The Nippy Niner Trail Run 2014

After Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter (anyone else in the Midwest/East want to strangle him? JUST kidding...) and the Denver Broncos choked in what was probably the most boring Super Bowl I've ever watched, the only thing that saved Sunday was the race I ran in the morning--The Nippy Niner Trail Run. It was legit and my first trail race.

First, just check out the t-shirt. That race name and that logo. Does it get any better? 
Here's the back:

This was Big Shark's 3rd year organizing this race!
Packet pick up was quick and easy on Saturday at Big Shark Bicycle Company located on Delmar in St. Louis. For those that didn't want to make the drive, you could pick up your bib and t-shirt on race day (one of my favorite things). I absolutely love it when races provide that.


The price was right for this 9-mile race, a whopping $35 bucks! Can't beat it. There were no medals, no fancy expo, no big vendors...just the way I like it. I would much rather pay less than pay more for a ginormous medal that will inevitably just collect dust or be shoved into a drawer.


There was a water station right before you entered the River's Edge Trail and
 one directly after you exited. 
The race took place at the Columbia Bottom Conservation Area in St. Louis, which by the way I had no idea this place even existed and it's literally only about 25-30 minutes from my mom's house! Just another reason why I love running, it takes you to so many new places.

As you can see by the map (click the photo to enlarge) the race started with about 4 miles of gravel (with a small part of that on a paved path which was completely covered in ice...more on that later), 3 miles on the River's Edge Trail, leading into a small section of pavement (maybe .3-.5 miles) then out to an open farming field with a partial gravel path. The Nippy Niner website says the overall course consists of: approximately 5 miles of gravel road (Start and Finish),  3 miles of single track and 1 mile of paved path. 

Anyway, as many of you know this winter has been (pardon my language) a total b****. On Saturday, Mother Nature struck again as it rained for more than 12 hours and then turned into sleet, ice and snow. So as you can imagine, Sunday's course was completely laced with ice. In this screen grab, The Weather Channel said it was 22 degrees in St. Louis, "Feels like 10" with 12 mph winds; maybe downtown but where we were that couldn't have been further from the truth. I've run in colder temperatures before and it was below 22 degrees due to the fact we were right by the river (at the confluence of the Missouri and the Mississippi Rivers) and the winds were merciless. Any time you're near water in the fall/winter, dress a little warmer.

I think a Midwest race in February (with this winter) deterred some people from registering, but they were just missing out. I LOVE that there is a race in the dead of winter. There were a few no-shows, but I'd estimate about 100 (or less) runners showed up.

The race director (at least that's who I thought it was) spoke to everyone about the course before we started in regards to the conditions. He warned us that it was covered in ice and that the paved path portions of the course were the worst, so try to run in the grass or just take it easy so you don't hurt yourself. He followed that up with this, "The trail that we used last year is now in Louisiana (insert chuckles from the runners). The flood washed away the trail last year and they just completed the new trail...yesterday. It's rough out there, so just be careful. We've done our best to mark it with flags."

Okay, I thought he was joking. He wasn't. The trail was BRUTAL, but at the same time it was so much fun. It got to a point where you're like...okay, this is ridiculous...but more so I felt like a kid again and I wanted to just make the most of it! It was actually my favorite part of the race and it sure made the time fly as you had to focus on every step. He wasn't kidding that the trail was freshly built because there wasn't a single track...or a double track...or a trail at all aside from the tire tracks from a tractor that had just recently plopped the MOUNDS of dirt in place and now we were climbing over them (in addition to dodging ice covered puddles). If they hadn't been so diligent and marked the course, none of us would have known where we were going. But again, AWESOME. Every. Single. Bit of it.

As mentioned the paved paths were mostly spent in the grass, and I followed the side of the gravel roads (where a tire had left a track) because it too was smothered with icy patches. Before I knew it, the race was over.

There was a small table with bananas and bottled water, and there were heat lamps by a small 10x10 tent. Bless their hearts, but the heaters weren't doing anything as it was just too cold outside but they tried! Mad props. The race was not chip timed and instead your time was manually recorded when you crossed the finish. I hung out for a few minutes and heard the middle-aged woman in front of me say she ran the Nippy Niner in 2013, and the trail was MUCH better then. Hey lady, I had a blast! 

