I pretty much went into this race blind. I asked a few people about the course in the days leading up to the race, but all I could really find out was that 1) it's longer than a 10k (which I already knew because the website clearly states it as such and 2) it's not as technical as Percy Warner, which is where I have been running.
The race started at 8:00 am, and I arrived at the Cheatham Wildlife Management Area about an hour prior. I had picked up my bib the day before, but I have a thing about being early for races. It was a little chilly at first because I was in short sleeves, but not bad. It'd been raining on and off overnight though, so it was humid. Ugh - I hate humidity.
The race pretty much started on time. Might have been a few minutes late, but no one really cared if so. Trail racers are notoriously laid-back. Dry Creek was hosting three distances: a marathon, a half-marathon and the 10k, and we all started at the same time. I was told there were over 300 racers, which is a pretty large for a trail race (I think). Fortunately, the race director did a great job with the route so it wasn't confusing as to who went where.
The course itself was mainly a gravel path with some true off-road trails in the middle. It started off with a slight downhill for the first couple of miles until we turned off of the main road when we hit a steep descent that was covered in leaves. I just tried to put my feet where the person in front of me did because I was scared I was going to break my ankle (I'm always afraid I'm going to break my ankle when trail running). Of course, some guy came FLYING down the hill and blew past us. Seriously - I have no idea how people do that. #nofear
After a small distance of flat, we hit a GIANT HILL around mile four. And this was where I started walking. I didn't feel bad though - most people I saw were walking. The bad thing about not knowing anything about the course is that I had no clue when this hill was going to end. And guess what? It didn't! FOR THE REMAINDER OF THE RACE! Ok, I'm exaggerating a little bit here, but not too much. The actual hill was probably a mile and a half before we hit the top, and then we had rollers until the finish... but they were the kind of rollers that always had more going up than going down. And no, I didn't walk the entire time. Just mainly up that first ascent. It was killer.
And then - we were done! Just like that. Considering my last two races were marathons, running at 10K (even an extended one) seemed really short. And, I have to admit, running on the trails makes the race go by faster than ones on the road. I was too busy worrying about where to put my feet to care about where I was on the course, or what pace I was going. As a result- this race just flew by.
Being that trail races are low-key, they had people writing down your bib numbers as you crossed the line. One of the volunteers asked my name at the time, and I saw him write it down on a separate piece of paper... Hmmm.... Might I have won something? Sure enough! BOOM - Third Place Masters!
I got swag!
I should probably give up my trail running career now so I can say I've placed in every trail race I've done - but I won't. NRC has a series of 6-mile trail races and I'm signing up for it. They did a great job with putting on this race, and I'm looking forward to the others. Trails have been a nice change of pace, but I also think they have made a stronger runner overall. Plus, I love the laid-back vibe of the entire scene. It seems more of a giant group run than a race. We even had a cookout afterwards and people brought food like a pot-luck. While this is probably standard for trail races, it was my first race so I didn't know. The only negative was (and this has nothing to do with the race itself) that people need to learn how to park. If you arrive to a race late and there is a great parking spot in the lot up close to the start - you might want to stop and think about WHY that spot exists. Because it might be the only clearing for people in the back of the lot to get out. Yes, I was stuck for a few minutes, but then someone in the front row left and I was free.
Great job to NCR and their RD Beth. Looking forward my next time on the trails!