Racing is fun for me. Whether I am pushing my body to its very limit over the course of 26.2 miles or enjoying a local race with my best running friend, I relish the experience.
Last weekend, Ryan and I ran the Frosty Forest Trail Race for fun. What I found in those 34 minutes of fun was a reminder why I love races: the thrill of hard effort, the camaraderie of shared suffering, and the joy of crossing a finish line. Racing is fun.
The Frosty Forest Trail is a 6K race which the local running stores and a local trail running series (XYZ Trail Series) co-host. The goal is to encourage runners to explore the trails of Northwest Indiana more and, for this particular race, to enjoy the unique challenges of winter trail running.
One of the reasons we moved back to Valparaiso Indiana is the abundance of parks. The Frosty Forest 6K was held at a beautiful local park – a municipal golf course open to the public. The terrain is what you would expect from a golf course: wide grass fields and some gently rolling hills. In winter, this park is open to cross-country skiing and sledding.
After an oddly mild start to winter, the first real snowstorm of 2019 began the morning of the race. The conditions were not bad when the race began, at least for Northwest Indiana in January. The temperature was probably in the high 20s with a decent headwind at the start line. It was lightly snowing, which was actually delightful.
My foot was not yet ready for the intensity of racing, so Ryan and I agreed to run together and have fun. I was really excited that he decided to do the race with me, as it had been almost a year since we ran a race together.
The start of the race was relaxed. Most runners waited inside the clubhouse until about 5 minutes before the start of the race, since it was cold and lightly snowing. I admittedly skipped any warm-up run and only did my normal dynamic warm-up. After a quick preview of the course (follow the signs and keep the trees on your right), the gun went off and we started.
Due to the cold and the adrenaline, Ryan and I started out a bit too fast – around a 7:15/mile – but quickly reeled back since we were running against a headwind. The first part of the course was relatively flat and smooth and we clocked an 8:53/mile. We spent the second mile focusing on passing a few runners and logged an 8:58/mile.
Almost the entire course was off-road, except for a few very short stretches (less the 50m) on paved paths in the park. The ground was frozen, which I was actually grateful for because that meant no mud. The grass paths made for a fast course, compared to highly technical trails. We had to be mindful of changes in the terrain, but we weren’t constantly staring on the ground.
Then came the third mile, which featured a few steep but short climbs. After our tenure in Seattle, I developed a habit of charging hills – especially Midwest hills, which generally shorter than the hills we had in Seattle. Ryan’s approach to hills is much more prudent than mine. Several runners were walking one hill and I was determined to run it without stopping. I did that and felt proud of myself – there is still some strength in these legs!
The last ¾ mile was probably the hardest mile of the course, with a few more climbs and several turns. At 3.5 miles, with the finish line in sight, I encouraged Ryan to push. He did and we finished strong at just under an 8:00/mile!
The race was relatively small – approximately 80 finishers. Even with running for fun, Ryan and I both earned second in our age group. The award ceremony was casual, consisting of medals for the age group winners (no participation medals) and a small buffet of hot chocolate, coffee, and some snacks.
Have you ever done a trail race?