Big Woods Run down near Faribault, Minnesota.
The race started at 9 AM, so even though it was an hour drive, I still got to sleep in to the late hour of 5:45 AM. Driving through Faribault, I saw several bank signs that said it was 41 degrees. What the signs didn't say was that the wind was blowing in gusts of 10 to 20 miles-per-hour. Perfect weather for the singlet with arm warmers look.
The Big Woods Run had a 5k, 10k, and 1/2 marathon. The 5k runners were bussed somewhere out in the woods while the 10k and 1/2 marathon started at the same spot next to the church. After a brief warm up, I lined up near the front of the pack, listened to a trumpeter (or was it a bugler?) play the national anthem.
The race started down the highway on a slight downhill. I stayed with the lead pack for about 20 seconds but the pace felt slow so I went on ahead. I was on a quest for a PR and even though I knew that a trail race wasn't the ideal place for one, the threshold was very low. My 10k PR was very soft--set back in 2009. I did not, however, want to run a slower pace than the MDRA 7 mile this past February, so I decided I needed to set the pace. The race was going downhill and I passed mile mark at around 5:30.
The course followed the road for another 1/2 mile or so and I was starting to think I should have worn my Kinvara 2s rather than the NB MT10s. The MT10s are great on soft trails but offer no cushion on pavement and the bottom of my right foot was getting hot.
The race finally turned into the woods. I was by myself as I went through the water stop. The course was pretty--it winded through the state park among red, orange, and brown trees. Enough leaves had fallen off that it was still pretty windy. There was a lot of leaf litter and some ruts in the trail, but for the most part the footing was pretty good. Around 3 miles the trail went on a road out to a cone and back around. Some course marshals told me to run to a cone and turn around it. Unfortunately I misinterpreted the signage and turned around at the 1/2 marathon cone rather than the 10k cone--probably less than 50m extra.
The course then turned back into the woods and soon I was running at oncoming 10k and 1/2 marathon runners. This was probably my least favorite part of the race. I was way over on the right side of the trail and having to maneuver around more roots and such. Also, I had to slow up a few times for runners running 3-5 abreast who didn't see me coming. Oh well. I also saw a poor young lady trip and fall. I would've stopped, but she was getting help from her friends.
Around 4 1/2 miles in there was a significant but short hill. I tried to relax over it but it definitely slowed me up. I was by myself again as the course had turned me away from the oncoming runners. At the one mile-to-go sign the course went back up the hill we'd ran down at the beginning of the race. Now I was running with the 5k runners and there was a strong crosswind keeping things interesting. Going around the 5k runners and up the hill slowed me down, but not too much.
The finish wasn't overly exciting--it was cool to win the race but I was mixed in with all the 5k runners so I decided against airplaning or high stepping. My time: 36:44. Slower than my 10 mile race pace a couple weeks ago, but run on trails, by myself, on a windy, windy day.
After a cool-down I went inside to enjoy some soup and bread, courtesy of St. John's United Church of Christ. I got to see a guy I paced at the Minneapolis Marathon. In June we happened to run into each other on a training run at Afton state park. I chatted with him and his friend for a while and then got my award--a nice "Big Woods Run" fleece blanket.
It was a nice day--a PR and a win along with getting to see the sights of Nerstrand Big Woods state park. Now it's on to the "Scare in White Bear" 5k for what will be, I hope, the completion of my year of PRs.
Here are some shots from my awesome cellphone camera:
The start/finish area:
View of the church from my cool down run: