|"Ouch!" I exclaim after reaching back to get my water bottle. "I just tore my thumbnail on my shirt. That's it—I'm dropping out now!"|
"Yep, your race is over." Kate Abbott agrees. We're trekking through the woods, a few dozen miles into the Bull Run Run 50 miler.
It's a lovely day for my fourth BRR, Kate's second. Temperatures rise from the 40s into the 60s. We improve on last year's result by almost 18 minutes, finishing in 11:22:06.
But there is one snag at the finish line: the race officials ask me if I've seen Kate? "Yes, she's been beside me all day," I reply. We discover that her number is pinned on upside down and reads "98" instead of "86". Oops! Course marshalls think she got lost somewhere along the stream. We soon set them right. And Race Director Anstr Davidson tells us afterwards that he wasn't worried—he knows that Kate knows the trail and that we're running together.
There are problems along the way:
A crescent moon hangs low in the east as I arrive at Kate Abbott's home ca. 4:45am. Zena, the family dog, greets me. Kate cooks grilled cheese sandwiches and we each have one. I drive us to the starting area, Hemlock Overlook Regional Park. Our walk in the gloom to the packet pickup area is tricky on the hills and at a water crossing. We get our shirts and race numbers, greet friends, and prepare for the race.
Where the heck are we and what the heck are we about to do? Bull Run is a famous stream that flows to the Occoquan Reservoir and thence into the Potomac River. The area was the site of several major Civil War battles. As the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club web site notes, "The Bull Run Run is a beautiful, tough run on the Bull Run Trail in Northern Virginia. The VHTRC was formed in 1992 to sponsor the first Bull Run Run in April 1993." The 18th annual BRR takes place on 10 April 2010. Here's a map of our path, thanks to Google Maps, GPS Visualizer, and the Garmin GPS that I wear on my wrist.
As we line up for the 6:30am start I tweet the news and Ken Swab texts a friend. Then we're off, taking our time and cruising near the back of the crowd. Caroline Williams is nearby; she was with me last weekend at the Chocolate Bunny night run. So is John Godinet, whom I also met there. Ken and I banter as usual during the mile loop before we head down the steep single-track trail to join the BRT. Kate leads our little group, as usual setting a perfect pace, aggressive but not irrational.
We follow the course upstream, walking the uphills, running where feasible. Caroline blasts ahead; Ken follows her, though we see him briefly at the first aid station, mile 7.2, Centreville Rd. Bluebells bloom, painting cerulean fields beside the trail. Tiny white flowers accompany them. I ask a photographer what they're called, and she tells me "spring beauties".
After the northern turnaround Kate and I catch up with Ken; he sticks with us for the next ~35 miles. We grab-and-go briskly through aid stations. I snag the usual cookies, chocolate candies, and salty potato chips. I also take Succeed! electrolyte capsules at almost every opportunity and nibble Clif shot blocks from my stash.
Back at the start/finish area, mile 16.6, Kate ditches her outer layer, since the day has begun to warm. She continues in her orange "Cody's Crew" singlet, in honor of a friend's son who died too young. I'm in red garb today and have already rolled up my sleeves. I post our location to Twitter, Facebook, and Google Buzz. We're 3:38 into the race, the same as last year.
As we head downstream the firing range across Bull Run is noisy and leads to some jokes about shooting laggard runners. We note the memorial shrine near the Marina as we pass by. Typical trail humor surfaces sporadically, not to be repeated here. Muddy bogs and water crossings are small and narrow.
The Wolf Run Shoals aid station is a delight, with ice cream sandwiches for hot runners and silly costumes for volunteers. During the White Loop trail segment we encounter a fast runner heading the wrong direction. We try to get him turned around, but he ignores us and adds a couple of miles to his day. Rob Dolan, recovering from bronchitis, greets us from his chair at the Do Loop. Gary Knipling, 66 years old and on his way to a sub-10 hour finish, is all smiles as usual. So is Mark McKennett and Ken's cousin Peter Kozlowski.
|We arrive at the finish line at 5:52pm. Kate's husband Victor and her sons Sebastian, Joaquin, and Jacian appear a few minutes later. Kate and Ken express doubts about running ultramarathons in the future. Of course, Kate is scheduled to do a 24 hour endurance run next weekend, and Ken has signed up for the Miwok 100k on 1 May. I laugh about how one's sense of "reasonable" gets recalibrated after an ultramarathon.|
(photo by Doug Sullivan near mile 32)