This year we decided to add in the Trail Mix 25K race into the Upper Midwest Trail Runners Trail Series. It’s a very popular local trail race at Lake Rebecca Park Reserve, and is a great introduction to trail running for beginners. I hesitated on signing up early, and opt’d to just do race day registration.
I had never been to this park before, so I was curious about how the course stacked up to other routes. I did some searching on Strava and discovered that the elevation nearly matches the Elm Creek horse trail loop, meaning that this should be pretty familiar territory for me. Both routes are also around 7 miles in length, so this should be just like doing two loops of Elm Creek.
I arrived early to register and then chatted with other folks that I knew that were there. I snapped a pic of the UMTR folks for our Instagram feed right before we launched at 9:30am. I stuck to the back of the pack, since I’m not a fast runner, and I also like to avoid the crowd at the front. This still doesn’t mean I went out at the appropriate speed, and probably should have dialed it back a bit. Soon the mass of people started thinning out and I was able to set my pace and settle in for a few hours of running.
The course was double-wide horse trail, with a couple of short gravel roads, and two segments of bike path. In other words, this is very similar to anyone who’s run Elm Creek before. The main difference being that I felt like I was on pavement a bit more between a couple of the trail junctions. As for elevation, the hills were much more mellow than Elm Creek. Even with a similar about of climbing, I never felt like I was climbing up anything tremendously steep. However, the downside to smaller hills is that you end up with more of them. You also tend to run up them without thinking, expending energy that you might not have on sharper hills.
Trail Mix is a great race for people crossing over from roads, and one of the benefits is frequent aid stations. The loop is 12.5K long, and there are aid stations roughly every 3K. This means that you’re coming across water and food frequently enough that you don’t have to carry any if you don’t want. I opt’d to not carry any water, and for the most part was fine. There were a couple moments where I felt like I would have liked some extra water, but the aid station was never that far away.
On my first loop I felt pretty good. I ate a lot of food in an attempt to keep my energy up, and made sure I was hydrating enough. I ran more of the uphills than I probably should have, but I wasn’t keeping up an outrageous pace. I came into the start/finish area to start my second loop in just over 90 minutes, which was just fine with me. My training this year has been pretty bad, so I was happy with my time so far. I gobbled up some food and headed out on the second loop.
The second loop was hotter than the first, so I doused my head a bit when I came across water. I also felt my energy wane somewhat so I backed off my pace and started doing a bit more walking. However, I enjoyed running through the mud puddles; prancing my way through, while others futilely tried to stay dry. As I got close to the final aid stations I realized I was pretty much out of energy and so I kept it slow the rest of the way in. My final loop came in around 107 minutes, which considering where I’m at fitness wise was just fine with me. My overall time was 3:19.
I grabbed a bit more food and chatted with folks a bit before deciding I needed a nap and headed for the car. I made my way home, showered and immediately fell asleep for a nap. It’s somewhat frustrating to me that I’ve declined so much that even a 25K has me feeling like my first half-marathon race. I know I can get back out of this but it will take time. It may affect my decision to attempt the Superior 50K in a few weeks. I’m considering just volunteering and work on building myself up for Marquette 50K later this year.
I had a good time at Trail Mix, and I can see myself coming back again next year. It’s a fun, easy, course, and it is very well managed. The was an abundance of aid and volunteer support, making the entire experience fun and easy. The weather was amazing, topping out in the 60s by the time I was done. Thankfully, there was a cool breeze most of the time, so it never felt overwhelmingly hot (I do wish I hadn’t forgot sunscreen though).
If you’re looking for a fun race, especially as a new trail runner, Trail Mix is a great event. Even if you’re experienced in running on dirt, Trail Mix is a really beautiful place to run and get in some solid miles with great support.