Last fall Bill and I fell in love with trail running, but hadn’t run on any true dirt trails since we ran up to Molly’s Knob at Hungry Mother State Park in October.  We have lots of great paved and gravel trails right right outside our door, but to get to a good technical trail, we have to hop in our car and drive 30 minutes.  Ain’t nobody got time for that!  HaHa!

Earlier this year, my blogging friend, Logan, invited me to run the EX2Adventures Spring Backyard Burn Ten Mile Trail Run at Fountainhead Park in Fairfax, Virginia with her.  Bill and I eagerly signed up, went on exactly two trail training runs, and last week we got an email from EX2adventures with the following information and map.  What had we gotten ourselves into?

Prepare for an adventure and tons of fun as this race course is rugged and one of the more technically challenging courses in the series.  It includes mostly twisty single-track hiking trails, long gradual hills, several short steep hills, and a few stream crossings (and yes, your feet might get wet!).  You will need to stay focused as there are plenty of roots, rocks, leaves, downed trees, slippery slopes, etc…

As you can see by looking at the elevation chart from my RunKeeper app, EX2Adventures kept true to their promise with a rugged and technically challenging course!

EX2AdvenElevationChart

Bill and I arrived bright and early since we needed to pick up our packets before the race.  We got there at 7:25 for the 9 AM race start.  We got a prime parking spot which proved to very beneficial during the race!  Packet pick-up was a snap, and we headed back to our car to relax play on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.  Unfortunately, I got a text from Logan saying that she had aggravated her IT Band in yesterday’s Virginia Is For Dinosaurs 27-Miler in Virginia Beach, and wouldn’t be joining us.

EX2AdventuresTrailer

During my first couple of trips to the porta potties (I drink a lot of water when I first wake up every morning) there were no lines, but by 8:35 the line was long so I ran to the park bathroom facilities that many people didn’t know about.  There I stood in a short line behind a very nice lady who shared half of her spare paper towel with me when we learned the bathrooms were out of toilet paper.  If you want to be my best friend for life, do that!

EX2AdvenPortaPotties

I got back to our car just in time to grab my water belt and walk with Bill to the starting line about 100 yards away.  After about ten minutes of directions and announcements, we were off!

EX2AdvenBillDeb

We ran the first half mile on the paved road before turning on the dirt trails.

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The five and ten milers all started the race together since it was a double loop.  We were a little crowded at first, but it wasn’t bad at all.  EX2Adventures limited the number of runners to about 350 and that helped tremendously.

EX2AdvenOntoTrail

The trail was marked with danger signs at the top of each major decent or series of steep switchbacks.

EX2AdvenDanger

The first major drop came about a mile into the race.  This was one of about three extremely steep descents (that I can remember).  You can see Bill at the bottom of the hill about to turn left.  That left turn took us on down to our first stream crossing before heading back up the hill on the other side.

EX2AdvenDownTrail

The trail was marked with pink surveyor’s tape so you knew that you were on the right path.

EX2AdvenPinkRibbons

 Whenever there was a sharp turn, arrows were added to make sure we followed the trail.  Leaf coverage at points made the trail less obvious.

EX2AdvenTrailMarkings

We finished the first five-mile loop and the five milers were sent to the right to finish the race while we were sent straight ahead.  About a mile into the race, I had taken my jacket off and tied it around my waist.  As Bill and I ran past our car (remember our prime parking spot?), I threw my jacket and gloves in and we continued on our merry way, having taken only a few steps out of our way to get to the car.

All of the previous photographs were taken by me holding the camera up while on the run and just snapping in hopes of getting a good picture (I was very lucky).  Around the seven mile mark, Bill took the camera because he wanted to get some pictures of me descending the hills and crossing the streams.

EX2AdvenStreamCrossingFeet

Remember the nice lady who shared her paper towel with me at the rest room?  We jockeyed back-and-forth during the last few miles, although we didn’t recognize each other as “bathroom buddies” on the trail.  That’s her behind me, also wearing yellow.

EX2AdvenDebDownhill

EX2AdvenDebCrossingStream

EX2AdvenDebStream

With about a mile to go, Bill handed the camera back to me.  We rounded the corner and I snapped this picture of him approaching the Occoquan Reservoir.

EX2AdvenBillOccoquan

We had a series of final hills to climb and we were finished!  Bill and I crossed the finish line holding hands with our hands in the air, but without the benefit of a finish line photographer.  For once I made a conscious effort not to look at my watch as I crossed the finish line, and I have no photographic evidence!

Right after we crossed the finish line, the lady behind us thanked us for being on the trail with her and “pulling” her along.  She and I very quickly realized we had stood in line at the restroom together.  My new race buddy’s name is Anne and she blogs over at Mom And Dad Track Stars.  Go check her out!  So even though I was very disappointed that I didn’t get to meet Logan today, I met a new running/blogging friend!

EX2AdvenDebAnne

We made our way over to the food tent where they had pizza and yummy little egg and cheese burritos.  They also had bananas, trail mix, cookies, water, and Gatorade.  I have absolutely no idea why I didn’t take a picture.  Perhaps I’d left all of my brain cells on the trail!

While waiting for the awards ceremony, we got a look into the future at the 2036 overall winner!

EX2AdvenLittleHokieOnBlocks

My finish time was 1:58:17 (11:49 pace) which earned me a first place in my age group.  And for once, we stuck around for the awards ceremony!

EX2AdvenDebAgeGroupWinner

I was very happy with my Asics Gel-Scouts today.  They did the job they were supposed to do and kept my feet safe from the many roots and rocks sticking up out of the ground.  My traction was good on the muddy ascents and descents, and I think my shoes felt like bad-asses running right through the creeks!

EX2AdvenMuddyShoes

I was disappointed that the race shirt is cotton instead of technical, but with the lower cost of the race, I can’t complain.  It does have a woman’s fit and I like that.  And since it’s Kelly green, I can wear it next St. Patrick’s Day!

EX2AdvenShirtAndBib

Overall EX2Adventures served up a great race!  From parking, to packet pick-up, to race announcements, everything was very organized and easy.  The course was rugged and somewhat technically challenging and amazing all rolled into one!  There were more water stops than I would have expected on a trail race, and post race refreshments were quite good considering the size of the race.  There were also several random drawings for gifts (including two iPods and $100 bill) and gift certificates after the awards ceremony.  I’m pretty sure Bill and I will be back to run another one of their races soon.

My quads are already screaming and I bet I’ll be very sore tomorrow.  Oh, those evil hills!

 

  • Questions:
  • Do you like hiking and/or running trails?
  • Do you wear trail shoes or save your older running shoes for the trails?
  • Who raced this weekend?

 

Happy Running! ~ Deb