This race recap is pathetically overdue. I always have the best of intentions, but surprisingly, that’s not enough.
The race took place on December 5, a Saturday, in Kenosha, Wisconsin–a town I only knew through its outlet malls. It’s surprisingly pretty beyond that commercial mass. People had been posting different race options for December to help keep up motivation for the winter months. I can’t remember if it was me or my friend that found this race, but it was so cheap ($25 when I registered), relatively close (1-1.5 hours), a decent distance (6’ish miles), and a new (to us) trail that we couldn’t resist. I signed up with a couple different folks, of whom several ended up backing out for various reasons. The final crew ended up being me, Deanna (who I’d run with once over a year ago), and Holly, who I didn’t know. They are both in my running group, though, so obviously cool. Ha.
The communications from the race director were good, if a a bit unnerving for a trail running newbie. For example, the night before the race he wrote that the course wouldn’t be finalized until the morning because of the rain we’ve been having. However it would be somewhere between 6-7 ish miles. I’ve been assured that this kind of thing is not uncommon for trail races. It was odd going into a race and not knowing exactly what was going to happen mileage or course wise.
The race didn’t start until 10 so we left around 8 to be on the safe side. There was little traffic heading up so we had plenty of time to spare. We decided to hit up one of the local cafes in nearby Racine, Wilson’s Coffee and Tea, which was super yummy, cute, and cheap. My almond milk latte was barely over $2 if I remember correctly. They also had some great coffee and tea accoutrement, which I couldn’t resist, and a large selection of chocolates. I bought a Bodum tea cup with a silicone infuser included for $10. There was also a local author setting up to do a book signing. Can’t get more local or community-based than that.
Anyhow, we headed back to the race and still had lots of time to get our packets, our free Bondi bands, and ornaments (in lieu of a medal). The parking lot was right next to the shelter where they were doing packet pick up.
This was the most interesting start to a race I’ve been to. The director promised to not start until everyone was out of the port a potty (btw, the port a potty smelled amazing like a Christmas tree). And he kept his word. He also gave us a preview of the “optional” finish through the creek. I swore I wasn’t going to do it and Deanna called me a wimp. I would indeed end up IN the creek. Sigh. Because I am me, I fell in completely (as in soaked to the waist and scraped up my knee) trying to get across. I got a bottle of wine from the race director as consolation. Too bad I don’t drink! Don’t worry, we broke it out for a film viewing of Caballo Blanco a few weeks later.
The course itself was nice, although I have to say it felt sometimes like we were going in circles. We did loop back a bunch, but we didn’t run over the same trail bits in more than one section I think. With all the brown landscape and multiple bridges, it felt like I would be lost in the woods forever. For the most part, it was well-marked, although there was a funky bit at the end where I almost got misdirected–there was a section that ran through the nearby golf course where I almost missed a turn (something that happened to more than one person). Definitely felt the hills coming from the flatness of the Chicago area.
It was interesting trying to figure out how to pace myself since I wasn’t sure what the final mileage would be, and I was relatively new to trail running. Everybody started out pretty clumped together, but as the miles ticked off, people began to spread out (hence the getting lost bit). I also felt like I needed to learn a bit of trail etiquette as some of it was single track–meaning the trail was only wide enough for one runner. I felt silly calling out “on your left” or “excuse me.” But trail running is so much more laid back that it wasn’t a big deal. One aspect I find interesting about trail running is which bits people walk and which bits people run (like up or down hills, bridges, mud). I definitely need to work on being lighter in my step. I always channel my friend, Bianca, who looks like a mountain goat on the trail, barely landing and bouncing from point to point.
The great part to the finish was the bonfire. I used it to slowly rotate myself like a rotisserie chicken and dry off. They also had delicious chili, both vegetarian and meat, cookies, and both alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks (including microbrews and fancy sodas).
Another part of the race I found fascinating was how they did the timing. They called out finishing times as people crossed, and you handed them the bottom tag on your bib. It all went up on a giant whiteboard. Old school. I’m the tag hanging off at 35.
They waited to do the awards ceremony until everybody got in, which added to the hometown cuteness of the race. I did take that time to eat and change out of my wet pants! It was funny, some of the folks who podiumed declined their awards because they said they didn’t think they ran the full course. Considering the number of folks who have been revealed to have cheated in major races recently, it was refreshing to see people not take it so seriously and be honest in their finish times. There were lots of random prizes in addition to the winners, though, like prizes for folks who fell in, people who had birthdays recently, people who had run all the races in the series, best couple, and a host of other random reasons to celebrate. It felt very communal! The race director (in white t-shirt below) even got an award from the local Army recruitment office for all of his amazing work. The award was pretty outstanding, a huge metalwork bull or something (of course since this was race was almost a month ago, I can’t remember exactly, and the picture isn’t entirely clear below).
All in all, I loved my first trail race. It really underscored why I’ve been so drawn to that community. It just seems so much more supportive and less competitive than road racing. While I definitely like my moments of competition, I also enjoy how personal the challenge of trail running is and how enthusiastic folks are just to get out there. If my schedule allows, I am definitely going to be signing up for next year’s race, which is already posted! There are other races in the series (XC Thrillogy Trail Series), including an ultra so lots to offer for folks.