run!
I had convinced a couple friends to try out this race with me, and we arrived with plenty of time to find parking easily and take care of all our pre-race stuff. We checked in and got our race bibs and Stub Stewart mugs. The small crowd of about 120+ trail runners meandered, mingled, and warmed up. This race was a little different in that you could decide your distance at anytime, even during the race! The course was a 1/4 marathon loop. You could choose how many times you ran it – up to the marathon distance (4x). I opted for the 1/4 marathon distance.
Before start time, the director gathered us for some pre-race information and then sent us out on the well-marked course. We started in an open field, but soon funneled onto a single track that initially caused a little backlog. We soon began to spread out, but the single track made it a little more challenging to settle in to my pace for awhile. Eventually we got to wider road-like trail which made it easier for passing (or being passed.) The first mile and a half or so were mostly uphill. It was definitely challenging. Then we hit the downhill section – which lasted over 2 miles. That was awesome! The trails were beautiful with easy footing and it was great to just enjoy the down.
But, the downhill didn’t last forever. Somewhere after mile 4, we left the dirt trail and jumped onto the paved Banks-Vernonia Trail. Changing from trail to pavement was rough. As was the gradual uphill. My legs were barely moving and felt like they only had one speed. I tried running in the gravel along the edge of the pavement, but that got too thick and it was more work than just gutting it out on the hard pavement. I couldn’t wait to get back to the dirt trails.
Even though my legs were protesting, the scenery was still beautiful and I was extremely grateful that this course was well-shaded. The day was really warming up! I kept thinking I should stop and take some pictures of the amazing fall day, but I was afraid that if I stopped it would be rough to get started again. So, I just kept plodding along.
Soon we veered off the pavement and back to the dirt trail. The transition seemed straight uphill. As I tried to run up the trail my hamstrings began screaming at me and I was forced to walk up the steep section. Regardless, my legs and feet were happy to return to the softer trails and I soon settled back into a slow run as I headed back towards the start/finish area. Huge respect to those who ran the loop multiple times. I was ready to be done after just one loop.
I crossed the finish line and received my Bivouac finisher coin. A nice variation on the usual finisher swag. There were plenty of snacks and drinks available at the finish area – even cupcakes! And, we got a Stub Stewart pint glass, as well.
Yes, this race was challenging, but I really enjoyed it! Stub Stewart is a great park, with well-groomed trails and no shortage of scenery. The Bivouac team was organized and prepared for this event, making sure things ran smoothly. I probably got a little spoiled with the beautiful day and dry trails, but I will definitely be back to run this trail challenge again.