The River-N-Rapids trail race at Hillsborough River State Park is one of my favorite Tampa area trail races. The park is gorgeous, and the race route is fun and challenging. The race offers distances of 5K, 10K, and half marathon. I ran the 10K this year, this is my third time running at the River-N-Rapids race!
The River-N-Rapids trail race took place on Saturday, April, 8th 2017. Maria and I were both running the 10K, and we drove to Hillsborough River State Park that morning. It was surprisingly chilly for a April morning in Florida! The temperature was 42 degrees in the park! We knew we would warm up once we started running.
We checked in, got our numbers on and timing chips secured, then walked on part of the trail to check out the route. The race route uses three of the park trails: The Florida Trail, the Baynard trail, and the Rapids trail. Since this year was the first addition of the 5K and half marathon distances, the route for the 10K was slightly different than it has been in year’s past, but only a little bit. After taking a few pictures of the trails (and warming up in the car again, also), it was time to head to the start line.
We lined up at the start line. I noticed there were less people here than usual. I’m sure it was because the 5K and half marathon races had attracted some of the usual 10K runners. Kip made a few announcements about the race route, then it was time to start! Maria and I headed out at a moderate pace, but we were quickly in the top five runners. We made our way over the wooden bridge, and turned onto the Florida Trail section.
The Florida Trail section is the most challenging section of the race route. The trail is narrow singletrack, has lots of roots, and has some slight undulations. This trail is about 3.5 miles of the race. Sometimes this part of the trail can be crowded during this race (and hard to pass due to the tight singletrack), but Maria and I did not have any runners around us. Since the 3 race times were staggered, this helped to ease any crowding on the trails.
We kept a steady but challenging pace on the Florida Trail section. It takes concentration to stay light on your feet and avoid hitting any of the roots. At the end of the Florida Trail, there is a water stop and then the route continues onto the Baynard trail. Since I knew the Baynard trail was a much easier trail, we kept our pace going strong for the remainder of the Florida Trail section.
At 3.4 miles we came to the water stop. I grabbed a quick cup of water, as the weather was warming up quickly. We said hi to the aid station crew, which included Rob, one of our trail running friends. It’s always nice to see a friendly face during a race!
The Baynard trail section was definitely easier. At this point the runners from all the distances were spread out along this trail. The trail was never too crowded, but there were runners behind and ahead of us at all times. The Baynard trail makes a big loop back towards the river, where there is a suspension bridge. The first time you get to the bridge, you don’t cross it, you keep going to make another loop on the Baynard trail. This was causing a little bit of confusion for some of the runners, but they had a volunteer there to make sure everyone knew which way to go.
I made it around the second loop and started across the suspension bridge. It’s a pretty view from the bridge! The Hillsborough River flows right underneath. After crossing the bridge, I took a left turn to head onto the Rapids trail and finish up the race. With about a mile left, the Rapids trail is a nice trail to start picking up some speed. Part of it is boardwalk, and the other part is smooth sand-shell path. There’s another water stop on this part of the route.
After running a small loop on the Rapids trail, the route takes you back towards the suspension bridge (you do not cross again, though), and a sharp left to head towards the finish. I knew I was near the end, so I pushed ahead with what I had left. I crossed the line, and Maria crossed just a few seconds behind me. We both ended up taking 1st place in our age groups! My finish time was 1:00:40. Slower than I have run this race in the past, however I think with the altered course it was a tad longer than it was before.
Endeavor Racing went all out with the finish line buffet, which was a nice treat after the race! They had fresh fruit, strawberry shortcake, scrambled eggs, tamales, and hot coffee. I wasn’t too hungry after racing, but the strawberry shortcake sure did hit the spot!
Endeavor Racing hosts the River-N-Rapids trail race. They have a few trail races in the Tampa area throughout the year. Just a few weeks ago, I raced at their inaugural Starkey Stomp Half Marathon. Kip, the race director from Endeavor Racing, always puts on a great event. I look forward to this race each spring!