Monday, April 14, 2014

Trail Mix 25K report

Last week, I opened the pre-race email from the Trail Mix 25K organizers. An excerpt: "The course at Lake Rebecca Park Reserve presents classic spring conditions, which makes running both fun and messy."

That sentence perfectly captured the spirit of the morning.

Molly and I ran this race two years ago when the course was at Hyland Lake Park Reserve, and we decided to sign up for this year's event not because we were overly prepared to run 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) but because we wanted to try out the trails at Lake Rebecca, this year's site. Because of our schedules, we did our last few long runs separately but both worked up to 12 miles or so. (And along the way, Molly also recruited another running buddy, who had also worked up to 12 miles, so we were a well-matched trio.)

With a plan to complete the 25K distance at an easy, relaxed pace, the three of us drove over Lake Rebecca (about 40 minutes west of Minneapolis) in a steady rain. The forecast called for some rain in the race's first hour, and with a gusty wind at the start, I decided to keep a light jacket on, at least for the first lap. I was never actually cold but ended up wearing it the whole time and was grateful for it when we ran through more open stretches. The rain stopped just before the 25K started.

We figured out quickly that course was not too technical. It was primarily on soft, wide horse trails that looked like this:

We were able to run side by side by side most of the race, which was great for our conversations. Also great for our conversations: the race field spread out quickly, so for most of our time out there, it felt like we were running trails by ourselves.

Some sections were wide open:

In other parts, the course was winding through big woods.

In one wooded section, we watched a deer bounding along the course, and we were amazed by its speed.

In lower areas and more shaded sections, it was muddy. Forgive this blurry image, but I had to get one photo of one of the muddiest stretches, and stopping for a better-composed photo was not an option in this section of the course.

Our race (there was also a 50K) was two 12.5K loops, with three aid stations per loop, so that structure alone broke the distance up nicely. (I took a liking to the flat Coca-Cola at the aid stations. I also ate some trail mix later in the race because I love that the Trail Mix race provides trail mix among its snack options.) With the three of us chatting, the miles really flew by. Truly, we had finished 11 or 12 miles before I even started to wonder how much was left. The other neat part about the later miles was that after mile 13 or so, it was the longest distance our friend had ever run, so we were celebrating her accomplishment.

With a mile to go, all of a sudden, I was tuckered out and ready to be done with the run. The sun popped out as we approached the finish line, and I felt that quiet little jolt of pride that sneaks up on me at the end of long races. And then we were done!

We picked up our finisher shirts and selected some snacks (salty potato chips and chocolate milk sounded good to me). Then we sat down for a few stretches and to take stock of the mud we had accumulated. (Thanks to Molly for taking this picture.)

We also appreciated that, before the race, all three of us had an inkling to replace our running shoes sometime soon.

I really appreciated this event. It was low-key but very well-organized, the volunteers and park staff were helpful and kind, and while it was not particularly spectator friendly (especially on a cool, gray day), exploring the Lake Rebecca trail system was a big draw for us. My friends and I had a great run, "classic spring conditions" and all, and I would do this race again in a second.

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