As some of you know, this past labor day I set forth on completing one of my first major goals in this long journey of wellness; I ran my first foot race. That race was a 5k and it was an absolute blast! The problem was; it was addicting. I think I was looking for another race shortly after getting back home that fateful day. After a bit of googling, I came across the Twilight Trail Run at Koteewi Park in Strawtown, IN. It was close to home at a mere 20 minutes away and it raised money for one of my favorite things; state and local parks!
Having never set foot in Koteewi park, I was a bit excited to see what they had to offer. My family enjoys hiking and partaking in the various state parks, so this was a good opportunity for some scouting of the area. Plus, the race was labeled as a ‘trail run’ which I’ve been dying to try out in earnest for some time. When I arrived, I felt quite at home to see the rolling prairies that made up the park as well as many well groomed foot paths that led deep into the surrounding woods. It seemed form the start that this would be a good introduction to trail running for me as it wasn’t going to be too technical nor would it be too easy such as the foot paths back in my subdivision.
The race offered two categories; a 5 mile competitive run and a 2.25 mile fun run. This was a decision that I agonized over for a full week before registering. I’ve run up to 5.5 miles several times before, so I wasn’t too worried about the 5 mile distance in and of itself. Here recently, I’ve started strength training three times a week which includes squats. At the same time, my running speeds have increased DRASTICALLY! All of sudden, I”m clocking 3.7 mile runs at 11:54 min/mile! This new found speed was untested at the 5 mile mark out however. The problem was that the race info stated specifically that this race was a competitive race with a minimum pace of 13 min/mile. My best 5 mile time was about 13:34. So, not knowing ahead of time how technical or hilly this trail was going to be, nor the consequences of dipping below the 13 minute pace, I opted to try out my new found speed and went with the sure bet of the 2.25 mile race.
At my first race on labor day, I was nothing but nerves, worrying if I was going to be able to run the whole course, would I set out too fast, would I look like an idiot. For this race, those first run jitters were gone and I was pretty calm and confident. I run a good 3 miles a day so 2.25 miles was nothing really. Plus, the course didn’t look too daunting, so I was ready to go. The weather was cool and the sky was clear, so it was a perfect evening for a run. The pacemaker gathered the group and walked us into the woods a fair clip to the starting line and from there, gave us a simple ‘ready, set, go’ and we were on our way.
The trails were flat and relatively dry which was surprising after the pop up thunderstorms the night before, so the run started off well. I always drift to the back of the pack to avoid being in the way of any of the faster runners, so I started out with the walkers. I didn’t remain there for long though. I found my pace and as we rounded the trail into the first stretch through the prairies, I was churning away and feeling good. The course was actually quite lovely, understated in the race literature. We wove in and out of the woods, through tall prairie grasses, back into the shade of overhanging trees and ran along the White River as well.
For the first mile, I round myself running with an older gentleman who shared in a few laughs with me as the younger kids would sprint past us and we would eventually pass them by panting on the edge of the course. The crowds were spread out well so there wasn’t too much congestion to worry about, so we made good time. As we entered the woods at the half mile mark, he opted to walk to let his heart rate settled and I pressed on on my own. Soon, the water station at the 1 mile mark was upon us and the 5 mile runners set left and I was guided straight ahead, to where I ran the remainder of the race by myself.
The final 1.25 mile was a long looping course that spent the entirety of its time in the tall grasses. Towards the end, the 5 mile course converged again for a short while, and then veered off for their final leg up a long grassy hill. Myself, I proceeded on for a good quarter mile around one last stand woods to enter from the back side of the race. Up until this point, my experience at the Inaugural Twilight Trail Run was pretty stellar, but as I came to the end it became apparent that the race organizers didn’t really give a crap about the out come of the fun run as we were pointed around one last bend and told ‘run that way, watch out for truck’. We came out of the woods, up a small hill to face the back side of the finish line where nobody was there to tell us if we were done, where to go, good job or even ‘get out of the way’. It was okay though, I crossed the finish line on my own accord and that was that.
The redeeming factor of this forgotten finish? When I looked at the finish time as I crossed, I had to do a double take. During my run I had felt like I was fighting for breath quite a few times and felt a bit more fatigued as usual. I figured it was because I was unaccustomed to evening runs and maybe the course was a bit hillier than I had originally thought. But now, I had finished my 2.25 fun run in 22 minutes which according to Runkeeper was a 9:47 pace. I’ve been struggling hitting a 12 minute pace for some time! A 9:47 pace was enough to make me not care at all about the sloppy finish line! To top it off, when I finished none of the 5 milers were back yet and I spotted one other person with a big on waiting for the race to end. Though not official by any means, judging from the sole runner at the finish and my time of 22 minutes? I think I may have actually finished second in that fun run!
In the end, I loved my time at the Koteewi Park Trail Run! It was a great evening for a run and once again, it was a blast getting out there with a lot of other people and getting caught up in the excitement of it all. Soon thereafter, I left to go out to dinner with the family as it was my scheduled cheat night on my diet and I just ran a race, so bring on the food! I’ll be back for the 2nd annual Twilight Trail Run for sure and I’ll just hope for a tighter run ship at the finish line. Then again, next time I’ll be running the 5 mile race for sure, so it won’t be quite the same problem by then.
In case you’re wondering, I do indeed have the running bug. My next race is going to be the 4.5 mile Drumstick Dash in Broadripple, IN on Thanksgiving morning, should our family schedule allow it.