After agreeing to run part of my sister’s 100k this summer with her I decided I might want to do a trail race beforehand. I looked around the DC area and found the Spring Backyard Burn series. As I’m training for the Charlottesville Half Marathon I consulted Crafty Runner on when I should do the race. We decided that a ten mile trail race on the weekend of my eleven mile long run would work.
With no real trail running to prepare, real meaning dirt and hills not a nice paved path through the woods, I signed up for 10 miles through the woods. Laurel Hill is in Lorton, VA which was about a half hour drive from my apartment, but luckily the race had a relatively late start time of 9 am. I drove right to the start and didn’t have to wait at all to pick up my bib. I headed back to the car to stay warm for a bit. They had some indoor bathrooms that I tried out before lining up to start at 8:50 to hear the race instructions.
My goal for the race was just to take it easy and finish. As soon as the horn went off I forgot the “take it easy” and just remembered the race director saying “after the first mile there is single track so line up where you want to be before you get there”. I wasn’t sure where that was so I pushed it a bit and well the first mile was mostly paved and all down hill.
The woods portion of the race was my favorite, there were a lot of switch backs and some tiny rolling hills. The grassy portion was my least favorite. The trail in this portion was narrow and deep and only one foot wide. My ankles and knees didn’t like running this portion. Near mile five (and 9 the course was two loops) there was a sign saying “don’t run over snakes” Uh? I would definitely run away or jump over any snakes, running over snakes is not a problem for me.
The second loop seemed to go much faster even though it was much slower. The second time through the woods I caught my foot on a rock and fell. I caught myself pretty quickly, but two girls passed me while I was down and I lost some energy. Looking at my paces below, I’m pretty sure this was mile 8.
When I saw the 1 mile to go sign I got a burst of energy until I saw the huge hill to the finish. Everyone else was walking up the hill so I joined in for awhile. Once at the top and back on pavement I got some speed back and finished strong-ish. The course was confusing as it looks below, but well marked and I never questioned which way to go.
I ate two slices of pepperoni pizza afterwards (big advantage of trail races) and sat around to watch the awards ceremony (the winners got pint glasses!) as long as I could without returning my car late. There were some fast ladies (and men). Although I had a big positive split, I’m happy with my overall average pace. I was done for the rest of the day and spent some quality time with my couch. Lesson’s learned include starting slower, train on some trails, and maybe eat something if I’m running that long.
Have you ran a trail race? What are your tips?