As I’m making friends in the run community here in Des Moines, trail running has become much more fun. Since I’ve joined up on some Capital Turkeys group runs, I have familiar faces that I can locate beforehand — and that’s added a new level of relaxation and joy to my race day. The Sycamore 8 trail race is a Capital Striders event, taking place the first weekend in December, and following the Sycamore Trail along the Des Moines River.
An 8-miler is a new distance for me — and the course ended up being about a half mile short… so, still a new distance. Though, they weren’t kidding when they said Sycamore 8 was FAST! I was pushing a pretty decent pace for it being a trail race — just a little faster than my comfort zone; since I was unfamiliar with this section of the trail system, I didn’t want to completely overdo it. I paced the first half with some of my fellow lady Turkeys, and only fell behind when I walked through a water stop (I needed Gatorade, as my fingers were starting to swell on me). It wasn’t a big deal, as I did my best to catch back up — and ended up finishing only a couple minutes behind.
The energy surrounding the race (and the question as to what the weather will be in early December) is understandably why runners who love winter trail running come back to do this one every year. No question, I enjoyed myself immensely, and intend to make Sycamore 8 a part of my own yearly circuit of trail races.
Registration and Cost: Race registration was online with GetMeRegistered, and after a Capital Striders member discount and fees cost only $33.07 ($30 base cost; $35 for non Striders members). Race entries are capped at 300. If spots are available, day of registration is an extra 10 bucks.
Packet Pick-Up: My first trek into the Beaverdale neighborhood, packet pick-up was the night before the race at local coffee shop (and sponsor), Grounds for Celebration. It’s a super adorable place, and I want to go back and hang out.
Swag: Probably some of my favorite swag from any race — a branded 2016 Sycamore 8 trucker hat and small bag of Grounds for Celebration signature “Sycamore Single Track” coffee. No medals for this race; but if you’re fast enough to place in an age group, the handmade awards are really sweet.
Weather: Around 30 degrees at start time; I definitely warmed up by mid-race. There’s such a difference in temperature here when there’s wind and when there’s not. On race day we had the latter, with moderate sun.
Course: This race is a point-to-point course, on mostly single dirt trails — starting at the Johnston Soccer Complex and ending in Des Moines at the Polk County building. A good portion of the course is in the woods, with one section of paved bike path for about a mile or so; since it had been dry for a while, there wasn’t really any mud, and we didn’t cross any water. The course is also mostly flat with only one big climb — which coincided with the one water stop on the course (about Mile 4). For a still-beginner trail runner, the course was marked pretty well. There was only one part where I wasn’t sure to go right or left (though both pathways went around to the same place).
Bag Drop: You could self-tag a bag to be bussed back to the finish line. Unclaimed or dropped clothing items were donated to the Central Iowa Shelter.
Start Line: I always get a little bummed out about having to take a bus — the race info stated there was no other way to get to the start line — but at least this time I had some friends! I was dropped off at the finish line around 8am; the busses left around 8:20. There were a few Kybos at the bus meeting point (the finish) and another set at the actual start line.
Finish Line: It’s hot chocolate season! There was also some kind of vegetarian chili and chicken noodle soup, and the usual hot coffee and Gatorade. A rep from Merrell was set up, passing out free stickers and branded tubular headwear (don’t mind more of these in my collection!). They were also giving away shoes from previous test runs — but nothing in my size. Whomp whomp.
Fans and Experience: Some kind of holiday mascot at the sole water stop on the course was giving high fives along with the water and Gatorade volunteers. There were a couple (and I mean, two) people at the end of the paved section of trail leading back into the woods — and they were cheering as though they were 10x more people. It was awesome.
It kind of felt like a tailgate wrapped around a running event at the finish line, which made for a really entertaining experience. Though, I was kinda bummed about there not being any of that supposed Fireball at the aid station. 😉
After Party: The After Party was at Goodsons in Beaverdale — with a free Shock Top beer for all 21+ runners. There were a bunch of raffle prizes given out from sponsors; sadly, I had to miss the post-race celebration, as we had to prepare for another holiday party.
The Great: Best swag ever!
The Good: Making it up that steep hill without any help.
The Bad: I got lost on my way to pick up my bib. Stupid GPS.
The Ugly: Swollen fingers again.
24th in Women 30-39