Sunday morning I rand my second race since we moved to St. Louis, The Skippo, a 20 KM (12.4 mile) trail run at Castlewood State Park. I had heard good things about the trail running and mountain biking at the park, but I hadn't yet had time to pay a visit.
I suspected the course would be quite hilly (by central Illinois standards) and the website alluded to stairs on the course. On the first of two 10 KM laps of the trail I was both pleasantly and unpleasantly surprised. First, the course was not as hilly as I expected, on the whole. Five of the six miles were almost completely flat. Second, the one mile that wasn't flat was an absolute beast. An interminable set of stairs rose 300 ft in about 1/4 mile, then a long false flat lead to steep switchbacks on the way back down.
I made a point of starting the race slow, or so I thought. I was still with a large pack in the top 10 as my watch beeped, showing 6:10 for the first mile. Damn. Little by little the pack spread out a bit. The stairs came in the fourth mile. When I reached the top I almost stopped running because the view of the Meremac river and autumn foliage was so breathtaking. No, wait, it was the stairs that were breathtaking. Anyway, I immediately started planning a hike back up here with the family, perhaps after the race even.
I hammered down the hill as fast as I could, but I still couldn't keep in contact with the guys ahead of me. I spent the next six miles by myself trying to catch back up to my former group, making little headway.
The second time up the stairs I was delighted to find Melissa & Will standing near the top waiting for me. That wasn't part of the plan, but on the bright side it meant that I didn't have to hike back up here for a third time to show it to them. Melissa had made a friend and they decided to hike up there together to see the view and watch the race unfold.
Again, I hammered down the switchbacks but continued to lose time. By the bottom of the hill another runner, the first placed woman, caught and passed me. Back on the flats I was feeling a little stronger so I stayed right with her for a mile or so. In the last mile I felt a little stronger so I surged back ahead, finishing in 1:28:19, good for 10th overall, 2nd in my age group.
The age group award was pretty sweet, a $10 gift certificate to Big River Running Company, which was a good deal for both of us because I ended up buying more than $10 worth of merchandise from them.
Anyway the race was challenging and rewarding. The course was both easier and harder than I expected. I enjoyed the trail, I can definitely see puttin some long winter miles in out there.