|The course reminds me of the Grim Reaper.|
Something I appreciated about this race even before I got to it was that they had two registration options - with and without the premium. I didn't need another race shirt, even though I liked the design, which meant I was able to save $15 on registration up front.
I hopped out of bed at 5:45 a.m. today, ate a few homemade energy balls, got together my supplies, and headed out the door. River Valley Ranch was a little further than I expected, about an hour's drive, so I planned an early start.
I got to the campground around 7:10. The race was set to start at 8. Since I'd already picked up my packet, I had plenty of time to visit the port-a-potty, and mosey to the furthest corral in the starting area. I've been to a good number of races and, I have to say, I've never seen a port-a-john line move so quickly. My new hypothesis is that trail runners are better at quick bathroom breaks.
I don't know the exact count of runners but I heard something like 1100. (Official # of 10k runners: 704) Judging by the crowd I saw at the start, that sounds about right. Informal "corrals" were set up in the start area and racers were released in three waves. Signs started with 6 minute miles and ended with 10 minute miles or more. Apparently, they expected most people running this race to be under 10 minutes per mile. Oy! As I was making my way to the back of the pack, I had a little bit of a teary moment. It seems that the start of a race is much more emotional for me than the end.
After the traditional singing of the national anthem, we started right on time. I was in the last wave, so I didn't get across the line until about three minutes after the first gun. For about half a mile or so the course was on gravel and paved roads, then we started up our first hill and the back of the pack quickly spread out.
When I signed up for this race, I decided that I would run/walk it as slowly as I wanted since it was just for fun and so close to my target 18-miler in two weeks. So, I happily walked up a lot of hills, then ran down the other side, rather fearlessly at times. In fact, I'm surprised that some of my speedy downhills didn't end in a dirty rear or minor injury. Bounding down rocky, rooty hills feels quite liberating
There was one woman I ran near for most of the race who had a slow but admirably steady pace, even on uphills. I only saw her walk two or three times and I think I heard her tell someone that she wasn't a runner and that she just does this particular race because it's for a good cause. For someone who claimed not to be a runner, she certainly had the necessary grit and determination. I even used her as a pacer for a couple of miles until I passed on one of my bounding downhills. She passed me back when I opted for a bridge and she took the route directly through the river. She definitely finished the race ahead of me, which was totally cool.
Course support was great. Even in some of the more difficult to reach places, there were exuberant volunteers cheering on runners and thanking us for being there (?!). I did my best to thank all of the volunteers I encountered. There was one volunteer stationed at a strange place who was just awkwardly staring at us as we passed. He didn't even respond to direct acknowledgment. That was a creepy moment.
Because the last mile was mostly road and relatively flat, it was my fastest mile of the race, at about 12 minutes. I ran the majority of it and managed to pass a few people along the way. There were so many people walking around who'd already finished that it was sometimes difficult to tell which way to go. Fortunately, there were more volunteers pointing the way and the wandering racers were al about high fives and cheers.
I mustered up a jump for a photographer fairly close to the finish line. For a slow race, I had a strong finish. The promise of Chick-fil-a breakfast sandwiches at the end may have had something to do with that. Each racer was announced as he or she crossed the finish. When the announcer called my name he made a comment about how coming in near the end was a good move because there were more people around to cheer for you. I assured him that was my plan from the beginning.
A friend I met through running, William, also ran - apparently, at a pretty good clip and singing the entire way. He found me in the food line and we talked about running for a while. It was good to see a familiar face since my original racing buddy wasn't able to make it to the event.
All in all, I enjoyed this race. It would have been more fun if I'd been more prepared for trail running but I went into it with reasonable expectations and finished in about the time I thought I might. If you like trail racing and live in the Maryland/Pennsylvania border area, it's definitely worth checking out. Apparently, it's a pretty competitive field, too, because they had some folks finish in under 40 minutes on some fairly tough trails.
Official time: 1:26:03 (13:53/mile)