This morning I ran the Northwest Trail Series 10k run at Lord Hill Regional Park in Snohomish. It was a beautiful morning, with some sun breaking through and the Olympic Mountains visible for the first time in days. I was feeling good about being able to get out and run again, after dealing with a very sore IT band these past several weeks. I felt good, and the weather was nice – the stars seemed to align, making for a good day.
I snapped the picture above on the way into Lord Hill Regional Park, just before the race. It made me smile at the time, and I had no idea how prescient the sign would prove to be. I’d never run in this park before, but had heard about it. The hills were notable, and this was reflected in Eric Bone’s description of the courses :
“General course description: Both the 10k and Half Marathon courses start and finish near the Snohomish River at the South end of the park. The routes are fairly hilly, with a mix of steep and moderate grades, as well as some flatter sections. These courses are moderately hilly by trail running standards. The trails traversed by both courses include a mix of wider trails or dirt roads and narrower trails, with the Half Marathon having somewhat more of the smaller trails. Most of the trails are not very twisty, but there are some parts with more twists and turns on the Half Marathon course. ”
By the time I finished, I’d taken issue with the “most of the trail are not very twisty” assertion. More on that soon.
I arrived a bit early, because I needed to do day of race registration, and also because I’d not been out to the park. I spent a little while speaking with some friends. Around 9:30, Eric gave a pre-race briefing, outlining the course marking and some of the turns. The markings themselves were pretty straightforward, but by the time he’d gone over the turns, I was confused. I didn’t worry too much, because I was doing the 10k – so these turns didn’t really apply for me. Hm. Essentially the course was a simple loop for the 10k, with a short out and back section to the single aid station.
He counted down and sent us off. After a short flat run through a field, we hit a series of steep-ish uphills. By the time we hit the first half-marathon turnoff, I knew I was towards the front of the 10k pack. I’d counted off five runners in front of me, and set my sights on trying to finish in the top five. I figured if I kept running my own race I’d be able to do this. There was a nice long downhill stretch on the way back to the loop from the aid station. I saw another runner up ahead, and within about five minutes was running right behind him. This was aided by him stopping to mull an unmarked turn. We agreed to continue together, figuring that if we’d taken a wrong turn, we’d both have done that. After a few more minutes, he let me go on ahead.
Figuring I was fifth overall now, my focus was on holding or improving this position. It’s interesting when this happens. Unless it feels like something is at stake, I don’t really sweat getting passed. With a top-five finish being possible, suddenly it felt important. My race plan had been to take it a bit easy (don’t want to tweak my IT band again), I’d originally planned to finish the race, and then go out and run another two or so miles to round out the time and distance a bit. So – it was interesting that at some point I’d missed the turn that would have taken me back for the final 1.5 miles.
I knew there was a problem when I started encountering runners coming the other way. Based on my understanding of the course, the only place I should have done that was on the short spur near the course midpoint. The smart thing to do would have been to backtrack a bit, and find the turn I’d missed. In all honesty though I wasn’t sure what I’d done wrong, so didn’t really know what to look for. So I pressed on.
About ten minutes later I spotted two runners heading in the same direction as me up ahead. Initially I was excited about the prospect of being able to hop up into third place in the 10k. I caught up to them a few minutes later, when they were huddling with a person working the course. Looking at the map, it was apparent that we’d run some extra miles – part of the half marathon course, followed by a second wrong turn that had taken us backwards along the 10k loop. We charted a course back, and travelled as a pack for the two or three miles back in. Everyone was laughing about the misdirection – chalking it up to another day out on the trail, where getting lost is sometimes part of the fun. None of us will finish close to the top five overall, but the bonus miles were worthwhile.
We navigated the ups and downs, capped by a very steep downhill to the finish. It was so steep, a half marathon runner came rocketing down the hill, and went down chest first just after crossing the line. See – that’s commitment.
The clock tells me that I finished in 1:22:03. I don’t really know how far I went, but would estimate that I ran an extra 3.5 miles, give or take. We’ll call it 9.5. One good thing about that is that I didn’t need to go back out and round out time and distance at all.
Anyway – nice day for a run. And I did get my money’s worth.