I had had my eye on the 5k in the Thatcher Park Trail Running Festival for months — but I only wanted to run it if the weather was nice. Especially since I ran 9 miles the day before the race.
And lucky me, it was just a beautiful weekend to run. A brief word about the scenic quality: quite a bit of the race also takes place on singletrack through dense woods (some of it on the Long Path), and that’s not quite as pretty to me.
A couple of friends came to cheer me in and we all volunteered afterward, too. This is kind of a long recap for a mere 5k, but I talk a bit about volunteering and the difference between trail runners and road runners, too.
Getting There & Hanging Out
I headed out bright and early on Sunday morning to Thatcher Park, which is a bit over 30 minutes from our home. We walked around there about six weeks previously with the dogs, which gave me a little idea of the lay of the land (it’s a larger park with many different parking areas) and what I might expect from running a trail race there.
I got there when I expected to, around 7:30 (the race starts at 8:30), and the way to the parking lot was well marked and the volunteers were on hand to show you where to park.
Packet Pickup was easy peasy and there are real bathrooms right by the pavilion — always a treat.
I had thought I’d walk back to my car to get my stuff, but when I saw lots of runners toting bags, I decided to just take it with me, and I left it in the pavilion. I also attended the volunteer meeting, since I was volunteering after the race, and met the woman I’d be manning the aid station with.
The weather & dressing
After a series of hot, humid days, some beautiful weather blew in midweek and it was a gorgeous day for a race — although a bit chilly in the morning, and I had a throaway sweatshirt on; I didn’t have to throw it away, either, as I just left it with my bag in the pavilion.
My Race Plan
I had run 9 miles the day before, so this was my recovery run and I seriously did not have a plan. But Rachel @ Runningonhappy was whispering in my ear, so I did a .9 mile warmup run (to make it an even 4 miles for the day).
My goal was simply to finish injury free.
So how’d that work for me?
- Mile 1: 13:42. You start out on the grass, a little on a paved path as you turn (although you could still run on grass if you wanted to), and there was an immediate bottleneck getting through some trees where it came to a complete standstill. Luckily, I wasn’t racing. Most of the first mile was fairly non-techinal, open, and on grass with some nice views as you come towards Hailes Cave (where I would be manning the aid station later).
- Mile 2: 15:17. Much of this mile was on very technical singletrack through the woods — lots of roots and rocks and I walked a great deal. There were also several portions with mud the width of the path, which I wasn’t counting on at all due to our dry week.
- Mile 3: 12:40. Coming out of the woods — finally! — and I felt like I could run again. Some grass, some gravel, but far fewer roots and rocks. I almost missed the slight turn towards the left at the end — it was marked well, but if the girl in front of me hadn’t turned, I might have kept going straight.
- Last .08: 9:15. In that last little bit I was really trying to beat the same girl that helped me not miss that last turn. I saw some of my running buddies as I came into the finish chute, and in the end, I did manage to beat her. She was about 15 years younger than me; yes, that made me happy. And I think I can also credit her with that last mile being the fastest — nothing like a little healthy competition!
42:25 — Official Time
13:40 Average Pace
Was the race well run?
Extremely. Everything was well marked, although sometimes in the woods there was a long time between flags and since I was mostly by myself, I’d begin to wonder if I was going the wrong way.
There’s also a club day via a local running club. They do games (I was out volunteering) and grill hot dogs and hamburgers. Despite the fact that we didn’t get there until 1:30, after our volunteering stint was done, they were still grilling hot dogs and hamburgers (but the rest of the pickings were kind of slim).
A word about volunteering
Running buddy J decided to volunteer at the race since the forecast was good and they were still looking for volunteers. Since I’d never volunteered, either, I decided I’d sign up too. The 5k wasn’t going to take long; there’s a 10k, 15, half and full marathon, and 50k too! All races start at the same time, so obviously some runners were out there for many hours.
Unfortunately my friend and I got different assignments, but she had another friend with her, which made me happy, and I was with a mother and her son at an aid station. I won’t lie: because of the various races and the way runners spread out, there was a lot of down time and it was pretty boring at times. On the other hand, the runners doing the longer races often stopped to chat for a bit, which was fun.
Trail races are a very different beast than road races. Runners are much more likely to do things like stop and chat you up as you refill their water bottles or whatever else they need; unlike road racers who are usually just focused on finishing.
I did, however, nosh a bit too much on the goodies at the table. They weren’t even that great, I’d brought my own snacks, but three hours of mostly just standing around with nothing to do . . .
Anyway, yes, I would volunteer again. And if the weather is nice, I’d run again. In fact, if the weather’s nice, I have plans for a trail race the end of October.