Recently, I read if you practice your directional skills, they will improve. So, I figured a more difficult trail race would be a good place to start.
The Plan: Over the River and Through the Woods
I registered for the River 'n' Rapids 10K on April 7th. I chose it because it was a new challenge, in a new location. The course description said things like dirt, single track, river banks, suspension bridge, and scenic wooded areas. I knew I'd have to keep up, and pay attention to the course markings.
I didn't have a chance to visit Hillsborough River State Park before the event. But, I looked at a map, and entered the location into my phone, so I wasn't worried about getting there.
The day before the race, the race director posted photos on how he was marking the course. He tied flourescent rectangular plastic strips to tree branches. I began to get nervous. It was windy. Those were small markers. I hoped they didn't blow away. I hoped I could find them all. I studied the course map.
As it turned out, it didn't matter if the trail markers blew away. I got lost on my way to the race.
GPS Isn't Always Right
Maybe it was the cell tower. Or, my phone. Or, operator error. Whatever the reason, my Google Maps directions did not take me to Hillsborough River State Park at the crack of dawn on Saturday morning.
I was on a 6-lane highway when the GPS map lady told me to turn left to arrive at my destination. A left turn would put me in the median. After a couple more issues — low gas, sketchy people and a broken pump at the gas station, a return to the highway, another exit and gas station — I headed back towards Tampa. I hoped I could still reach the park in time to pick up my packet and run.
That didn't happen. By the time I approached the exit for the park it was past starting time. I headed home. I think it was for the best. I read a race recap by a runner who ran an extra mile because she got lost on the course. And, she was familiar with the race!
Next, I did what any runner who missed running a race would do. I registered for another trail race, and planned to try again the next weekend. Which, I'd like to add, went off without a hitch!
Have You Tried Trail Racing?
I'm not talking Leadville or the Barkley Marathons. I mean local cross country races or trail races. I love running at golf courses, nature preserves, state parks, and on city trails. Luckily, lots of our local races are staged in these great outdoor spaces.
12 Places to Run Trails near Tampa Bay, FL
Some courses are paved, others are crushed shell, sand, and dirt. It's a great change of pace and scenery from running on city streets. Trail running is also a good way to improve your balance, and ankle strength.
If you want to try the trails around Tampa Bay, here are just a few of your options:
(Photos credit: This Old Runner, Friends of Weedon Island 8K)
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Feb. 24-25, 2024