Bergamot’s First Trail Race

Two months before the Columbus Marathon, I messaged my fellow Saltines to solicit encouragement to sign up. (What is wrong with me??) I live here, it’s my favorite race, and I have serious FOMO if I don’t participate. I hadn’t been running a lot of mileage, but I was running consistently. I convinced myself that I could run/walk Columbus for fun. I literally meant I would walk huge chunks and run only 14-16 miles total.

Ultimately, I made the wiser choice and decided to skip 26.2 this year. I signed up for a trail 10K instead. Trails are a challenge, and 10K is much more in my ballpark mileage right now.

I’ve been running trails since 2013, but I’ve never raced on a trail before. I have a propensity to go airborne on trails, so I’d been too nervous to sign up for a trail race. I wasn’t anxious for the running portion of this race, but I feared the unknown, much like my experimental triathlon in 2016. As race day approached, I realized it was going to be 28 degrees at the start. After my stint in Spain from 2016-2017, I do not tolerate the cold very well! The simple prospect of the cold made me more nervous than the race itself. I decided to go with sleeves, a tanktop, capris, SmartWool crew socks, and a headband/ear cover. I wore a sweatshirt over top of that, and a parka over that. ๐Ÿ˜€ I did not take that to the start, of course.

I arrived at the start 45 minutes early, at 7:15 a.m. I’d like to emphasize that I’ve never been that early to anything in my life. Anyway, I went to check out the start and finish because I must see it to settle the nerves. That’s the only race day ritual I have. It reminds me of my musical performance past. I always had to see the stage, see the piano, see the audience. It was calming to see what I was about to face.

I sat in my car until 7:40 a.m. for the heat before doing a quick warm-up. The race took place on a trail surrounding a large lake, and I ended up at the marina in the middle of my warm-up. It was stunning. Fog was rising off the cold water, and the sunshine sparkled on top of it. I also found single, heated bathrooms at the marina! Then I jogged back to my car, took off my sweatshirt and headed to the freezing start in my tank and sleeves. Everyone around me was in multiple layers.

I didn’t know what to expect in this race, and I didn’t realize the first trail mile consists of passing others when the opportunity comes. My first mile was the fastest because it turns out that I don’t like hearing people run behind me! In the first half mile, a man behind me was huffing and puffing so loudly, I nearly turned around and asked him if he was the Squatch! (The race was called the Autumn Squatch). He ended up passing me anyway, despite my efforts to get away from his panting. I was relieved when he passed. Good riddance! My first mile was 10:39.

After the gunners passed me, I fell into a small pack behind a couple. I ended up staying with them the whole race, but I didn’t know it at the time. They were running between 11 and 12, and my sweet spot on the trail is around 10:30. I knew I could have run faster, but I also had no idea what I was doing. I stuck with them since foliage covered the trail and made directions difficult.

At some point between miles 3 and 4, a runner sprinted in front of me to break up our beloved pack. Then, he immediately began JOGGING. And THEN, he dropped out after maybe two minutes of shuffling in front of me, keeping me from my pack. I was furious. He looked very young, in his teens perhaps, so I’ll give him a pass. Miles 2, 3, and 4 were 11:42, 12:10, and 13:15.

We had four water crossings in the middle of the course, all of which had slippery and sloping frosty wooden bridges. I was terrified of slipping on a particularly steep one in mile 4. I had already slipped and wobbled on previous ones. A lovely older man asked me if I wanted a hand, and I gratefully took it. My shoes did not have ideal tread for that race. Noted for next time!

My helper let me go in front of him, although he had just helped me. I chatted with him after the race, and he had fallen a few times after our crossing. That made me very sad. I have no idea who he was, nor did I know anyone else in our little pack, but I felt serious empathy for all of them. That was my favorite part of the race: bonding somewhat intimately with strangers in a forest.

After that, it was smooth (enough) sailing. I clipped a couple roots because I was losing energy, presumably from being so cold. But I didn’t fall! I really started to feel the cold those last three miles, and I wasn’t sweating much. I started daydreaming of the breakfast I would make after a steaming hot shower. I daydreamed, stared at the feet of the runner ahead of me, and kept plugging along. Miles 5 and 6 were 13:09 and 12:17. I don’t remember much because I was cold and in the pain cave and fantasizing about donuts.

I finished the 10K in 1:13:47. I had no idea how long I would take, but I told my grandma I’d text her by 9:15. I was right on schedule!

I love running because there is such a variety of events to pick from. I’ve done long distance, a triathlon, and I’ve tasted the trail. Perhaps a track event is next!

I'm a student of law and life. A Jill of all trades, master of none. But I'm hoping to master something, sometime. ;) Preferably a sub-23 5k and a sub-4 marathon!

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4 comments

  1. What a great report! I also sort of dabble now and then on the trails but I’ve only done one trail race and it was super fun. You should definitely try a track meet!

  2. You are a rock star – this motivated me to get back out there! Wonderful recap, and I love your positive attitude. PLUS, I donโ€™t think Iโ€™ve ever completed a trail race without falling at least once… rock star, I said, and I meant it.