Gracie warming up with Mommy

Signing Up

Moving to Bend, Oregon just over a month ago, I have had the privilege of doing most my runs on beautiful trails right out my backdoor. Coming off a knee injury, this is a great way to get back into shape, running on softer terrain. So when I saw there was going to be a trail half marathon and 10k literally next door to where I live, of course I had to sign up for it. At the time of signing up I was nowhere near racing shape; I was just getting back into running after several months off and the race was in four weeks. However, this got me motivated and out there on the trails on those days I didn’t feel like going.


During the next four weeks of training on trail I never finished faster than a 10:35 average pace which was quite discouraging at first but then I got used to it and reasoned a few things: 1) I was just getting back into running 2) I was now running at 4000’ elevation vs. 400’ and 3) I always had distractions during the run like the dog and beautiful scenery. I did do one six mile road run after a few weeks just to see if I still had any speed left and averaged 8:55 which boosted my confidence. Then I read an article from an ultra trail-runner and he said to expect to be a much slower on the trails and that it’s ok to power walk up the steep stuff. Ok, I had a race plan – just go out easy to the turnaround, walking when necessary since it climbs 1000’ then give whatever I have left coming back. I gave myself a goal of 1:09:59 wanting to beat 1:10.

Race Day

footzone_dirty10k_2012_profileRace morning came and Richard, Gracie and I walked over to the staging area. Race day was going to be all about having fun. And fun I had! Gracie wanted to warm up with me which was absolutely adorable. There were 250 runners total; both the half and the 10k starting at once.

The first quarter mile was through the parking lot giving everyone a chance to spread out before turning onto a dirt road heading downhill. I fell into place behind a guy wearing hot pink running shoes. Fairly quickly the wide road turned into single track and we started climbing. I felt I could’ve easily surged passed people but stayed behind hot pink guy. I ended up following him for 3 miles finally passing him on the steep climb to the turn around. I gave him a “thanks” for letting me pace behind him otherwise I would’ve bonked a long time ago.

Once at the turnaround it was single track and fast most the way back. With less than a mile to go there was another short steep climb I was able to shuffle halfway up then power walked to the top – the only time having to do that. When I hit six miles was the first time I looked at my time and saw it read 56 something! I couldn’t believe I was going to break one hour! So I pushed hard the final quarter mile and came in at 58:34 averaging 9:22 pace overall. I couldn’t have been more ecstatic!

What I Learned

This was by no means my fastest 10k but it was certainly one of the most strategic well-run races of my running career and one of the most fun. Here are a few things I learned running a trail race:

  1. Many runners slow down on the downhill. This was a surprise to me. As soon as we left the pavement and hit the dirt it was downhill and it was amazing how many runners came almost to a walk. This is when I started passing several runners.
  2. Running on single-track is a lot like driving on a two lane highway. Once it turned to single track within the first mile, we could only go as fast at the runner in front of us. To pass the runner in front of you, you had to run a little over to the side and look to see if there was a passing spot. If not, you had to get back in line and wait. If there were four runners in front of you then a large gap, you had to have enough room and speed to pass all four runners or wait until the runners in front of you took turns passing the slower runner until it was your turn.
  3. It is ok to start out slow and stay behind the slower runners. Had I wasted the energy trying to pass runners early on in the race, I would never have been able to finish the second half as strong as I did.
  4. Runners will speed up when they hear you coming from behind. Once I hit the turnaround, I kicked it into high gear. And although the runners in front of me were running at a nice pace, I was gaining on them so I knew I was running just a little faster. However, every time I came upon one, they picked up the pace just enough that I had to wait a minute or two to pass them – either until they slowed down again or until there was room, causing me surge, or do a quick sprint.
  5. Trail races are just more fun! Ok, this is subject to your individual tastes, but running in the beauty of the trees and mountains, jumping over fallen logs, and always having a “rabbit” in front of you to chase was awesome!


All in all, this was one of the most fun races and the best I’ve felt afterwards in a long time. There were only two runners that passed me the entire time; I, on the other hand, lost track of how many I passed after 28! I had a kind word for everyone I passed; I thanked the volunteers out on the course; and enjoyed my free Deschuttes Beer at the finish!

Do you prefer road or trail races? Let me know if the comments below!