My First Trail Run
I've been wanting to try a trail run, and this event seemed like a good introduction to running a race on dirt and sandy trails.
Weedon Island Preserve is located in the NE corner of St. Petersburg, FL. The 3,100 acre nature preserve is run by Pinellas County. It includes a history center, nature trails, and canoe/kayak launch. It's a gorgeous piece of paradise on Tampa Bay.
This is my race recap. Detailed race review —> 2015 Weedon Island Trail 8k.
I picked up my packet on Friday night at the Fit2Run store in downtown St. Pete. The shirt was short sleeved blue tech material with navy blue printing. Ladies received a v-neck shirt, and guys a traditional round neckline. The packet included the shirt, a bib, and lots of offers from local businesses that sponsor the race.
Packet pick up was available on site before the race, beginning at 6:45 a.m.
I arrived early on race morning because I wanted to park near the history center. The center was open so runners could use the restrooms.
I strolled around for a while. The weather was a perfect 70º with low humidity. Half an hour before the race I put bug spray on my ankles, and sunscreen everywhere else. The sun rose in a cloudless blue sky, so I waited in the shade for the race to begin.
This race was different in lots of ways — all good. It felt calm, low key. The number of participants was limited to about 200 because of the venue. That's the smallest race I've run.
A few minutes before 9 am, everyone gathered at the starting line. There were some announcements, and then we were off and running. The race began on a paved section of the trail, and then headed into the preserve.
Interesting Nature Trails
Soon after the start, we were running single file. The trails were narrow, and often runners were moving in both directions. It was interesting. The loops in the course meant you saw the same people over and over again.
My favorite part of the race was running through a tunnel of Mangroves and mature trees next to Tampa Bay. I had to watch my step because there were lots of roots, ruts and dips in the trail. But, as much as I could, I peeked through the Mangroves to look at the water.
After the dirt trail, we ran on sand covered with pine needles and pine cones. Some sections were packed hard, but others were softer sand. After the sand we ran on boardwalks. I liked running on the harder surface, but the trade off was that the boardwalk was in full sun and had an incline.
Somewhere in the last mile, the boardwalk led to the observation tower. Yep, the 3-story observation tower. Everyone had to climb the tower, ring the bell on the top level, smile for the camera, and then descend to finish the race.
I remember asking the photographer if perhaps this would have been a better idea at the start of the race. He just laughed. If you run this race, please pause at the top of the tower and absorb the view. It's beautiful.
Runners were told at the start that they were responsible for recording their finishing time. As each runner crossed the finish line they noted their time on the digital display, then wrote it on a ballot at the scoring table. It wasn't high tech, but it didn't need to be.
There were no finisher medals. All the prizes were donated by local businesses. That was more than okay, since we were all running the race to support Weedon Island Preserve. All proceeds benefit the preserve.
The post race party was right next to the finish line in an open field. Food was donated by local restaurants, and it was tasty. There was water and sports drinks. Runners received a free beer coupon, and were encouraged to visit a local brewery later in the day to redeem it.
I was so impressed with the volunteers at this race. They took tons of photos and made them available on the Friends of Weedon Island Facebook page a couple of weeks later. The volunteers on the course were friendly and made sure no one took a wrong turn. I really appreciate that.
Fun First Trail Run
If you'd like to try a trail race, I recommend this one. It's just under 5 miles and takes place in a beautiful setting. I know I'll run it again as often as possible.
It was easy to rise early for the first race of the season. I left the house about 5:40 am and traveled to Fort DeSoto. Took I-275 to 54th Ave. South to the Pinellas Bayway South (75c toll) to Fort DeSoto. The Race Directors prepay the park's entry fee ($5) for all runners, so cars don't have to stop at the entry gate.
This is my race recap. Detailed race review —> Inaugural Ft DeSoto 15K
Fort DeSoto Park is south of St. Petersburg, in Tierra Verde, Florida.
I was parked and out of my car by 6:10 am. Lots of time to use the port-o-lets, warm up and survey the crowd. There were plenty of port-o-lets at the end of the parking lot, lit by huge spotlights on generators. Runners gathered near the starting line, or warmed up by jogging around the parking lot. It was dark, so you had to watch for cars and people. Volunteers did a great job directing traffic.
The announcer at the starting line played music and updated everyone on what to expect. While we awaited the start of the race there was a light sprinkling of rain, which brought the temperature down a couple of degrees to 73º. Next, there was a hearty rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, a countdown and the race began.
On Your Mark, Get Set, Go!
There was a beautiful cloudy sunrise and a rainbow as we started the race. The only downside was that a rainbow requires rain. Runners in both the 15K and the 5K were drenched in a downpour of big fat juicy drops. And then, of course, wet socks.
There was equal opportunity drenching in both the 5K and 15K races.
I added this race to my schedule because I enjoy the venue and like the race directors. I also wanted to see just how fit I was after 3 months of doing easy workouts in the summer heat.
At the start of the race, I found a couple running at an appealing pace. I ran with them for 6.75 miles. The pace felt good, steady but not too hard.
After a couple of miles, my Gatorade chews slipped out of my belt. Thankfully, an energetic girl running behind me noticed. She sprinted up to me, gave me the chews, then ran back to her group. I was happy to eat those energy chews at mile 5 and 7!
After mile 7, I left my pacers and ran intervals. I still felt strong, but not constant running strong.
The beautiful sunrise was a nice distraction from the fact that we were soaking wet.
I felt a blister wanting to appear during mile 9. I tried to adjust my foot to avoid it. If it had been a half marathon, I definitely would have had a full blown blister.
My Nike+ app tracked 9.4 miles. I was pleased with my 11:50 pace; 1:52:50 time. Not too bad for This Old Runner's first race of the season.
After receiving my medal, I grabbed a beer, banana and water, which I consumed while watching the 5K awards presentation. Then, I made my way home, a sweaty, wet happy mess.
I foam rolled really well the night before the race, and again the night after the race. I had a few tight spots that were easily worked out. I think the foam rolling and an ice bath contributed to an easy recovery. I felt good 24 and 48 hours after the race.
The race course is on flat paved trails and roads throughout the park.
I’m glad the race photos were free. My race photos never look good. How could they? I'm soaked with sweat (or rain and sweat in this case) and have just run for a really long time. Even so, I love to see the photos. I appreciate the photos by Game Face Media included with this event. Free race photos seems to be new trend in our area, and I really like that.
Official race results were posted online at CoolRunning by 3 pm Sunday afternoon. There were 414 finishers in the 15K results, and 283 in the 5K results.
The beach, shelters, and trails go on and on at Fort DeSoto.
Gifts during this race:
Chats on the course, water, oranges, shade, rain, solitude, music, breezes, rainbow, sunrise, birds, trail, running, energy chews, shaded post race celebration, good food, beer, hydration, and cheerful volunteers at all the aid stations, fun finisher medal!
This is where you'll find me writing instead of running. (But, you know I'll be writing about running, right?)
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