On a whim, I decided to sign up for the Angela Ivory Memorial 50K/50-Miler at Killen’s Pond State Park in Felton, DE. I knew that I wouldn’t be trained for a 50K, plus I had a toddler’s superhero birthday party to attend at 11 a.m. that day, but I figured I would get my feet wet in terms of an ultra experience and a trail race.
Prior to the race, I made plans to meet up and say hi to fellow IRUN4ULTRA ambassador, Martha. She had never run an ultra before either, but little did I know she’s fast as all get out and ended up winning the damn thing on the women’s side.
Hubs and I decided that I would go to this race alone, since the start time was around 8 a.m. I say around that time, because the UltraSignUp.com information said 8 a.m., but the Drive to Run site said it was an 8:30 a.m. start. I’m a Type A, so it bothered me that I didn’t know the exact start time of the race.
I’m also a hopelessly bad driver and have no sense of direction, so getting there was a wee bit of a challenge. I was greeted by this awesome sign on the passenger-side seat when I got in the car:
I was fine until my GPS took me right, when the written directions on the Drive to Run site that I had printed out (how’s that for old school?) said to go left. I ended up making some weird loop on an access road next to some farmlands, but eventually I found my way to the Killen’s Pond State Park entrance.
Martha had texted me before I got to the entrance saying that the gate wasn’t open yet and that cars were just sitting there waiting for someone to open the park.
Thankfully, I only sat for a minute or two before someone came to open the gate. Since I have zero sense of direction, I was very nervous the night before about actually finding the meeting area for the race. The directions on the Driven to Run site were simply to “make a right turn into large parking lot (just past water park); rendezvous at picnic tables.” I had only been to Killen’s once before, and hubs was driving, so I didn’t pay any attention to where we were actually going. Luckily, I just followed the long line of cars into the park, so I had no trouble finding the picnic tables.
As I got out of my car, I noticed that it was still drizzling a little, but at least it wasn’t an all-out downpour like it had been the few days before the race. I walked over to the picnic tables, sheepishly realizing my rookie mistake of not bringing any sort of fuel to share with my fellow runners (Learning Experience #1!). I said hi to Martha and her mom, and we chatted for a few minutes before we all took a group picture and the race director got up on a picnic table to give us a few words of advice. He told us to follow the orange markers (pay attention here, this is important for later in the recap), where there were a few tricky spots where you had to pay attention in order to stay on the trail, and to just start whenever you wanted. (So there goes my 8 versus 8:30 start-time theory.) I was super nervous about staying on the darn trail, but I figured I’d just follow someone, anyone and make it through. It seemed like there were maybe ten, fifteen runners total, so I figured I’d see someone out on the trails.
Martha’s mom noted that Martha started at 8:08 a.m., and I was only a minute or so behind her, because I stopped to say hi to my friend Ryan who had gotten there a few minutes late (or right on time, depending on what start time you went with, hah!).
Literally less than five minutes into the race, I see Martha turn around and motion with her hands up in a quizzical look as if to say, “Which way do I go?” The guy in front of me pointed her in the right direction, and I followed suit. I had hoped to run my usual 10:30 pace, but I quickly threw that out the window, since duh, trail running was a lot more technical, and I had to pay more attention to not falling flat on my face. I thought the trails would be a lot more muddy, but overall they were fairly dry in most areas.
Not even two miles into the race, the guy in front of me made a sharp left turn, but I honestly thought he was going to squat in the woods. The race director said that there were no bathrooms available, except that he motioned to the entire woods and said that what you see is what you get! So I kept going straight on the trail along my merry way.
Then I came to two areas that just didn’t look right to me. I had been following the orange spray paint on the ground that I thought was either orange markers or just to signify that there were roots/rocks on the trail that folks should avoid. (Learning Experience #2!)
I came to a clearing with a paved road with ZERO markers. I backtracked, found two nice women, and together we set out to figure out where the hell we were. The one woman, Lara, was from New York and was a very experience ultra runner. She was super nice, and I had a great time running and chatting with her. Maybe ten minutes or so into running with her and this other woman (I’m so sorry that I didn’t catch your name!), we hear someone yelling at us. It’s the race director saying that we’re going the wrong way. He yells, “Follow the yellow markers!” Screeeeech. Haulllllllt. What the what? I know for a fact that he said ORANGE markers before the race started. He laughed, apologized sheepishly, and we course corrected. Before we parted ways with the RD, he told us that the yellow marker loop was about 3.1 miles, and the orange marker loop was only about 3.3 miles or so, so we hadn’t veered too far off course.
Lara and I finally came across the picnic-table start and surmised that we ran maybe 3.4 miles or so instead of the 3.1-mile loop of the course, but that was OK. We started out for Loop 2, and this time the course made a lot more sense. I thought all along that we were supposed to be running around Killen’s Pond, and indeed we were this time!
Lara regaled me with her harrowing ultra tales, and it helped to pass the time, along with the neat scenery. I’m used to running around paved neighborhoods, so it was such a nice change of pace out in the woods. I even saw this abandoned car frame (I think?).
Since I only had until around 10 a.m. to run, I stopped after Loop 2 to see how far I’d gone. I was just over 6.5 miles, and also quite defeated pace-wise. How was I running this slowly?! I know of course some of it was walking around lost in the woods, and some of it was just taking my time to look at the sights, but man. I really had hoped to squeeze 10 miles in at least. I had daydreamed of even doing 15 if possible, but that just wasn’t going to happen. That’s OK though, because it was still an awesome time, I had a blast, and I know others did too.
All in all, I absolutely loved my experience at this race, I got a taste of what trail running is like (and I LOVE it), and I got to meet some really nice runners! I would definitely recommend doing this FREE race in 2018, and I’ll be there for sure!