Naylor Mill 7K: Tough trails, good friends and, of course, bacon

Vanessa Junkin running on a trail at the Naylor Mill 7K.
Here I am exiting the trail portion of the Naylor Mill 7K. There wasn’t much more of the course to go until I reached the finish line. (Michael Perry photo)

I hadn’t run on the Naylor Mill Forest Trail since last year’s Naylor Mill 7K, but I felt surprisingly good on the trail Friday, Aug. 2, for the annual Bacon vs. Scrapple event.

Feeling good didn’t mean that I was running fast. I was several minutes slower than my usual race pace for a distance like this, with my watch logging an average pace of 14:31/mile. (To compare, I kept up a 10:09 average pace for my last race, the Baltimore 10 Miler in June, which was a much longer distance and still included hills.)

However, I didn’t fall, like I did last year at the Naylor Mill 7K, and I felt strong and confident. I’m wondering if part of this can be attributed to my regular attendance at yoga classes during the past month.

The course was different than in previous years, but it was still challenging. We started on a side road that goes behind some of the baseball/softball fields at the Henry S. Parker Athletic Complex. Judging by my map, we ran this straightaway for probably less than half a mile before we entered the trail. The place where we entered the trail was different than where the race course had gone into the trail before.

The Eastern Shore Running Club had a lot of representation at the Naylor Mill 7K!

The Naylor Mill Forest Trail, which is in Salisbury, is completely unlike any other trail or running location in our area. It’s a singletrack trail with turns everywhere and some steep declines and inclines. There are also plenty of roots.

Vanessa is among a group of runners starting the Naylor Mill 7K on Friday, Aug. 2.
Here I am at the start of the race (toward the left in ESRC shirt and blue shorts). I’m pretty sure I finished behind all these people. (Michael Perry photo.)

The trail is set up in a way so that I feel like I’m just making zigzags back and forth. I saw lots of people during the race. For me, it’s hard to tell where I am in the trails because much of it looks similar. However, for the race, the trails were very well-marked and I had no problem knowing where to go.

After passing a small group early on, I felt like I settled into a pace, close to a friend, Brian, and his young son. They were doing a great job. Every time I thought about passing, the boy would sprint ahead (he didn’t know I was thinking about it, although I did say something about how much energy he seemed to have), so I stuck behind them for a while before eventually passing them. A few people passed me at points along the course, as well, but I was not in a spot where I passed a bunch of people or a bunch of people passed me.

Vanessa and a group of runners run on a trail at the Naylor Mill 7K.
Here I am (center) early on in the Naylor Mill 7K. (Michael Perry photo)

Since this was a cupless race, I ran with a water bottle. This year, there were two aid stations instead of one. I skipped the first one, feeling pretty good, but I stopped at the second one, and it was amazing. At least five people squeezed wet rags onto me, including friends from the Eastern Shore Running Club and race director Trent’s kids. Another friend, Alex, refilled my water bottle while I was drenched in some water. Before I got to the rag portion of the station, I took and ate a piece of bacon that a little girl was hanging from her hand.

I hit Mile 3 on my watch as I was leaving this aid station, and I’d felt like I was keeping up a decent pace, so I was surprised to see 18:07 on my watch for that mile.

I continued onto the last part of the course — a little more than a mile was left — with a seemingly renewed energy because of the aid station volunteers. However, some really steep inclines and declines were ahead, and I did walk up the steep hills.

As I was nearing the place where we’d leave the trail to head to the finish line, I heard my name and saw another friend, Mike Perry, who was taking photos. He said the trail exit was ahead. I knew this meant I was close to the end, since we’d just be running back to where we started. I was able to pick up the pace for the last bit — once I was back on flat ground.

Vanessa holding a doughnut with bacon on it at the Naylor Mill 7K.
Here I am before the Naylor Mill 7K with a bacon doughnut. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

My watch logged a total of 4.08 miles. Since my time was nearly 10 minutes faster than last year, and based on my watch distance, I do think this year’s course was shorter than last year’s, although the distances logged on the trails by my friends varied a lot.

My time this year was 59:11. According to my watch, this was a 14:31/mile average pace. Last year, I ran the course, which I believe was longer, in 1:08:59, but the average pace logged on my watch was 14:24/mile.

However, last year, I remember really struggling. Although the course was still tough this year, I felt good. I think knowing that the course would be shorter from the beginning mentally helped me, too.

After finishing the race, a girl who was on our Girls on the Run team, Claire, was standing at the finish and handed me a popsicle. I enjoyed that before having some bacon. Later, I even tried some of the scrapple, because it had been a while since I’d had any. It was good!

As I mentioned before, this is a Bacon vs. Scrapple competition. Runners could choose which team they wanted to represent, and there was also Team Veggie. I was part of Team Bacon, which ended up winning (but not because of me).

Vanessa holding bacon in front of the finish arch at the Naylor Mill 7K.
Here I am with some post-race bacon. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

There were also doughnuts with bacon and scrapple on them. I had a bacon one before I started, as I wanted to make sure I got one before they ran out.

There were a lot of Eastern Shore Running Club members who participated in the race, and it was fun to see ESRC friends at the aid station, too.

I’d seen a scare about yellow jackets from a training run on the Facebook group for the event, and I even brought Benadryl in case I needed it, but I didn’t see a single one on the course.

It was a hot day, but the heat didn’t seem to really bother me that much because I was so focused on the trails, terrain and inclines. After I finished, I felt like I noticed it more.

Picture of Vanessa's bacon and egg socks. The left sock has bacon on it, and the right sock has eggs on it.
I bought and wore bacon and egg socks for the occasion! (Vanessa Junkin photo)

The Team Bacon race shirt I got and sticker with the race logo are also great!

Thanks to Trent Swanson for putting on another awesome event and for the support of everyone else who was a part of it, including the bacon and scrapple chefs! I’ll be back next year!


Mile 1: 11:29

Mile 2: 13:57

Mile 3: 18:07

Mile 4: 14:55

Last part (watch had .08): 43.7 seconds (9:08 pace)

Total time: 59:11 chip time (watch had 59:13)

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Scrapple, left, and bacon in foil trays.
Post-race offerings of bacon and scrapple! (Vanessa Junkin photo)

2 thoughts on “Naylor Mill 7K: Tough trails, good friends and, of course, bacon

  1. Oh my gosh… bacon! You had me at bacon. lol. It looks like a great trail run. Congrats on finishing strong and feeling good.


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