Wrong Turn cost me a Birthday Present

So there is a series of trail races that take place around the Provo area called the Cascadia Trail Series.  The last race was Trial @ Trail 51 last Saturday (10/10) and was held at the Southern point of Big Baldy in Orem.  It was a 15k that wove around the intertwining trails, starting near the mouth of Dry Canyon.

I had raced an 8k trail race as part of the series about a month earlier and the winning prize was a pair of Brooks Cascadia trail shoes.  Not a bad prize! I’ve enjoyed those shoes on the trails ever since.  The first place prize for this race was also a pair of Brooks Cascadia Trail shoes.  Now I wouldn’t normally be motivated to win another pair of the same shoes I already have, however, we were celebrating my sister Hailey’s 21st birthday later that very day, and I needed a birthday present for her.  It just so happens that she is also a runner.  She is currently running for Weber State and is doing very well for the team, recently earning Big sky Conference Athlete of the Week honors.  I thought a pair of nice trail shoes would be the perfect gift.

So I showed up to the race, excited; the last Cascadia Trail Series race definitely didn’t let me down, so I was pumped for this one.  I’ve also really gotten into trail running since I graduated and I wanted to put my trail training to the test.  And, of course, I had the goal in mind to win those shoes for my sister.

The race started and we were off.  It  was a downhill start so there was somewhat of a mad scramble down the gravel road until we filed onto a single trail.  I let gravity take me down the hill and I hit the single file trail ahead of everyone else.  I kept a pretty honest pace for a while until about miles 2 to 4 where we went up the canyon and there was a lot of climb.  Uphill is not my thing.  I didn’t have to walk, thankfully, but my pace was not anything to brag about.  I battled away at the hill for a couple miles until it finally leveled out.  My calves were thanking me as I was able to get into a good rhythm.

The reward of uphill running is that you get a nice view when you get to the top, and I fought the urges to take a break and enjoy the view of the spread of Orem/Provo and the Utah Lake.  I was locked into a pretty aggressive pace.  Trail running is so much more interesting than road running, and I was focused on stepping in the right places and going as fast as I needed without rolling an ankle or biffing it.  There were a lot of forks in the paths but it was well marked with orange tape which was the right path.  I didn’t want anything to slow my pace.  I hit the downhill and started turning it over even quicker.  I really just let go on the downhill and didn’t try to break myself.

About 50 minutes into the race I knew I was coming close to the finish.  Former team mate Jace Nye had set the course record here the year before at 56:09.  I knew I could be somewhere around that.  I felt I was taking the trails well so I sped up, wanting to break the course record.  When I reached the top of a small hill I looked back to see how much of a lead I had on second place.  I could see the trail winding down and I saw the second place runner about 3 or 4 minutes behind me.

Then I came to a fork in the path where I din’t see orange tape on either side.  I wasn’t sure which path was the right one, but I didn’t want to slow my pace so I took off on the path that seemed more official.  After running on that trail for about 30 seconds I still wasn’t seeing the orange tape that I had gotten used to looking for and I second-guessed myself.  I backtracked to the fork in the path and took a look at the other trail, but I wasn’t seeing orange tape there either.  I knew I was losing valuable time so I stuck with my gut and took off on the trail I had chosen first, trying to quicken my pace to make up for the time I had lost.

I would later learn that there were sticks on the ground at that intersection showing you where to go.

After running on that trail for about 3 minutes I realized I had taken the wrong path.  The trail started to go right back up the mountain and I knew the finish line was at the bottom of the mountain.  I realized I was off-track and I wouldn’t be able to catch the lead again.  It would take me another 3 minutes to get back to the intersection, and in total I would have lost about 7 minutes with the time I had spent earlier trying to  make a decision.  I knew the second place guy would be quite a ways ahead of me by the time I made it back to the path.

Realizing that I wasn’t going to break any records or win any pairs of shoes for my sister, I gloomily just continued on the wrong path I had chosen.  I had gone the wrong way, and instead of finishing, I decided I would just turn this into a long mileage run instead.  I took off my bib number, feeling a little silly with it on, and slowed to a normal jogging pace. I followed that trail for a while, then bushwhacked down the mountain a little ways when it wasn’t going the direction I wanted.  I found another trail and followed that one until I made it back to the race camp, running about 75 minutes total.

I chatted with some of the runners, had some chocolate milk and then went on my way, more than a little disappointed that I had gotten off-course.  I probably should have taken more time to figure out which path was the right one; I just didn’t want to lose valuable time.

I still had a good time spending time with my sister and friends later that day and she forgave me for not winning her a pair of Cascadia shoes.  Though I bet inside she was thinking I was pretty dumb for taking the wrong turn, haha.

nice pic

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