This year I decided that I wanted to try some trail races. I have some running friends in Canada (Karen and Dawn!!) who do 75% of their races on trails and I love reading their race reports and kept thinking "I have GOT to try this!" Doing the Muddy Buddy race in Richmond, VA this past June with Nancy Toby just solidified for me that there was MUCH FUN & FITNESS to be found in off-road cycling and running - so with some excitement I signed up for the entire 4-race fall series of the EX2 BackYard Burn.
Race #1 was a NO_SHOW for me because my newest Nephew insisted on making an appearance 1-week ahead of schedule. It was a DNS (Did Not Start) that I was very willing to have. I would not have missed his arrival for any race!
Race #2 - Sunday November 2 - 5.5 miles - Hemlock Overlook - Clifton, VA
Pace 15:45 per mile - power hiking only - no running
I have been having some on/off issues with my left achilles this fall. It seems no more serious than some tendentious but Coach Bob and I are trying to back off the volumes and intensity of my runs lately to see if I can get this issues under control before the big Ironman training volumes come into play. I was pretty bummed that "running the race" was not an-option and while I had some very good, sane advice from fellow runners to look at the big picture and possibly skip this race, I was pretty sure that my achilles was doing well enough for me to power hike the event.
My friend Keri, who recently finished her first off-road Half Marathon, was my race partner for the day. Keri, who also signed up for the 4-race series, had an excellent time in Race #1, exceeding her expectations and decided to hang-back with me for this race. Knowing that at any point mid-race, I could stop, if necessary without being stranded 2.5 miles out from the finish, made the decision to start an easy one.
The course was set up as three trail loops that returned each time to the finish/start area. The woods and trails were simply stunning! The Fall foliage, the warm 50% temperatures and no wind made for the perfect race day. The loops themselves were fun and very challenging with 3 steep, long climbs, several rock scrambles, a few water crossings and lots of technical trail full of roots, rocks and fallen trees to step, leap or straddle. (depending on your pace)
There was a mix of everything you could imagine, open fields gently sloping down hill, narrow paths winding along a lazy river, steep rocky downhills that had me VERY THANKFUL that I had trail shoes on and long stair-stepping climbs that looked "almost done" until you reach the top and the trail veered off to the right and UP just a little more. Keri and I had a great time, we set a quick pace and eventually caught up to and passed about 3 people on the course. As we got close to the finish, we were lapped by the top 10 men and top 5 women racing the 10-mile distance race (two times around the course). It was stunning to watch these men and women fly through these woods, seemingly on that edge between control and being a victim of gravity.
It took plenty of self-discipline not to break into a run in the moments when the path widened or cleared a little but I kept "July 26, 2009" in the back of my head and reminded myself that a brisk hike was still getting my heart-rate up and working my core and legs without risking injury. I had a great time and found the "off-road" running folks to be friendly and laid back and a fun group to hang with on an early November morning.
Life is Good! Even when you have to back off the pace...
I'm a wife, sister, proud aunt, graphic designer, Ironman & age-group triathlete, Melanoma cancer survivor, amateur photographer, 2x Bengal cat owner (or am I owned by Bengal cats??) and I manage a running program for cancer survivors called CANCER_TO_5K (http://cancerto5k.com)
I'm busy but I live my life to the fullest everyday! My Motto: LiveSTRONG!!!