Sunday, November 23, 2014

Hill Country 15K Trail Race

The first thing I did when I woke up on Saturday morning was check the weather.  The weather on race day was clear and cold for the 9:00 a.m. start.  A perfect day for a race.  The trails would be relatively dry except for the occasional puddle or mud hole.

Race day weather
I had some coffee and a smoothie for breakfast.  That's part of my race day ritual.  The coffee wakes me up and the smoothie gets me going, so to speak.  On this morning the smoothie didn't have an immediate effect.  It's effect was delayed and it hit me during the 50 minute drive from Jonesboro.  The thought of a sub-40 degree port-o-john was not inviting.  I elected to stop at the McDonald's in Palmetto.  That was a good idea.  With a feeling of accomplishment, I drove the short distance from Palmetto to Serenbe.  Winning!

The only picture I took at the race was as I drove into the parking lot off of Hutchesons Ferry Road.  The parking lot is a short 4 minute walk from the race start/finish.  I left my camera in my truck.  That means no race pictures from me anyway.

The parking lot
The race started with me about 50 feet from the starting mat.  As the almost 500 runners mosied on up the the hill and through "downtown" Serenbe I tried to find a line but was blocked at almost every instance.  After about half a mile the runners stretched out and I was able to pass a few people before exiting the pavement and entering the actual trails.

The course was a bit shy of the 9.3 miles required for a 15K.  My Garmin topped out at 8.93 miles.  That said, I was ready for the race to end as running on trails is a totally different animal from what I'm used to.  During a typical road race my mind tends to wander.  That wasn't the case with this trail run.  I had to stay alert for small rocks, holes, roots, bigger rocks, hidden roots, low hanging branches, puddles, slippery wet spots, uphills, downhills, and other runners, all the while trying to keep my head up and my eyes down.

The newness of running on trails wore off quickly.  I was in a fight for survival, so to speak.  I found my pace and tried to stay with it, and then a hill would appear and all that would change.  The specter of injuring myself was always there.  It was made more apparent as a runner right on my heels tripped and went off the trail and into the woods on his back.  He later passed me.  I'm glad he wasn't hurt but I was hopeful that the tumble would slow him down.  We spoke briefly after the race and he said that he'd fallen 2 other times as well.  I'm not sure that I'm ready for that inevitability.

I finished 68th overall (men and women), 58th (men) overall and 6th in my age-group of 26 runners.  My recorded race pace was 8:05 min./mile but my Garmin pace of 8:26 min./mile was probably more accurate.  My chip finish time was 1:15:08.  Here are links to see the Overall Results and Age-Group Results for the 15K.  No medal for me!

That marks the end of my first official trail race, the Hill Country Trail Race 15K at Serenbe.  The November 22nd, 2014 race is limited to 1,500 runners.  The 2013 15K race included 584 participants.  The 477 runners finishers in the 2014 15K race on what are sometimes pretty narrow trails was plenty.  The 2014 5K race had an additional 325 finishers.

For my effort I received a soft 60% cotton and 40% polyester short sleeve t-shirt.

T-shirt artwork
Overall, it was a fun race.  The course was challenging but, since it was my first trail run, I don't have anything to compare it to.  Timing was chipped with a mat start and finish.  The course was as well marked as could be expected.  It would be impossible to spray orange paint on every rock and root, even if one wanted to.

I'm looking forward to next year and hopefully this has prepared me in some way for my Ragnar Trail Relay race in April.

My new Inov-8 trail shoes seemed to work well.  I did get a tender spot on the end of my long toe on my right foot.  That issue may take further investigation.  The important thing is that they never lost their grip.

Thanks for reading.