On Saturday December 29, I woke up just before sunrise for the CB State Park Trail race, expecting a warm, spring-like rain. Instead, I was met with partly cloudy skies and a gorgeous day. That is the way of the southeastern coast of NC–don’t pay much attention to the weather forecast when planning for race day, because there always seems to be a bubble over Carolina Beach, protecting us from rain (well, except for hurricanes).
The Carolina Beach State Park Trail Half Marathon and 5K is on its second year. It is a grassroots, locally owned and operated race, that is part of the Carolina Trail Series. This series begins with the BNP Trail Jam in February at the Brunswick Nature Park (5K, Half, and Full Marathon), followed by the Blue Clay Breakout in May at Blue Clay Bike Park in Castle Hayne, NC, and ending with the CB Trail race in December. Each trail race is unique in both distance and style–the Blue Clay includes a “jail break” race in which teams are tethered together for a 1.5 mile trail race.
I will joke that I am not a trail runner, and the truth is…I really am not. I run at the ATT, and sometimes run on the Umstead bridle trails (rarely the single track, and ONLY if Erica or one of my other trail running friends is with me), otherwise I stay on the roads. I signed up for the CB Trail half on a whim two days before race day, having never owned a pair of trail shoes. I figured I would get in a long run that day anyway, why not run with the racers on the trail? To add to the spontaneity, my 13 year old son decided to run the 5K (he hadn’t done any running prior to this decision). We were totally supportive! I would love for one of my kids to pick up running!
Packet pick up was smooth, consisting of a few tables at the Marriott in town. Race swag was not a race shirt, but instead a fun beanie hat, and a few early bird registrants also received race socks to go along with it. I met up with my childhood friends, brothers Christian Battle and Joel Battle. Chris lives in town and knows the CB State Park trails like the back of his hand. My mail goal for this race was to get in a long run while staying upright and not eating mud. I had no idea about pacing in these trees where GPS doesn’t work well, and where you are jumping over roots or running through miles of soft sand.
The race was indeed beautiful. Miles of soft pine straw trails and loops, switchbacks, some off-trail miles full of soft white sand, trees, palms, grasses. The course itself utilized nearly all of the trail system within the park, although because some sections were flooded from the record rain in NC this year, or still damaged from Hurricane Florence, the course route was different from last year. There were plenty of aid stations with water, nutrition, and Tailwind hydration. I was prepared for a tough course, but still underestimated its toll on my road runner legs! It was good training, no doubt. My son did really well, finishing his first 5K ever (on a trail no less) in under 30 minutes on untrained legs. We were very proud of him!
We would love to hear from you if you have run this race, or any of the others in this trail race series! Let us know what you think. The 2020 series begins February 16, 2019 with the BNP Trail Jam if you are interested (use promo code cts2019 for 7% off each event).