My first race in six months.
I was supposed to run a marathon in September, but the universe had other plans. I racked up a ton of miles over the summer, only to take a forced break at the end of August. After two months of somewhat irregular training I felt I was finally ready to tackle a short distance race; one that I could even walk and still enjoy: a trail race!
Within a two hour driving radius, there are numerous beautiful parks and forests with seemingly endless hiking and biking trails. I’ve been to only a few of them (Alafia River Park, Hillsborough River Park, Withlacoochee State Forest, Starkey Park, Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve, and Weedon Island), but I’ve loved them all. This race was located at Trout Creek Nature Park just a bit northeast of Tampa, and I was excited to explore a new trail!
I had arrived just after 7 a.m., and was greeted with a sunrise glow over the Hillsborough river:
Alligator warnings………..we’re not at the beach anymore!
An 8:15 a.m.start time is a bit late for a race on a warm day, but the park doesn’t open until 7, so I guess there isn’t much to do about that. Unfortunately, at least 2 miles of the 10k course took us off the hiking trail in the shaded woods and over a gravel path parallel to the interstate in the blasting sun. Cue the sweat-soaking…..
Not sure if the selection of that path was laziness on the race director’s part, since there are enough trails through the woods with shade, but ok. On the upside I was able to pick up the speed, and the last few hundred feet before turning back onto the forest trail gave me an opportunity to snap a picture of two beautiful Sandhill cranes. That’s what I call the Silver Lining:
The race looped over a grassy field back onto the shaded hiking trail, and I finished 6.8 miles in 1 hour and 22 minutes.
Here is something else I absolutely love about trail running: I never feel rushed, and I never actually “race”. First of all – the ground is often rugged, uneven, and littered with roots (many of them hidden), and FOR ME rushing equals tripping. So why risk it? Secondly – since I don’t come out here often I want to enjoy these trails as much as I can, and how is that possible if I run them as fast as I can? It would be pointless, really. Don’t get me wrong though; if I encounter a flat, even stretch (like the 2 miles of packed gravel above) I let it fly……but as soon as the rail lead me back into the woods I was happy to take walking breaks, soaking in the beauty around me.
Now, time to find another new trail!