Somehow I got it in my head during this crazy month of NaNoWriMo (current word count: 33,550 words) that I could sign up for a race and run it “just for fun,” using it as a training run. I get bored running the same old routes, and I love running someplace new. So why not take advantage of the free race registration I won for the 1st Annual City Farm Turkey Trot 10K, right?
Well, it turns out I am pretty much incapable of running a race “just for fun” (people who know me well are probably saying “duh” right about now). I tried, I really did, but when I woke up at 5:30 a.m., my race jitters trembled on high alert. I drank a quick cup of coffee and headed out the door by 6. On the 40-minute drive to Griffith Park in Los Angeles, I ate as much of a peanut butter and honey sandwich and a banana as I could stomach, which turned out to be not much with those darn race jitters. I enjoyed watching the sun rise, and with little traffic at that hour I arrived at Griffith Park without hassle.
Parking at the race start at The Autry, a museum of the American West, was easy, free and abundant (there’s additional free parking at the Los Angeles Zoo across the street).
Mother Nature blessed us with perfect running weather — high 50s and overcast. Earlier in the week the daily high temperature had hit 94 degrees, so we got lucky!
Packet pick-up had been offered the day before at A Runner’s Circle in LA, but you could also pick up your bib on race day — a huge plus that saved me from spending an hour and a half in the car on Friday. I arrived at 6:45 a.m. and did not have to wait to get my bib. The reusable goody bag came with a protein bar sample, some coupons, and a plain white tee with the turkey logo printed in orange. They’d run out of my size, which does not really bother me, it just means my daughters now have another large cotton nightgown!
How could I best describe the size of this inaugural event? Let’s call it “a three porta-potty race” (and note that I never had to wait more than five minutes in line).
The master of ceremonies for the event, the actor Alan Naggar, was a hoot and kept us all entertained both before the race as we awaited the start, and after the race while the results were compiled. I also very much enjoyed and appreciated the pre-race warm up led by a charismatic, fit young woman. It felt like a wonderful community event as nearly the entire crowd participated in the warm up. I’ve never seen that happen before at a race, and it put a smile on my face.
The race started and finished in the parking lot by The Autry Farmers Market. This small stretch of asphalt was the only pavement for the entire race:
Within yards the course veered left onto a short stretch of grass, then followed the wide, hard-packed dirt path around the golf course and sections of the Los Angeles Zoo. At some points on the trail the surface softened into loose sand-like patches, but I found it all easy to navigate. The paths were so wide you could drive a car down them, and the course elevation was flatter than many road races I’ve done. It was a trail race in the most basic sense of the word — a race on a dirt surface as opposed to the road. If you’re new to running on trails or you’re looking for a trail race personal record, this is a great race for you. If you’re a die-hard trail runner who wants some challenges and the rewarding views of a hill climb or two, you might not be happy with the race (and you might want to check out the Griffith Park Half Marathon Trail Race, as reviewed there by Striding Mom). The most challenging part of the race came at a small creek crossing, where if you timed it right you could hop across on two carefully placed sand bags. There’s a short part of the race that parallels the freeway for a bit, and you do need to watch out for “horse apples” here and there, but otherwise I found the trail to be scenic and enjoyable.
Overall I can’t say enough good things about the race. For a first-time event, the City Farm organizers did a fantastic job coordinating the race. I had no trouble following the course, which I had worried about because the first loop follows the 5K race course, then branches off for the full 10K course. Aid stations were well-stocked and well-placed, and the signage was appropriate and manned by volunteers. My only suggestions for next year (and if you know me, you know I never can resist offering suggestions for every race to improve in my race reviews) are for organizers to improve the monitoring of who completed the 5K versus the 10K (apparently some racers switched courses at the last minute — something out of control of the organizers but perhaps it could be monitored at the 5K turnoff by observation of the race bibs) and the recording and dissemination of the race results. Race results should be posted the same day of the race, and should be segregated by 5K versus 10K, and delineated by gender and age groups (not just the top three winners by age group, but listing all the Women ages 40-49 and their placements in that group, for example). But seriously, I do not criticize the organizers at all. It was a fun community race to support the cause of reducing obesity. I would absolutely do it again if the race fit into my schedule.
And as for my personal performance, you ask? My glowing review might just have a little to do with this:
That’s right, that medal shows I came in 3rd place in my age group, the old lady field of women ages 40 to 49. Can I just tell you how ridiculous I felt waiting around to see whether or not I placed in my field? Thank goodness I actually received a medal! I later deduced that I came in 3rd of 15, the benefit of a three-porta-potty race. While I waited for the results, I enjoyed the post-race oranges and bananas and protein bars, and a free full-sized Voskos Greek yogurt sample from a booth at the Farmers Market. I also took advantage of the fact that the restrooms at The Autry opened up and I could change into dry, warm clothes after the race.
If I have the opportunity to do the race again in the future, I would try to make a day of it, bringing along the family to shop at the farmers market, then touring the Los Angeles Zoo. It’s a great cause, a great first trail race, and fun community event.
P.S. My time was 50:26.8, a PR for me at the 10K distance over my La Habra 10K road race from when I first started racing about two years ago).