Unfortunately, I went to this race solo so I walked back to my car to text Casey, my mom and my brother that I had finished. By the way, parking was right next to the start/finish...literally a hop, skip and a jump...just another added bonus!

Sans watch a.k.a. trying to make more photos for this post since I didn't take any
 pictures except for the Start/Finish area.

This text came in handy afterward because at first they lost my finish time! I had followed through with one of my 2014 goals and didn't wear a watch during the race (so of course this would happen) or bring my phone along. I sat on the couch refreshing the race page over and over again to see my results only to see my name highlighted in red with no time! I immediately e-mailed the race director, sent them a message on Facebook, tweeted them and even messaged the website that orchestrated the race registration--so much for being a zen runner. I definitely relapsed to the "Type A"/anal/number obsessed psycho. Sorry, Big Shark.

Today (Monday), Mike and Heather (both from Big Shark) got back to me and after sending a screen grab of my text to Casey at 10:30 a.m., detailing exactly what I was wearing, describing the gals I came in behind and that the gentleman at the finish said "24" to the gal recording the times once I crossed the finish line...they FOUND my time and within a day or two the results page will be corrected. WOO! I'd also like to clarify, that I told them it would okay if they didn't find it and that maybe it was just a sign that number crunching/crazy runners should just chill out a little bit.

My goal for this race was not to fall flat on my
 face and I accomplished that.
Couldn't be happier with my time due to the circumstances.
Plus, it was my longest run post-injury.

I kind of felt silly even asking about it, but I didn't want anyone to think I was a no-show. Damn it, I froze my ass off, had a blast and I want everyone to know it! ;)

You should run this race. It was rad, it will kick your butt, it will get your lazy tail off the couch and outdoors where you belong, you'll be surrounded by crazy people like you, breaking a sweat in freezing temperatures for less than $40 buckaroos, and you'll love every minute of it! 

If you're a cyclist in St. Louis, be sure to check out Big Shark Bicycle Company.


I know, this race recap has gone on long enough! I just wanted to include this tidbit at the end because I was just recently asked about what I wear when I'm running in cold weather. So, if you're interested keep reading. If not, thanks for hanging with me up to this point.

Most of the time in temperatures less than 30 degrees, especially when we're talking in the teens or single digit temps, I wear three layers (depends on how easily you warm up--I'd rather sweat than be cold) and I prefer that at least one of my layers has a hood to put up and keep the cold/wind off of my neck. In my opinion, having your hands and ears covered are the most crucial parts of cold weather running. I have poor circulation in my hands so instead of a light pair of moisture wicking running gloves, I wear a fuzzy pair of Isotoners that my mom bought me for Christmas in 2012. I also wear a sweater-like headband that I dug out of my mom's closet and probably dates back to Lord knows when. When you're running in the winter it's not about how you look, it's just about keeping warm. Even if you look like the abominable snowman...

With that said, here's what I wore during Sunday's race:

Awkward pre-race living room selfie.
Pants: Oiselle Go Joggings (Obsessed with these. All I want to do is run in them, shower and put them back on. Don't worry, I don't do that but it's what I'm really thinking...)
Socks: Pro Compression (marathon socks in black)
1st Layer (which you can't see): Nike Thermal similar to this.
2nd Layer: Oiselle Lux Side Zip (another piece I'd like to live in).
Top Layer: Brooks Utopia Thermal Hoodie II (This was overly priced, but luckily I got it on sale. Be sure to check out all the winter sales going on right now and stock up on key pieces while they're cheap as brands are beginning to roll out their spring 2014 lines)
Shoes: Brooks Pure Cadence homemade screw shoes

Tip 1: I brought a pair of dry/warm boots to wear to and from the race in case my shoes got drenched (I wasn't sure if the conditions were going to be icy or muddy...or both). 

Tip 2: It took me the longest time to break down and buy key pieces (which I do love) from name brand running companies. However, you DON'T need any of these items to get out the door. I've worn hoodies, pajama pants, you name it. As long as you're warm, all that matters is a decent pair of running kicks. 




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