I had no plans to do this race until about 15 minutes before my husband left the house. He had mentioned during the race Saturday night but I had just hoped he would forget. I woke up around 6:15 and my husband’s words at 6:30 in the morning were: “I am seriously doing this race”. That day, I had planned to do a workout by myself but after thinking about it, I thought it might be fun to get out of my comfort zone. I didn’t do anything I usually do to prepare for a race and just threw everything in a random bag and got in the car.
The 10k was down in super south NJ, just outside of Salem County. It’s the part of NJ most people don’t even think exists and most of it is covered in farms or parks, which is great for trail racing.
Like most of the East Coast recently, we have gotten a lot of rain. It’s rained on and off since last Friday and is supposed to continue most of the week. Needless to say, the race was very muddy. Even the “elites” said it would be a tough day on the course. Always good to hear your first anything will be tough.
We got to the race a bit later than I particularly like and had time for about a mile warmup. I hadn’t charged my watch so ran about 10 minutes and decided that was a mile.
We were given course directions at 7:50 and the race went off at 8. It was two loops (5kers did one loop and 10k did two). It was a combination of grass, single track, and about 200 meters of road.
I self-seeded myself directly in the middle of the crowd. I had no idea what to expect and didn’t want to be too far in the front but also not in the back either. The race went off and it reminded me of a mass country style start. We were all in a field, and it quickly funneled into the trail. I found myself boxed in for the first mile or so. My goal for the race was just run my own race AND NOT HURT MYSELF. If you know me, I am most likely to hurt myself in a cushioned room.
I thought the first mile must be taking forever. I wasn’t sprinting and just running. The course wasn’t “bad” as I thought it would be. There was mud, but nothing too drastic. I was running with a large pack of men.
During the second mile, I passed a couple of females and we headed into a much more challenging part of the course. I had no idea what shoe to wear (TBH, I probably should have worn the same shoe I hike in: The Brooks Cascadia.) I had opted to run in an old pair of college flats, which was a bad idea. I shoud have run in spikes over those flats.
Around mile 2, a young kid asked me if we were at the 5k yet and I told him I thought we were about 2 miles in. Turns out later, he won the 5k overall! Since it was a two loop course, we went under the finishers shoot at 5k. I hit the 5k around 25:30 minutes.
As we headed back through the field we started at, I was able to pass a few more people. I could tell, I had more leg speed (from roads) but they had more technical skill through the mud and single track.
Mile 4 and 5 went uneventfully. Around mile 4, a male in front of me fell. I asked if he was okay and he said yes and got back up quickly. The course was much more torn up because of all the people that had come through. I stepped in ankle deep mud and just plowed through. My only goal was not to hurt myself. I had no remorse if I had to stop, walk, or take things easy.
The last mile felt as though it never-ending. I saw it was about 8:45 am and thought I probably had about 10 minutes or so left of racing. I just kind of plugged along.
All of a sudden I popped out of the woods and saw the giant finish line ahead. As I crossed, the announcer said I had won for females. Then proceeded to ask if I was wearing road racing shoes. I wasn’t expecting to win, and it was pretty cool to do so. I had no idea I was even in first place because it’s hard to tell who is in front of you.
In all, I had a great time getting out of my comfort zone. My only regret was not wearing a trail shoe but I didn’t hurt myself so it ended up ok. A lot of locals said it was “the hardest trail race they’ve done’ but I don’t have anything to compare it too.
It reminds me a lot of open water swims because you can’t race for time, just on the conditions for the day! I wouldn’t say I’m “hooked on trails”, and prefer the speed of and consistency of roads.
Questions for you:
Have you ever done a trail race?
What is the hardest race you’ve ever done?