A few weeks ago we headed off to run the Mile Run Trail Race in Tiadaghton State Park. This is my first time running this race and I was looking forward to it because the Dam Half (put on by race director Joel) is my favorite trail race. I was also pleasantly surprised at the 10 am start time. I am not much of a morning person (boy is that an understatement) so I enjoyed being able to sleep in a bit. Because it is still early in the season, the field at Mile Run was fairly small so packet pickup was super quick.
Just before ten we headed up to the start line for announcements. The race course still had a bit of ice on it and the ticks were bad. I joked with the people beside me that if we were far enough back then all the fast runners would pick up the ticks. They didn’t seem particularly amused and I took this as my cue to move a bit further back in the pack and find fellow not so fast runners. At 10 am we were off and up Mile Run Road to get to the trail head. I took this time to figure out my pace and fall in with the right group before we hit the inevitable conga line on trail.
Sure enough, right when we hit single track the conga line formed and we were at a complete walk as people tip toed their way across the first stream crossing and once we were through that obstacle the pace picked up and we headed up a long section of rocky uphill. At this point I fell into a comfortable pace with a good group and I tried to keep pace with them. I made it through the first set of hills and up to the first aid station at mile three without stopping to walk except in a particularly unfriendly rock garden (a miracle for me). I was excited not to have to walk, but running those hills would come back to bite me later on.
I didn’t feel like I needed anything at the first aid station, but the course description said to take advantage of it so I grabbed some gummy bears and water and went on my merry way. The first mile or two after the aid station was either flat or downhill and went pretty quickly. During this time I learned that I don’t have the coordination to eat gummy bears and run at the same time. I threw a gummy bear in my mouth, tried to chew, couldn’t because chewing included closing my mouth and closing my mouth meant I really couldn’t breathe, realized that gummy bears take forever to chew, and eventually gave up and swallowed the gummy bear half chewed. I was completely winded after the first gummy bear and decided that one was enough thank you very much. I didn’t want to litter so I ran about a mile with the gummy bears in my hand before I tripped over a rock threw my hand out to catch myself, and watched the gummy bears fly in every direction. To be honest, I was happy to be rid of them, but still spent the next mile wondering what would happen if a bird tried to eat a gummy bear (Sidebar: Google wasn’t much help on this front but Snopes seems to think there is some truth to gum being bad for birds. Hopefully gummy bears are more digestible and/or less of a choking hazard than gum)
These are the only gummy bears that are good on a run.
Midway up the climb to the next aid station I found myself alone on the trail. I could still see the groups ahead and behind me, but I was alone, so I did something I have never done in a trail race before. I put in headphones, well, just one side so I could hear in case someone needed to pass. I listened to the American Gods audiobook until the aid station at mile six where I grabbed some Gatorade, said my hellos and headed off. Shortly after the second aid station we jumped off the road the aid station was on onto a steep down hill. There was about a 3 foot drop from the road to the trail, but there was a tree that I thought might be a good hand hold to make the jump down a bit easier, but I was wrong. I reached for the tree, slipped, just about split the tree, thankfully didn’t, and was on my way.
Like this only less graceful and on a tree.
The next two miles were nice smooth recovery running. I ran most of it by myself listening to the adventures of Shadow and Wednesday. Around mile eight I joined a group of people just as we jumped back on a road. The road running was a welcome change of pace and I enjoyed not watching my feet for awhile, but then I went flying across a patch of ice and decided that I really should always look down when I run. The road dumped us off at the base of a big, giant, hill. We started climbing and I could definitely tell that my legs were not as happy as they had been for the climbs at the beginning of the race. I could also tell that I was now out longer than my longest long run, and I was paying for it. The climb was steep and still icy in places, but I (eventually) made it up to the top and enjoyed some rolling hills at the top before reaching the final aid station.
I grabbed a handful of trail mix and some water and headed down the same hills that we ran up in the beginning. I didn’t remember them being so rocky and technical. In fact, I think that they secretly snuck more rocks onto the trail while we were all running. Jerks. At the bottom of the hill we ran parallel to Mile Run Road, past the turn off to the finish. I started thinking about all the times I have twisted my ankles in the past year when I heard my name. Ian was running on the other side of the creek and I was pretty excited to see him.
Near the end of Mile Creek the trail takes you through two culverts below I-80 and it is quite the way to finish a race. The water in the culverts was probably ankle deep, but I got soaked from the knees down. At the end of the second culvert, I took Ian’s advice and stayed far to the left. It was good advice. The water off the front of the culvert was knee to mid-thigh depth and probably pretty darn cold. I ran through a short boggy section before meeting up with Ian who joined me for part of the final 100 meter uphill slog to the finish. We grabbed a hotdog and a soda at finish line before heading back home. All in all, it was a great race and I really look forward to doing it again next year. Hopefully I will get in some longer runs and more hill training to make it a bit more enjoyable.
By the numbers: 2:41 18th female, 89th overall.
Quick aside: At the final aid station one of the volunteers and I agreed that Swedish Fish were horrible running food that stick to your teeth, make you choke, stumble, crash, and die. The other volunteer disagreed saying that Swedish fish were one of her favorite running foods. Perhaps she has more coordination than I do. So, are Swedish Fish manna from heaven or evil food designed to kill trail runners?