While scouting the online listings for local trail races a couple of months ago, the MacNair's Farm 5K/10K* caught my attention. I suspected any race on a farm would have an unpaved course. And a thorough reading of the race director's description confirmed that hunch.
"MacNair Farms is a never run trail course that lays on 290 acres of land. The race itself will take you through fields, woods, and around the scenic grounds of the Horse complex. The 10k will be more challenging in not only distance but naturally elements. There will be mud, woods, water, and all things trail. Prepare to get a little dirty and have some fun.(Not a Race you want to wear New Shoes for)"
Yep, that sounds perfect!
The Athens Drive High School Track and Cross Country teams were the benefactors of the race proceeds. And, that gave the race an of-the-runners-by-the-runners-for-the-runners kinda feel, which was cool.
The realization that there would be quite a few speedy cross country kids running the race gave me a sense of trepidation. This is because one of the things that makes a runner my age feel especially old is when he gets dusted by someone under the age of 18. (The winner of the 10K was 17) But, being a grown up, I just have to get over that sort of thing.
Race-day weather was the best we'd seen all summer. Temperatures hovered in the mid-sixties with a wind tumbling across the fields now and then. A drenching rain overnight ensured muddy terrain wherever mud was possible.
I warmed up from the starting area, a wide expanse of ankle-deep field grass. There was a lot of this grassy ground cover on the course, in fact. And, that made this an especially ideal cross country trail.
As I turned back to complete the warm-up run, a deer paused on the trail in front of me and stared as if I had no business being there. Then she snorted and bounded into the woods. I've never considered deer to be especially polite. Can't say I blame them, though.
The 5K and 10K races began at the same time to the sound of a starter pistol. Runners of the shorter race lined up about a quarter mile further down the course from where the 10K runners started. So, it was good that the first couple of miles were wide enough for passing people as needed.
And we're off! photo by Patti DeBruyne
As we rounded the first turn onto that grassy course, I found myself just behind the lead pack of high school kids. What the hell was I doing? I'm not a lead-pack guy.
So, I slowed just a smidgen to keep pace with a couple of guys who looked like they were more my age. That didn't feel right, though. So, I just ran and jockeyed for position with the eventual-second-place 10K runner as we left the field and crossed into the forest. But, he eventually sped up to keep pace with the first place runner.
High five! Catch that old dude in front of you!
photo by Patti DeBruyne
We reached a turn that separated the 10K runners from the 5K runners. And, it felt nice to know that everyone with whom I was running had the same distance in mind. I don't know why.
I'd been ignoring a sore hamstring thing for the past week. So, I was trying to be slightly cautious as I ran. The fact that I found myself growing tired sooner than I'd hoped pretty much ensured that I wouldn't over do it, I guess. Also, my hamstring reminded me not to ignore it.
Passing a paddock with horses staring, I entered the portion of the course that counted as true single-track trail; or the "enchanted forest" as one volunteer put it. The terrain was fairly easy to navigate with just a few roots here and there.
My favorite features of the trail, though, were the water crossings! I almost caught the three leaders after the first stream. but, they managed to pull away again. It was then that eventual-fourth-place runner passed me. I recognized him from some other race, a fellow trail runner, no doubt.
Overall, the course was a lot of fun. The horse farm afforded a gorgeous setting for the race. And, there were quite a few different challenges with which to contend.
The Bare-Grip 200s are good for grass.
A handful of small, muddy hills challenged my pacing whenever I thought I could catch that lead pack. But, I'd say the toughest aspect of the course was the uncertain footing due to the grass creating an illusion of flatness. There were tons of dips and holes in the ground, imperfections that weren't readily visible until you stepped through the grass and stumbled for a second. That's a good kind of challenge, though. And, my Bare-Grip 200s handled the grass and mud perfectly.
As is the custom, I ran as hard as I thought I could until the end. There were lots of turns along the well-marked course. And, thankfully, there were plenty of fantastic volunteers to point the runners in the right direction.
When I found myself running along the course on which we'd started a quarter mile from the start/finish area, I tried to imagine that my form appeared effortless and efficient, because I'm sure I looked nothing like that. I was tired. I didn't even feel that kick of energy that usually saves a runner's ego during the last few meters of a race. So, I crossed the finish line like this:
Pretty sure that's a pile of horse manure in the background.
photo by Patti DeBruyne
photo by Patti DeBruyne
I somehow pulled off a fifth place finish (probably because many of the local fasties were in Laurel Springs participating in some other trail running event). I like that.
But, I certainly didn't feel as awesome as I should have. So, I don't like that, the not feeling awesome. Specifically, I was disappointed by how tired I was before half the race was done. More tempo runs for progressively longer periods of time might help with that. I'll have to try again next year, I think.
Thanks again to the incredibly helpful volunteers. And, thanks to the race directors for putting together such a great off-road 10K course.
And, thanks to you, reader, for at least skimming down to the end of this overly lengthy race report!
*This was a race with two names. The race listings on various websites title it with "MacNair Farms", while the race logo and official name of the equestrian farm use the possessive "MacNair's Farm". For the sake of consistency, I'll use the logo's version of the title.