some reflections on my first trail race of the season

Happy, post-race feet

Yesterday I ran The Dirty Kiln, a kick ass trail race organized by Allegheny Trail Runners. As you’ll recall from my blog/vlog post last week, I was registered to run the 13-miler but decided to downgrade to the more manageable 5-miler.

In short, it was a total blast. I wish I could say it was my favorite trail race so far, but for very specific and personal reasons, that just isn’t so. That being said, it was one of my favorite races I’ve run so far. Because stream crossings. Because mud. Here are a few brief reflections:

1. Getting to a race early is key. I got there about 40 minutes before the start, which was just enough time to pick up my packet, get geared up, pee, and watch the first group take off. In the future, I plan on being there at least an hour before start time.

2. I’m sooooooooo happy I did the 5-miler instead of the half marathon. Dude, I’m fucking out of shape. Even though I ran in the winter, I’m a slog right now. I’m a shell of my former summer trail running self. I need to start a training routine and cut down on carbs and sweets. Dammit.

3. I need to buy stock in Pickle Juice. This stuff has some voodoo magic powers. I had a muscle cramp in my calf (I’ve been getting it every time I run) and at the aid station around mile 3.5, they had Pickle Juice. I’ve never had it before, but Milo (yay for volunteers!) said it was good for cramps. So I took a shot and a handful of m&ms and off I went! My cramp was gone almost immediately. IMMEDIATELY. Did I mention there’s voodoo magic at play here? Or just lots and lots of salt.

Photo credit: Liam Clarke

4. River / Stream / Water crossings are FUN! Need proof? Here I am crossing the second stream crossing of the race. The first one was much deeper and had a guide rope. I loved getting wet and it didn’t bother me at all while running, as I originally thought it would. I will no longer avoid stream crossings (which should cut down on bushwacking and ticks).

Obligatory before and after photo

  1. Getting muddy is FUN! Dude, why have I been avoiding mud and water puddles this whole time while on the trail? WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? I absolutely loved getting muddy. It’s my new favorite thing about trail running. The muddier, the better. I will now seek out mud on all future runs.

6. 5-miles isn’t by any means my max, but it’s close. For now. As I said previously, it’s painfully obvious I need to train if I want to be serious about distance. A fellow (seasoned) trail runner gave me good advice: “the key to running far is hydration, nutrition, and attitude — or in plainer terms drinking, eating, and smiling!” The first two are pretty easy to research and prepare for. That last one though… I need to work on.

a happy Gina from the trail

  1. Which brings me to: Grace. I need to work on this. I’ve got too much negative self-talk while I’m out on the trail and I’m missing the #presentmoment (yes I did just hashtag that shit) that I’ll never experience again. I found my mind drifting a lot into negative land while on my race and I had to work hard to pull it back. I did enjoy myself, but I had to fight to keep the demons away. I’m good enough to be out there, dammit. So I need to just enjoy it and live each moment that I have on the trail.

  2. It’s totally cool to cry upon crossing the finish line. Listen guys, trail races are still new to me. This was only my third. And in some ways it was my first. (Intentionally vague.) I clocked in at 1:23-something (my official time was 1:17, not sure how that works) and when I crossed the finish I cried. It’s a pretty emotional experience crossing a finish line. I was proud of myself for making it in under 90 minutes, which I honestly wasn’t sure if I was going to do.

Runners gathering for the half staff

  1. There’s so much that goes into a race. The organizing, to the trail marking, volunteers…it’s a huge operation. I felt such good energy yesterday with all of those people that care enough to be out there, helping to make it all happen. I was a bit emotionally moved by it all. I want to do volunteering for trail races this year.

  2. My disdain for hotdogs does not extend to trail races. I ate a hotdog after the race and it tasted soooooooo good, lemme tell you.

Wet and muddy Salomons

  1. A change of shoes is your friend. I didn’t end up changing my clothes, because they were mostly dry by the time I left. But it felt so good to get out of those wet, muddy Salomons.

  2. I used a belt to carry my phone and it worked great! Got that one for free in my race bag from Rothrock, the first trail race that I didn’t run (because I double booked, whoops). I didn’t want to wear my water pack but I needed a way to carry my phone, so I thought I’d try the belt. Must GPS my run. Must.

  3. Give me more! Trail running is incredible. Trail racing is its own sort of incredible. I’m not competitive at all, but I still love it. Mostly just being in the company with good people who share your passion for the trail. Can’t wait for more!

So that’s all for now! Thanks to everyone who made yesterday such an awesome day, from those that were there and those that weren’t. See you out on the trails!



About Gina Marie Thompson

writer • mom • trail runner • cheese slinger • educator • social justice crusader • seeker of love & beauty• living locally • I CHOOSE LOVE ❤️
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One Response to some reflections on my first trail race of the season

  1. Jenn Watts, Director of External Programs, North Park Trail Runners says:

    Congratulations on a race well run. Hope to see you at many more.


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