Rick had told me about a brand new event in Itasca state park called Wildwoods. He was going to do the 25k option there but there was also a 10k loop as well. I was interested in doing the 25k, but Rick wisely convinced me that I should do the 10k with it being my first trail run. Early in the morning the day of the event Erin and I drove to the park, I wasn't sure how long it would take so I left some extra time and we wound up being one of the first people there. I picked up my packet and looked at the course map. We had just camped in the park 3 weeks prior so I had some idea of the trails we'd be on, but others were going to be completely new. As we waited for the start of the race I noticed the crowd was a little different then what I was used to. All of my races had been in Fargo up to this point. They were also all on paved flat surfaces and although I recognized a few faces, this event drew a slightly different group of runners.
The 25k runners started before us and I cheered as Rick took off, after running a couple of miles the course took them back through the starting area so I got to see him once more before I lined up to start my event. The start of the race is along the Dr. Roberts trail which is right off lake Itasca. The first section of the trail is covered by a wooden walkway which was very slippery as it was wet on this particular morning. Those of us running the 10k kept in a tight group along here as no one could get enough traction to go very fast. Once we cleared the walkway the group started to spread out along the trail. When I had last been in this part of the park Erin and I were attacked by swarms of mosquitoes, I was glad they weren't nearly as bad today. Running back through the starting area Erin and Rick's wife Kristy got some pictures and then I headed back into the woods. The trail was nice and wide here and I kept a good pace despite the rolling hills. Runners from other areas would laugh as what I call hills, but most people don't live in an area quite as flat as I do. The route wound around thought the woods and eventually ended up on a gravel road up to the fire tower. From past experience I knew that this would be a hard climb for me. The tower is the highest point around for miles and the road up to it is a long steady climb. I was relieved when I had made it to the top and could start back down again. The very last section of the race was on a trail that Erin and I had hiked on previously. The last time I came down it we were going very slowly and carefully. This time I blasted down the hill as fast as I could enjoying the challenging terrain and trying not to worry about what would happen if I fell here.
Shortly after I finished the sky opened up and it rained very hard. Wanting to see some friends finish the 25k, I waited under a tall pine tree and tried to keep as dry as I could. After they finished we went inside as door prizes were drawn and to see the race results. I wound up winning a gift certificate for a store in Bemidji. Thinking we wouldn't be back to the area for a while we decided to drive there after the race and use our gift certificate. The store had an unusual mix of items for sale ranging from hideously ugly clothing to craft supplies. Erin was feeling a little cold after getting rained on and fortunately we managed to find a Bemidji State University sweatshirt which used up most of the gift certificate. On the drive home we laughed about our adventure and how we picked up this unlikely souvenir.