I have only run three trail races. My first was a half marathon — go big or go home, right? Dodge the Deer, a very family-oriented day out at a local park with our local running group, Albany Running Exchange, includes a couple of kiddy races and a trail 5k and has been on my radar a long time.
Historically it’s been in April, which historically is not-so-great weather in these parts. I am a fair weather trail runner, even if my trail half was cool, rainy, and muddy (you can read about it here).
However, Sunday was a gorgeous day. There is also a cookout/potluck following the race. I tried to convince a few friends to go, but didn’t have any luck. Other friends that might have gone were out of town. So I headed out by myself — the first time in a long time that I went to a race without knowing that someone I knew would also be there.
If I’d registered before it closed online, I could have saved $5, oh well. I registered day of, which meant getting there really early — like an hour and a half before the race. The race is in a nice park, though, and it was a beautiful day. Getting there so early meant I got parking close to the activities and could go back and forth multiple times.
I was surprised I could pay with a credit card; I’d expected to have to pay cash. I was also surprised that despite day-of registration, I was still able to pick out one piece of swag from the variety they had (mostly from old races). I wanted to get the race socks, but they were only L & XL — so I got ARE socks (the running group that puts this race on) instead.
I went back & forth to the real bathrooms a bunch of times (because I was there so early and so well hydrated). I also sat in the shade on a picnic bench listening to “Marathon Woman”, our running group’s next book club (I use that term loosely) pick.
I chatted with a couple with their dog there, a woman who had driven in 2 hours from MA to run this race — she’s the one I asked to take my photo before the race — and someone I recognized from our Wed night group runs.
My Race Plan
Have fun. Stay uninjured. That’s all she wrote. Happy to say I met my goals. Despite the fact that my Garmin and the official race results tallied almost perfectly, the mile splits were way off. Yes, your results included your mile splits — a nice touch. So I’m reporting them with O for Official time and G for my Garmin time.
So how’d that work for me?
- Mile 1: 11:40 O/11:16 G. Very weird. There’s no mat to cross, but there is a Start sign and a line on the path. Did I start my watch too early? Too late? Just weird. The first mile felt pretty good.
- Mile 2: 11:06 O/11:33 G. I was definitely surprised by my time the first mile. I’m usually pretty darn slow on trails. Despite the nice shady paths, I was already feeling tired!
- Mile 3: 12:45 O/12:13 G. I am still running without walk breaks, except for a short one at the end of each mile to drink water (which I definitely needed with the 10 am start). I thought to myself “don’t walk in the middle of this mile” but I think you can guess what happened.
- Last .14: 9:49 G. I was, quite literally, neck and neck with this older woman coming into the finish chute. Which helped me to push faster. She was 72, it turned out, and I didn’t want her beating me! We crossed at the same exact time.
36:26 — Official Time (36:25 Garmin)
11:44 — Average Pace (11:37 Garmin)
4 out of 7? in my AG
196 out of 236 runners
I’ve run one trail half (which was considerably slower and also much more difficult), and one other trail 5k a couple of years ago. And that one was 42:25. 6 minutes slower!
I don’t really remember if the course at my first trail 5k was that much tougher, but I don’t think it was. It was even a cooler day, I remember that distinctly! I had run a long run (maybe 9 miles?) the day before. I had no idea what that finish time was going into this race, so a much faster finish time was a pleasant surprise.
I wasn’t at all surprised to find myself so far to the BOTP, but was pleasantly surprised to find myself in the middle of the pack for my age group. I think there was about 3 minutes between me and the woman who placed third, so even without that extra walk break the last mile I don’t think I would have placed. No problem, I was extremely surprised to see I came in fourth — when I saw that I actually wondered if there were only four women in my AG, LOL!
Actually, the person who won my AG had a 23:46 time — there are some speedy older trail runners out there!
The weather & dressing
A late 10 am start and temps already hovering around 70, it was a hot one even with all the shade. Good practice for my Fourth of July race, which will most likely have similar conditions (but start a little earlier).
I wore my Cool It Skirt and Racecation Tank from Skirt Sports. I also wore my cooling scarf, which this time I dosed more thoroughly with water beforehand (last race I didn’t really get it wet enough).
Despite the claims of a very non-technical trail, I wore my Saucony Peregrines and I’m glad I did. I am willing to bet you that my finish time would have been slower had I worn my regular running shoes.
Was the race well run?
This is such a great family-friendly event. Low key as most trail races are. Races for the kids. I had fun cheering them on as I was sitting on the picnic table before my race! Some of the kids were seriously speedy, too, but they were all so cute.
I had never been to this park but had no trouble finding the race. There was no one directing parking, but it seemed to work out okay. There are real bathrooms (which I always love). Registration was easy, I was happy I could use a credit card, results were posted quickly, there was a nice spread afterwards — and a cookout I didn’t stay for.
The one bone I have to pick is with the description of the trails:
The Dodge the Deer 5K (and Kids Races) are on the safest and most enjoyable trails around. It’s basically an unpaved road with easy footing and no hills. If you think of rocks, roots, and other gnarly things when you think of trail running – you’re thinking of places that aren’t Schodack Island State Park. 🙂
Okay, I guess they weren’t that technical because normally my trail running pace is a lot slower. Still, there were plenty of roots and while it wasn’t super hilly, it definitely wasn’t completely flat either — I guess it was flat as trail races go. I wasn’t the only person who thought this.
One last bone: I don’t really think there’s anything they can do about this, but several people were complaining that there were no water stops. Where would you have put them? I always carry water with me, and I’d even remembered to freeze half the night before so I had cool water the whole race. It might be nice to mention on the Website that there will be no water available during the race, though.
Would I run this race again? If the weather is nice, I absolutely would.