On Saturday I ran the Dirty German 25K. I had a 16-miler on my training plan and figured “why not run a trail race instead?” So I hit the wilderness of Northeast Philadelphia for my very first trail race.
I tried to do as much research on the course and the “what to do” during trail runs beforehand. However, trail runs are still pretty low key. There isn’t a huge race website to refer to and finding even an elevation map for the race was pretty difficult! Everyone said it was “easy” by trail running standards, but the fear of the unknown still kept me pretty anxious pre-race.
But I finally took the tags off my Nathan hydration pack, found my trail shoes in the bottom of the closet, and hoped that not running on trails for a year wouldn’t kill me in the end.
And it didn’t! The race experience overall was phenomenal.
For one, it was great not to have to go to an expo for the pre-race packet. I left my house at 7:45AM – not too bad for race day! I just showed up 15 minutes early to the 8:30AM start, pinned on my bib, and waited in the *short!* porta-potty lines. I found four other ladies in my running club (YAY Burlington Running Club!) and decided to tag along with them for the race. It was all of our first time doing a trail race, so we wanted to stick together and just have a good time. I was down for that!
There were only a few hundred people around an open field and an accordian musician playing some great German tunes. What a fun theme! There were people with tents, some dogs, lots of kids, and a very relaxed atmosphere at the start. It was the exact opposite of last week’s Broad Street. I was grateful 🙂
The race started with a German countdown and everyone was off. …But about a minute later we were all backed up stopping/walking because the trail was a single-track and there were 300 runners trying to get down to a trail. So needless to say, the start of the race was slow.
Also within the first mile was a moving stream we had to cross! It was only up to my ankles, but I got nervous that my feet were soaked the very start of the race. It ended up being okay, but I was not expecting that. We ended up crossing three streams throughout the route. Some had rocks you could step on and could avoid most of the water, but that first one was ankle-deep. Plus, there were lots of down trees and branches from all the storms of the year throughout the course. We joked that we were doing an obstacle course race. I loved all the mysteries and unknowns we were coming across!
Also I can happily say the course was well-marked. I was a little nervous about getting lost in the woods prior to the race. Having bright pink course markers, signs, and white arrows on the ground were very relieving through the race knowing I wouldn’t get lost. Staying with a group of 5 of us helped, too.
The other notable thing about the race was that all of the runners were so friendly! We passed some of the 50k and 50-miler folks on some 2-way sections of the trail and almost every one of them passed by saying “Good morning” “Great job” “Looking strong” or some other positive notes! It was contagious and I loved the camaraderie throughout the race.
There were four aid stations stops throughout the course and they were like nothing I had ever seen! Fresh grilled cheeses with bacon, potatoes, candy, girl scout cookies, sodas, PB&J, pickle juice (my favorite part), and pickles! These ultra runners know how to stock a snack table 🙂 The only thing I ate though was a fig and date bar I brought. I didn’t want to upset my stomach or go too crazy on the sweets.
I *almost* regretted the decision to not eat the aid station food when I realized I was out there for FOUR hours! It took me just as long to do a 15-miler as it had my last 26.2 marathon! The trails are so different. You move slower and don’t feel so guilty walking up steep, rocky, branchy, hills. I also stuck with a pack of four others, so we would stop and wait for each other throughout the course. It made it fun (and much easier on the legs!)
My “moving time” was about 3:11, which I was happy with. I know I could have gone faster, but I had a way more fun and an enjoyable experience along the way with a great group. We stuck through together and finished in just under 4 hours.
I crossed the finish line and received a beer growler instead of a medal. These ultrarunner folks have the right kind of aid stations AND race swag! The post-race area was great. More people with lawn chairs, tents, music, food, and fun. I didn’t feel the need to “rush out” of there like I do with other races because of how overwhelming and crowded it could be. I would have like to stay longer if I didn’t have plans that afternoon for Mother’s Day.
And as I predicted, my love for trail running has increased exponentially since this weekend’s Dirty German 25k. I just spent the last 15 minutes looking up potential trail runs and (even ultras!) in the near future.