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Tick Ridge Trek 25K Race Report

Photo by Gregg Gelmis of We Run Huntsville
Photo by Gregg Gelmis of We Run Huntsville

(Preface: I did a non-race report entry for today too, so feel free to read that entry instead of this one. I do these race reports mainly for personal archival purposes, I don’t really expect anyone to read them.)

Saturday was the inaugural Tick Ridge 25K/10K. It was put on by our local Tri Club (Team Rocket Tri) and run on private land. I had friends who had run the course previously in the planning stages. They all told me, it’s very hilly, but it’s smooth surface as it’s mostly tracks from ATVs.

“Technical” is not synonymous with “Difficult”

For the most part, when someone calls a trail course “technical” it tends to deal more with the surface you’re running over…describing more the footing of the trails. Is it rocky or covered in tree roots? Technical courses are almost always difficult in that sense. HOWEVER, if someone says a course is “not very technical” it doesn’t mean it’s easy. This is a distinction someone taught me early on. A trail course can still be hard even if they say it’s “not technical.”

Tick Ridge was described to me many times as “not technical” – but since I was taught early on not to assume that meant “easy” – I knew to still ask around about other characteristics of the course. I had heard that the elevation gain was “similar to McKay” which is the toughest trail race I’ve ever done.

SO! I was braced for hills! I train for hills all the time! I got this!

But, man. Towards the end I had problems caused by the STEEPNESS of the downhills. They killed my knees. And a lot of the path was slanted a bit, which also didn’t help my knees/hips. So, basically on the last mile or so of the race, my knee started locking up and before I got to my car to go home? It was completely locked up.

DAMN YOU, IT BAND.

But overall? The course was gorgeous. I stopped and took pictures several times. There was PLENTY of aid. Evidently some people got off course at some point, but I didn’t have a problem. Of course, I was paranoid about being lost so I checked a the aid stops and checked to always make sure I had a flag on my right, at least in sight. I guess that fear helped me (also, being alone meant I didn’t follow ayone who maybe wasn’t going the right way) because I thought the course was marked very well.

The surface was smooth so there wasn’t the “I need to make sure I don’t break my neck tripping over those roots/rocks” issue that slows me down on Monte Sano trails. There were still hazards, some mowed grass and crops left stalks that had tripping potential. And some of the paths from the ATV tires were ankle hazards, but in general? Surface/Footing was EASY. It was VERY “runnable” which is another word people use to describe trails.

And the uphills I did no problem. Ran a lot of them in the beginning, jogged/walked in the middle, walked-only in the end. I ran much more of the uphills than I do at McKay because the footing was so good.

My time was 3:34:12 which is about 44 minutes faster than my best McKay 25K time. You can’t really compare trail races, but it gives someone who has done one but not the other, a point of reference. But, 44 minutes faster almost makes it sound a lot easier than McKay, but it was not. I am not even sure it’s “easier” how I define it, I hurt WAY more after this one than after McKay. I’m still hurt. My IT band and my knee are in immense agony even today. So, I would say doing one definitely means you can do the other – but the “easier v/s harder” is going to be different for each runner.

Here’s the comparison of the elevation profiles.

25K

(I have since learned that GPS elevation data is not “accurate” so just look at that data for the profile. The lost/gain numbers are evidently closer.) So, the total lost/gain is close, but the difference between highest/lowest is not. Basically you do more ups/downs at Tick Ridge, broke up into shorter segments. I’m not sure which I like better. My time was better at Tick Ridge but my body doesn’t hate me as much after McKay.

Hopefully they’ll do it again next year and I can spend more time thinking about this. 🙂

I will say this, the downside of a small race is that, if you are not fast, you feel quite slow. I’m not “slow” in reality, but I’m not fast at all. But, in small races I tend to finish very close to the end and usually by myself. The isolation on the course, and that ghost-town feeling at the finish-line, beats down at my confidence. I finished 60 out of 70. And several of the people who finished behind me started late, so I would have been closer to the back if it weren’t for that.

So, I’ll do it again, for sure. But I’ll prep my IT band better, and I’ll prep mentally for being close to the last (and alone on the trails) better. It’s a good first-time trail course if you are not scared of hills, but if you’re used to running flat roads? It might be a little overwhelming just with the elevation changes.

Oh! And one more thing. If you’re prone to black toenails? (Remember, my nickname is Zombie Toes.) You definitely need to make sure they’re cut SUPER short before this race. Those downhills? Total toenail killers.

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