Running · Travel

(un)Pleasant Hill Trail Race + Shaker Village

This Labor Day Weekend has been crammed full of adventure. We kicked it off with an overnight stay at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill before great performances in a trail race there on Saturday morning.

On Friday afternoon, we were able to take off early and make the drive (about 1 hour 20 minutes) to Shaker Village, which is southeast of Louisville. When we had signed up for the trail race there and received a discount on an overnight stay, it was an easy decision to take the offer. Guests stay in converted Shaker buildings on the property, and even though they still look authentic, our room was very comfortable.

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We spent some time in the evening walking around the village and admiring the beauty of the property.

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We also stopped in the restaurant for a snack. Each table is given rolls and what is called a relish bowl, which had an assortment of vegetables. Nick had a bowl of soup, but I opted for something sweet: strawberry rhubarb pie with ice cream.

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We both wanted to rest before the race the next morning, so we went back to our room and watched a couple episodes of Master Chef. For some reason I was surprised that there was a TV – I guess because all the Shaker buildings make it feel rustic – but it was nice to relax.

The next morning we woke up to near perfect weather. One reason we had signed up for the shortest distance race – 5 miles – was because we knew LDW could be hotter than hot. Instead, it was just about 60 degrees, crisp, and sunny. I walked out to pick up our packets when registration opened at 7:00, scouted out the start line, and then headed back to the room so we could finish getting ready.

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At the 8:00 start, the announcer checked in with the small crowd to see who was running each distance. I was surprised when the most hands went up for the 5 miler; I had thought there would be more experienced runners doing the longer distances, but only a handful were chasing down the 10 miler, and just a couple were going after the 25K and 50K. I knew this meant that if I wanted to do well (which I did) I would have to really focus and run smart.

When the gun went off, I was right up front, and led Nick and I quickly through the village area. We were passed by a few runners, but I didn’t see many women, and I knew a handful were doing the longer distances. Once we got the trails, I was forced to slow down a little, but I was happy to have gained ground early on.

Now, this race is an example of how important it is to do your research. When I think of trail races, I picture running on single track trails like the ones near our apartment in Cherokee Park. All summer I ran single track, not just to train, but because I love it. However, imagine my surprise when the trails at this race turned out to be wide paths of semi-mown grass. It was like running a cross country race.

When we hit the grass after about a quarter mile, the hills made their debut. I was able to power up the first few, but started to slow down after about a mile. I told Nick to go on ahead of me, but kept him in my sight for a while. Only two other runners passed me in the next few miles as we went up and down, up and down. I’d say one of the most challenging parts was a long, steep hill going finishing the third mile. There was a sign at the top of the hill that read, “We told you these hills were unpleasant.” Ha!

When I went to double back to the start/finish, I saw that most of the female runners were just entering the loop I had finished. I kept powering on, and set the goal that I wouldn’t let another woman pass me. The better part of the last mile is a long, gravel hill. Running on the gravel sucked because it just doesn’t feel efficient – with each stride you slide back just a tad. Here was when I took a few breaks to hike rather than run. I looked back twice to see who was behind me, and when both times it was a man, I felt okay about letting him pass. Once I got to the top of the hill, I had enough energy to kick it in to the finish.

I was shocked when as I crossed, I was congratulated and handed an envelop: I had come in as the third place woman! This was the first time I had ever had such a good performance, and I was proud that I had run such a smart race. I ended up 10th overall. Nick also did great, coming in as the fifth man and sixth overall.

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My prize was a $50 gift certificate to use at Shaker Village. Although this race hurt, I had such a good experience that I’ll probably use the voucher to sign up for another race.

To celebrate, Nick and I headed over to the restaurant again to indulge in the hot buffet breakfast: potatoes, eggs, grits, baked apples and biscuits. After that we showered, packed up, spent a little time at the post-race festival, and then hit the road to continue onto our next adventure of the day. Stay tuned!

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Happy Labor Day!

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