My First Trail Race

Saturday I had my first go at running a trail race.  It was the inaugural event and we chose to participate in the 10+ mile distance in Cedar Falls, Iowa.  I love to run in the woods, but had never experienced a trail race before, so this would be a first.  I was really excited!!

We drove over the morning of (~80 miles) and arrived at about 7:15 am.  Our arrival time was perfect…we could pick up our race number and then head to the start line to watch the 50K and 20 mile runners head out on their adventure.

The 50K/20 mile trail race start line.
The 50K/20 mile trail race start line.
Scott (the race director) leading the runners for the first mile of the race to the off road trails.
Scott (the race director) riding a cruiser bike and leading the runners for the first mile of the race to the off road trails.

After the long distance runners embarked on their day, we changed into our running attire, put our post run change of clothes into the car (which was parked right at the finish area) and ventured to the start line for our race.  I decided to go with my Coeur Chevron Tri Kit, arm warmers and gloves since it was 40F at race start.

Ready to run our first trail race.
Ready to run our first trail race.

The first mile of the course is on paved trails.  We entered the woods via Virgin Trail and began our single track race adventure.

Virgin Trail in Cedar Fall, Iowa
Virgin Trail in Cedar Fall, Iowa (photo courtesy of Runner’s Flat 50K Trail Run)

It didn’t thin out as much as I had hoped (although with only about 90 participants in the 10 mile event, it wasn’t super crowded) and when we entered the woods, I was the pace setter for about 6 other runners.  This was a lot of pressure on someone who is new to trail running and not entirely sure how to pace for a 10+ mile trail run.  I ran faster than planned for the first 3.5 miles, but I was ok with this pace…for now 😉

Approaching the first aid station
Approaching the first aid station (photo courtesy of Runner’s Flat 50K Trail Run)

Shortly before we exited the woods briefly for our first aid station (3.5 miles in), the lead pack of runners from the 50K and 20 mile distances passed us in the woods.  They were running around a 7:00/mile pace, which is smokin’ fast for me when I’m not in the woods…WOW!!  The crowds started to thin out at the first aid station, so when we went back into the woods, there were just a few us running together.  Overall, it was a really flat run (with only a few short climbs), but there were lots of twists and turns through the woods, not allowing our focus falter.  During the next 3 miles, I just kept thinking, “How awesome is this that I get to run in the woods and with such natural beauty?!?!?!  What a beautiful day!!!!”

Part of the 10 mile trail run course (photo courtesy of The Runner's Flat 50K Trail Run)
Part of the 10 mile trail run course (photo courtesy of The Runner’s Flat 50K Trail Run)

We approached the 2nd aid station at about mile 7.5, where we loaded up with water (The Iron Hippie downed some Coca Cola as well), before heading back into the woods.  At this point, my focus faltered just a bit.  I commented to the Iron Hippie that I hadn’t seen a pink flag recently.  Before the race started, Scott (the race director) told us we should see pink flags on our right throughout the whole race.  If we didn’t see a pink flag within a minute, we might be off course and may want to back track to see if we missed a turn somewhere.  I jumped a log and looked up to see if there was a pink flag off in the distance.  When I looked up, I tripped over a sapling stump and went down…HARD.  I was very grateful that I still had my gloves on to help break the fall.  The Iron Hippie said it was a great fall and that I did a good job of trying to roll out of it 😉  It didn’t feel like I rolled through anything though.

It wouldn't be a trail race if someone didn't eat dirt ;)
It wouldn’t be a trail race if someone didn’t eat dirt 😉

The last 3 miles were pretty uneventful as we ran back to the finish.  Since this was our first trail race, we set a PR as we crossed the finish line in 1:41:21.  I placed 44th out of 92 participants, 15th out of 47 women, and 8th out of 23 in my age group.  I’m pleased with these results since it was only 4 weeks post Ironman and my body is still a bit tired.  I know that with more training and better recovery post Ironman, I could have definitely done better.  Next time, I’ll be better trained, more rested and hopefully not fall 😉  I am already looking for the next trail race.

Have you ever run a trail race?  What is your favorite part about trail running?

25 thoughts on “My First Trail Race

  1. I can’t wait to do trail runs again someday. I really like how engaged my mind gets concentrating on the path and environment around me. And it’s dirty-that’s a win in my book.

    1. It is definitely dirty and I proved that by eating a bit of it along the way 😉 I am definitely looking forward to my next one and hope you get to enjoy one soon. Healing thoughts your way!!

  2. I’ve run a trail but never a race. The ones here were pre-Boston and I knew better 😉 And Cedar Falls! My old stomping ground! I wish I would’ve known better and run more then, especially all those beautiful trails there! Sure missed the boat on that one! Looks like you did great, despite the spill!

      1. My aunt and uncle live in Greenfield 🙂 Let me know when you’ll be visiting and I’ll make the trip!! I’ll search for trails/running options near them!!

      2. Are you serious? My grandmother lived there for eons, my three uncles live there, and I planned to come back for my cousins event, Bar-2-Bar-bara 2nd weekend in July. I’m from the Smith family- Ron the mayor, Jim, and Bob. Margaret was my grandmother.

  3. So awesome- congratulations! I think it’s fitting you fell in your first trail race 🙂 Those longer distance people were flying- amazing!
    I love, love, love to trail run and would love to get into more trail racing.
    For now though, I’m loving running 90% of my runs on trails!

    1. Thanks Abby!! I love trail running and am super happy to get the opportunity to race on trails. If my running were 90% on trails, I would be even happier 😉

  4. Nice battle wound. You have officially been initiated into the trail running race scene. 😉 We have several trail races around here, which I like. At times the single track can be discouraging when trying to pass people, but I love the constant change of scenery and the focus it takes to hope over rocks/branches/creeks/etc. It is a nice change from the typical pavement.

    1. Thanks Kristen!! I typically get my battle wounds out of the way early on in my training/racing career 😉 I wish we had more trail running events here in central Iowa, but there just aren’t ver many 😦 I love to get out and run on trails…even if it is during training. It would be nice to have the luxury you have…trail running whenever you wish 😉

  5. Fun race!! What a memorable 1st trail race too!! The stats look great!! Congrats!!! What a great day too!!
    I have never done a trail race but would like to one day! It is a nice change of scenery. No pressure to run hard or fast but to enjoy the beauty of the forest!!

    1. It was a lot of fun and very memorable, Leslie 😉 Trail running is so much better than pounding the concrete!! I love being surrounded by Nature’s beauty 🙂

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