async="src="/ Taking the Long Way Home: Race Recap: Autumn Trail Chase 5k

Monday, November 9, 2020

Race Recap: Autumn Trail Chase 5k

When the Chicago Area Runners' Association announced a live trail race, I didn't care that it was only a 5k. Or that it was located about 40 miles from my home. All I could see was the word 'live'. And 'trail'. I was in.

We've had an unusually warm stretch of weather the past week leading up to the race. Instead of the blustery, cold conditions November usually brings, we've had sunshine and temperatures warming up to the 70s.

I've had a great fall season of running. My runs have felt good and I've found some speed again. With the beautiful weather on tap, I could not wait to run a live race and test out the legs in a competitive environment.


Packet pickup was also at locations that were far from my home, so I opted for packet mailing. I received my packet quickly, but was dismayed to see that even though I provided a finish time on my race application, I was placed in the back of the F corral, the very last corral. Huh. When I scanned the participant guide for instructions on how to get a new corral assignment, I saw that there would be no changes to corral placement.

Well, that kinda sucked. I decided I would make the best of it. Instead of letting the F stand for 'f*cked', I changed my mindset to F stands for 'fabulous'. Don't roll your eyes. What's a runner to do?

I arrived the The Forge in Lemont about 20 minutes before we were set to line up in our corrals. I had never been to this preserve before but the quaint historic river town of Lemont is tiny and it was easy to find. The preserve is set along the I&M canals and quarries. It's an historic preserve as well as a recreation area with all kinds of fun things to do. There are also limestone trails that circle around the quarries where the race was set to take place. The race was limited to 300 participants and parking was very easy. 

One of the quarries; ziplining and a patio for drinks

In the middle of the preserve was a staging area with roped off areas marking the corrals where runners waited to start. After warming up my legs and using an actual restroom, I walked over to my F'in corral and waited for the race to begin. Everyone was wearing masks. The first 3 corrals lined up at the starting line, along orange cones with their assigned numbers. When it was our turn, we followed the D and E corrals. There were 3 sets of cones placed 6 feet apart. Runners were sent over the start line, 2 at a time, every 5 seconds. 15 minutes after the race started, it was my turn and we were off!


As I started along the path, I removed my mask and clutched it in my hand for the entire race. I settled into a moderately hard pace and by about 4 minutes in, started to feel good. I've never started at the back of a race before and instead of trying to keep up with the people around me like I usually do in a race, I was passing them. It was a strangely exhilarating feeling. Mile 1 came up quickly, and my watch beeped at 8:31. While I had hoped to run a little faster than that, I decided this is where I would stay for the rest of the race.

I continued to run at my pace and didn't have too much trouble with weaving around other runners. I considered that with staggered start, there was a nice spacing between all the runners, keeping weaving down to a minimum. Only a few times did I have to run around or between people who were running side-by-side. There were a few inclines but nothing I had to slow down for. Several people were starting to walk. Mile 2: 8:28.

One more mile to go and this one was a mental mile. I'm not sure if I was tired-I didn't feel like it-but I had to push myself not to stop and walk. There was a guy in a red Chicago Marathon shirt about 50 yards ahead of me who also started in corral F. I decided to make him my rabbit and I kept him in sight. I hit mile 3 at 8:26 and picked up the pace for the last 100 yards. We rounded the final turn and I flew across the finish line, happy to see 26:03 on my Garmin. 


I grabbed a bottle of water and tried to find my results online. My number and name showed that I wasn't registered. Ugh. I walked over to say hi to the head of CARA. I congratulated him on a great job with a live race. I also told him that I wasn't appearing in the race roster. A few minutes later, I was called to the timing booth, where they added me in. Crisis averted! The timer and I chatted briefly. He told me how nice it was to work a race--like so many people, it has been a tough year for him.

Finisher selfie
No medal, but a satisfying live race in the middle of a pandemic
This is the I&M canal behind me

As I drove home, I reflected on how nice it was to run a race again and how much I miss races. I don't miss the nervousness I feel before the race, but I sure do miss the competitiveness and the camaraderie. It was fun to chat with the other runners in my corral, socially distanced of course, before the race. While the course wasn't particularly challenging--I wore my road shoes--it was fun to push myself, making the most of my corral assignment. With my finish time, I was surprised that I placed 7th in my old lady age group. This just goes to show you that it's all about who shows up. The woman who took first in my age group finished in 21:41! Kudos to her and can I have her preworkout please? 


CARA has 2 more races planned for 2021 at The Forge. Details are TBD. If you are local and you haven't been to The Forge, I highly recommend checking it out! These races would be a great opportunity to do that. I also see that Universal Soul is planning on a live 5 mile race at The Forge on January 9, which would be an interesting challenge. 

In a normal year with plenty of races to choose from, I don't know if I would have done this one. But I'm so glad I made the drive and did it! 

I ran a live, socially distanced 5k in a beautiful place! @oldrunningmom @cararuns @theforgelemont #racerecap #running #runchat
Have you run any live races this year? How far would you drive to run a 5k? Have you ever been seeded into the wrong corral?

I'm linking up with Kim and Zenaida for Tuesday Topics and with the Runners' Roundup: DebbieDeborahJenLaura, and Lisa.  


