Forest Frolic | Virgil State Forest | New York
New trails are almost always the best trails. This is never more true for me than in this year. On my quest to do a lot of new to me running I have been fortunate enough to log so many miles in places I have not run or raced before.
I have been wanting to run the FLRC trail circuit for years. But year after year a commitment to a race I signed up for months ago meant missing a race. This year I intentionally did not sign up for any races until the schedule for the FLRC trail circuit was announced. Then I If wanted to run other races I could make sure that they did not conflict with my commitment to this trail circuit. As it turns out I’m not running many other races so far, which is just fine. Between the trial circuit and the FLRC challenge I have been plenty busy in my running.
Next on the race calendar
Up on the calendar this time around was the 2022 Forest Frolic. This trail race is held in an area where I have never run and likely have never even been period. On the trails of the Virgil State Forest in New York. Most race distances are 5k, 10k, half marathon, marathon with the occasional 25k mixed in. I love that this race had some non-traditional race distances. There were two distance options. A 7K that shakes out to about 4.1 miles and a 15K option that is around 8.9 miles.
This time through the trail circuit I am running the 7k option to get a feel for what the race is like if I decide to run the longer version in the future. I really had no idea what to expect on this course.
Prior to the 7K race starting I had an opportunity to pick up my FLRC Challenge shirt. My friends and I were all ready to go. The 15K race had started and there was 15 minutes before the 7K race started. Or so I thought.
Late to start
We were parked about a half mile from the start line. I figured if I jogged slowly down the road I would have plenty of time to toss the shirt in the car and get back with a few minutes to rest before the 7K race began. I proceeded with that plan. On my way back to the start line I was noticing that the time was getting close to the race start time as noted on the race website. I thought maybe I would get there just in time for the race start. As I got close I didn’t hear anybody. Then I didn’t see anybody. I arrived at the start/finish to learn that the race had started without me. I learned later that the race took off about 5-10 minutes prematurely.
I am not the kind of runner who typically warms up much before a race unless it is a race where I am planning to go out hard right from the start. Add in the fact that it was a warm, to me, morning at nearly 70 degrees as the race started and I do not like/perform well in the heat. So the last thing I wanted to do was run bonus miles. But today I was able to get a nice 1 mile warm up leading right into my start of the race. Something new to experience. Why not?
I didn’t have my GPS watch ready to go when I started because I didn’t know I’d be starting then. I fiddled with my watch as I took off from the start line. My watch eventually connected as I proceeded down a relatively steep decent on a dirt road to start the race. Getting the watch connected isn’t critical for me in a race f this distance, but given the heat it is helpful for me to know where about I am in the course so I know if I should back off if I am getting over heated or if I am close enough to the finish line to give it a little push.
It was nice to start off on a descent. It seems like many trail races start with a climb. I prefer descending, but of course if you descend you must climb back up at some point. But if I had to choose a terrain to run a descent on I think a dirt road cut through the woods would probably be my last choice. These types of roads seem to be the most full of debris and loose rocks and challenging to run for me. I would prefer a more technical natural trail over a road.
I reached the bottom of the decent and turned into the woods and quickly began to catch up to my fellow runners. This helped me feel a bit better about how this race was going to go. I was worried I would just be alone in the woods the whole time due to my late start.
In conversation with my friends on our way to the race I distinctly remember talking with my friends and comparing the distance and elevation gain totals to one of our local trails and stating that this shouldn’t be as bad as the red trail at Tanglewood, longer distance w/ less elevation than that trail. Well this course kicked my ass.
I was really hoping that since the course was a bit longer and the elevation gain a bit less than my previously referenced local trail that it meant the climbing would be broken up into shorter segments. And would be easier to handle without the pace grinding to a halt. I should have been smart enough to realize that there is a ski resort nearby so the likelihood that the hills would be small was slim.
First there were two shorter climbs that were around 100 ft of gain. These two climbs were hard enough. Then there was one long climb that ascended around 500 ft. I am not a climber on the trails. I can get through it, but they really take it out of me. Combine that with the heat on the day and I was getting the smack down from this course.
As I got further into the course I found myself running with the same mix of runners for a while. We leap frogged each other multiple times. On the climbs my fellow runners would close in on my and often pass me. On the descents I would close on them and make my moves to pass. This is typically how a trail race goes for me. Slow on the uphill, make up time on the downhill.
Finish it up
I am not a competitive person by nature and as a runner I am not fast enough to compete in a race to win or even place in my age group. It is me against me on the trails. And as this was a first time race for me I really had nothing to prove and that all helped me to just let go of the fact that I wasn’t going to have a finish time I would expect from myself on this race due to the late start. And with the warm weather I decided to take it easy and not push too hard as I neared the finish line. Some of my fellow runners were able to catch me and pass me at the very last minute. I was happy for them as they surged to the finish while I just slowed and accepted my finish. Maybe not the ideal way to finish the race, but I wanted to be able to enjoy myself after the race with my friends and not be over heated.
After seeing the race results I saw I was only 2 minutes behind my friends that I had come to the race with. I wish I had been able to catch them if for no other reason that then we could have shared more time on the trails together but it was not to be today.
Post-race watermelon and beer hit the spot. We bought some race day swag and took photos together and then went and got some food to eat.
I also learned recently that it unfortunately looks like I will end up missing ne race this year as well due to a scheduling conflict. Well. I guess there is always next year.