I guess we forgot to read the fine print. I've been racing since 2008 and never made this mistake. Let me explain.
My sister-in-law has been on a fitness rampage for the last two years. She was very heavy and through diet and exercise has lost a lot of weight. It's not easy to stay disciplined and achieve those kinds of results so I applaud her. Currently she has become a CrossFit, dare I say, addict. There have been many family parties where the runners in the family go on and on to the interest and/or boredom of everyone. Well, she decided she wanted to run her first 5k.
She has run the distance before in her workouts. Slowly, but she is doing it. So I let her pick the time and place. That time and place was the Dash for Dogs in Cary, IL. It is the same animal shelter where her and her husband got their cats. Race fees went to the shelter. The master plan was for me to pace her. That pace would be somewhere around 11 minute miles. As with all first time runners, she was scared she would be dead last. I assured her that would not happen and I would get her to the finish line. Unknowingly, we signed up for a trail race. Not the flat, paved road all first timers should probably run. No, a single track, stump and rock filled, branch ducking course around a conservation area. The Fel-Pro Conservation area. Uh oh!
Turns out she twisted her ankle two week before the race. The weather called for rain. Which meant mud on top of the other obstacles. She made the wise decision to pass so she wouldn't get hurt any worse. I made the decision to run by myself and run it hard. By the way, I have never run a trail race.
Well it never rained. There were 220 racers on hand. I lined up near the start line after my warm-up and was shocked to see nobody wanting to be near the front. I though it was odd but on the single track portion I didn't want to slow down. The first portion was on an asphalt trail. I let any speedsters go by me. There were very few. We turned onto the grass portion and headed over a foot bridge and onto single track through the bushes and around a pond. It was here I noticed very few people ahead of me. The grass/mud track continued with lots of short but steep hills. My 5k road pace deteriorated with the course difficulty. I was breathing hard up another sharp hill and decided to ignore the Garmin. Run on feel and run as fast as I could. I was gassed at the top of some of those hills. Runners were well spread out around me. Two younger guys about 25 yards in front of me, someone about 30 yards behind me. We hit the asphalt again (where I know how to run), I sped up and cross the finish line. Wow, 24:01. Almost three minutes slower than my 5k road PR two weeks ago.
Trail racing is not for the faint of heart. My sister-in-law might have never run again after this course. However, my almost good deed was rewarded with a first place finish in my age group. My only AG win to date. I finished 8th overall and just narrowly beat the women's overall winner. The men's overall winner was 51 years old. A 55 year old guy finished just in front of me. Take that kids!