If you haven’t run a Pretzel City Sports race, you are really missing out! This was my first year running the Dirty Bird 15K and I could easily see this being a race that I will put on the calendar every year. Well marked, well organized, and amazing trails. The 10:00 start time made for a nice trip to visit my Dad and allowed us to sleep in on race day. The most special part of this race was sharing it with my 12 year old son, Eli. I emailed the race director before we signed up to get permission for him to run (app says 16 year olds and up are permitted with a parent running). We got the okay and showed up at French Creek State Park to tackle his first ever trail race! (And first race over 4 miles).
It’s always so much fun to meet up with my cousin Chris and his awesome wife Tracy for a trail race. I love sharing this part of my life with as many friends and family as possible. We are already talking about doing Chilly Cheeks this winter.
I wore my hydration vest so that Eli and I could share water hands free during the race. I’m not really one to rely on water stations because I like to drink whenever I feel like it. Plus, it was an easy way to carry my phone and snap some random pics on the trail so Eli can always remember his first trail race!
We had started out in the back of the pack since Eli said he wanted to run for run. The first 0.5 miles of this race we ran down a paved road and were able to settle into an easy pace and pass some people, but when we turned right onto the single track trail, it was like traffic on a highway during road construction. We had to walk much of the first mile. I think that’s when Eli’s competitive wrestling side kicked in. (Well, then, plus at the start line when he started psyching himself up and hitting himself in the head to get pumped..haha!). I told him it would get better, but that he could start passing people whenever he got the chance, so that’s what he did! In fact, Boy was a natural and I found myself kicking it full speed a few times to stay with him. We ended up spending the rest of the race passing people. He was sure to point out no one passed us that we didn’t end up passing again before the finish.
In retrospect, starting out in the back really helped to build Eli’s confidence throughout the race. He said he was a little nervous before the start, but then he started passing people. He was enjoying being out in the woods and before he knew it the miles were ticking by and he didn’t even feel like we had gone that far. I gave him some Honey Stinger chews at mile 3 and he thought we were only a mile or so in 🙂
Around mile 8.5 I could tell Eli was going to just settle in and cruise to the finish so I told him to see how many people he could pass in the last mile, and that I’d see him at the finish. He sped up and caught two guys right away (one of which told him later in the parking lot that Eli had been a motivation to him).
My Dad is an amazing race day photographer. He hiked the trails while we were running, then positioned himself about 0.3 from the finish for some woodsy photo opportunities. Runners before us thought he was part of the race crew and he ended up directing them. Some even thanked him for coming out and one lady asked him for permission to cut through the field because she was having a bad race and didn’t want to cross the finish line. (I don’t get that, but think it’s hilarious that she wanted my Dad’s permission. haha!).
Eli loved his first trail race and he says he wants to try a trail half. We’ll see when it fits his wrestling schedule but of course, I’m game! We spent some time at my Dad’s before heading home.
A little advice I give Eli:
Life is like a trail run because you never know what’s around the bend. Take what the trail gives you. Live in the moment and enjoy the ride. Do your best on the hills and rocky sections, as they too shall pass and you will find yourself cruising the downhill on the other side.
(A few times during the race he told me he going to take what the trail gives him. Love him.)