It’s official – I Love Trail Running.
I found the Flatwoods Ramble 5K about a week before it took place. As soon as I saw it on tamparaces.com, I immediately began reminiscing about our first 5K just 3 months earlier, which took us through the trails of Sanlando Park in Altamonte Springs, FL. It didn’t take long to convince Eric that we HAD to run in this 5K. Never mind that we were still beat from the Warrior Dash two weeks prior. Never mind that we’re scheduled to run the Gasparilla 5+3K in another 2 weeks. This was, after all, a local trail run, which is highly preferable to any paved run.
We awoke on February 13, 2011 to Florida temperatures hovering around 35 degrees. Cold running = runny noses, so we tossed a few snot towels into our bags before heading to the park. We arrived with plenty of time to pick up our registration packets, affix our bibs, and freeze. The 10-milers took off at 8:00 AM and we (the measly 5K-ers) were scheduled for 8:15 AM. We were, of course, sporting our Vibram Bikilas, although we didn’t encounter too many barefoot or minimalist runners during this race. We gathered at the start line with a group of 122 runners.
I was excited to have an iPod Nano with the Nike Plus iPod Sport Kit during this race. During the first 5K, I felt discouraged at times with no distance gauge (and no music). This time, I cranked up the Dave Matthews Band album Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King and warmed up toward the back of the crowd. At 8:17 AM, they kicked off the race. We started along a paved trail by the parking lot and continued along that trail for over half a mile. A strange thing happened – I was passing people (counter to what happened during the first 5K, when I felt abandoned while everyone was passing me). During this race, Eric had already taken off ahead of me, but I was feeling good.
The race took an off-road turn and we made our way through the winding wooded trail. The ground was uneven and roots were poking through the piles of leaves. The path narrowed, forcing us into a single-file race, which was unexpected. It became a ‘plan of attack’ strategy to evaluate the course and muster up enough of an energy burst to pass someone without getting hit by the brush and tree branches lining the sides of the trail. I passed numerous people before getting stuck behind several girls. They were going too slow for my comfort level, but too fast for me to want to pass them. I remained behind them and they picked up the pace enough for me to have a difficult time keeping up. We spent approximately 2 miles on the trail before heading back onto the pavement.
We remained on the pavement briefly before the course directed us onto a small section of trail leading to the finish line, which was a bit obscure. There was no big banner stating “Finish”. There was, however, a large clock showing our race time, and I assume that was the finish line. I glanced at it briefly, but paid more attention to stopping the Nike+ iPod Sport so I could have my “real” time. See, although there were official timers at the end of the race, since we didn’t have time chips, everyone’s race time began when they started the race, not when we hit the “Start” line.
My official finish time was 28:19 – 21 seconds faster than my first 5K and placing me 14th out of 46 females (top 30%). Finishing in the top 25 females also earned me a coffee mug. My Nike+ time (from the start line to the finish line) was 28:08.
Eric met me at the finish line, since he had finished about 3 minutes prior. His run was going well until he tripped on a tree root on the trail, slowing him down and shutting down his momentum (and giving him nasty toe cuts and bruises). He enjoyed the race, but didn’t pick up time over our first 5K. Then again, we’ve been focusing more on distance, rather than speed, in preparation for the Gasparilla 5+3K.
The more events we participate in, the more I realize how much I appreciate the intimate atmosphere of these trail runs. I am a bit hesitant about the Gasparilla race coming up in one week. The distance is pushing the limit of my 6-month running career’s single-run distance and I know thousands of people will be assembling at the start-line. I’m looking forward to the experience, though.
Originally posted on February 20, 2011 on MicheleAndEricGetMarried.com.