After setting a resolution to enjoy more trail running and sign up for trail races in 2014, I jumped pretty quickly into my first official all trail race: The Ruff, Tuff and In the Buff 5k. It was sponsored by Buff Neck Gators, hence the name. No actual running in the buff, because that would've been quite cold.
When I signed up for it, I was expecting a very snowy run. I'm familiar with the trails and know they're pretty sheltered from the wind, so I knew there'd be quite a bit of piled snow. But I forgot that I lived in Indiana and Indiana weather is tricky. Sure enough, after getting somewhere around two feet of snow dumped on us, the weather warmed up and it rained. Then it cooled off a little and got icy, but not before all the rain melted about half of the snow and well, it was a mess. When I got up Saturday morning and looked at my flooded backyard, I knew it was going to be more than just a snowy trail run. And it was. There was snow, mud, ice and water flooding the trails (some great picture can be found here. At points, the water was over ankle deep and you had no choice to run through it. It was also cold. Really cold. My toes were numb before I even hit a half-mile.
Still, despite the freezing cold toes, I had a blast. I started out near the back of the pack (admittedly not a very big pack) and this is honestly not the kind of race where you can pass people. At least, not very easily. It was a double loop and for the first loop, I just fell in line behind other runners because it was slippery and hard to get used to the footing. Also, I wasn't out there to be speedy. I stopped to help up two people who slipped. I wore my watch only because I thought I would stick around afterward and run a few more miles (this is before I realized my shoes would be so waterlogged). I didn't look at it once, though. I don't even remember hearing it beep the miles, funny enough. Unlike a normal 5k where I would keep my head down and think about how I wanted to die, I took in the sights and conversed with other runners (during a 5k!). I laughed at the two young boys in front of me who splashed through the water with absolute glee and abandon. Toward the middle of the second loop, I did start passing people because there was more space and I felt a bit more sure on my footing--although I still had a few slip and slide moments where the snow would turn to water and then to ice, but despite my lack of trail shoes or anything that I probably should've had, I managed to stay upright.
I finished in just over 33 minutes, which is my slowest 5k yet, but not at all bad for a trail run in really tough conditions. I placed 4/9 in my age group. So close to that AG award, but completely okay because I wasn't out there to push it. Mostly, I just had a blast. I was cold and it was hard, really hard. I felt like I'd run much longer than a 5k because those conditions worked my entire body, but it was so much fun.
The race itself was very well-organized. It was small, maybe a little less than 100 people. There was no big back of junk and samples that I don't really want or need given. Instead, they had a table full of Buff headgear and you got to pick which one you wanted. They had portable heaters set out before and after the race, as well as hot chocolate, granola bars and bananas. For a small, inexpensive race, it was really well run and I definitely hope this happens again next year! Maybe the weather could be a little less insane, but I'm pretty sure I got to run in all elements of trail running at once. How often does that happen?