Sunday, May 16, 2010

First Running of Trail Days Half Marathon in Damascus, VA

 Start of the 1st Trail Days Half Marathon in Damascus, VA...Over 70 starters!
(Don't worry, we only run 1/2ish mile on pavement total!)

I had a wonderful morning with fabulous friends this weekend at the 1st running of Trail Days Half Marathon! What a blast! Because I have been spending so much time on roads, I have monsterously missed my trail friends as I opted for weekend runs of solo time on pavement instead of trail dancing with fine folks. Damascus,VA is about an hours drive from my house on an early Saturday morning. (Much longer during mid day in the summer).

Rick Gray-ultrarunner extraodinaire (and friend) taking a morning to be the guy at the IMT turn around. He and I shared many fine (and not so fine as life goes) time together in training and racing.

Eric Grossman, one of my Montrail teammates contributed quietly both in front and behind the scenes of this fun race.
JJ Jesse was there too in happy human spirit. He is a consistently positive person to be around! (And he makes great pizza and throws great parties!)

Jenny Nichols has been real life and FB friend for almost 2 years now. She is the mom of 2 and getting ready for her 1st 50 mile: Mountain Masochist in November. Jenny volunteered as a race photographer. (Notice her great taste in skort!)

Nick and Maria Whitehead working together at the finish line

Although recovery from Ice Age 50M the previous weekend had gone well, I had surprisingly taxed my body with a 5 mile mountain hike on Thursday afternoon. I think I was overenthusiastic and wound up with crazy tight muscles from hiking. Next day (Friday) I spent 7 hours walking around Carowinds Amusement Park as a chaperone on our Senior Trip and 6 hours on a bus. Needless to say, after 6 hours of sleep on Friday night, I wasn't sure I would be in the shape or spirit to run with any sort of enthusiasm. 

I showed up at 7:30am, got my packet, reunited with fine people and warmed up. I was tight and kinda worried. Not worried about having a bad day at a half marathon, yet worried about getting hurt. It was on the Beech Grove Trail in 2008 that I mysteriously came down with calf cramping issues that took me out for the rest of the summer. No clear reasons. No diagnosis. Nothing clear except tightness and pain.  Plus my hike up Mt Jefferson 2 days previous gave me the calf twitches. What's up with that????

Yet, I as I sorted through my file of current reality...there was no reason NOT to start. If I felt bad, I'd walk back. No pride here. If I walked back, perhaps I could help out?

The race started at 8:30 and we were off! What a joy to run on dirt! It was humid and fun. I felt wonderful and ran and felt great-I think if I had tried to hike, I might have whimpered), yet this was a real reminder that the biomechanics of hiking and running are vastly different and as far as WS 100 training, I do have my work cut out!
After exiting the VA Creeper Trail the ascent up Beech Grove to the Iron Mountain is on the edge of running or hiking. I opted to run (ie: happily plod through up the trail with running motions). Once reaching the Iron Mountain Trail and drinking some Suceeed! , I continued east for the 1.5 mile out and back. Very runnable-and the descents were joyous. 
The last 1.5 trail miles were through wet, rocky, muddy, speedy Mock Hollar- I felt like screaming in delight as I did the day before on Carowinds Intimidater Roller Coaster!

Once hitting pavement, I think there was about 1/2 mile 'till the finish line in front of Mt Rodgers Outfitters in downtown Damascus. 
Me, me nearing the finish...
Seconds later, delighting at the finish!
Race results here: I finished in 1:34:54, 1st woman, 6th overall, and felt happy  and thrilled and grateful to be running in the woods!
2nd place girl Betsy Anderson and companion Jeremy Steeves (Jeremy was 7th place overall!)

The following is my review as per request on
This is the first running of this event and very well done! Partially sponsored by Montrail, and designed and executed by talented runner Nick Whitehead and assisted by many experienced trail and ultrarunners make it a fine event. The race is a combination of tiny bit of pavement,rail trail, steep, technical up and down single track and glorious ridge running in the Iron Mountains! I think the route may be a few 10ths of a mile short-(due to running this is 1:34:54 and my best road 1/2 marathon being 1:31:30...I'd expected to be out there for at least 10 minutes more...
That being said, there are lots of places where runners can go fast and some great technical downs where experienced trail runners can FLY!
Make sure you wear shoes good on wet rocks. Your feet will get wet, some rocks will be wet and you will have fun! I wore Montrail Sabino Trail running shoes and Smartwool socks =all was well.
The race organizers will likely be changing up the finish area for next year-to look at finishing at a place w/ less pedestrian and vehicle the streets of tiny Damascus VA were mobbed by 10:00am. Perhaps if the run started an hour earlier some congestion could be avoided?
The race logo is beautiful, Mountain Hardwear Technical T's attractive and useful and great prizes: Some cash money, handcarved hiking poles, locally made pottery, gift certificates for Montrail running shoes and sandals, hats, t-shirts and other runner -enviable stuff!
I plan on returning next year and recommending this race / run to all who love running on trails!

After taking a quick dip in chilly White Top Laurel Creek and changing my clothes and more finish line hanging out... I walked over to Tent City and met up with some of the fine folks from Nomad (reps for Montrail and Mountain Hardwear. Hunter (pictured above) came in a speedy 3rd place! 

Nick is planning on making this fine trail run a yearly event! A great addition to the world of Southern Appalachian Trail races! Thank you Nick, Eric, Maria, Tim, Rick and all others of the seen and unseen that helped this event unfurl this weekend! IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME!


jenn said...

awesome post! and it was awesome seeing your smiling face this weekend! YAY!!!

big hug to you, my friend!!( to whom I'd NEVER know about the MH pacer skort-- if she hadn't recommended it so highly!!! ) glad we got to have a " twin moment" there post race!

I agree. Nick put on a top notch event! i can definitely see this race growing by leaps and bounds next year! Very exciting to see a race of this caliber on our home turf in Damascus!



Rick Gray said...

Nick did a wonderful job with starting a new short length trail run right during Trail Days. What a wonderful venue for a new race. Being at the out and back turn-a-round, I did not get to see much of the race, but everyone was so happy when they saw me. You were so happy when you got to my little spot in the woods. I could tell you were happy and running relaxed. I know you are so happy to be back on the trails for a bit. Good luck with WS training. It will be another awesome day in our western mountains.