Saturday, March 9, 2013

Burn #1 (Where We Meet Bear Bell)

Photo by Swim Bike Run Photography
Last week JD and I ran the first 10 mile race in the EX2 Spring Backyard Burn Series at Hemlock Overlook. The race website notes that "This challenging race course consists mostly of hiking trails (including the Bull Run Occoquan Trail), old dirt roads, and open fields. Competitors will run over rocks and roots, cross a few streams, and up some hills." What they don't tell you is that you are going to spend a lot of time hiking. I would estimate that a good 1/3 of the loop is not runnable unless you are a mountain goat.
Sure, that's really runnable! (Swim Bike Run Photography)

 I had run this course last fall as the last race of the series. Since I am in marathon training, I was hoping to improve my time on the course so I was eager to get going. It was really cold on race morning...high 20s with a decent wind. Hemlock is nice because there is a large warm lodge with indoor bathrooms where you can check in and hang out before the race. I want to give a huge props up to Jim Harman for creating a women's t-shirt specifically for this race series. It is sized for women, and was a different color than the men's t-shirt so a really nice premium and doubly nice to have something specifically for women in the trail racing circuit. While I was waiting I noticed the word perseverance on the ceiling of the lodge. It stuck in my head and became useful later on during the race. We did our usual pre-race brief and casual start including stringing the field out on some pavement running. Once you hit the trail at Hemlock, you are really into the thick of it. This is definitely the most technical trail in the series and probably some of the most technical trail in the NoVa area. By about mile 2, you are into bouldering along a rushing stream which was not pleasant with the wind whipping past you. The first 5 mile loop on the trail was not too messy because the trail was still frozen.
Swim Bike Run Photography

 I came through the first lap at 57 minutes so I knew that I had a chance to improve on the 1:54 that I ran in December. I felt momentary hatred for the 5 milers who were scarfing down breakfast burritos, but then I got my head back in the game and headed out on loop #2. I tried to run loop #2 more aggressively, but it was getting difficult as the trail was warming up and getting very slippery in places. I had been following some idiot with a bear bell tied to a backpack for most of the first loop. I was praying that he was turning off at the end of 5 miles because the bell was driving me nuts. (Don't ask me why he was carrying a backpack or why he needed a bear bell in a forest that has no reported bear sightings and had 300 runners out on the trails.) Unfortunately, he did not turn off so my goal because to stay with the bell. As we hit the boulder section, bear man stopped because he was having issues with his shoes, and I passed him. Then my goal became don't let bear bell catch me again. I could hear him behind me the entire time, but I kept pushing. I hiked the hills as quickly as I could and then really pushed the pace on the runnable sections. I almost lost it a few times on the barely single trail section in the last mile, but I held on and managed not to fall at all.
Swim Bike Run Photography

I finished in 1:52 so I was thrilled with a 2 minute PR for the course. This put me in 14/24 for 30-39 females and gave me 7 series points. I had just been hoping to get 1 point so I'm thrilled with 7 points. Next up is Burn #2 at Wakefield which promises to be mostly flat, not very technical, and fast.

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