There are several competitive and large Turkey Trots in the Triangle Area but I've always enjoyed an easy run back home with friends on Thanksgiving morning instead of racing. Instead of doing a Turkey Trot I chose the Chestnut Ridge 4 Miles Trail Run in Efland, NC when it was posted in the Facebook group, Running In The Triangle, by Race Director Alan Schumacher. The race looked fun and different for me since I rarely race on trails. Trail running and fall go together and I was looking forward to it. My last off road race was a 5K in August on the Wake Med Cross Country course but that is not trail running. My last true trail race was the 2011 Continental Divide 10K Trail Race in Laurel Springs, NC and that is one of the hardest races you will find anywhere in the country.
I took a week off from running after the American Tobacco Trail 10 Miles race at the end of October. I enjoy taking a week off post marathons and after a long racing season. A week or more of rest, one planned and not forced on by injury or overtraining which could have been a result of not having a rest period, rejuvenates the body and mind in ways that outweigh any losses in fitness. Planned breaks take the pressure off – you don't feel that your training is never-ending, jumping from one goal to the next. Science is discovering that the chemistry of the brain, the hormonal system and the immune system are compromised during hard training. Breaks rejuvenate these systems, allowing us to train better, more consistently and with more zeal across the next training plan.
After my week off, I was running easy; no fartleks, no intervals, and no tempos. Just a mix of general aerobic and recovery runs. My total mileage hadn't gone over 30 and my long run was 9 miles. Yes I still wanted to be competitive in this race but I was mostly just looking to run in the woods for fun during a race with no pressure on me. It was me versus the course, not me versus the clock or competition.
The Chestnut Ridge Camp and Retreat Center was easy to find. It is exit 160 off I-85/40; roughly 4 miles west of Hillsborough and 6 miles east of Mebane. If you use GPS navigation know that the race site is on an unpaved, gravel road. I arrived at the race at 9:00am. The 4 and 8 miles races started at 10:00am. This was the first time I had gone to a race by myself. My Dad couldn't make it because our Church was setting up for homecoming and Jamie couldn't make it either. It was weird going to a race by myself especially one where I didn't know anyone else there but the people were friendly and welcoming.
Packet pickup was easy and well organized. The race shirt was a very nice polyester/cotton blend. Runners also got a free pair of nice tech socks. They had hot coffee ready and a heated activity center with heated bathrooms open for the event. The race benefits the "Pass It On" Annual Fund which supports the camping ministry, enhances facilities and equipment, and helps send children and youth to camp through the campership scholarship program.
After doing my usual dynamic warm-up I headed off for an easy 15 minutes. I didn't go on the single track trails and stuck to the gravel roads. It was cold with temperature in the low 30s but sunny.
I was in second place, behind one in the 4 miles race. We entered the first single track section of trails and this is when the race really started. The trails were in good shape, hardly any mud. The trails were even swept the day before so there was a clear path and trail markings to guide us. There were a lot of roots and rocks and twisting turns. The Adios shoes were still doing well on the single track.
I wore my Garmin 220 but I rarely looked at it the whole race. I knew the GPS was going to be off on the single track trails and time didn't really matter. I was racing the course. I knew by my effort I was running between 6:30-7:00 min/mile pace on the single track trails and was low 6 and under on the few gravel road sections.
Shortly after 3 miles the course go around Lake Fellowship. The loop around the Lake was my favorite part. The footing was some of the best on the course allowing me to pick up the pace. It was still rooty in places but the loop around the lake is mostly grass.
I was still in 3rd place but gaining on 2nd and I kept hoping we could get a final gravel road section so I could possibly catch him. We did get a final section on the gravel road and I picked up my pace trying to catch 2nd place. I wasn't able to catch him and I finished 3rd in 27:46. My Garmin showed 4.31 miles so I knew it was over 4 miles but it being over the advertised distance didn't bother me, it's common in trail running.
First place in the 4 miles race went to former Duke University Cross Country and Track Runner Cory Nanni in 23:45. The winner of the 8 miles race was Erik Johnson in 55:46.
Even though the Fall colors had long since peaked some were still holding onto the trees and they were pretty. Overall it was a very pretty course and the trails were great. There are some hills on the course but they are rolling and not bad at all. This was a fun race. It is very well organized and put on. No complaints about this race. I recommend doing this race.