On Saturday I ran a trail race–the Yeti Trail Race Series in Dixon, Illinois. This series includes one race a month. The December race is a 5k, and they get progressively longer each month–10k, 15k, and 20k. I haven’t fully committed to the series yet. I need to see what the weather is like. Last year, Chris ran the 10k in about 2 feet of snow. A trail run in 2 feet of snow? No thanks.
Here’s a picture of the 5k last year:
This year, it was in the 40’s with no snow. Quite different! Illinois is so unpredictable when it comes to weather.
Something unique about this race was they had a little drone taking video! I was surprised at how smooth it was. Here’s a YouTube clip:
I am wearing a white long-sleeved shirt and a black headband. Can you find me? I’m only at the beginning and at the start of the race, mid-pack. Chris is wearing a black long-sleeved shirt and shorts and Evan is wearing a red jacket and shorts.
Here’s a map of the course and the elevation:
It doesn’t look like much but that last hill!! Using a calculator I found online and some Garmin data, I figured out that the toughest part of the hill, which is just under a half mile, was a 7.28% grade. Ouch! It actually started and ended before that, but those were the measurements for the steepest part. Don’t forget it was single track trail! I have to say it was the hardest hill I’ve ever run up. Two comparable hills were one in the half marathon in Galena, which was about the same distance and grade, but that was on the road, and a trail race I did in Oregon, but those hills were only about 1/10th a mile. I am proud to say I didn’t walk though!
Backing up to the start of the race: the first mile was down the hill I was just talking about. I was slowed down by my footing–it was slick! The trail was covered with leaves over a thin layer of mud, and there were rocks under that. I definitely need more grippy shoes and/or more practice trail running if this is something I want to more seriously consider doing. I was following a girl, “blond ponytail girl,” but she just pulled away from me by the end of the hill because she handled the trail so much better than I did. I also got passed by another woman towards the bottom during a technical section. First mile split: 9:11.
The middle mile was mostly grass, and I knew I had to go and make up time I’d lost. The grass wasn’t incredibly fast, though. It was chunky and partially frozen and I didn’t feel strong. I did pass the woman who’d passed me in mile 1 and also three other women. As I entered the woods again, I could see blond ponytail girl just ahead. I tried to catch her. Middle mile split: 8:28
The start of the last mile was single track in the woods, curvy but not overly hilly. I caught up to blond ponytail girl and passed her. Then, I started to climb. It was actually nice to not have known how horrible this hill would be going in. I passed another woman and a girl, maybe even a third woman, I can’t remember, who were walking up. The footing was tough, and it was STEEP. Like I needed a walking stick steep. I was so happy to reach the top and run the last 1/8th of a mile or so through the grass to the finish line. Last mile split: 10:22
There are some things I love about trail racing:
– It passes by quickly! I think focusing on my footing so much kept my mind off the actual agony of the race. It was a mental workout as much as a physical one.
– Your pace is so varied and there’s less focus on time. In a 5k, I’m so focused on holding 7:30 or 8:00 or whatever pace. In a trail race, the footing and the elevation change have so much impact on the pace you’re able to run. You really can’t compare one trail run to the next.
– The crowd is friendlier. Something about those outdoorsy trail types–they’re nice.
– The scenery! Stunning. We ran along the Rock River for a bit in mile 2 and through the woods for the rest. So pretty!
– It’s tactical. You can’t pass people whenever you want…you have to use the wider trail areas to your advantage.
I ended up being the fifth female (small race!). I’m hoping I can finish all four races…we’ll see!
Have you ever done a trail series on the order of this one? Do you prefer trail or road racing?