“Charles, have you looked outside?” read the Facebook message from fellow DARTer Tristan Van Vuuren on a cold and soggy Friday evening. The rain was coming down pretty hard. 12 hours later, Tristan and I were planning to run a trail race on the very rugged, very technical single-track trails at Fisher Farm Park in Davidson. Actually, I had committed only to the 5k trail run. Tristan was planning on competing in the main event: an off-road duathlon (5k trail run, 16k mountain bike ride, 3k trail run). Nonetheless, the depressing autumn rain looked to shut us both down for the morning’s race, if only for the sake of preserving the park’s rutted trails.
I got up early anyway with the intention of getting to the race venue to check in right when the registration tent opened. If the race officials called the race off early enough, I would have just enough time to jet to Mooresville for the nearby Pumpkin Run 8k, where no fewer than half a dozen fellow DARTers would be sporting the team singlet and making us proud. Surprisingly, the officials decided to go ahead with both the trail run and the duathlon. I got on my Blackberry and messaged Tristan for fear that he might miss out on a race that he told me about in the first place.
|Cold, wet, and grumpy on race day morning|
The duathlon was the main event of the day, at least at this park. There were over a dozen other races going on this morning, so ancillary events like our little trail 5k were bound to have small fields of runners. Tristan and I didn’t mind. The small number of runners allowed for a friendly, laid-back, non-competitive racing atmosphere. This was a relief to me. Two months earlier, I ran a 10-mile trail race at this park with pleasant weather and dry conditions, so I knew how punishing the trail could be. I would have to take my time and concentrate on the drops, climbs, twists, and turns that were sure to be slick with mud and wet leaves—not to mention all the hidden roots and rocks waiting to introduce themselves to my big toe.
|My new trail shoes|
The steady uphill that followed provided better footing, albeit at the price of a harder workout. I decided to ignore my Garmin. It is notoriously inaccurate on these particular trails, and therefore unreliable for any data except elapsed time (which I could have gotten from my five-dollar Big Lots wristwatch!). I had to guess my pace and just race by feel. I could still hear Tristan’s breathing behind me, but it was getting fainter. Either I was pulling away, or Tristan’s vital signs were dropping. I figured the former was more likely. The trails were beautiful, even considering the previous night’s rain. I just wish I could have looked up and enjoyed the seasonal view overhead a bit, but I was weary of losing my footing.
About 16 minutes into the race (I am guessing about two miles and change), the track opened up into some straight double-track. I opened up my stride to take advantage and got too complacent with the conditions. I caught my left big toe on a (root?) and stumbled forward. I caught the ground with one hand and escaped a full face plant, but I winced for the next few dozen steps until the sting numbed its way out of my toe.
The course emerged from the trees and the last half mile took place in the grassy meadows. The final stretch of the race was the same uphill as the start, and it was a lot less pleasant the second time up. I passed by the transition area for the subsequent duathlon and trotted through the finish line as the overall winner with a time of 22:59. This was quite far from my PR, but anyone who has run the trails at Fisher Farms can tell you that it is not a course for speed. Tristan strode through the finish a couple of minutes later and claimed second place. Go DART!
Winner, winner, chicken dinner!
|DART representing 1st and 2nd place overall! Way to represent!|