Check! I finally ticked another item off the bucket list last weekend – I completed my first ever trail run & convinced A and my friends C and S to also experience their first ever trail run along side of me! For this adventure, I had looked up trail runs earlier this year and stumbled upon the Finger Lakes Runners Club website and their trail run series. The Forest Frolic was chosen, and I had planned to run it alone, but luckily I had sparked A’s interest along the way. Then last weekend at the Boilermaker, A’s cousin C and my friend S had ghost run the 15K and decided that running a trail 15K sounded amazing too!
Fast forward by a week and S was meeting me and A at my house at 7 am on Sunday to start out our adventure. As we headed South to Virgil NY in my Jeep (yay Jeep!), I think we were all looking forward to a fun filled day of running the 15K and then plans to head to Ithaca for some amazing sandwiches courtesy of CTB, cliff jumping, and whatever other festivities we could find. As we tried to pull up the directions to the starting line, we began to realize that this was truly going to be an adventure… google maps could not locate the campgrounds which were hosting the start, and the website clearly stated “Do not call for directions; everything is explained in the above directions.” (i.e. if you can’t find the start line, you have no business being at this race….)
I must admit, I have never been to Virgil NY except for one trip to Greek Peak to ski in the winter about 10 years ago. I must also admit, Virgil NY is a beautiful place, but there is not much there other than the ski slope, a farm, and this campground tucked into the side of the mountain on a dirt road – let’s just put it this way… A and S started to ask me 1) how I found this race and 2) if this was just some crazy trap to lure in outsiders to some tribe where we were just going to be strung up for dinner by the locals… luckily it was not a trap. However finding the start line did prove an interesting adventure to find the race we traveled past Riverside Manor, Holla Lane, a few farms and the D.O.T. (Which S is now planning on applying for a job here, just to live at Riverside Manor). It was a good thing we were able to interpret and follow the directions given on the website, because the start line really was buried in the middle or the woods. Once we arrived, threw on our sneakers and some bug spray we found our way to the start line by trekking about 1/2 mile up the dirt lane.
If you have never been around trail running or read about it, you might not realize that it is a much more laid back atmosphere than your typical road race. The focus is less on the speed and more on the experience. There was no fancy timing system, no course marshals, and no volunteers to direct you and keep you on course. The race started out just with an “on your mark, get set, go!” proclamation and off we went. There were 2 options offered for the day – a 7K run or a 15K run. About 1 mile into the course, you pick the course you will run on the fly. Our group decided that since we were here, we were going for the gusto – the 15K with the 1700 ft climb. The 7K runners split to the right. 15K runners had the choice – go straight or go left to loop the upper trail. The tricky part was the fact you meet other runners in the middle and pass part of the pack on your way around the loop. We chose the left path since we had been told it was more of a gradual way to tackle the 1700 foot climb – straight just simply followed a logging trail up the mountain. The left path ended up being a single track trail that jumped through the ferns, over trees and zigged-zagged it’s way up the hill. I thought this part of the trail was really fun, and I enjoyed jumping across the streams and picking my way through the trail. We were all really having a blast and joking along, but unfortunately I had disaster start to strike me about 2.5 miles in… my asthma kicked in. Talk about frustrating. My asthma rarely gives me any issues anymore but the mix of climbing up the hill and the humidity that was hanging in the air must have set it off. Suddenly I was having huge issues breathing and keeping up was just not realistic for me. Luckily S, C and A held up for me and we caught the first water station together. After the water station, things seemed to be going well for the first half mile, but then I started to have issues again as we jogged along an open logging road on top of the mountain. I struggled for the next 1.5 miles to get my breathing back to normal and even was able to catch up and stick with everyone for the next few miles.
As we crossed back down the mountain and hit the original turnoff for the 7K, things started to get a little tricky again. The trail was amazing as it picked through the lower trees, there were a lot of roots to navigate and streams to splash through – all and all it was a ton of fun, however I was seriously regretting the fact that I had chosen to wear my worn-out road running shoes since I kept slipping on the various roots. Around 6.5 miles in, the stream crossings started to become more frequent and I started to lose my footing more often – I ended up twisting my ankle a couple of times and recovering (yay) and then I hit another speed bump for my race (boo). I really spun my ankle out when I lost my footing a third time – and to another runner’s credit, a guy scooped in to try and catch me as I was going down, but it was too late and he ended up making my fall all the worse. At this point, my ankle was really done, it was hurt pretty bad and each step was a painful reminder of the stupidity of my shoe choice. I told A what had happened and he decided to drop back with me to help me get through the last part of the race as I run-hobbled the final couple of miles (he really is amazing). Keeping my mind off my ankle and just finishing became the goal at this point as I was pretty frustrated between the asthma issues that lingered and the ankle issues that arose. I was so bummed that I was having a bad race day since the trail and the experience of this race truly was amazing. It was so nice to have such a vast change of pace from the other races I have run this year. A and I ended up finishing together and I was able to keep running to the end, even though my ankle ended up being quite sore and throbbed for most of the afternoon.
Overall, I would have to say that my first trail running experience is one that I will not soon forget, but it’s also something that I definitely want to do again. I really enjoy being out in the woods and tackling the challenge of jumping around trees, through streams, and climbing up the inclines. Plus, I enjoy the fact that people are really there just to enjoy the day, go for a good run, eat some food and meet new people. Everyone was really friendly and outgoing and it really was just a fun day in the woods with a couple hundred people.
After the race, we followed through on our plan to hit up CTB – most of us went for the Patrick Ewing sandwich (an amazing mixture of spicy honey mustard, turkey, brie and apple) and then we grabbed a few beverages and headed to the gorges for some swimming and fun in the sun. An amazing way to relax after frolicking through the forest all morning.
I’m realizing that most of this post was a legit race recap and I really didn’t update you all on the rest of my week. The short version is as follows: last week was crazy as ever. I’m finally coming to terms with the fact that this constant go-go-go mode is my new normal. I literally did not have a single night at home last week. Between running with friends, kickball, a work function, spending time with A each night, flying out to Chicago for couple days and closing out the week with an actual date night with A (running followed by sushi – amazing). The weekend started out with helping A’s sister move to her new lakehouse, unpacking everything and then spending a few hours relaxing in the lake (much to Roxie’s dismay).
I was zipping around all week & weekend… but no worries, I’m definitely not complaining since it’s all good stuff! Life just keeps getting better & I am loving every minute of it!