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November 19 2012 / Emily

Race Report: Raven Rock Rumble


On Saturday, I ran the Raven Rock Rumble 10 mile trail run down in Lillington, NC.  I had never heard of Raven Rock State Park or Lillington until a couple weeks ago when I was searching out a November race to keep my race-a-month streak alive – 45 straight months!

I was up around 5am on Saturday morning in order to have some breakfast before starting the ~2 hour drive to the park.  Per usual, I had tea and oatmeal.  Put a banana in my bag for later.

The drive was really easy.  I got onto 421-S and followed it until turning left onto Raven Rock Road.  So easy.  Drove into the sunrise, which was pretty at first, and then bright.  Also saw a lone wild turkey hanging out in the median for a while.  I wanted to tell him to get to safety, but I think I really just quietly said “you look delicious” as I drove by at 64mph on the cruise control.  Don’t you mind whether or not I take photos while driving.

good morning sunshine

Parking was a bit less than a mile away from the race start area.  I got to the parking area about 15 minutes later than I had hoped, and jogged over as a warm up to be sure I got to packet pick-up in time.  The website had said we could pick up our shirts afterward, but when I asked, they suggested taking it now.  I put the shirt in a plastic bag and wrote my name on it, leaving it over by a stone column in the picnic shelter and somehow skinning my knuckles in the process.  Thankfully, that would be the only blood shed by me that day.

I’d elected to wear my Injinji toe socks for the race.  They have a slightly higher ankle and are good to be sure that some stray gravel bit that wanders into your shoe doesn’t kill all your toes at the same time.  I don’t love them, but they’ve been good for trails.  They are satisfactory.

wiggly toes

I was feeling rather under-dressed as I stood around shivering in my long sleeve shirt and capris.  No layering shirt, no gloves, no ear band.  Everyone else had all sorts of extra stuff.  I realized in retrospect that I could have brought something warmer and left it at the picnic shelter, but I wasn’t sure what that situation would be.  As it turns out, I was dressed just fine and was pushing up my sleeves by mid-race.  Pleased with that – hate overdressing.  A roaming photographer was taking pictures of the runners, and I was one of those weird “she’s all alone” people.  I’m glad that I noticed he was photographing me, so I could at least turn and give this awkward little smirk.

awkward smile

Soon it was time to walk up the road a few hundred feet with the other 10 mile runners.  There was also a 5 mile race, and they would be starting a few minutes after us.  I was concerned that would mean the fast 5 milers roaring past us on the trails, but they went a different route, so we did not have to deal with extra passing.  Eliminating passing on trails is very helpful!  The race began and we had a short distance on asphalt before diving into the woods.  It thinned out pretty quickly and there was very little passing that I was involved with, either as the passer or the passee.  Nice to run from the get-go.  It started quickly enough with some downhill miles.  The race’s facebook page had mentioned that volunteers had blown some of the leaves from certain parts of the course, which was so appreciated.  Footing on trails can be challenging enough without wondering what your feet will find under the leaves.

I was running alone for a while, listening to the conversation of a trio behind me.  Their voices stayed about the same distance back for a while, so when we got to a turn and with a wider, smoother stretch of trail, I looked back and nosed into their conversation.  We ended up running together for a couple miles and chatting.  There were two guys (Paul and Nathan) who had also gotten bumped out of Uwharrie, and a woman (Lisa) who had run Ridge to Bridge last year.  Amazing how small the running circle gets sometimes.  Always nice to have company.  We talked races, distances and life in general.  The guys train a lot on these trails and knew what was coming.  There was a confusing moment where a couple speedy fellows came running back towards us on the trail.  Unfortunately they were going the wrong way.  We got one of the guys to turn around but I don’t know how long the other kept going.

I promptly lost my new running friends during the “Fish Traps” section of the trail, which was a tough stretch of stairs down, then a turnaround around a tree (with a pretty vista of a river) and back up.  Slowly.  I was leading a pack of ladies on the way down, and saw the photographer.  This means I was looking for him on the way back up, and told him that his camera was the only reason I started running again there.

down then up

I ran a while here with the girl in black in the back of the left photo.  It was her first trail run and I think the significant pace differential was surprising her.  We chatted for a bit and I was there for her first trail fall as well.  Thankfully no blood on her part either, just some muddy knees.

