Thursday, June 27, 2013

Fenn Valley Frolic in the Vineyards 5K Trail Race recap

Oh my goodness, I am so behind on blogging again this week! 

Before I begin today, let me start with what simply HAS to be said (even if I'm a bit late to the party here).  HUGE CONGRATULATIONS to the Chicago Blackhawks on becoming Stanley Cup champions again this year!!!  I couldn't be more proud of my beloved Blackhawks for their grit, perseverance, fortitude, and unbelievable work-ethic.  Who would have ever imagined that in the last 80 seconds of Game 6 the Hawks could go from the despair of a 2-1 deficit to the jubilation of a 3-2 lead within 17 seconds flat?  Talk about heart-stopping moments.  Even now I am still shaking my head in disbelief.

Much more about the Hawks to come another day.  But for now, here's how Adam and I watched Game 5 from a Michigan beach town:

Not a bad way to roll, eh?

Okay, let's get down to the topic of the day.  Last Friday I ran the Fenn Valley Winery 5K Frolic in the Vineyards.  I was really excited to run my first-ever trail race through a vineyard with its own wine served during the post-race party!

I thought that running a trail race through vineyards wouldn't be that hard.  I knew that trail races are generally done at slower paces than road races due to the terrain, but it's not like we were navigating through heavily wooded Brazilian rainforest mountains or anything of the sort.  A vineyard couldn't be that different than your typical road race, right?


The race course involved running over unmowed grass, dirt, mulch, and just a bit of gravel road.  I learned very quickly just how much the type of surface can slow you down.  With the exception of the gravel roads, all of the surfaces were incredibly challenging to run through.  The grass was soft and uneven with random sticks and branches providing plenty of trip hazards, and the dirt and mulch were not much better.  I literally felt like I was running in quicksand the whole time.  It was exhausting.

Do not be fooled by this picture of the gravel path along the vineyards.  Only a tiny, TINY little portion of the race was done on the gravel path.  The vast majority of it was done in unmowed grass.

To add to the challenging running terrain:

1) I forgot to bring my Garmin with me.  And there were no mile markers out on the course.  Therefore, I was basically running blindly with little or no sense of how far along I was, how fast I was going, and how much further I had to go.

2) There were several killer hills along the course.  Given my state of struggle even without any inclines, I didn't even bother trying to run up any of the hills.  Not a chance, not a chance.

Here are a couple of pictures from the start.

Me lining up with other runners, waiting for the race to start.
And we're off!  I'm a little off-center to the right in the white hat and purple shirt.

I spent nearly the entire race looking down at the ground directly in front of me and doing what I could to stay upright.  Even despite my caution, I still managed to turn my left ankle a couple of times.  Regretfully, I was so focused on the immediate ground surfaces that I barely enjoyed the vineyard scenery.

All in all, it was the longest and toughest 5K I can ever remember running.  35 minutes and 12 seconds of gritting my teeth and trying my best to avoid tripping and falling and breaking my skull. 

I was really, really relieved when I got to the finish line.

Obligatory race photo body spasm celebrating the sight of the finish line

I have a lot more respect now for cross-country runners.  I seriously had no understanding until now how challenging the courses can be.  Wow!

Onto the post-race party.  It had a very local vibe to it.  Refreshments featured some picnicky foods (sandwiches, chips, and pasta salad), plus gelato samples and one glass of wine per participant.  A local band played and lots of raffle prizes were given out.  Unfortunately there were a lot of mosquitos keeping us company and no bug spray to be found, so Adam and I didn't stick around very long.

I am very happy to make Michigan #4 on my list of states raced in, and I was happy to experience a trail race for the first time.  However, I don't think I will run any more trail races.  My joints and all trail runner afficionados will hate me for this, I know - but give me a running surface of asphalt and/or concrete anyday over grass!

My next race: the Home Team Charity Run 10K on July 14.  (What better way to celebrate the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup victory than a race that features them, eh?!?!?)


  1. So... you are not going to become a hard core trail racer now?! Hee hee. Congrats! Was this your first trail race? They are definitely something else. You slow down a lot, like you said, and spend most of the time watching the ground so you don't trip... like you said. I find them really peaceful though.

    The post race party sounds fun! Minus the mosquitoes! Who invited them?!

    1. I am so NOT going to become a hardcore trail racer. Heck, I won't even become a dabbling trail racer. This was indeed my first trail race and trails are no joke!!! I bet all trail races have really strong feet and ankles as a result of all the uneven terrain!

      Yeah, who invited those mosquitos!?!?!? They just pop in and think they can bandit all of our post-race parties! =D

  2. Pure Michigan running! LOVE the race spasm photos! I would be mad if you left it out! Have a fab day! (hey when is that beach day again??)

    1. Oh yeah, gotta love pure Michigan running indeed! This totally felt like a local SW Michigan race - very down to earth and low key. Glad you like the race spasm photo =) (I was so wiped out at the end that I almost forgot to spasm ;). Stand-up paddle board and beach day is Saturday, July 13!!!! =D

  3. The grass sounds killer! The few times I've run on dirt paths I found that fun but grass is something else. Not a fan!

    1. This post should have been entitled "Attack of the Killer Unmowed Grass" =D I'd take dirt paths over grass anyday, too!!!

  4. Aww I love that last pic of you!!! I'm doing my first trail race in August (a half) and I'm fully expecting it to be all full of rocks and tree roots and inclines, etc. I hope to finish in one piece.

    1. Thanks, Maggie! Oh wow, your first trail race will be a half marathon!?!?!? I can't imagine having gone through all those tripping hazards over 13.1 miles - the 5K distance was plenty for me! Definitely take it very, very cautiously and throw ALL time goals out the window!

  5. I love the last picture. I've been trying to do the same pose but no luck. I'm afraid of doing a trail run because I keep thinking that I will end up falling too many times. Great job!

    1. Thanks, Zenaida! The race photo body spasm is very much about good camera work as much as the pose, so no worries - I am sure you'll be body spasming on camera in no time. ;) And yes, trail races are REALLY something else. If you ever do end up doing one, definitely take it as slowly as you need to!!!

  6. Congrats on your 1st trail race! Looked like a beautiful place to run albeit challenging. You are so right that it is very challenging mentally to stay focused scanning the ground for tripping hazards. Did you sample the wine?

    and YAY BLACKHAWKS! that place you watched the game at looked fabulous :)

    1. Thanks, Xaar! If there ever is a next time with trail racing, I am going to forget all about "running" the race and just take my time and enjoy the scenery. It was too stressful trying to run the whole time! I'm not a big wine drinker (especially after running) but I did sample the wine and it was a fun experience. =)

      YAY BLACKHAWKS!!! (There's nothing like watching a Hawks game in Michigan within enemy Red Wing territory up in Michigan... wow!)