This race was hard, but fun! The the last trail race I did was the Chester Woods 5k in June (2011). Before that, I think in '02 and & '03 I did the BigWoods 10k races. None of them compare to what GameHaven dished out. The trails at the other races were fairly smoothe and flat, cedar chipped, soft grass, etc. GameHaven had trails that seemed like horses had trotted on them when the ground was soft, then it hardened; there were leaves covering holes, ruts from vehicles/ATV's, there were some long sections that were off-camber (tilted/crooked), some soft sand, dirt that was tilled up prior to the race with the hopes that it would be muddy--it ended up soft so it was like running in sand in a way-there were two water crossings, and finally HILLS, HILLS, and more HILLS.
What made this race really stand-out was the amount of people that showed up as well as their excitement. The temp was in the 40's when we started and there were no less than 30 high-school kids wearing only briefs and body paint. The Byron Bears (body paint and briefs) had a big group there as well as the Mayo Spartans--dressed at Spartans. There was a lot of cheering and craziness going on at the start line. On a not so spirited moment, that the Byron Bears CC team made the best of, was a tribute to college freshman and former Spartan CC runner, Jason Stevens, who died this passed September (I won't go into details). The Byron CC Team presented the Spartans with a photo of Jason framed large with room for signatures on the outside of the photo where the Bears signed. It was a very thoughtful gesture.
The race itself was pretty brutal, but what a perfect place for a cross country race. When the gun went off we followed a gravel road for a couple minutes then it was into the woods. The terrain was either always changing or you were going up an down. During the first half mile or so I was stuck behind a large group of speedo wearing blue guys. Not a pretty site. Up ahead of them were a tight group of 3 guys. I didn't want to get stuck behind this group in the event they were take up the whole trail just to run socially. I worked a bit too hard to pass them, found myself in 4th position for very short time. Then a few guys one by one passed me over the next quarter to half mile or so. I'm guessing they were stuck in a group and finally got by them. I was really feeling the burning in my chest from going to hard to early and slowed quite a bit. A group of about 5 or 6 passed me at that point. Eventually I was running with Devin Olgelsbee. We were a good 75 yards off of a strung out lead group that probably had 12-15 runners in it by now, but there was really no one really behind us that we could hear. We had already went thru one stream crossing in the first mile, now some where between miles 2 and 3 we came to a point where paths went straight or right, but with hay bails that looked like they were blocking the right path. Thinking they were an obstacle Devin jumps them--I followed him and we went straight. About 30 yard into the path straight ahead someone yells from behind "Devin, you're off course!" (I found out later is was Pat Steward who saved us.) We turned around and ran back. As we were getting back on to the course about 10 guys passed us though. We made up some of them and then Devin just took off. After a few minutes I lost sight of him. I could see a guy up ahead that I figured was in my AG, but didn't know who it was. He was wearing a loose sleeveless greenish/mustardy colored shirt over another shirt so he was easy to keep an eye on. I worked my way up to get right behind him, but was joined by another guy (in a green t-shirt) who I suspected was in my AG. For some reason, its getting easier to tell when someone is over 40, but not quite 50. I don't know what it is... Anyway, we are nearing the end of the course because it had been a few minutes since my watch BEEPED off mile 4. I stayed right on the mustard shirt. We got to the castle and had to run straight thru it, but it was one long sand pit. When we got out of that, there as a short descent and we were back on gravel. I could see the time clock up the road and attempted a sprint. Green shirt passed me. Mustard shirt was with a couple younger guys and they started to sprint. We were 50 yards from the finish. I was working too hard to keep it up and wasn't gaining on those who were also sprinting. I was DONE. I looked over my shoulder and there was no one in site. I slowed as I finished and lost a few more seconds, but didn't care at that point.
I found out afterwards that mustard shirt was actually Pat Steward. Here's how the top five in my AG finished:
1/18 Patrick Steward 42 Rochester MN 32:08 6:26
2/19 Mark Brose 43 Minneapolis MN 32:08 6:26
3/20 Mario Minelli 40 Kasson MN 32:15 6:27
4/27 Randy Niemiec 40 Minneapolis MN 34:31 6:55
5/42 Andrew Becker 41 Rochester MN 37:41 7:33
Fun time. Check out the full results HERE , AG break down HERE and the photo's of the race HERE.
There was such a large turnout compared to last year--77 in 2010, almost 200 starters this year with 184 finishing. The high attendence is mostly due to the 65 runners who in 19 years old or under! That's a great turn out for that age group.
Definitely a race to add to the calendar for 2012.