Sunday, November 22, 2015

Happy Trails to Me? Nah - Critter Trail 5k Race Report

So, a while back, I needed to find a good November run. I was on track to finish a run per month again this year and didn't want to fail!

However, with runDisney volunteering and Thanksgiving, it didn't leave many options for runs. There was a local run that didn't seem too appealing, and this one. I'd never done a trail run before (well, except for Tacachale a few years ago, but I didn't KNOW it was a trail run until I was actually running...), so I decided to give it a try.

If you live in north or central Florida, chances are, you've heard of Silver Springs. They are the home of the Glass Bottom Boats!  My mom said that she used to take me and my brother all the time, but I have absolutely no recollection of this place.  There is also a water park connected to it called Wild Waters - I remember that, because of a church field trip when I was maybe 11? I had a huge crush on a boy I went to Sunday School with. I hung out with him all day that day.  Sigh.

Anyway, Silver Springs is in Ocala, about an hour away from home for me.  The drive was uneventful and I got there with plenty of time to spare.  I scored a pretty close parking spot, maybe 5 rows away from the entrance to the park.

My parking spot in relation to start line - the flags demarcate the race route
Also, if you live in NFL or CFL, you also know that Silver Springs had been struggling for years to stay afloat as "Nature's Theme Park."  Eventually, they couldn't, and the State of Florida swooped in and purchased the land, to conserve it as a State Park. Many of the locals were worried that Silver Springs as we knew it would be gone, but I can tell you, it's still here, in all of it's tacky southern glory.

Welcome to Silver Springs  - I'm standing in the middle of the race route right now
Past the worn and tacky entrance was packet pickup.  There were more people here than I was expecting, but it didn't take very long to pick up my bib.

Packet Pickup area - it was never super-busy
I had time to walk back to my car and drop off my goodie bag. Then I came back to check out the pre-race activities.

As part of the Real Florida Days Autumn Festival (which was going on at the same time as the race), the State Park Rangers had one of their horses out for everyone to touch.

Oooooh, horsie
There were a few other exhibitions, like fire demonstrations (which smelled great!), specialized plant and animal demos.

Soon, though, we all headed to the entrance, which was the start line.

When there's no corrals, I just hang out in the middle and to the side
Behind me
The race organizers were a bit behind, so we were all just kind of hanging out for a while.  Plenty of time for a footsie.

Peacock Sapphire Sparkle Skirt
With not much pomp or circumstance, we were off.  We ran through the parking lot (hi, car!) and headed onto some trails. Okay, shit just got real. Let's see if I like trails.

Route marker up ahead, turn left
I'm pretty sure I began to hate trails way before Mile 1. Granted, you can't see much of me in the photo below.

#306 sure looks like she's having fun though! (And, girl, you have GOOD LEGS!)
Very quickly, "trail" turned into "sandy dirt road."  I hate shit like this.  It's like a manlier version of a beach. It's soft, it's shifty, and it gets all up in your shoes. This went on for a long time (I'd say 2 out of 3.1 miles).

Everyone was walking on the side of the trail, rather than deal with this sugar sand
Eventually, I made it to Mile 1.  Thank God. Only 2 miles to go.

Why is there a decimal?
I like that, in addition to Mile markers, they had Kilometer markers.

The "K" signs were much smaller, though
I trudged my way to Mile 2.  I was amazed at all the people pushing (or trying to push) regular strollers.   Maybe they didn't realize that "trail" meant "trail?"

Watching her deal with the sugar sand was especially funny
This lady had a hell of a time pushing that damn stroller, and yet she was STILL ahead of me...

Show off!
Coming out of the trail system, we made it to Mile 3.  I can hear the finish line around the corner, and man, am I glad to just finish!

No decimal this time
I see it, there's the finish!

At least there was a good crowd who stuck around to cheer us in
Fancy photo (from Friends of Silver Springs Facebook Page)
Yay! I finished my first on-purpose trail race!  I came in at 54:24, which, given the fact that it was trail run insted of a road run, wasn't that bad for me. (Yes, you speedy people who can run 10 or 15ks in that time - you can suck it.).  I was 11th in my age group out of 14. I was 124th out of 172 total runners, so I beat 48 people. I don't think I've beat that many people in a tiny race before, so there's that...

There was a video of all the runners coming through the finish line, and you can see that I have ZERO FUCKS to give at this point. I'm practically stomping my way to the finish line!

Anyway, I drank some water and headed over to the post-race party tables.  There were very nice and very sweet older folks (Friends of Silver Springs members) manning the tables.

She looks like she's picking her butt
There were platters of sandwiches from Blue Highway, bagels, and, weirdly, a huge box of fortune cookies! 

I like that Blue Highway told us what was in the sammiches
I ended up with a bagel, a sammich and a fortune cookie (yes, I actually EAT fortune cookies).

Bagel, Fortune Cookie, Italian Sub
Better view of Italian Sub
Unfortunately, there was nowhere to sit, and I didn't want to cramp up anyway, so I carried my plate back to the park.

I passed the entrance to Wild Waters on the way back, and I was sad to see how old it looked. I'd only been once, but the memories I had were good ones.  It's set to close for good next year, sometime around Labor Day.  I'd like to go back one more time, but I doubt that will happen.

Oh, Wild Waters... How far you've fallen
I headed back into the Silver Springs part of the park and checked out what had become of it, once it was turned into a State Park.

The curved area in the photo below is a promenade or porch that has shops on one side - touristy shops, fudge, ice cream, that sort of thing, but also informational stuff, since it's an actual "Park" now.  I didn't go in anywhere, but did sit at one of the tables outside to eat my race food. the sammich was good, but had some sort of spread or dressing on it that had sogged up the bread.

