My first trail run and it was awesome. I had no idea what to expect, but it was a really amazing and invigorating experience. I was concerned about the conditions of the trail considering all of the rain we've had, but I wasn't as affected by it as I thought I'd be. It was a field of 300 runners or so, broken evenly between the 5 and the 10 mile races. Neither race was the distance they advertised, partly because they had to change the race routes in the morning due to flooding. I believe that the 5 mile race, which I ran, turned out to be about 4.5 miles or so. They made an announcement with the distance at the beginning, but I don't remember exactly what was said. 4.5 or 4.6 or 4.8...something like that. The 10 miler was less than 9 miles, but I don't think anyone complained considering the number of hills and the degree of inclines. Regardless, Jon would have found it very irritating and chalked it up to funny Virginia math and our inability to measure stuff. I started too far back and I think I could have run a faster race had I not gotten stuck behind people at a number of different points. This wasn't like other races in that there was almost no room to pass people for most of the course. Single track racing along streams and through the woods really means that the trail is only wide enough for one runner at a time. Also, when one person gets stuck on some rocks or climbing a hill, everyone behind them has to slow down and walk. This happened two or three times, causing a number of people around me to grumble.
I ran pretty hard when I could, but the difficult part was jumping over logs, running up and down steps, trying not to slip on rocks and wood, etc. I did a decent job of jumping over stuff, staying off the wet rocks and not getting too bogged down in the mud. There was a moment or two when I thought that the spot I was about to plant my foot was going to be a problem, but I got lucky and never lost my footing. I know that I could not have made it up the sides of those hills and through some of the creek and stream beds as quickly if I didn't have the extra traction. I was moving pretty quickly when I came to a plank-covered walkway that was pretty slick. It felt like I was in a controlled slide instead of really running at that point. And, I probably got close to losing it and taking the person behind me down too on more than one occasion, but forward momentum saved me. That, and I grabbed a few tree branches when I ran some turns.
It was a much more exhausting race than any I've done before. I was panting heavily on the hills and I think I spooked a few people as I came up on them from behind. What can you do...I didn't mean to come off like some trail running pervert. You have to pay careful attention to the ground right in front of you, which means you don't get to zone out and relax. And, while you are mostly running forward, you spend a lot of time zigzagging, hopping, and jumping in all sorts of directions. Plus, the hills in this race were the steepest hills I've ever run by far, to the point where you are basically running in a switchback fashion up and down the sides of the valley.
The race wasn't as professionally organized as some other races I've done. No ChampionChip at all, so no ability to get a net time. Most of the course was marked with plastic tape and ribbons, so if there hadn't always been a runner within sight of me, I would have definitely gotten lost. They started late, but that was due to rerouting the race. The food was kind of weak, I thought, but they gave out the coolest t-shirt yet. I appreciated that they had hot pizza, which is a change, but the bagels looked like frozen ones that had been thawed out. Despite all of this, I think the organizers, EX2 Adventures, made it a really fun event.
All in all, I would definitely do it again. In fact, I am thinking about signing up for the Backyard Burn Fall Series now. I don't know if I can handle a full 10 miles in the woods yet, though.
Backyard Burn Spring Series Race #3 - 5 miles
Hemlock Overlook, Clifton, VA
April 23, 2006, 9:00 am
Time: 39:45 (Gun Time)
Pace: 8:50 (unsure of exact distance)
Overall Place: 40/120
Age Place: 20/32 (I guess guys in their 30s are just damn fast on the trails)
List of Results