This year I decided to forgo my usual run of the Get in Gear 10K, and instead headed out of town with my three sons to Milaca, MN for the Runnin’ in the Ruff 10K. My boys came along with me to run/walk the 2 mile race, while I tackled the 10K trail.
I had never run this race before, and so had no idea what to expect. We arrived a bit early, so we could register and get our swag (really nice shirts), and then hid in our car until closer to the start to keep out of the cold wind. Eventually they started the pre-race announcements at the pavilion. There was a large map of the entire course (both races) posted and the gentleman in charge started talking through the route. However, he didn’t use a microphone and turned to point at the map while he talked. After a couple minutes of this most people started to talk amongst themselves, since we couldn’t hear him anyway. Guess I’d find out soon enough how well the course was marked (no issues, it was very well marked).
The start line was a couple blocks away from the finish line at an entrance to the trail system. We all gathered and then the gun sounded (which actually looked like a real revolver, not a starter pistol… welcome to rural Minnesota). On the map of the course there were three sections that were marked as “steep hills”. I had no idea what was considered steep for this course, but I assumed that being in central Minnesota meant that I wouldn’t be facing anything too tough. The first hill came up quickly, and it was almost nothing compared to most of the trails I run around the cities. I run steeper hills on the Elm Creek horse trails.
I settled into a sub-11 minute groove and started to chip away at the miles. The trail itself was a mix of grass horse trail, and singletrack. There were a few rocks and roots, but overall it was only minimally technical. This meant I could keep up a steady pace throughout. The only time I had an issue was on the northern section of the course where the trail turned to pure mud for large sections. I spent way too much time skirting my way around the edges, only to end up having to stick my foot into the mud anyway. That was by far my slowest mile.
This was also a section of the course that was made up of switchbacks according to the map, so I assumed that there would be some hills to contend with. However, the switchbacks were actually over flat ground, which was rather strange. It meant that you could see a lot of the other runners on the course as you all wound back and forth over this section.
The other hindrance for me in this race was my own body. My hip has been a bit sore lately, and my legs were just plain tired today. It took a good 4 miles before I was feeling comfortable, and even then I didn’t feel like my legs were obeying me like I wanted them to. I’ve been pretty strong on my return from Zumbro, but maybe I’m still not as healed as I thought I was.
As I crossed the 5 mile mark I told the lady that was running behind me that she was welcome to pass me, but she informed me that I was pacing her, and she would have started walking if she hadn’t decided to keep up with me. That pretty much gave me the boost I needed to finish strong, because under no circumstance was I going to let someone who was using me for a pace bunny get past me in the last mile of a race.
Much to my surprise I didn’t even have to hold on for a mile. Soon the finish line was in sight; much sooner than I anticipated. I looked at my watch as I crossed and realized the course was only 5.7 miles according to my GPS. I’m going to go back and look over my track to see if it cut a corner somewhere, but other people also stated that they came up short on their tracks as well.
Once I had finished it was time to hit the road again with the kids, and find some food. Runnin’ in the Ruff was a fun little course, and it would be a perfect introduction for anyone who’s thinking about trying out trail racing. They put on a decent race, with some good swag, all in a nice friendly rural community.