This was my first race since 2016, so I went into it with zero expectations. In addition, in over 20+ years this was only my second trail race. In my mileage build-up plan, I was scheduled to run 12 miles this morning, so I figured with the distance and the difficulty of the race given the terrain and elevation, this would be a similar workout.
The race was held on March 5, 2022 at J.M. Feltner Memorial 4-H Camp in London, Kentucky. The race director was extremely nice and accommodating. I gathered that she was new at this, but the packet pick-up, walk-up registration (I pre-registered), and pre-race activities were run with efficiency. The shirt was a really nice material, and there were a few vendors and local businesses giving out freebies.
The race started with a prayer and instructions before a large, metal shamrock is lit on fire and a countdown to start begins.
After an easy, flat loop around the campground, we turned into the woods. The first of the trails were tight and muddy -- like pull-off-your-running shoe-muddy. Thorns and brambles pulled at your clothes, and I was glad that I wore a long-sleeved shirt and compression socks -- that is, until it warmed up really fast.
After we turned onto a powerline cut-through (think Barkley Marathons), we were on a roller coaster gravel road. As we came to a fork, a volunteer told us to take a left turn, but the man I was running next to said that we should go straight. The volunteer said it was just another route, so we split and agreed to meet on the other side. I should've known something was wrong, but there was a large pack behind me and a smaller pack up ahead. I decided to follow them. A few times I had to strain my eyes through the trees to see where they were, so I decided to speed up and catch them.
A few points in the race were so steep that I climbed the mountains with my hands pushing on my quads and forcing myself up the hill. At another point, we had to hold on to a rope and pull ourselves up a particularly steep dirt rut.
This race has an interesting detail -- if you go past the 3.1 mile turnaround and climb (literally climb) to the top of a huge rock (the tallest point in the county), AND tear a page from a book (a nod to the Barkley Marathons), you get the chance to win a prize at the finish.
I looked at my watch and realized that I was at 4.6 miles, and I hadn't hit the turnaround. The volunteer had steered us on a route that added a half mile on our race. It's a good thing I wasn't trying for an age group award (there weren't any given).
Anyway, the way back was mostly downhill, and I took advantage of the grade and let gravity dictate my pace. A few times, we actually had to stop and walk for fear of running downhill so fast out of control.
I finished with a total of 6.62 miles, but many runners' distances varied as at some point we all got "lost" on the trail. At one point, I actually had to wait for another runner to catch up with me so we could find the trail.
PT's were at the finish of the race to offer stretching to anyone who wanted it. The finishers' medals were really nice and bananas, Gatorade, and water were available.
I turned in my page from the book and won a free bourbon tour at a local distillery. The women at the prize table were super nice and allowed me to trade in my tour for a shirt since I neither drink nor live locally.
All-in-all, it was a great experience. I will definitely be back!