My goal for the Dirty German 25k (15.5 miles) this year was to go out and have fun day on the trails. I wanted it to be an easygoing, no pressure run, celebrating the culmination of a packed season of short and fast races.
I woke up around 5:15 for the 8:30 start. I always lay out my clothes and gear the night before a race, but I still love waking up extra early on race mornings. There is nothing like race morning anticipation, a feeling which I've grown to love instead of dread over the past couple of years. I spent about an hour drinking coffee, eating breakfast, and browsing blogs and social media, and then got dressed and out the door.
I made a conscious decision to leave my phone in the car for this race. I was already going to be carrying a water bottle, and didn't want any extra objects to worry about in case I fell (spoiler alert, I fell.) While this means I have fewer photos for the blog, it also means that I paid more attention to nature and the people around me during the race.
After dropping my race swag off in the car, I headed back down to the start just in time. Then we were off!
The course was the same 25k loop I remembered from last year. I fell into a nice and steady 9:30ish pace in the first couple miles, which felt a bit difficult and labored. I haven't been training on trails too much, so I eased back on the pace and allowed people to start passing me. I must say that after racing much shorter and faster races this year, it was not easy to let people pass me. But then I remembered my goal of having a FUN day on the trail and eased back into a steady 10 minute pace.
One noticeable difference between 2013 and 2014 was the number of people I saw on the trail. Last year, the 25k, 50k and 50 miler all started at the same time. This year, they were staggered in 1/2 hour increments. While it made for easier navigation of the trails, it would have been nice to have more people to chat with.
The course is set up as a figure 8, so aid station 1 can also serve as aid station 3. At my first visit (around 4 miles) I downed a cup of gatorade and continued on my way. I was definitely glad I brought my water bottle because the aid stations were about 4 miles apart and the day was warming up fast.
The next couple of miles passed by easily, and I pressed on at an easy, but not TOO easy pace. I would end up keeping up that level of energy for the whole race.
At aid station 2 (around mile 8), I filled my water bottle and grabbed some cold Coke, one of my favorite trail race treats. I also picked up a quarter of a PB&J sandwich and ate it as I left the aid station. The next few miles were mainly run on the bike path, which like last year, was my least favorite part of the course.
After a few miles on the bike path, my hips started feeling tight and reminded me I was not quite trained for a race of this distance. The course turned back onto trails for a couple of miles, and then we ended up back at aid station #1 which was now aid station #3, approximately mile 12. I washed down a couple of potatoes dipped in salt with some Gatorade and a nice cold cup of beer. The beer was refreshing and reminded me I only had a few miles left to go!
Soon after leaving aid station 3, I came to my favorite part of the race. There is one section of twisty, single track, switchback trails in Pennypack park that looks like it was designed by mountain bikers. These trails wind around each other in circles and loops so you can see and hear other runners through the trees as you're running. This part of the race always makes me feel like a kid again, and really brings me back to everything I love about trail running.
Soon enough, I heard the music and festivities of the finish line, but remembered from last year that there was still a mile or 2 to go even after hearing the finish. Excited to be done soon, I started to pick up the pace. As I began to run faster, my tired feet did not respond as well and all of a sudden I found myself face down on the ground. I picked myself up and continued on, laughing it off since I ALWAYS manage to fall right before finishing trail races.
I crossed the finish in 2:35, averaging a 10 minute flat pace. I was pretty happy with my pace for a 15.5 mile trail race, especially since it was my farthest run since the 50 miler last fall. I finished right around midpack, 92nd out of 208 finishers and 7th in my age group. I am happy that I accomplished my goal of having a fun day on the trails, with no pressure to PR or win any awards.
After the race, I met up with George from the RunningAhead forums I post in, and chatted with him while I enjoyed some delicious German food. The potato salad was spectacular, and made up for the fact that they didn't serve potato pancakes this year. I sipped a Bell's Oberon, one of my favorite summer beers. Oberon is stronger than many wheat beers at 5.8% ABV, but its light and slightly citrus flavors are perfect for a warm summer day.
Overall, the Dirty German Endurance Fest was everything I expected and wished for this year. I had a really fun day on the trails and loved being back in the trail racing atmosphere. Since I've now run the 25k and the 50k, all that's left for me to conquer is the 50 miler one day!