35 comments :

  1. Congratulations, Wendy! What a wonderful race!
    I think I would have driven 80 miles just to take part in it. I am so jealous right now but also so happy for you that you could do this. Especially with that perfect autumn weather.
    Haha, the F*-corral proved to be quite a win if you can spend the rest of the race overtaking others!

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    1. I am so happy that not only did I get to do this but that it went so well! It was meant to be. I hope everyone gets to race soon.

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  2. I'm with you. Live races are safe. The RDs have made sure of it.

    I have one on Sunday, my first. Not worried at all but only about the hills and the rain.

    I have driven 2.5 hrs for a 5k but that was to meet a friend. Normally one hour or less.

    I am so happy for you!!!!!!!

    That is a great pace even without RA.

    Now I'm settling for finish upright. Maybe when this is over, I'll try to do some speed work.

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    1. Let's qualify your comment: so far live races are safe. The RDs are following local requirements. As long as local municipalities require it, they can continue. Good luck this weekend on yours and I'm looking forward to hearing all about it!

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    2. Yes true. I hope the RDs continue to follow CDC guidelines.

      BTW: I'm on corral 13 out of 14.

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  3. Sounds like a good race. So glad you got your registration straightened out so quickly. Great pace. Nice job. I was looking at some of other results for this race. There were some fast runners in a lot of age groups. I would have struggled to come in 4th in mine if I had run this.
    Well done. Glad it was worth the drive. What's next?

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    1. It seems like all the fast runners came out for this one. Glad I did it, tho.

      Next up is the virtual Schaumburg TT Half. I run it every year; no reason to not do it this year! You?

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  4. I'm not planning any live races this year, although there have been a few in the area.

    Looks like such a lovely place to run & what a beautiful day (and finish time) you had!

    I always say it, sometimes out of the worst of times come good things. Like finding a new place you would never have explored had things been normal.

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  5. That sucks about the corral placement but I'm glad that you still had an awesome race!

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    1. It was a good lesson for me--but a little stressful having to pass all those people. They probably thought I was a big jerk. I was nice about it, but still...

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  6. Great job, Wendy!

    I drove over 200 miles to run a 5k in my hometown. It was a friend's first race, plus it was a Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, so it felt good running that race in my mom's memory.

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  7. Great job on the consistent splits! I think I've only done four live races this year...pathetic in comparison to a normal year, but it's the same for all of us. It's nice to see some of these smaller races coming back with all the safety measures in place.

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    1. I don't know if this would have been a smaller race in normal times; the RDs are having to limit the number of entries per the locality of the race.

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  8. Great job, Wendy! I am happy that you ran a real race. It was a gorgeous weekend for a race.

    I've run The Quarryman Challenge a few times. It is a hilly course! But I don't think I've been to The Forge.

    I've run only 1 live race this year in Atlanta back in February.

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    1. I've never run the Quarryman Challenge. I had planned on it this year, but yeah things changed. I'm hoping to run it next year if it comes back.

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  9. Congrats on your race! I'm so glad you were able to do a live one. A couple years ago I drove 45 minutes for a 5k. The only problem was it started way later than it was supposed to, and it took forever for them to do awards, so I felt like I was gone all day. I think if there were a race I wanted to do I would drive that far again though.

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    1. In this crazy pandemic time, I was so happy for a live race. When I was driving home, I kept thinking how much I missed that experience!

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  10. Sounds like F was for fabulous after all or maybe Fast! Nice job out there I bet it felt so great to be in a race atmosphere again.

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  11. That's an interesting question...how far would I drive for a 5k? I once bailed on a 5k that was an hour away from home although I will drive to that city for their half marathon and think nothing of it. In these pandemic times I have to say...40 miles doesn't seem that far.

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    1. I didn't mind it at all! I was glad for the opportunity to actually race.

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  12. I'll drive pretty far! If I think it's going to be a great experience, there's no distance I won't go.

    Love this for you. On top of a great day, it looks like a fabulous race on a gorgeous trail. Congratulations!

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  13. Wow, well done! I always get assigned to the back corral (as I should be!) and do like to run my steady pace and pick people off ...

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    1. I've never been a picker but after this race, I see the appeal! It was a lot of fun!

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  14. Great job despite all the wrong corral! It's so fun to see you get to do live races right now. Currently with a baby I don't think I would drive too far, but we have other ones in the area. Just need to get back into running enough for them!

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    1. It's fun to do a real race, even though it's still not the environment we all love! With the current level of COVID and how it is rising, I doubt we'll see any live races again for a while.

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  15. Congratulations! Negative splits even! I definitely miss live racing. My only race this year was the Mesa Marathon back in February. It feels so long ago.

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    1. I'm glad I had the opportunity to do this one! And that it went so well!

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  16. Well done on the race and what a beautiful day for it! Why aren't you showing up in the results? Didn't that happen at the last race you did as well? Is it an ambassador thing?? So odd.

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  17. Congrats on a really good race. Wow! 7th with a 26:03??? There must be some really speedy women in your area. The race course looks nice. Doesn't it feel wonderful to run a live in-person race again? Of course, now with increasing numbers of cases, that may go away again. I did 2 5Ks since the restrictions were relaxed this summer.

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    1. It was a lot of fun! As the timer said to me, looks like everyone in your age group showed up! LOL

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