July 31st, 2015 by Team OAM NOW / Athletic Mentors
By Roxane Kippen, Team OAM Now Triathlete
The Dirty Burg Trail Run took place on what started out as a cool sunny morning at the Cannonsburg Ski Area. It is the summer event put out by Switchback Endurance, the race directors of the very popular spring and winter trail races at Yankee Springs State Recreation Area. The Dirty Burg offers 5K, 10K, 20K and 50K trail races and punishes runners with a finish up and back down the ski hill on every lap. Sounds fun, right?
Being an off-road triathlete, I do most of my running on trails, so a trail race is a nice motivator to get me out for a hard run. I have participated in several of the Switchback Endurance races in the past so I was confident that a well-managed event was in store at The Dirty Burg. Race directors Kim Owens and Phil Stapert did not disappoint and provided a well marked, challenging course for a mid-July tune up.
Fortunately, I only had to race one 10K loop and had to tackle the steep run walk up the face of the ski hill and clambering decent down once. It blew my mind that some racers were doing that up to 5 times for the longer races. It was even more mind blowing when I was half way through my measly one lap race, and the leader of the 50K race, on his 5th and final lap, blew by me on the trail like I was standing still. The only part of the race where I was actually almost standing still was half way up the ski hill, when I could no longer muster what looked like a run.
The start times for each distance were staggered which allowed for a very rare race day with no alarm clock necessary for me. This beats a 4am wakeup call for a triathlon any day! The 10K trail race started at 9am and temps were in the low 60s with relatively low humidity. It doesn’t get much better than that for the middle of the summer. The field was pretty small, so I decided I needed to go out hard and see if I had any challengers in the women’s field. I’d either pull someone along with me or put a discouraging enough gap on the others that they wouldn’t bother trying to work their way back to me in the latter part of the race. The trail begins ascending immediately upon entry to the single track and goes straight up for about a ½ mile before reaching the top. That part of the trail is appropriately named “Up the Gut.” I charged up the climb harder than I ever had before and, once I reached the top, I did not see anyone near me.
I kept reminding myself to keep up the quick turnover and tried to get a glimpse of any followers as I weaved around the single track switchbacks. Even though I put a big effort in to get up that first climb with a big lead, there could always be someone who races more conservatively at the beginning, who then surges part way into the race. I was really hoping that was not the case because my legs did not feel the best and I haven’t really been doing that long of runs in my training. I was putting my new Salomon Speedcross trail shoes to the test and they took every bit of the beating on the uneven terrain. They felt stable and secure, which was a relief since I had just picked them up for 50% off at that week’s Summer sale at Striders Running Shop and only ran in them one time before the race. I would not typically test equipment like that in a race, but the first run felt so great in them, I had no doubts they’d get me to the finish.
As I neared the end of the single track, I dreaded what lie ahead. I looked up at the ski hill and saw racers spread out on the steep grassy climb. I trudged up the hill, taking baby steps, until I just couldn’t bear it any longer. I looked up and I looked down and no one else was running, and I caved to walking. It honestly did not feel much better than running and I think I was moving just as fast. I let myself be a wimp for about a minute, then I resorted back to my baby step run until I reached the top. Then I let it all loose and bombed down the hill to the finish. It was such a steep descent I had to keep the speed in check to avoid a header, like the one I’d taken on that same hill many winters ago on my snowboard.
I rolled through the finish and checked my watch, just over 55 minutes. While this may seem slow for a 10K, the number of climbs and constant turns on the trail lend itself to slower paces for everyone. To my amazement, I waited another 5-6 minutes for the next female finisher to descend on the finish line. Later that night, after results were posted online, I found out that I had run the fastest time for The Dirty Burg 10K course in 4 years and had set the course record. My legs took several days to recover and my first run back after the race was really, really rough, but I’m hoping for another great performance at a local 5K at the end of the month.
Thanks Switchback Endurance for the great prizes and post-race food and refreshments. You continue to support the trail running community well by putting on great events like The Dirty Burg.
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