Well folks I did it! I ran my first trail race and it was so much fun. The Hill Country Trail Race was a great race! Wait a minute I am getting a little ahead of myself here. You might want to check out my goals for this race before reading ahead. You’ll remember I was nervous about this race because I took a week off from training and I had only been on the trail once this whole year.
Let’s start from the very beginning, that’s a very good place to start. The night before the race I got Flat Alaina all ready to go and did a little relaxing. Follow me on instagram if you like to see these sorts of things in real time. Since the race start wasn’t until 9am we didn’t have to get up super early which I was excited about. The race was held at Serenbe which was about an hour from our house. It worked out nicely because I had time to get good rest and look over my race kit again before we left.
I started the morning with my typical pre race/long run breakfast of an oatmeal cup with almond butter. Since we had time before the race start I decided to enjoy a cup of coffee too. Coffee can sometimes not be so kind to the digestive system so I don’t usually have coffee before a long run unless there is a delay before I start running. Right now I am loving Crazy Cups Peppermint Chocolate Mocha because it’s so Christmas-y so that’s what I had race morning.
We hit the road and arrived at Serenbe. It was already shaping up to be a perfect day and it was very easy to get to the race location. We took some pictures and then waited for the start. The Serenbe Community was so cute. It was hard to believe we were so close to ATL because everything was so quiet and scenic.
The race started on time with the 5k, then 10 minutes later they blew the whistle for the 15k. I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t start everything with the national anthem, but maybe they can work on that for next year. The course was beautiful and started on the street running through one of the Serenbe neighborhoods before ducking into the woods. We wound through the woods passing old trees, streams and lots of fall foliage. The race course wasn’t single track. Thank goodness for that! The race course was one giant loop so the start and the finish line were the same.
Parts of the course were incredibly muddy and in lots of places the mud was 3-4 inches deep. I chugged along and felt pretty good. I looked at my watch at the mile 1 marker and needed to slow down. I ran the first mile in 10:34 and knew there were big climbs and lots of trail running ahead.
There were lots of small stumps on the course that were buried under mud or leaves that virtually went unnoticed until you bumped them with your shoe. People were falling down and I was thankful that I didn’t fall the entire race. I am so clumsy so I was really surprised and grateful that I didn’t bite the mud. There was an incredibly long climb right before mile 3. It just kept going and going and then the decline of the hill was brutal. We had to walk so lightly because there were muddy roots covered in leaves everywhere. One slip and you could have rolled to the very bottom.
The course continued and I even made a friend along the way. We paced the rest of the race together and it was fun to hear about her marathon experiences. She has even ran Chicago and New York, so it was great talking to her about her big moments. The trail was very scenic but talking helped pass the time. Another awesome thing about this race is that we got free race photos! Woohoo!
I was pleased with how I felt gliding down the trails and climbing up the hills. My body really knew what it was doing. I didn’t take a handheld for water, but I will if I run this race again. I had a couple sips at one of the aid stations, but everywhere else seemed to have run out of water. I took one shot blok at mile 5, but didn’t fuel at all the rest of the race. I knew if I took them without water they might do more harm than good, but towards the last couple miles I could tell I should have taken them. I was starting to feel tired and wore down for the last 2 ish miles.
The last stretch of the course was on gravel and then street. I ran strong with my new friend to the finish and was pleased with my time. I didn’t use the Map My Run app on my phone for this race and instead just hit the activity start button on my Garmin vivofit, but I was pleased with my time. I wish I would have been able to spend more time on the trails going into the race, but my body pulled through for me and delivered. I can’t wait to get the film edited and so you all can see the race course. It was beautiful and this race was the perfect introduction to trail running for me.
After the race I reunited with the Mr. and picked up this Kill Cliff recovery drink. They didn’t have anything else at the race finish which was a little disappointing, but oh well. The Kill Cliff was actually really good.
There was so much mud on the course, but nothing stopped me from running. I am still so proud of my mud marks days later! I embraced the dirt bag and loved the whole experience. It was the best challenge because it was different than road running, but didn’t leave me feeling like I would never walk again. I’m sure the position of the mud on my legs means something about my gait, but I don’t care too much about that right now.
I was hungry when we left Serenbe and couldn’t wait until we got all the way home for lunch. We stopped at Cracker Barrel on the way home and it was perfect. Comfort food to the max! I had the grilled chicken tenderloin dinner with hash brown casserole, fried apples, steamed broccoli and the tiniest biscuits I have ever seen. I brought half of it home for later along with a slice of apple pie with pecan streusel. YUM!
I learned a lot from this race, but I think the biggest two things were that my body is hella strong and I need better shoes for trail runs over 3 miles. I think this has motivated me to hit the dirt bags and see what happens.
What did you learn from your last race?
Have you done any fall trail races?
Do you prefer trail running or road running?