There was some sort of festival or fair going on, as there were lots of tables set up. More of what I saw earlier before the race - plants for sale, a guy with snakes, some chalk art competition or something. A really weird mix of stuff!

I was happy to see that the World Famous Glass Bottom Boats were still running.

These boats have windows on the BOTTOM of the boats so you can see down into the springs
 Silver Springs Selfie!

Nostalgia shot - in case this view disappears in the future
I walked along a sidewalk, all the way around the spring, for a while, then came back, and happened upon a holiday recital. Most likely a local dance studio (I'm WAY to familiar with holiday recitals...).  I stuck around to watch for a while, but, out of courtesy, I stayed away from the crowds (since most of them were family members, and I knew I would be making snorting, laughing noises... I'm a Judgy McJudgerton.)

Anyway, this was painful to watch.  You can't tell from the one pic I posted, and I decided against posting the videos I took, because I remember being these girls, but damn - dance like you mean it, girls!  There was so much "I don't give a shit" in these performances, it was painful to watch.

For instance, the girl on the far left - see how she's got her hands out and really tucking her knee in? She wanted to be there.  All of the other girls should look exactly like her, but none of them were giving it their all, so it was all half-assed, going-through-the-motions.

I stood through a few different groups - some of the younger girls were cute, there were 2 older girls who were owning it - but all in all, not a glowing review of that dance studio. "Come to my dance studio! I'll teach your girls how to vaguely sway in time to music!"  Yeah, no.

I remember being a girl like this, at Fame, then at St. Pete Dance Company - I loved it!
After the dance recital torture, I headed back to the car. After un-gearing myself and clearing out my pockets, I checked my fortune cookie. How fitting.

This one's a keeper
I was getting ready to leave, when I happened to look down and saw - GASP! - my wedding ring was GONE!!!!

I wear it on my middle finger instead of my ring finger. Many years ago, my fingers got super-fat and I had to have my ring resized. It cost over $200 because I went up like 2 or 3 sizes.  Now that my fingers aren't nearly as fat now, I refuse to resize it back down - I paid for this gold, bitch!  So, I wear it on my middle finger.  I've explained to my husband why, and joked that when I get to the weight I want to get to, he can buy me an anniversary ring to fit on my ring finger.

Oh noez!
After checking and rechecking every nook and cranny I could check, I called Hubby and asked him I'd left my ring in the kitchen. Nope. In the bathroom? Nope. Nightstand? Nope... Shit.  He suggested I walk the trail again and see if I can find it. I love him, but can you imagine trying to find a wedding ring on a sandy trail covered with pine needles? I would never find it. I told him so, and I could hear how sad he was. Then he said he found it!!!!  I left it on the bookshelf in my office when I was lubing up my bra area this morning!  Yippee!! (He met me at the front door when I got home and made me put it back on).

Crisis averted, I needed to go get some lunch. I could tell that I was on the verge of passing-out-hungry, so I found a very close Wendy's and grabbed a Frosty and a Kid's Meal. 

Post-Race Vanilla Frosty
I was eating that kid's meal while driving down the road heading towards the Paddock Mall.   I saw this Jeep and had to shame it. See that pink in the back? Yeah, that's a CAR SEAT. And yeah, there's a KID in that CAR SEAT.  A Jeep with no doors with a kid in a car seat. Is that even legal?

Seriously? What if she got hit by road rubbage or something?  This is SO NOT SAFE!
So, I'm driving down the road, and I see, in the distance, a big yellow sign.  I've seen that sign before, but not in a long time. Is it? Could it be?  It IS!!!  It's a Long John Silver's restaurant!  I literally gasped and threw on my blinker.  I freaking LOVE Long Johns. I've chronicled my LJS love on this blog before, but I can't say it enough. Greasy, crispy, deep-fried planks of heaven.  I love LJS.

I took this photo to tease my daugher - she also loves the LJS
I threw away my (mostly uneaten anyway) kid's meal and headed inside. I get my favorite - the LJS Sampler (1 chicken, 1 fish and 3 shrimp, fries and hush puppies, with some Crispies), and sit down to pig out on this greasy plate of heaven.

Greasy, so bad for you, but so good!
I'm pretty sure I saved the chicken for later (Pocket Chicken™), but I snarfed down on the rest of it before heading to walk it all off at the Paddock Mall.  I think I stuck around for an hour or so, checked out some clothes at JCPenney, then headed home.

Somewhere between Ocala and Home
Unfortunately, I didn't miss the rain, but it wasn't too bad while I was on the interstate (why yes, I do take pictures while driving down the road... you text - who's safer?)

Once home (and wearing my ring again), I checked out my goodie bag and it's contents. I got a shirt, a bunch of old Silver Springs and Wild Waters promo items, all inside a reusable Publix grocery bag. 
Regular (not tech) t-shirt
Granola bars from the post-race table
Old school neoprene sunglass holder
Fresh new Publix bag
Hand-clapper noisemaker, nail file, lip balm, pen and coaster
So, did I like the trail race? No. Am I going to do another one? Probably not. I don't like the path I'm walking on shifting underneath me. Especially if I'm running (which I didn't do much of, because of the shifting). If it had a medal, I would think about it. But a trail race with NO medal and NO tech shirt and NO good after-party? Nah.

Location: Silver Springs State Park
Host: (Who put on the race) Friends of Silver Springs State Park
Race Fee: $27.50 ($25 + Sign Up Fee)
Packet Pickup: Before Race
Parking: Ample
Support: (on-course) 1 water stop; very cheerful volunteers
After Party: Sandwiches and fortune cookies; free entry to SS Park for runners