On Saturday the wife and I left the house before 7am to make to to Nerstrand for the 20th running of the Nerstrand Big Woods races. This race is part of the UMTR trail series, and it’s one that we’ve never run before. I decided to run it this year to see if I could get a few points in the UMTR trail series standings, and for something fun to do leading up to my next big race.
Mother nature decided to wreak some havoc with this years race however. We got a message the week before that the course was changing, and we would no longer be able to run in the southern half of the park. This meant that after completing a 7 mile loop in the northern section we would be funneled onto the country highways for the final 6 miles. I wasn’t thrilled about this idea, but figured it would still be a fun day.
We arrived early and caught the shuttle bus to the start line, where we met up with some of our friends like Heather, Jeff and Amy. Lisa and Amy we planning to run together for a large portion of the race, so I lined up a bit further up and waited for the start. After a prayer and the anthem we launched. Very soon we were on nice hiking trails that weaved throughout the park. There was a fair amount of mud, and my shoes and legs were quickly covered.
Besides the occasional rocks and roots, the course was very gentle. There were a couple of moderate hills, but nothing too terrible. I managed to run all but two portions of the uphills in the park section. The weather was nice and cool and so hydration wasn’t an issue, but I probably should have packed a snack of some kind. Running through the beautiful woods though, I didn’t mind having to slow down a bit and enjoy the amazing scenery.
Eventually, all good things have to come to an end. I exited the park paths and started the long slow slog back to town. The route back was a mix of gravel road and pavement. Despite being farm country, there were a couple decent hills, including one that I had to hike up the last segment. As soon as we hit pavement all the road runner type people who I had passed on the trail came blazing past me.
I slowly made my way back to the finish line, alternating miles between 10:30 and 11:30 per mile. The final turn gives you a straight shot view of the finish line, which is still a mile away. I plodded along as best I could, vowing not to walk any of it, and crossed the finish line in 2:24. Not my fastest half marathon time by far, but after 6 miles on the road I was just happy to be done.
I went and changed clothes while I waited for Lisa. Because this was such a small race, she was assuming she would be last, however she still beat one person, avoiding her DFL (Dead F***ing Last) award. We hung out with our friends for a bit and had some soup at the church where the finish line was before heading out to meet Heather for lunch in Northfield.
We wrapped up the day at the bar with a burger and a beer (well, at least that’s what I had) before beginning the hour long drive home. Despite really hating the road sections of the course, I fully understand that nature sometimes doesn’t cooperate. I still really enjoyed getting to see half of Nerstrand Big Woods State Park, and spend a bunch of time with friends in the running community.
Hopefully next year the course will cooperate and we’ll get a chance to see the race in all it’s glory. Until then, I’m looking forward to the rest of my races this fall.
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