The Wildhorse Trail Race is in Dover, Florida, about 30 minutes outside of Tampa. The race starts and finishes at Keith Waller Park, and runs on the trails in Sydney Dover Park. This race takes place in early November (it was on Sunday, November 6th this year), and has four distances to choose from. There is a 4 mile race, 10K race, 10 mile race, and a half-marathon. The half-marathon distance is part of the Xterra series.
Sean, Maria, and I signed up for the 10 mile race this year. I have not done this race yet, and I was looking forward to finally getting a chance to run it. Race morning came, it was an overcast 65 degrees out when we arrived at the park. We checked into the registration to pick up our race numbers, shirt, and race packet. Then we had about an hour to wait until the start. The 1/2 marathon and 10K races started at 8:00am and the 10 mile and 4 mile races started at 8:15am. The two starts are at opposite ends of a parking lot, so while the 8:00am starters were lining up, we started walking towards our start line.
I wasn’t sure what this race had in store for us. I did know there was a water crossing, twice. First when you enter the looped course, and then again when you return off the loop course and back to the finish line. No one knew how deep it would be, though, because it fluctuates with the weather. We were hearing stories at the start line that it was chest deep one year, and icy cold. We were hoping for ankle deep today. I also knew that the majority of the race is on doubletrack, but there are sections of off-trail singletrack here and there.
Time for the Wildhorse Trail Race!
We saw the 1/2 marathoners and 10K racers start and make their way along the course. Once our start line was clear of the other racers, they announced we would start a few minutes early. Our race started at 8:10, and we were off! Sean, Maria, and I had decided to try and run the race between a 9:30 and 10:00 minute pace. I am usually good at keeping a steady pace, so I led the way down the trail.
The first 1/2 mile is navigating the grass around the parking area to reach the woods. Once the route dove into the woods, the path narrowed and became quite rough. We could hear some shrieks ahead of us, we figured it was the water crossing already. The path led up a hill and then to a steep ravine, with the water crossing below us. It was a stream approximately 20 feet across, and the runners were wading across. There was a slow up here, as the runners made their way down the ravine and across the water. I finally got to the water’s edge and started making my way across. The water was chilly, but not too cold, and it was only about mid-thigh deep. Maria was ahead of me, and Sean was behind me. Once I crossed, I took my phone out to snap a few photos while waiting for Sean to cross the water.
Race Course Main Loop
After the water was another steep climb up the opposite ravine. Once we reached the top, the course turned right onto doubletrack. We started on our two counterclockwise loops of the main course. The double track sections were great to run on, there were some sandy sections, but most of it was hard packed. I wanted to get our pace back to under 10:00 minute miles. I was in front, with Maria behind me, then Sean right behind her. I started picking up our pace a little bit.
As soon as I thought I was getting our pace back into range, the route dove into the woods onto the single track. It wasn’t so much single track, as more of a random path through the woods. These were definitely a challenge to run on! It reminded me a lot of The Claw race, another race in the Tampa Races series. The trails were tight, twisty, and rough. We picked our way along them as best as we could.
Fortunately, the singletrack sections didn’t last long. After a short while, we came back out onto the doubletrack. The main loop had a few of these singletrack sections, so it was a great mix and kept the route interesting. The course had three water stops along the loop, which was perfect timing. The three of us kept a steady pace and finally completed our first lap. One more lap to go, then back to the finish.
When we started the second lap, Sean decided to hang back a bit and told Maria and I to go ahead. I was still trying to maintain a sub 10:00 pace. Some miles I was around 9:30, but many of the miles (that included single track) were well over 10:00. The second lap of the course seemed to go by much easier than the first lap, since I knew what to expect. The day was starting to get warm, so I was glad there were the three water stops. Maria and I kept plugging along the race course.
Maria and I finally got to the end of our second lap, so we made the turn to go back down the steep ravine to the water crossing. Once we were on the other side, we headed back to the grassy area around the parking lots. I was feeling pretty tired, and was glad I was almost done. Or was I?
A Dive Back Into the Woods
Before we could make our way around the field to the finish, the route turned back into the woods again. I wasn’t sure what to expect, so I followed the pack back onto the twisty trails. These were definitely some tough trails! They wound up and down ravines with lots of sharp turns. Then around a corner a steep 20 foot climb appeared! There was a rope hanging from a tree at the top to help climb up this super steep ravine. The group I was with picked our way up the ravine, then continued on the twisty path.
We finally exited the woods and were back on the grass. We now only had to run the perimeter of a field to make our way to the finish line. I was feeling tired and tried picking up the pace as best as I could. I crossed the line at 1 hour and 42 minutes. Phew! I turned around and could see Maria coming in just behind me. Both of us earned top finishers awards as we crossed the finish line.
A few minutes later we saw Sean making his way around the field and towards the finish. We walked down to cheer him on, then joined him at the finish line.
We hung around the finish for a little while after the race. There were a lot of post race food options, plus a DJ playing music and announcing the winners. The race director came by to ask us how we liked the race. We told him what we thought of it: It was a great course with a lot of surprises that kept it interesting and fun! I was glad I had finally gotten a chance to run the Wildhorse Trail Race. This is one I will keep on my list for future races! For more information on the Wildhorse Trail Race or other races from Tampa Races, visit their website here.
Place: 6th Place overall women, 2nd place age group