The other weekend I trekked up north to Fries, VA to participate in the second annual New River Trail 50k. Fries (pronounced "freeze") is a small community nestled alongside the New River that has as its roots a textile community and now is best known for outdoor recreation.
The course covered a portion of the New River Trail State Park, which is an abandoned railroad right-of-way. The terrain consisted of hard-packed dirt and gravel, with only slight changes in elevation. Along the course were several small trestles, one long trestle, and a short but VERY dark train tunnel.
The New River Trail 50k is put on by local ultrarunner Annette Bednosky, who runs competitively for the Montrail UltraRunning Team. Annette decided to give back to the running community by organizing this event. It's also one of the "green" events that are becoming more and more popular. What's green about it? Race applications are available only online, participants are encouraged to bring their own water bottles in order to reduce waste at the aid stations, and very little schwag (you know, that stuff you get in your race bag that you get all the time, like ball point pens from banks, note pads from realtors, race adverts, and such). Participants had the option of paying a little more and getting a very usable Patagonia technical long-sleeved shirt and also had the choice of either a Nathan handheld water bottle or a locally made pottery vase.
I'll spare you most of the details of my experience except to say that this year I managed to shear 25 whopping minutes off my last year's time and finished in 4:23:38, putting me 12th overall out of 105 starters. I would have to attribute my faster time to a) knowing the course this time around, b) lighter trail shoes, c) a change in gait from heel striking to midfoot striking, and d) the fear that someone was about to pass me in the final 5.5 miles, which turned out to be only my imagination.
Last year I made the slow, arduous walk up to the community center for a shower before heading home. This year I decided to walk down to the New River at the start/finish line and take a soak. Aahh, relief!