Sunday, October 30, 2011

Turn and Burn 5k: Fisher Farm Park, Davidson, NC

By Chas Willimon

“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
When Tristan showed up, he looked as cold and grumpy as I was feeling…maybe even more so.  He had regular running shorts on, but nothing else on his legs.  I had a long-sleeve compression top, a quarter-zip middle layer, a rain jacket shell, neoprene leg tights, semi-fitted sweat pants, gloves, and a skull cap on, and I still felt chilly!  Tristan elected to run only the 5k instead of the duathlon.  Having just acquired his bike from its trip across the Atlantic, he did not want to spend hours cleaning the muck off from just one race.

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 course was to start at the bottom of the park’s large meadow and proceed directly uphill for about a third of a mile before plunging into the trails.  All of the runners jogged behind the race director on his mountain bike to the start line so we could get in one last warm-up before the start.  The shout of “go,” I strode out ahead of the small pack and settled into a quick pace for an uphill start.  I knew Tristan was close behind me in second place.  I purposefully eased up my pace as I rounded the corner of the tree line to head into the woods.  I was confident in the treads on my brand new trail shoes, but even they gave way on sharp turns to the soft red-clay mud that covers much of the region in wet conditions.  A quarter mile of downward-plunging switchbacks gave way to some flat track.  I felt more secure running on the grass five inches to the left of the track rather than sliding around in the rutted single-track with a U-shaped cross section.

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!
I must say that I respect Tristan’s decision to opt out of the mountain biking event.  With the slipping and sliding I experienced on my own two feet, I couldn’t imagine negotiating those trails balanced on two skinny tires!  Tristan and I did not stick around to see how the cyclists fared.  After collecting our medals and indulging in some tasty hot chocolate provided by the folks at The Cycle Path, we called it a day and basked in our personal victories, vowing to keep secret how small the racing field was.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.