Editor’s Note: I wrote this blog post a couple weeks ago right after the race, but somehow it never got published. Oops. Enjoy!
It’s official! I completed my first trail race! On January 6, 2018, in subzero temps, I ran the 10K at the Yankee Springs Winter Challenge in Middleville, Mich. Just as cool as completing my first trail race, was getting my first Age Group award with a 2nd place finish in the 30-39 bracket!
Since the race was over an hour from home, Ari and I stayed at a friend’s house in Caledonia the night before, so we were only 20 min away on race morning. That allowed me to sleep in, eat and get ready without being up super early since our race didn’t start till 10 a.m.
We arrived around 8:15 a.m. to make sure we had time for parking, picking up my race bib and to finish getting ready. We took the Roadtrek, which is the most amazing SAG vehicle (support and gear). While traditionally used for cycling races, having your own SAG vehicle at running races is a huge benefit. It gives you above all else, your own bathroom, so no porta-potties! On a day that was so cold, running the generator allowed us to run a small heater so I could warm up my shoes and finish getting dressed in the warmth. It also gave Ari a place to hang out while I ran.
Packet pickup was in the Lodge at the Long Lake Outdoor Center. They had coffee and water available in advance for runners and spectators. We hung out there for about 20 minutes prior to the start of the race, took some pre-race photos and tried to stay warm.
I debated over clothing but ended up with the following, which turned out perfect:
- Nike lined tights under my Skirt Sports Tough Girl Pants
- Long-sleeve tech shirt, Smartwool pullover, Nike fleece-lined jacket
- Full ski mask, Skirt Sports Beanie, Buff
- Skirt Sports Gloves (with handwarmers inside)
- Smartwool socks
- Saucony Grid shoes and YakTrax
- Vaseline to cover the exposed parts of my face
The race wasn’t exactly how I envisioned my first trail race would go — about 8 inches of powdery snow and temps ranging from -2 to 2 — but true to my style of never doing anything the traditional way, I guess it seemed fitting. Despite being cold and snowy, the race was fun, the sun was out and the scenery was beautiful, at least what I could see of it since my eyes were watering and caused my eyelashes to freeze! The route went through the Yankee Springs Recreation Area, which is a gorgeous place with lakes, trees, hills and wildlife. (I actually want to go back and just leisurely hike it, as I spent so much time looking down to watch my footing I think I missed some of the more gorgeous parts. Also, I have no pictures from during the race as it was too cold for my phone.)
The downside was that the snow was so deep and fluffy that there wasn’t a whole lot of running happening – it was more like bounding and bouncing side-to-side in order to get through the snow. When I’d pass someone the snow sometimes came up to my knees because I was off the “path” just enough where no one had previously gone. My legs were so tired from all that work, and despite wearing YakTrax there was really no traction at all so we were slipping and sliding the whole time.
It was also so cold that if you stopped long enough the sweat froze so you needed to keep moving. There was one aid station around mile 3 and I paused long enough to grab a drink of water and it was almost too long as I really wanted to quit right then because my legs were tired, my heart was pounding, and my lungs hurt from the cold air.
But I didn’t quit. I did walk a little bit more than I wanted, but I didn’t quit. And I owe that to my friend Jeremy who ran with me the entire race. I’ve known Jeremy since we were 10, we both ran track in high school, took up long-distance running as adults, but due to living in different cities, having families and busy lives, it had been years since we’d seen each other and had never actually done a race together. He’d originally signed up for the 25K, but a few days before the race he dropped to the 10K and sent me a note saying “I’d be stuck with him” for the race. I didn’t want to hold him back, but in the end was grateful for his support because without him, I’m pretty sure I would’ve quit or started walking about mile 3. I wasn’t as prepared for the conditions, including all the hills, as I thought as I was, and every time I slowed or stopped he was right there behind me with encouraging words or a short joke to make me laugh and keep me going.
When I crossed the finish line, I was so ready to be done. I grabbed an Oreo cookie and some water, and Ari took some finish line pictures of us covered in ice (including Nolan, a friend from Monday Night Hangovers who also ran the 10K.) We all headed into the lodge to grab some post-race food and get our finisher gift.
The YSWC doesn’t do finisher medals, they give Finisher Snowglobes! So fun! The snowglobe includes the race logo on one side, and a spot on the other to put your own picture. What a neat idea and so much better than another medal. For my age group placement I did end up with a medal, a buff and a gift certificate to Gazelle Sports.
The post-race vittles included a chili cook-off, beer from Perrin Brewery, cookies and some other snacks. Hot chili was very welcome at that point! After some food and chatting about how the race went we all headed home.
I think what amazed me most about YSWC was that there were runners that day doing much much longer distances in those crazy conditions – there was a 25K, 50K and 50mile! We saw a few of those runners on the course and I was in awe by their determination and dedication. While they were way more trained and prepared, it was still so cold and snowy and many of them were out there for 10-12 hours. I may or may not ever run that far, but if I do, you can be assured it will be in much warmer weather!
Overall, I really enjoyed the race and am looking forward to more trail races.
I am an ambassador for Skirt Sports and receive a discount on products I purchase. All reviews are my own opinions.