Over the past couple years my friends told me repeatedly that they just knew I'd love trail running. They said the pressure of finish time was reduced. That there is no shame in walking. That the race atmosphere is casual and fun. And that the people are accepting and encouraging. I'll admit, that sounded a bit too good to be true. I promised my friend Lisa that I would not try trail racing, or even running, until she was back on her feet following an injury.
Well, today was the day.
I was up and ready to leave by 7:30. The drive to Terra Cotta was just about an hour from home. Honestly, a very nice treat on a quiet weekend morning. I arrived and was directed into the park and parking lot. As I sat in my car texting my husband to let him know I'd arrived, I watched three tiny chickadees fluttering around in the tree nearby. Past that a father and son were tossing a ball back and forth, people roamed around the open field and sponsor tents with dogs.
I quickly started finding my friends and we easily checked in for our bibs and an amazing pair of glove mittens, which were much appreciated on the chilly morning before the race! We watched the three and one kilometre kids races and got ready for our race. Mei, Lisa and I had never done a trail race, so we planned to stick with Lisa and Melly.
With a round of cheers, we were off. It wasn't long before my trail race initiation happened. It had been a rainy week and we had been warned about mud. Upon the first huge puddle of foot dee, shoe sucking mud, I decided to take the advice of the veterans and splooshed right through the middle, laughing all the way.
I quickly learned a couple things about trail racing. The idea of distance and time is entirely different on a trail. At one point I thought we must be about three kilometres along...alas, we were just past one. The terrain is just so varied and twisted compared to the visual feedback you have on the road. I felt like I was going far slower and much further in distance than I was.
The trail was a huge variety of tests for this newbie. Rocks, roots, slippery climbs and descents, a few well packed sections, boardwalks and so much mud! It was a constant topic of conversation among the runners as everyone splashed along. Yes, people were chatting, not just friends, but other runners. Joking, laughing, commenting.
Around the four kilometre mark one of the enduro runners doing two laps called out that he was approaching. I took a quick dart to the right and alas, got to experience my second initiation and wiped out. Thankfully it was on soft packed mud that was not wet or rocky. Having been warned about wipe outs, it was easy to laugh it off and keep going. We continued leapfrogging a few other girls on the last stretch onto the only paved section of the course. We ran across the field to cheers from spectators and friends.
I laughed when I turned my watch off. On a road race I'd be embarrassed and disappointed. But my goal on for this race was to learn, see and have fun. I was told that it was one of the worst trail conditions days ever, so I am proud to have achieved that on my first run and race. Post race we found friends, ate, wandered, took photos, cheered on our friends doing two laps and then enjoyed the awards ceremony. I left with muddy shoes, almond butter on my cheek, a very much wanted camp mug and a big smile on my face.
Lisa asked me soon after we finished how I liked it. But she already knew my answer. I loved it.