Sunday, October 12, 2008

A run in the Autumn Woods

A beautiful maple at the Elm Creek Park Reserve



On what was the most gorgeous Saturday of fall, I found myself running a local race. I, along with hundreds of Twin Cities runners, participated in the Autumn Woods Classic 10k at the Elm Creek Park Reserve in Maple Grove.

The Elm Creek Park Reserve is a beautiful piece of land. At over 4900 acres, it offers year round recreation in the northwest metro, and as you can imagine, the scenery is quite striking this time of year. Whoever had the foresight to preserve this land was a genius.

I arrived early before the start of the 5k, and I was kind of glad I did because parking was chaotic. And they have a LOT of parking here! The announcer at the race made it sound like this was their largest turnout ever. Who would not want to run in such a fantastic fall say? It was sunny and 70, after all!

Start of the 5k race



This event is in its 18th year, and it obviously receives a great deal of support from the community. It was quite family-oriented and had a lot of kids activities. Many of the sponsors had tents set up. There was a large corporate team competition going on with the races as well, so a lot of prominent local companies were well represented.

I think this race draws a lot of first-timers. How do I know this? Large numbers of runners had their bib numbers pinned to their back (a classic no-no). One couple even had their timing chips (which are supposed to be affixed to your shoe) tied to their bib numbers (and, their bib numbers were also on their backs!). And, when I lined up for the 10k, I put myself a fair distance back from the starting line, because I know my place. The race director asked, "How many of you are running your first race?" Honest to goodness, half of the field ahead of me raised their hands. Oh, no! I should have lined up closer to the start.

The horn sounded, and it took forever to get through the traffic at the start. After weaving my way through a host of slower runners, thankfully everything sorted itself out after a half mile or so. And the rest of the race contained many pleasurable sights.

Some colorful sumac on the park grounds



The 10k course ran clockwise around the park on a network of bike trails (mostly paved, except for a small section of dirt road). It was also surprisingly hilly. Not so much in a dramatic sense, but there were a number of rolling hills to contend with.

Fall colors have to be at or near their peak. The reds, yellows, gold, and oranges were simply glowing as we ran through the forest. We have been very fortunate this fall. Sometimes, the colors change rapidly, and then we get a storm that wipes out the leaves. This year, we have been treated to a few weeks of gradual change. Very nice! The race course weaved its way through this beautiful wooded park.

Another brilliant maple tree at the park. Aren't the colors amazing?



The race course was really fun, although it actually felt almost too hot! Hard to imagine saying that in mid October, but I was feeling very warm during my run. And the hills, while nothing terribly steep, were rolling and offered just enough resistance to slow you down on the ascent.

I ran an OK race for me, finishing in 49:14, so I was not displeased (results are here). Considering I spent most of the summer training for distance, I really didn't concentrate on speed, so it was fun to run some sub 8 minute miles!

The post-race crowd at the Autumn Woods Classic



All in all, it was a fun day. There were more than 1500 runners combined in both events, everyone enjoying the park and all the race festivities. It was a banner day, for certain, and the fall colors were nothing short of stunning.

As we always like to say in Minnesota, "we won't get many more days like this!" :)

Until next time,

Jean
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