I am tragically behind on my race reports, so I’m going to skip ahead a little (past the smaller 5Ks) to the “good stuff.”
It is my absolute privilege to be friends with some truly motivated and inspiring women. Stacey and Jennifer created Empower Coaching and Fitness based on their love of running and fitness, and have been tearing it up with their group workouts, coaching and, more recently, race creation and direction.
They are the powers behind the amazing Ready. Set. Glow 5K that takes place in early April to benefit our local neighborhood schools, and this year, they added one more feather to their proverbial caps: the Durbin Trail Mix.
The race was created based on two things: the lack of local trail runs and the lack of a distance falling between a half and full marathon. They decided to try a race on a trail loop at the Julington-Durbin Preserve, offering a 5K, 18 mile and 18 mile relay distance.
I rounded up a three-woman relay team with S and D and handed over my money, post haste.
The Durbin Trail Mix was scheduled to have two start times: 8:15 AM for the 5K runners and 8:30 for the 18 milers and relay runners. Athletes were encouraged to arrive early and carpool if possible due to lack of parking. Even with a cap of 75 entrants, I wanted to make sure I had a space. The side benefit was that I got to help a little and hang out with some running friends.
I set up a small area for our team. We had decided to all be there for the duration of the event, so I advised everyone to bring chairs, a cooler and anything else that might be needed while we each took on our individual six-mile loops.
At a little after 8:00, Stacey and Jen called everyone together to review race directions and provide an overview of the course. The 5Kers were to take on an out and back, while everyone else would proceed for the duration of a six mile loop (each relay runner would take one pass while the 18milers would take three). Runners had to carry their own bottles as this was a cupless event, but there would be a water stop halfway through the loop and then a fuel and fluid station at the staging area.
When the clock hit 8:15, the first group started off and at 8:30, everyone else hit the trail.
For the first leg, the weather was coolish, but humid. The theater leading up to the race had not been kind – lots of rain had soaked the trail and left nasty spots of mud, as well as several unavoidable swampy areas. I had a pair of shoes ready for retirement and had determined that this was going to be their last hurrah – there is no way they would have survived to run another mile.
Our area doesn’t lend itself to technical trails, so this was very much hard packed dirt with some roots, some grass and some sand. There were also some hard ruts and slippery spots along the way. A good portion was shaded, but there was also a chunk of the course that was in full sun. The day warmed up quickly and I was glad I had made the decision to wear a tank and shorts.
My six miles were interesting. Trails are always fun in their own way – peaceful and beautiful, but sometimes isolating. I ran a good ways in the company of others, but then I was also alone for some miles. I didn’t mind either way. I did mind rolling my (same) ankle three times, which pretty much put the kibosh on getting in extra miles like I originally planned.
I also wasn’t in love with mile 3.75 – 4.5, which could only be described as swamp. In fact, the mud was so bad that it sucked my shoe right off my foot! No, thank you! I reclaimed by footwear, but still had to submit to shin high water and all kinds of muck. Gross.
However, soon enough I was finished and sent out our team’s second runner, S, to complete her loop.
Each of my teammates dealt with her own challenges: heat, humidity, mud, roots, etc. All of us loved the experience.
We stayed until pretty much the bitter end. It was fun cheering in all the runners and teams, and the vibe was fabulous. Of course, at the end, we were starving, so D and her husband headed off for lunch and shopping, while S and I decided to get some margaritas and Mexican food!
For an inaugural event, this was amazing. The only change I would think of making would be to start about 30 minutes earlier, just to give everyone, especially the 18 milers, as much chance at cooler temperatures as possible.
And of course, the medal was totally unique and adorable – just one more example of the attention to detail.
With a feel for the event overall, I might even be ready to go for the full 18 miles next year as a solo runner. It would certainly be a new challenge for me and would totally test my comfort zone. Either way, I will happily register again for any one of the three distances next year.
What’s your greatest challenge with trail runs?
Have you ever run an 18 mile race?