Spring: Time to clock on the trail!

A spring Lost Creek Hiking Trail race may just be the perfect opportunity to get out of the house and enjoy the warming temperatures, the emerging wildflowers and a bit of exercise.

Jennifer Bradt, a member of the Bluff Country Hiking Club explained the club has added a spring race to its offerings, having only hosted two fall group runs and hikes on the Lost Creek Hiking Trail in the past.

"At the last fall run, many participants thought it would be fun to add an official time and make it into a trail race. This type of event has become more popular recently," said Bradt, anticipating the trail race set for Saturday, May 17.

"A race on the Lost Creek Hiking Trail is a great challenge," she added. "The trail lies across very challenging terrain. For those who enjoy a bit of friendly competition, or just like to mark their fitness progress, adding a time and some awards make the event more exciting. The race will also be a fundraiser for our group - all proceeds will go directly toward trail improvements."

Bradt explained how adding a clock time to the event makes walkers and runners work a bit harder than on any regular training run.

"It is fun to stand on a starting line and there is a great feeling of accomplishment when you finish an event like a race," she said. "Hopefully, the trail race will bring people to town who may not have heard about the trail prior to this event. As more people hike on the trail, the path becomes more established and level."

Bradt added another incentive for taking part in the spring trail race is the club will once again be giving special recognition for those completing the race in under an hour.

The starting line has been moved from past races, moving now to Ninebark Road, about a quarter mile away from the trailhead. "The purpose is to spread out the runners before getting to the single track that occurs as you descend the first hill," she said.

Age group awards will be given in several categories, including 25 and under, 26 to 39, 40 to 54, and 55 and over. There will be food and an awards ceremony at the conclusion of the event.

Bradt advised participants to be well-dressed and well-prepared for the trail's conditions, starting with wearing sturdy shoes.

"Absolutely wear shoes. The trail can be fairly muddy. I would recommend wearing something that could get wet and the May bugs will be ticks," she added. "It will be prime tick season, which is the reason why we are giving out running caps instead of t-shirts for participants."

She also said participants need to be adequately trained to complete 6.5 miles over hilly terrain, but any racer can choose to walk or run.

"Participating in this race would be a great fitness goal to work towards," Bradt said. "The trail would be considered 'technical,' which means it can be a bit rough in some places. However, trail runners and hikers will enjoy the remote setting of the event."

She described the conditions on the trail in the spring to be "perfect." The undergrowth is minimal and the ground is nice and soft and will hopefully not be too muddy.

"There are not as many fallen leaves which can make the trail slick," Bradt added.

The event is best suited to hikers and runners who have a sense of direction developed and their own two feet underneath them, so Bradt cautioned against bringing small children.

"There are places on the trail where you would need to hike in single file, so I would not recommend bringing a child who would need to be carried, and no strollers are allowed in the race," she continued.

Furthermore, she related that weather will only affect the race day and starting time if it is extremely rainy or if there is a thunderstorm. The race will be cancelled if the water is so high that the swing-away bridge is out. Bradt assured those interested in this race that this has not happened this spring and currently the bridges are passable.

"If there is a thunderstorm we will try to delay the start until the storm has passed," she added. "However, light rain will not cancel the event."

Bradt outlined plans for the trail's summer 2014 improvements, as the hiking club members work hard to make the trail a pleasant place to hike and run.

"No changes are planned, except for ongoing improvements to make the trail more level in certain places. We continue to work on places where people have mentioned we need some extra markings," she explained. "We placed additional signage right before the trail was closed last November and these signs have helped."

Anyone wishing to participate in the Lost Creek Hiking Trail Race on Saturday, May 17, should register for the race and be at Groen Park, Third St. SW in Chatfield, and be ready to board the bus at 8:40 a.m.

Bradt related that registrations can be made by visiting the Race It website at https://www.raceit.com/Register/?event=26739, or by e-mailing her at jenniferbradt@msn.com to request a paper copy of the registration form.

Pre-registration is $20 per person and includes a running cap. Race day registration will occur from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. for $25. There will be a bus leaving Groen Park at 8:40 a.m. to take participants to the Ninebark Road start so the race can begin at 9 a.m.

"All racers are expected to be present to board the bus," Bradt added. "There will be a few water stations along the trail. T-shirts will be available for purchase while quantities last."

She concluded that volunteers are also needed on the day of the race, so if one is interested in helping out instead of hiking, simply contact her at her email, jenniferbradt@msn.com.

"Volunteering may involve sitting in the woods and directing runners, which can be a nice way to spend an hour or two," Bradt said.

For more information on the race, contact Bradt or log onto www.raceit.com.