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September 06 2012 / Emily

Race Report: Fisher Farm Park 5.2M Trail Race

Saturday morning, a friend and I headed a little over an hour southwest to Davidson, NC.  The destination was Fisher Farm Park for the final race in the 2012 XTERRA North Carolina Trail Run Series.  There were options for 5.2 or 10 miles, and we decided to go for the 5.2 mile race.

We left a little later than planned, so I was pleased that it took less time than I expected to get there.  We even missed a turn along the way.  The drive went right around the campus of Davidson College and then headed out into the country a little ways until we turned onto Fisher Farm Road.  Easy to know we were on the right route!  Drove slowly a little ways down a gravel road before starting to see activity and people ahead.

pretty countryside at the turnoff to the gravel road

Parking was in a grass field and packet pickup was just a short walk over to a cluster of tents.  Really well organized.  Dirty Spokes Productions puts on these trail run series all over the region, and the XTERRA Trail Run series has series in Alabama and Georgia, on top of this North Carolina series.  They put on a good event, smoothly executed.

The race was chip timed at the finish line, and there was a chip on the back of the bib.  After my experience with some other brands of timing chips staining (post here, though I really need to make an update as there has been a lot of positive follow-up on that matter; still waiting for a couple things to wrap up), I decided to pin my bib number to my shorts.

Decided to snap a picture with Andrea before the race started.  It was quite warm and sunny, humid too as per usual this and every summer in North Carolina.  Got a bit of squinty eye action going on here!  Of course Andrea was smart and wore the hat – no concern about even seeing the eyes, barely.

The race began with 0.4 miles through the open fields in order to provide spacing before getting into the woods and the singletrack trails.  The 5.2 and 10 mile races began together.  It was a two-loop course for the folks running the longer race and I’ll be honest that I was glad to not have to repeat it!

It was really neat that the course looped and snaked around a lot near the beginning (and the end) so we were near lots of other runners caravanning through the woods as well as the cheers and music going at the finish area.  But before long, we were deep enough into the woods where all you heard was footfalls and breathing and calls of “on your left” or “on your right” to help with passing.  It has been a while since I did a full on trail race.  The Umstead Trail Marathon in March only had about 6 miles of singletrack and the rest was on much wider and relatively smoother trails.

PASSING RUNNERS ON A TRAIL RACE

Road races can certainly get congested but trails offer a total different challenge in terms of passing and being passed.  Especially early on, the race consists of little single-file lines of runners bumbling along together.  Before making a move to try and pass a runner ahead, you have to be sure you really want to pass, and not just keep following.  But you can’t follow too closely because you need to see the ground in front of you in order to plan each and every footstep.  Whenever there was someone in front of me, I spent most of the time watching their feet to see where to step (or not to step).  Plus you have to be back enough to be sure you could avoid stomping the runner ahead in case of a stumble and fall.  When you decide it is time to make the pass, you have to find a spot that is slightly wider to allow two abreast for a moment without anyone running into a rock or impaling themselves on a tree.  Usually you know someone is behind you, so hopefully the runner being passed is conscientious.  Then call out “on your right” or “on your left” to indicate where you plan to pass.  If all goes smoothly, the runners swap places.  Perhaps a few runners make the move at the same time.  It can be challenging to pass multiple people at a time.

Lesson over. 🙂  The trails at Fisher Farm were very well marked for what route we should follow.  Each branch in the trail had arrows in the proper direction and/or caution-type tape barricading the wrong turn.  I never had a concern of taking the wrong trail.  Though there was a point later in the race where I couldn’t see any runners ahead of me anywhere… always a bit disconcerting, particularly when you know there are other runners behind who will likely follow you even if you go the wrong way.  The trails were also marked like ski slopes, with green circle, blue square and black diamond, which I think is more for the benefit of the mountain bikers they were created for.  Fortunately we only had to navigate one black diamond section.  It was a toughie!  The uphill you had to climb carefully and the downhill had some spots where I was very worried the ground would give way.  Only one actual wobbly rock, but it took the breath right out of me when I hit the shaky footing.

As the runners thinned out, the course got a bit easier and smoother as well, with some sections of wider trail (all the better to pass you on) and I was able to speed up.  I didn’t wear my Garmin but I’d imagine each split was faster than the one before.  It feels good to keep getting faster as a race goes on – nice to have something in the tank.  I have to thank the volunteers for making special effort at keeping the runners hydrated.  There were more water stops along the way than advertised, which was very helpful on the warm and humid day.  Much of the trail was well shaded, but it was still warm.  In one of these wider sections I was also able to take a moment to look away from my feet and other runners’ feet and take in the lovely nature I was barging through.  Hard to appreciate without looking up and around.

I’d seen the 4 mile marker and started pushing it a bit more, and about half a mile later someone at the water stop said “4 miles” and I got a little concerned that the mile marker was wrong.  Fortunately the marker had been right and before long I started hearing the finish line noise again as we weaved back that way.  I popped out of the woods more quickly than expected and then was just a U-turn away from the finish line.  I pushed it through in 50:19.

Once I looked around a bit, I noticed there weren’t too many other women in the finish area.  And I was right!  I was lucky enough to snag first place in my age group, Women 25-29.  This is my 6th age group award in 2012, and the 4th first place win.  I am so blessed (and so lucky to find slower competition so many times!).  I got a nice little golden medal for my efforts.

Andrea enjoyed the race as well and we both had some refreshments from the selection of water, Gatorade (though they could have stood to mark the coolers somehow so you knew what was in which), bananas and orange slices.  We took some time to stretch, cool down and dry off a little before putting towels on my car seats and heading back to Winston.  It was only a couple hours until tailgate time for the first Wake Forest football game of the season, and we needed to get ready!

I am very pleased with the shirt the race handed out.  They had men’s and women’s shirts instead of just unisex, and the medium which we both chose was a nice bright pink!  I found it interesting there were different colors for each size.  I was a little envious of the small which was an unusual but pretty pink-orange, but I’m pumped about my hot pink too.  The graphic on the front is really creative.  The back lists the race name, date, and a big pile of sponsors in typical race shirt style.  While I always appreciate a non-busy shirt, I do realize how important sponsors are!  Oh and I wore it before taking this photo so be glad this blog doesn’t feature smell-o-vision.

shirt (full view), bib & medal

detail of the graphic, but the color is a little off

Based on the words on the shirt, I think I live somewhere between the end of “TRAIN” and start of “SPEED,” and the race was held, appropriately, between “COMPETE” and “VICTORY.”  I should probably look at it more scientifically or specifically, but I like those word locations too much to deviate.

It was a great, fun and very challenging event, which makes me want to do more trail runs soon.  Perhaps after this marathon training cycle.  I will definitely recommend Dirty Spokes races and may seek them out again next year.

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One Comment

Leave a Comment
  1. hinsone / Sep 7 2012 7:05 AM

    Sounds like a very interesting race. Congrats on another AG win and nice bling!

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