The course was sort of a figure-eight, with the start and finish in the middle.  The 10-milers had taken the right loop first, then the left loop second.  The 5-milers ran the left loop only.  There was an aid station right in the middle as well, by the finish line for both races.  I stopped for a cup of Gatorade and stepped aside for some 5-mile finishers.  The next stretch had a bit of two-way traffic with outgoing 10-milers and incoming 5-milers, as well as a ~20 deep Boy Scout group of hikers.  Not bad congestion though.  There were only 54 10-milers and 91 5-milers.  I was noticing the long decline at this stretch though, and realizing it would be tough going on the way back up.

just keep running!

I crossed a long bridge and ventured into the last big loop of the course.  I was still running with the girl in black for a little while, but there was another uphill that she stopped to walk and I kept on trucking.  I was alone the rest of the way.  There were a couple moments I was concerned whether I was still on the trail or not.  With so many leaves on the ground, sometimes the trail just faded away.  There were round blue blazes on the trees but they seemed a bit too far apart.  Once I had to stop and look around for a moment to see if I could discern where I was.  Had to quash my thoughts of getting lost in the woods forever.  Finally found the blaze… on a fallen tree on the ground right next to me.  Forging on!

Suddenly there was a nice flat smooth stretch where I could really run.  I think that’s one lesson I have learned with trail runs – run when you can.  If it is flat and smooth, or if you have a passing opportunity, or if there is a friendly downhill – go with it!  You don’t know what might come next, so one had better take advantage now.  I felt great picking up the pace, and was actually catching up with Paul and Nathan.  They saw me and called back, but I could never quite catch them.  They finished about a minute-20 ahead of me.  Amazingly, there were a couple other runners in between us in the final results, and I don’t know where those folks must have been hiding.  I never saw them.

It was nice being out in the pretty woods, even with the climbs I had to power walk.  It was the typical game of “you can walk until that tree, but then you have to run again, until at least the next blaze.”  I was back to the uphill I’d seen the Boy Scouts and 5-milers on, and it passed pretty quickly with this game.  I saw a runner who must have already been finished coming back down the hill (argh, he caught me walking) and he told me the finish was just ahead.  I crested another little hill and back through the trees I could see and hear the finish.  Time to pick up the pace!  I sped up and pushed through to the end.  Smiles on my face at the finish line!

I headed to the picnic shelter for a bottle of water, then a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, then a chocolate chip cookie and the most awesome cup of hot cocoa.  The results were posted so I headed over and saw that I had gotten second place in the Women 20-29 category, with my 9:59/pace finish of 1:39:48.  Slow for 10 miles if it was on road, but I’m quite pleased to sneak under 10 minute miles on these challenging trails!  Admittedly frustrating that the first place woman in my age group was only 39 seconds ahead of me.

The prize was my choice of custom socks or a fleece beanie.  I went with the socks.

Then I realized that my new facebook friend who I had mentioned in my first Uwharrie post (the one who talked herself out of it) was at the race with her husband.  She had been first overall female and he was third place male – and the guy we saw who had taken the wrong turn on the course.  I went and introduced myself to her in the ever-awkward way of “uh, hi, are you Shannon?  We’re facebook friends…”  But thankfully it was her!  We had a nice chat and then her husband Anthony came over and we all discussed the day.  Anthony blogs over at Running Down which I have found very valuable for both information and humor!  So I suppose it became a blogger meet-up when all was said and done.

run eat nap drink & Running Down

Overall, I really enjoyed this course, and the park!  I would like to visit again at some point and hike up to the actual Raven Rock, which is pictured in the shirt logo, but we did not run close enough to it for me to see (if we were near it at all).  I think I need to look up more state parks to see what other gems I am missing around the state!  North Carolina is so great to have all these hidden treasures out there, waiting to be discovered.  It was a lot of fun to run the trails and I definitely want to spend more time on trails in general.  Gives me a little push toward what kind of run to do next!



Leave a Comment
  1. laurenquartz / Nov 20 2012 9:27 AM

    Nice race! I’d hike to find Raven Rock with you sometime! 🙂

    • Emily / Nov 20 2012 5:08 PM

      I’d love to do that!

  2. Mary Shannon Johnstone / Nov 20 2012 10:43 AM

    Congrats on a great race! It was so nice to meet you in person. I really enjoyed talking with you and I hope to see you on the trails soon!

    • Emily / Nov 20 2012 5:09 PM

      Thank you – and congrats yourself on first place! It was great to chat. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for the camera next time I see you on course. 🙂

  3. Cindy Barbour / Nov 27 2012 11:35 AM

    I too have never heard of Raven Rock State Park….sounds like it was fun! 🙂 Congratulations on an age group top finisher.


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