Friday, November 21, 2014

2014 Salt Fork Challenge Race Report - 10.4 miles and 1900 feet of rocks, roots, mud and beauty!

Years back the Ohio Outside Salt Fork Trail Challenge was my first trail race. Steve and I actually ran it together for fun and ended up walking a good deal of it. This year we both wanted to race it and see what we could do.

For a 10 mile trail race it is a very challenging race! Salt Fork is full of hills and single track and mud and beauty! I loved this race and will most certainly do it again!

Shot of the park on drive in
Steve and I had planned a little get away for the race so we headed down Friday afternoon through some yucky Cleveland weather to the snow-free trails of Southern, Ohio. Salt Fork is located close to Cambridge, Ohio, which was about a 2.5-3 hour drive for us from Mentor. We stopped for a smoothie at Robeks on the way down and checked into our room about 4:00. On the way into the park I couldn't help but snap some pictures so I could share this beauty with my friends and family back home.

After unpacking and relaxing for a little while we went to pick up our packets and then headed to dinner at the restaurant in the lodge. The beer selection was not too great, which was no big deal as we had come prepared!

Salt fork hoodies!
It was a relaxing and fun night and we were able to enjoy some of our own hoppy beers after dinner as well as some tasty snacks. Our Salt Fork hoodies came in very handy as they were nice and cozy to wear around that evening and post race! We were also able to sleep in since we were onsite already, which was an awesome bonus!

Race Morning:

The wake-up call came at 7 am and I felt well rested. Steve brewed us some coffee and we ate some breakfast, got dressed and headed out for a warm up mile before the race. It was really cold early in the morning by by the race start at 9:30, it had warmed up some. In fact I ran back to our room to change my shirt so I didn't overheat.

Steve and I lined up together and chatted for a minute before the race. The race starts in front of the lodge with a fast, downhill trek through the parking lot and then quickly heads off road into the grass and through some bushes heading into the trails of Salt Fork. I tried not to go out too fast as is often my modus operandi because I knew the later miles were going to hurt. The footing was tricky due to heavy leaf coverage and I managed to trip and fall early on within the first mile. I was right back up before I could even be passed but this instilled in me very early into the race to use light feet.

With it being a technical trail with a variety of terrain and conditions as well as elevation, it's not a real fast course so you can't really plan to just go out and run an 8-minute mile. Some sections are fast like that but most are slower going as you have to really watch your footing and what lies ahead. I really love this aspect of trail running because it is NEVER boring as it can be running on the road at times. You can't just zone out. This makes for a very zen and interesting run.

There were some muddy sections and I even passed a woman who had lost her shoe in the mud around mile 3.5 or 4.
Muddy feet after the race!
I used that as an opportunity to try to distance myself from some other women. I wasn't sure what place I was in until just after the road leading to the aid station where a man yelled to me "third place female". This gave me a boost and I was prepared in advance of the aid station as I had taken in my gel and just quickly stopped to throw away the packet and sip some water. I took off on the road because this is a strong spot for me and I wanted to gain some advantage over the woman right behind me. This worked well as I glanced down at my Garmin and saw that I was running in the lower 7's for that section.

Of course once we headed back into the hilly grass section things were not moving as fast. A young woman came out of nowhere around mile 7 and took off ahead of me. She was soon out of my sight and I was in 4th and just trying to stay steady within myself. The fatigue was starting to set in for me and the end of the race is not easy. I really started to feel myself weaken and fade in the last mile of the race and another woman had passed me but I would not allow myself to get into a walking pattern and throw it all away. My thoughts of food, beer and Steve kept me moving.

My Award!
The last section is challenging straight uphill through the grass and a woman tried to pass me but I was able to fight her off and push through to the end of the race. It was a painful finish but it was a nice feeling to cross the finish line and be handed an award for 2nd in the 30-39 age group and 6th female.

The 10-year age groups made it difficult as Steve didn't place in his age group of 40-49 but was the first over 45. In looking at the results it was a competitive race. I would have liked to have held onto my top 3 status but better luck next time. It was still an awesome race and a hell of a good workout!

Our other award! Yakima!
We had to get back quickly for my cousin's funeral so we were not able to enjoy a beer right away but we did stop for a quick bite to eat at Einstein Bagels on the way back. After the funeral we headed to Ray's Place in Kent for a hoppy beer and dinner. Then we stopped at World of Wine in Mentor to fill the awesome growler we bought with some Columbus Brewing Yakima Fresh Hop Ale! Yep, that was worth 10.4 miles and 1900+ feet of running and climbing!

Ohio Outside does a great job with their races and I definitely recommend this one if you like a challenge on the trails!

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