Monday, May 11, 2009

Bar-H Boondoggle 6-Hour Trail Race

This is a really laid back race, and one that reminds me of what the people say trail running "used" to be like. One aid station was stuck right in the middle of a figure eight loop, and you had to run by the campfire every time you finished one section of the figure 8 to check your name off. No chips, no spotters, and no fuss. It was a 6.4 mile complete loop.

The first half of the loop ran uphill for quite a ways to start off, and then the hills started! They were steep and technical, and the downhills were rocky and treacherous. The trails were single track almost the entire distance. The second half of the figure eight was flatter, and the trail at the beginning was hard to find, as grass was high along the rather narrow single track trail, but soon, the trail appeared to be no more than a ridge cut out of the sandy bottom grasslands we were running through. There was mud, mixed in with a lot of cow dung that you had to watch out for, but soon, we entered the wooded section of that loop, and it was the most gorgeous area to run through that I have seen in a while. It almost reminded me of portions of the Sunmart course at that point. Of course, the roots were prevalent there, and some of the downhills were difficult. Not as much climbing on this side, but soon, it was time to hit the next section, which was pretty much all hills.

It started getting dark in the middle of the hill section on my third loop, so I used my new PrinceTec headlamp, and it worked ok, but I never figured out how to make it tilt the right way to make use of the light on the trail, so I found myself running with my head down. The downhills in the dark were scary, and one slip could have been disastrous, so I slowed down at this point, and right as I was finishing up the hilly section, the Whipporwhils began calling in the distance. I don't think I have ever heard one, but they sound awesome, if not a little lonesome, and on that part of the trail, I was all alone, and the sounds of those birds was incredible.

I checked in at the aid station, took some salt tablets, a little gatorade, and when the lady at the desk told me I had slowed down quite a bit, I just smiled and said, "I know." The dark definitely changes how you run on trails that technical. One bad step and it would be all over. They might not find your body for awhile. Even if they did find you, I'm not sure how they would get you out of that countryside without a helicopter.

The back side of the trail, which had been markedly easier than the front side, became even more difficult after dark. It was hard to follow the narrow trails, and in places, the trail seemed to disappear. If not for the flour they poured along the way on parts of the trail, I might have gotten really's amazing how flourescent just ordinary flour can be. It helped me stay on track. All along the back side of the loop, I could hear Coyotes in the distance, howling and barking. I could smell random campfires of people camping all along the countryside, but for the most part, it was just me and the trail, all alone with my little headlamp. It was a little spooky at times to say the least, but good experience for running trails at night. At one point, I shined my headlight into the woods, and I saw eyeballs reflecting my light. Not sure what it was, and I really didn't want to know. It did make the hair stand up on the back of my neck. some of the people I met at the race, said that someone had stopped them on the trail and told them there was a mountain lion running around in the hilly section of the loop. That was never confirmed, but it put a chill down our spines.

I learned a lot on this trail, and I actually think I can now call myself a trail runner. I finally feel like I really learned how to run trails on this course.

When I got to the aid station after completing three complete loops, (approximately 19.4 miles, according to the official race documentation), I was prepared to tackle the front side of the figure eight one last time, and then I had planned to quit after that, which would have given me around 22 or 23 miles, I think, but when I got to the Aid station, my two friends were there, and they were ready to go home, and it didn't take much for me to agree with them. I packed it in, and felt good about what I had done.

All in all, it was a great run, and a great experience. I highly recommend this trail to anyone who really wants to learn to run technical trails. It was a fabulous place to get some good training in. For me, I was only trying to get a good workout in, and I did that.....!