Torreya Draggin’ Tails

torreya entrance

I’m way behind on posting a couple race reports so though this race was a few weeks ago, I didn’t want to not write about it. There’s another one to follow as well. 

torreya entrance

I was first introduced to Torreya State Park in 2012. Fresh off a break up and nursing a stress fracture in my metatarsal, I readily jumped at the invite for a trail runner’s camping trip with a group of friends. Given the slight nuisance of a broken foot, I knew I wouldn’t be able to actually run so I laid claims to the position of resident campsite drunk and went along for fun. That weekend ended up being one of the best of my life. I hiked incredible trails … yes in a boot. I met Renee, one of my now best friends. And I found one of the most magical places in Florida. Almost every fall since then has seen a Torreya camping trip. Some of the people have changed and some have stayed the same but the good times and amazing trails have never disappointed.

I’m not sure who met Joe first or why he stayed connected to our hodgepodge group of runners from hundreds of miles away but every trip we’ve made up, Joe has made it a point to not just come run with us but to guide us through the history, flora and fauna of the trails. He would often talk about the race he put on out there in the spring but for some reason it just never came to fruition for us to run it. Until this past November, that is, when our annual trip resulted in the decision that we would finally go back to race.

I was so excited when my boyfriend Don agreed to go. He’s not a runner but he fully supports my crazy and, if I ask, he’ll always come support when he can. But this ask wasn’t just about wanting a cheerleader. I wanted to share Torreya with him. I felt I needed to for him to see yet another part of who I am. But Don is also not a camper. At least not in the typical tent style I’m used to. He’s done more than his share, he claims, and doesn’t care to subject himself to it ever again. At the Croom Fools Run the weekend before a friend had mentioned the lack of use her R-Pod camper had been getting lately and we were super lucky when she offered to let us take it for the weekend. I admit, I felt guilty and maybe a bit of a diva rolling up in the luxury of real walls and air conditioning but it wasn’t long before I felt the comfort of a tent to camper conversion pushing the shame aside.

Don and I, and Renee and her guy Kurt got up there Thursday and after settling in headed out for our regular first night run/hike down to the trick of a waterfall not far out of camp. In the pitch dark, headlamps turned off, listening to the woods, Don told me later that is was a moment of pure zen.

The rest of our group arrived Friday and we opted for a short run at Garden of Eden, another nearby trail system that will quickly make you forget you’re in Florida. The hills are crazy and the views pretty impressive.

I had toyed all week with the idea of swapping from the 50k to the 25k. I wasn’t really trained. In fact the 25k I had last minute decided to do the weekend before was my only double digit run in more than a month. And though I knew I could eke out 31 miles on an easy course, the atypical-to-Florida Torreya hills and elevation weren’t going to be easy and I was already registered to run another 50k on a tough course the following weekend. Plus, everyone else was running the 25k and the sooner we all got done, the sooner we all had beer. Decision made. 25k it was.

Saturday morning after coffee, we walked the half mile to the race start. Temps were semi-cool but the weather forecast was looking a little ominous with fast approaching severe storms. I’ve been caught in the middle of a race when hit by crazy weather before and it ain’t fun. But what’s a trail runner to do except take their chances and maybe run a little faster.

Though there was no talk about staying together somehow that’s exactly how we ended up running. Nick left us for a little bit but after he took a wrong turn that led to an extra half mile or so, the rest of us caught up to him and we opted for camaraderie over competition.

It was around mile 11 that we welcomed the rain. Much to our happy surprise there was very little thunder and lightning and by the time we finished it tapered off a bit. At 3:44:58 we were right around the middle of the pack for finishers proving that this course ain’t no joke!

That night we played a crazy hysterical game of Cards Against Humanity under a tent while the rain came and went. Maybe it speaks for my deep-down level of immaturity but good God that game gives me the inappropriate giggles every time I play it!

We headed out Sunday morning and I couldn’t help but wonder if this would be my last time at Torreya. With a fast approaching move west, it’s hard to think these places and faces I’ve come to know and love may soon be long-distance memories. But I’m going to get in as many adventures with great friends as I can before we go!