Some say that trail running is more akin to dancing than it is to road running. Having to account for your every step by watching out for rocks, tree roots, water crossings, stinging/biting insects and other unsavory creatures makes you tread lightly. Rather than muscling through a road course, trail running forces you to vary your cadence. Going faster while trail racing is usually a recipe for disaster - slow and steady will finish the race.
That was what I was thinking about as I was heading down to Newberry, SC for the inaugural Lynch's Woods 50k trail race, which was held on Sunday, Sept. 6th. Lynch's Woods 50k is part of a series of annual races put on by Terri Hayes, an ultrarunning veteran who now gives back by putting on such races. Terri states that her intent is for people to complete her races first and foremost, and to put a lesser emphasis upon competing. To that effect, there's no set cut-off time, no entry fee (though donations are gladly accepted), and there's no commemorative t-shirt nor swag. So what do you get for your efforts? A sense of accomplishment of course, but also a challenging course, friendly volunteers, camaraderie, well-stocked aid stations, and a unique finishers' medal.
Lynch's Woods is a park nestled nearby downtown Newberry, SC, and is composed of 286 acres of heavy woods. There is a fire road on its outskirts and miles of single-track within, primarily used by horse riders, mountain bikers, trail runners, and hikers.
And so around 7:30a.m. Terri gave us the go ahead and all 49 of us took off. Terri also ran the entire course, a cool thing that isn't something you see race directors do very often.
The course consisted of five loops. The first loop was on the fire road that circled the park and the remaining four were repeats of a hilly 6.8-mile trail, completely single-track. At some trail races that start with single-track, participants get bunched up at the beginning and passing gets to be tricky. Having us start with the wide fire road allowed us to spread out nicely so that by the time we entered the single-track we didn't have to jostle for position.
The inner four loops were pretty tricky so I had to keep my eyes on the path constantly. Imagine a lightly used deer trail meandering up and down through the woods and that pretty much describes it. Throw in a couple of small stream crossings for good measure. Add roots and rocks and pine cones. Being somewhat clumsy at trail running, I managed to trip and fall down at least six times, three of which were full face-plants. There was company in my misery, as I saw several other runners sporting bloody knees.
I finally "heard" the rhythm of the trail and managed to hang on for a 6:42 finish, putting me squarely in the middle of the results. While I would have liked to have gone faster, I was afraid to, as every time I sped up I ended up tripping on some immovable object like a rock or root. Slow and steady finishes the race.
Summary: A super-low-key 50k in a scenic setting which offers much more than material rewards. Best for trail nerds.
Equipment of note: My new Inov-8 f-lite 230's, Injinji toe socks, 12 gels, about 20 Endurolytes (I lost count), eight bottles of whatever was available at the aid stations, Oreo cookies, and green grapes. Après-run, I stopped by McDonald's for a 1/3 lb. mega burger of some sort.
Davidson Area Running Team