Falling on the trail is not a matter of if; it’s when. My when happened much sooner into my trail running journey than I expected.  I remembered to roll, so I only bruised my ego, encrusted dirt all over the spout of my hand held bottle, and scratched up my elbow a tiny bit. Later, I discovered a nice sized bruise on my hip to go with that scratch. Sorry, you don’t get to see that. It’s a wry irony of being being delicate in a less than delicate sport.

The day after my ugly 5K age group win at Run for the Bridge, I hit the trails for 15 miles. Aside from falling, stumbling repeatedly, seriously considering bagging the whole endeavor after 10 miles,  I ended up walking 3/4 of the last loop.  I severely underestimated how much I overextended myself the day before. And my GPS watch died about a third of the way into the 12th mile. I made it back to civilization just in time to collapse on the pavilion bench before washing myself down at the bike wash and heading home. It was another warm day.

That tumble convinced me that I need both hands free to better balance myself out there.  I nabbed a Nathan Intensity hydration pack for less than $50 from Running Warehouse. I’ve wore it on dog walks to get used to it before racing in it. Time constraints moved my training runs to the dreadmill that week. I took the vest out for a real test two weeks ago at the Dirty Spokes Harbins Park 13.1 trail race.

I loved the Harbins 13.1! I haven’t run that slow since my first half marathon, but that was it an enjoyable race. The course used the shared mountain bike/foot trail, the hiking trail, and the shared horse/foot trail, so there was variety in the terrain.  Dirty Spokes did a marked the course well with flags and barriers; although, during the last mile or so along the trail, I had a little anxiety because the trail itself was covered with pine needles. I finally came upon the 2nd/3rd aid station again, so I knew I was still on the right trail. The bike and hiking trails posed the trickiest footing with lots of “snakes” and inclines/declines. The horse trail was nice and smooth. It’s a popular trail with riders, so there’s usually soft sandy areas that have been torn up by hooves. We all got a nice break to pick up some speed along the fire road/maintenance path.

I stumbled twice and slid onto my butt once when I heard another runner behind me and tried to get out of the way.  I really liked having the pack instead of a belt and handheld hydration. It was so much easier to stay hydrated and get to my fuel. The sound of the sloshing water was rhythmic and comforting. The only problem I had was the inside of my left arm rubbed against the small zippered pocket. It didn’t rub enough to cause a hot spot; just annoyance. I may be able to adjust the straps more to reduce or eliminate that problem. My water stayed nice and cold throughout the run (not so with my hand held bottle even though it’s insulated) and kept my back cool.  My Altras did their job – I had absolutely no foot pain or toe problems during the race.

When I finally made it to the finish I was surprised with a beer glass! The race description had not mentioned a beer glass, so that was very cool. Finishers also received a car sticker (Jellybean attempted to eat mine. Bad dog).  Even though I finished during the awards, there was plenty of bananas, water, granola bars, and other snacks on hand.  Packet pick up included the t-shirt (quality shirt), Clif bars, and Clif Bloks, which came in handy. I stuffed a few more in my pack at the aid stations.

I could  have pushed myself more  for a better time, but I took it easy.  I admit, I was still feeling a bit sore from the previous week’s fall and a nasty charlie horse after one of my cross-training swims earlier in the week.  I enjoyed being able to relax and appreciate the trail. Best of all, I discovered, I can fly!

Dirty Spokes made this a must-repeat race. I’m looking forward to another Dirty Spokes race!


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