I really did not expect much from this race. So much so that I almost skipped it entirely to deal with the office. I had signed up for it when I was trying to fit a race into every month and had not yet realized the range of travel and OCR options that I have. I expected it to be like all of the other trail runs I have seen, polite trails, easy terrain, no real challenge. What I got was something entirely different.
This is one of the smaller events put on by a local race organizer, so the bibs in use were leftovers from other races, the Galloping Gobbler, the Gingerbread Pursuit, etc. My bib turned out to be from the Huff, the 50K I will take on in a few months. For some reason I found that oddly fitting.
I showed up for the race, got my bib, and started chatting with the other runners. One woman noticed my Cornfed jersey, identified herself as a Chicago Spartan, and we got started talking about how the CFS were doing in the Death Race, which was held the same weekend.
We lined up at the starting line, and heard a little of the course information as it was spoken by a very soft-voiced announcer. Honestly all I remember from this was that part of the course was on equestrian trails and we should be careful not to step in the horse manure, that the second half of the 10K was particularly nasty after recent rain, and anyone who wished to stop at the 5K mark could do so. This got me even more fired up for the 10K.
We started off on paved roads, and the first mile confirmed my expectations of an easy flat trail run. Then we turned off the pavement and entered the nature preserve itself.
By the time we got to the stairs, I knew I had found something I have been looking for for quite some time. A place to train on rough terrain, which is in short supply in the flat lands of Indiana.
Something else that I had never seen in this part of the country: the course passed just above this waterfall.
This sign was enough to ensure that I returned to this place. The “very difficult” trail was not part of the 10K course, but I knew I would come back to check it out.
We came back out of the preserve where we had entered and followed the roads back to the starting point, where the 5K runners finished and the rest of us crossed the dam to the equestrian trails on the far side.
These stairs are the crossing of the dam. I vaulted the handrail on the way back just to make it a little closer to an OCR.
The trails were indeed steeper, muddier and nastier on the far side. Meaning perfect Spartan/GRT training ground.
We hit one point where the signs marking the course were in conflict, and I followed the runner in front of me. If you are going the wrong way, its best not to go alone. It turns out that this cut a little more than a mile off our distance, and several runners who were GPS tracking reported that they had also taken the 5-mile route instead of the full 10K.
Overall it was a good time, about as challenging as a 10K can be without man-made obstacles. And most importantly it showed me the tools to build myself into a stronger athlete that I have needed for so long.