I was wrong. I had never run a trail race before and this one totally kicked my butt last year. Not only was it my first trail run, it was also extremely warm and humid last year on race day, two things that I also was not good at dealing with (and still struggle with).
Luckily this year we were lucky with the weather: 60 degrees, overcast, humid, but with a fine misty rain falling for part of the race. It was like a personal air conditioner. Another improvement over last year: I did it completely by myself last time but this year, I drug along Marcey and Kate:
Without further ado, let's get to the report, which in in a slightly different order than usual but contains all of the same elements.
Race Day Arrival/Parking - A
Marcey, Kate, and I met up early at a nearby shopping center so that we could car pool into the race. There is a $5 cash-only parking fee at Pocahontas State Park, where the race was held, so no point in each of us paying for parking when we could take one car in. The race organizers made sure that everyone was aware of the parking fee and encouraged people to car pool and have their cash ready to expedite the process.
|We had no trouble getting in because we arrived fairly early|
and had our cash ready to go.
Parking itself was ample and very close to the start/finish area. Again, we had no problems getting a good spot and making our way to the race area.
|Marcey double triple QUADRUPLE ensuring that|
her key was in her hand before she locked the car
There was the option to pick up your packet the day before the race, but the location wasn't very convenient for me so I opted to just pick up my packet the day of. The race is small, so this is relatively easy - the only slight annoyance being that once you pick up your stuff you have to go back up a big old set of stairs to get back to the parking lot and drop your stuff in the car. No big deal, really.
Names and numbers were posted on a board, eager volunteers there to help you find your number.
We got there early, so the line for actual pick up was pretty much non-existent.
The packet was a small plastic bag with our swag, race number, pins, and a variety of coupons from sponsors - some of which are pretty awesome ($35 hour-long massage, 6 free fitness sessions at Styles Fitness).
Personally, I love the swag - a pair of RLaG running socks:
|Nice to have something other than yet another ugly and/or|
ill-fitting race shirt.
Anyhow, Marcey, Kate, and I grabbed our packets quickly and headed back to the car to deposit them and pin on race numbers.
Starting Area - B
I'm just gonna say it - one beef with the starting area would be the bugs. I am that person who always gets bug bites pretty much no matter what. If there is a bug that likes to bite within a mile wide vicinity of me, I swear it will find me and bite me. Of course there is nothing that can be done about bugs at a heavily wooded state park.
This year I came prepared and doused myself with bug spray in the parking lot before we made it to the field that serves as the start/finish area, so I ended up not getting eaten alive (unlike last year).
Otherwise, the start area is plenty big for the size of the crowd. There were port-o-johns as well as the state park facilities.
|We opted for State Park facilities|
|I call this photo "Planny Plannerson Attends a Race" |
So yes, I did plan the outfit to coordinate with the race colors.
Would you expect anything less??
Race Day Outfit (toe to head):
|Traditional pre-race photo|
|Marcey was good enough to use her awesome|
temporary tattoo skills to slap this on
for me while we were waiting - and to then make
this awesome face.
We were standing kind of far away from the announcer and his speakers, so we didn't hear the call to move toward the start. We saw people starting to move that way so decided we should too (just call us sheep).
The start was done in waves with I'd guess 50 -75 people in our wave (b) and the wave ahead of us (a). There was no timing chip (I was surprised - there was one last year) so it was very important for us to all stay in our assigned waves, as the start was staggered. The actual start corral was a small roped off section into which we were funneled in single-file according to our wave.
|Wave A waiting in the start corral.|
The person who I assuming was the race director could have used a bullhorn, because we couldn't really hear him when he was talking to us in the start area.
M, K, and I lined up at the front of Wave B and exchanged good luck hugs before we took off 4 minutes after Wave A.
So the lowdown on the start: adequate facilities and space; bring some bug spray; could use some more bull horns or speakers.
Course - A
Last year I did not enjoy this course - mainly because I hadn't really known what to expect. This year I knew what I was getting in to and I had a much better time of it as a result.
- For a trail run, this isn't too terrible. The first mile is very hilly with lots of roots and things that you need to watch for, but after that things get easier with the trails being wide and grassy for the most part.
|During Mile 1|
|Around Mile 2.5|
- No overcrowding, at least not where I was running. I started near the front of Wave B and think that I may have been leading it (probably all in my head). Anyhow, I started to pass Wave A folks after Mile 2 and for most of the run I was around 1-2 other people or I had the trail to myself. Kate and Marcey ran into more traffic and had some problems with walkers not getting out of the way, but I didn't have any of this trouble.
