Race Report: Flirt with Dirt 10K

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MARCH, 2017

Let me preface this race report by saying I’m about done with winter. It’s not the snow that makes me think twice about running outside; it’s the ice. Now, I’ll use this as a segway into my experience at Flirt with Dirt 10K.

The Flirt with Dirt 10K was held on Saturday, March 4 at the Oak Hill Trailhead of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, about a 50-minute drive from my house.

I usually only will venture out this far if the race is a half marathon or longer. However, I won this race entry through Western Reserve Racing’s “12 Days of Christmas” giveaway, and I’ve heard great things about their Dirty Trail series. So, it was something I looked forward to.

I found the free race entry at Squire’s Castle – part of North Chagrin Reservation.

In the days leading up to the event, I kept an eye on the weather forecast. I was excited to see it would be above 30 degrees. I’ll admit, I get nervous when it dips below freezing. Trail runs have their own caliber of hazards, and ice just compounds them.

Saturday morning arrived, and it was 16 degrees. Bleh. The “bleh” was because I knew what was coming. It rained the Wednesday before, and I know the trails hadn’t had time to dry. So, this race was going to be a dicey one.

My training plan called for a four-mile warm-up and a 4 mile cooldown. I threw that out the window in favor of completing a long run on Sunday and decided to just do two miles before the start and take it from there.

" It rained the Wednesday before, and I know the trails hadn’t had time to dry. So, this race was going to be a dicey one."

Sidetrack: I write about occupational health and safety for a living. So, this is from where I draw my decisions about clothing.

Here’s my rule of thumb: always wear a wicking tech shirt as a bottom layer and a wind-resistant layer on top for temps lower than 45 degrees. For anything below around 35 degrees, I add a cotton t-shirt as a middle layer for more insulation. Also, don’t forget gloves and a hat, and know your limits. If it’s too cold, the treadmill should be your friend. Better miserable inside than out.

Now, back to the race: Ready, set, go. The two-mile prior to the start loosened up my legs and saved me from having to adjust in the first couple miles. I checked out the course map prior, and while it wasn’t flat by any means, but it was manageable. My Garmin read around 425 ft. of elevation gain.

Flirt with Dirt 10K Course Info

Ice was the biggest deterrent. I spent the majority of the race watching my step and shouting “ice” to warn others behind me. HUGE props to Western Reserve for having volunteers stand at the iciest turns.

I knew I was in the top 4 to 5 women from the start. My goal was to play it safe while pushing myself when I had the chance. I kept pace with a young, high-school aged girl the entire time.

At about mile 2.5 we arrived at the steepest incline. Past mistakes led me to believe that this was one of those hills you take your time on because if you didn’t, you were going to pay for it later. The gap between the girl and me widened as I slowed down to a near walk.

I arrived at the hill’s peak and slowly began to gain momentum again. Miles 3 and 4 came and went, and pretty soon I closed the gap and sped on.

At mile 5 I knew it was time to get this over with and get going. I thought about the speed work I’ve been doing, and I knew I could make a solid effort for the remaining mile or so. I received a ton of encouragement from some fellow participants, and it helped a lot – one of the main reasons why the running community is amazing.

My watch buzzed at six miles and I sprinted like I never have, crossing the finish line panting. I stood there for a few seconds, knowing I did my best. Then, I realized I forgot to turn my Garmin off.

What happened next I didn’t expect. The announcement rang loudly through the crisp, cold air:

“Your Overall Female Winner: Stefanie Valentic!”

I almost lost it right there. I can’t even describe how elated I felt.

It’s kind of like getting the A on the test or finally paying off that one loan or bill. You know you put the effort into it, and the relief and pride that comes with the accomplishment is unmatched.

Overall, this race was a fun one. So fun, that I’ll probably sign up for the Dirty Trail Series in 2018. The swag – a winter hat – currently is my favorite hat. The directors and volunteers made sure everything went smoothly, especially when it came to keeping safety in mind on the icy trails.

Lastly, the price point for this race was extremely reasonable. Flirt with Dirt 10K – I’ll see you next year.

Flirt with Dirt 10K
Time: 54:52
Place: First Overall Female

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