Fall Back 5 2011 (Saratoga)
Today Katie and I headed up to Saratoga State Park to run a 5 mile trail race. The weather promised a brisk start, but bright sunshine actually made it a really nice run. While we had just been up there to run the Great Pumpkin Challenge 10k a couple weeks ago, neither of us had run any of the trails there; so we had no idea what to expect. The race flyer read as follows:
Get off of the roads and run the trails of the Spa. Starting in the mall, runners will enjoy a mix of single track and double track trails as they get a five mile tour of the park. And new this year, be prepared for a trip along Geyser Brook and up the quad-busting staircase as the course emerges out of the Geyser Brook valley. With a mix of only slightly technical terrain, this course is a great introduction to trail running, per- fect for beginners and veterans alike.
Race Report The course followed much of the above description: single and double track trails—a mixture of dirt, leaves, gravel, crushed rock, pavement, and grass—that were somewhat technical, but nothing like the trails at Tawasentha, Indian Ladder, or the Parker Trail. One point that we noticed was that there were no mile markers or aid stations. This made it difficult to judge your distance—unless you had already looked at the course map. I had done this so I did have some some idea of where we were. There were a number of sharp downhill cutbacks (lots of fun!), quick dips and uphills, and numerous winding single track sections covered with a beautiful array of fall leaves (beautiful, but potentially dangerous if you didn’t watch your footing). There were a number of areas with heavier mud, but with the leaves covering the ground it made it easier to maneuver through. (I should point out that, for me at least, running through mud is a lot of run in vibrams! They let you feel the ground and do not stick as heavier shoes tend to.)
Two Issues On the whole the course was well marked with arrowed signs and pink flags…and yet a lot of people got lost! Katie averted this fate, but I, however, wound up off course: I was following a group of younger runners, when all of a sudden I saw a hand full of runners stopped in front of us and a bunch of other runners cutting across a trail in front of them. I am not sure how much of the course we missed (I heard someone say less than 400 meters), but the stopped runners were letting the leaders go ahead, and then we took off after them. Katie had also been following some runners and started to move in the wrong direction, but someone behind her must have noticed this a directed them back onto the trail.
The other problem was that a dog (one when I passed, but another appeared when Katie passed) was lose on the trail, and when I encountered ran by it it was snapping at some of the kids ahead of me. From what Katie said there was a car nearby, which seemed to be the owner’s, but for some reason they were letting their dogs free to roam around on the course! People need to be more aware of what their pets are doing, and this dog (not sure about the other one) was snarling and snapping at people. Hopefully no one was bitten.
Final Thoughts Issues aside this was a really fun race. Both of us ran a fast and nimble race. Overall the course was flat enough that you could really open up, get into a comfortable grove, and then run free. Running in vibrams really let us grip the up hills and dance through the downhills, and the leaf covered wooded areas were absolutely gorgeous.
I already said that both of us ran fast paces: I was able to hold a 6:35 pace, catching a few runners just before and on the last straightway, and finishing in 10th place with a time of 32:58. Katie played a cat & mouse race with a few other ladies, but reserved enough energy to kick ahead of them: she maintained a solid 8:13 pace, finishing in 63rd with a time of 41:09. These were great times for us, and it should be evidence for people wondering about running in minimal footwear: you do not sacrifice your speed when you transition to vibrams (or the like). While we both wish we could train more, we had nevertheless gotten faster and faster, despite not really running as much as we would like.
Would love to run this race next year. The course was fun; the volunteers were great; oh, and the shwag was awesome: great long sleeve tech shirt and we snagged a handful of Vega Sport, a line of vegan performance supplements. (The Tropical recovery powder was really delicious, so we will have to let you know how the rest of them turn out.)