- Scenic, woodsy, and peaceful. I didn't take my iPod with me and was enjoying the quiet time.
- Water stops provided just at mile 1, just after 2, and just after 4.
- Although trail, it was pretty easy to figure out where you needed to go. Whenever there were choices or the trail split, yellow tape steered you in the right direction. If you manage to get lost, I would venture to say you deserved it.
- No mile markers, which I like. I find if I don't know how far I've gone, I tend to do better...
- No port-o-johns along the trail. I know it's only an 8k and there are plenty of trees available, but one or two somewhere along the way would have been nice.
- This isn't really a criticism but because it is a trail race, you have to be very mindful of where your footfalls are happening, especially during mile 1. Last year I turned my ankle on a root as soon as we cut into the woods and it hurt for the rest of the race (and a week afterwards). Of course this was my stupid fault, but just remember: trail running does NOT EQUAL road running in any way.
- No mile markers, which some people hate.
The end of the course is downhill after one last climb that feels 100 times harder than it should. You pop out of the trail and cross a footbridge and then make for the field where everything started. It's flat and fast.
|Bridge before the finish - loved this girl's outfit!|
|Marcey! Headed to the home stretch.|
The chute narrowed you down to single file so volunteers could record your race number for timing purposes. It was fine when I crossed because there weren't many others at that time, but as more folks finished it got crowded fast.
We were then given this stuff:
It took me a good 5 minutes to figure out how to open the damn thing. And no, I am not exaggerating. When I finally got it open I was sorely disappointed - I thought this stuff was GROSS. Luckily, there was also water available.
There was plenty of post-race food, but the line was a little bit of a long wait:
|Line for post-race food|
|Bananas, cookies, bagels, cream cheese|
I stood in line with Marcey and Kate but only took 1/2 a bagel and a little bit of cream cheese. I was saying up for our other post-race food destination:
|500 calories burned... 500+ calories consumed.|
Overall Grade - A
I really enjoyed this race this year. Knowing what to expect and having buddies with me was part of that. Otherwise, this is a great smallish sized race that is well organized and easy to participate in. The course is a lovely change from buildings and pavement and not nearly as difficult as the other trail race I've done - the Maymont 8 Miler.
Plus, the whole point of the race is to raise money for the HERA foundation. From the event website:
Run Like A Girl brings women together to raise awareness for the HERA Women’s Cancer Foundation. A portion of each entry will be donated to the charity along with funds raised by participants.
Our mission is, and has always been, to increase awareness, education and funds for the HERA Women’s Cancer Foundation and their search to find a way to end ovarian cancer forever.
What can be more awesome than that?
I would encourage anyone to do Run Like a Girl - or to try trail racing in general. But before you do, a few suggestions:
- Wear older shoes that you don't care about because they will get dirty. I wore my old OLD Ravennas, which I hadn't had on my feet since the Maymont race in September.
- BUG SPRAY, especially if in a wooded area.
- Trail running does not equal road running.
- Keep alert, especially paying attention to your feet.
- If you have a joint that bothers you (ankle, knee, hip), make sure you wear a brace. The uneven and soft surfaces will affect it a lot more than the road.
Somehow, I managed to PR this 8k. My previous record was last November's HCA 8k (46:09). I haven't seen official results and since we didn't have chips, I'm going to go with my Garmin which showed 44:20.
I'm pretty surprised that I managed this. I did not feel my best during this race. Despite the cool weather, I felt hot, sticky, and tired by mile 2. I actually stood at the water station to drink a full cup of water. I did the same at the stop just after mile 4. I felt much more tired than I did at the Monument Avenue 10k and honestly couldn't wait to be finished. My ankle is still feeling wobbly after last week's beach running episode, and it started to hurt around mile 3 despite wearing my dreaded ankle support.
That I had to go to the bathroom for pretty much the whole race didn't help matters.
But I will say that once I realized that I was passing Corral A folks, I was feeling pretty happy. I tried to concentrate on how far I've come since this race last year and how much I wanted to beat my time from last year (47:45).
Shaving nearly 2 minutes off of my 8k PR, which was a road race, has me feeling pretty great.