|posted Oct-01-2007 09:40 AM
O.W. Link Memorial 10k Run
Green Cove Station, VA, on the Virginia Creeper Trail
and The Iron Mt 50M Trail Race volunteer report Damascus, VA
September 29, 2007
The race starts and we’re off. I’m running hard in the top three headed down the road toward the first turn. I take the lead ahead of two guys wearing white singlets, Wow, I’ve never done this well before. I’m wearing a white singlet??? Something’s not right, I don’t own a white singlet. I make a hard left, but I’m the only one!?!? The rest of the pack turns RIGHT. Dang! I recover and try to catch up. I finish about 20th of 30.
Then I wake up, Thursday morning.
This is about the first anniversary of foot racing for me. And the 2006 running of the OWL 10k was my very first race.
I set a goal time for this race at the beginning of the year to sub 53min -last year’s time 58:22 – so totally doable I think.
Well I’ve had a great past couple of weeks—a 5K PR, then a 15 mile trail run last Saturday. Keeping mileage down, but intensity up. Life has been good. I’m making new running friends. Running doesn’t hurt as much and my body seems to recovery better. I’m still pretty much a newbie at running and athletics in general. There is lots for me to learn and discover. Everyday is a delightful challenge, a quest, or an adventure.
My DW has had plans to be out of town on this race weekend for months. So I get to play by myself this weekend. Rushing through Friday’s work by 1:45, I head to the house to pack. Camping gear and racing gear merge into single backpack. It ends up a bit heavy, but I’m biking -not walking. Lube the chain, squeeze the tires, and hitting trail by 4ish pm. The weather is fantastic with more on the way. I live a hop, skip, and jump to the Virginia Creeper Trail about mile post 7. Before the VCT was a multi-use recreation trail, it was a railroad connecting Abingdon, VA and West Jefferson, NC. Having evolved to a rail-trail it now ends at the NC state line -about milepost 34.
This race is held near the end of the trail in memory of O.W. Link, a well-known photographer of trains several decades back. One in particular taken at Green Cove, shows the steam engine coming up Whitetop Mt to Green Cove with a work horse “Old Maud” appearing to bow her head to the approaching train. A sort of “old giving way to the new” commentary.
I’m not a biker really, but have been on the trail riding a few times this year. Even did a couple of VCT round trip rides back in cool weather, but not carrying camping gear. I take it very easy. The first section of the ride is virtually flat, a topographic anomally in this area. But about 10 miles up the trail, entering the national forest, the trail takes on its more characteristic 1-2% grade. I’m stopping every 2 miles, usually on a trestle, for rest to insure no lactate buildup and just to watch the creek run. It becomes somewhat arduous, but a sunny afternoon has become a pleasantly cool evening with bouquets of stars and galaxies leaning across the furrowed brow of the mountains above. I want to find a convenient campsite for a “no frill” overnight and end up settling by a wide spot near a road, creek, and trail crossing.
After stringing up my sleeping hammock next to Grassy Branch, by 1Opm I’m snoozing. At 2am I wake to a brilliant waning moon casting voluminous shadows through a tall, deciduous canopy. It’s pretty cool and takes a couple hours to get comfortable enough to sleep again.
The race is only 2.5 miles further up the trail just past milepost 30, so a 6:30 wakeup seems adequate to repack and make it to the starting line on time. By 7:10 I’m pedaling through the open fields of Green Cove. There’s a heavy, silver dew on the grass, but no frost. I’m sure the temps are in the 30’s though. The moon is retreating to the western ridges but the sun is still pretty well hidden by Whitetop and Beech Mt just a mile to the east.
At Green Cove Station, I was wrong about the frost. I hear some men talking about “a little on the windshield”. By 7:40 I’m inside at registration glad to be out of the chill. “Hey neighbor”. It’s runnerBeth. She ran and ended up with some pretty good scrapes at last weeks trail race. Come to find out, her falls unfortunately got her in some poison ivy too –she’s had a rough week. She left her car back in Damascus about milepost 15, She stopped to see the starting of the 2nd annual Iron Mt 50 Miler and caught a ride up with her friend Jim. He’s about my AG. They planned on running back to Damascus after the 10k. Sort of a 15 mile cooldown recovery run I guess .
I get a mile of warm-up with a few strides that are less than encouraging. I feel fresh enough but more like a snake that spent the night in a refrigerator fresh than exuberant and fresh. George and Kirstin with their two girls running the 2k for Kids have arrived. The parents did well at our 5k two weeks ago.
We are called to the line. I strip off an outer top long sleeve, within minutes we are headed up the hill. My strategy, or lets just call it fantasy, has been to get to the turn-around with 8:30, no worse than 9:00 miles and roll back down with whatever was left. So with the pack spreading out at about 200 meters we start a 2.75 mile climb on 3% grade- about 150’ per mile- toward Whitetop Station. Beth, Jim, and George take off and leave me following Kirstin and most of the pack of 30. In typically paddock frenzy I’m caught down around 5K pace for the first ¼ mile. But I sober up fast on the hill. By the end of mile one, all the way down to 9:05. Couldn’t I do better than this? Apparently not, mile 2 -9:22. There’s no excuse, I’m feeling good, just couldn’t make the grade. Kirstin is following me now by several yards and we’ve passed a couple of people.
By now, we have climbed. The sun has climbed. Then appears an image of totally distracting beauty. A deep shadow lays between the high walls of a two-sided cut. But a hard sun is filtering through a high canopy of green and yellow beech leaves –tingeing the shadow with an earthy chartreuse haze- a real unearthly effect. I agree with Dostoevsky when he said, “Beauty will save the World”. For a moment I felt more like I should fall to the ground and pray than run. 5 seconds of beauty can scar a soul for life.
As we neared the top I knew that neither pray nor beauty was going to save this run, or rather my goal. We finished mile 3 @ 9:11 pace, a little ways past the top giving a ¼ mile of almost flat to the turn around. Kirstin pulls in front of me at the turn and we struggle back to the lip of the hill. Three miles of what ever is left - 8:24, 7:54, 7:37 and 7:47 for the .22. Finish time 54:32 - fun run, nowhere near my goal, but a lot of fun,- maybe 20th out of 30 OA
It seems the whole community has turned out for the race, with some live music from the old train station porch, and a fund-raiser BBQ at the community center served to the hundreds and hundreds of bicyclist that will travel from Whitetop Station 17 miles down to Damascus on a great day.
The mayor of Damascus (the lady wearing red in the picture) presents all the awards -to the kids first and then the adults and gives them all a hug. Beth got a hug for first in AG. Soon after, she and Jim head off down the trail on foot.
By bike, I arrive at the finishing area at the town gazebo for the Iron Mt Run an hour or so ahead of them. It’s still almost two hours or so until the first finisher is expected and no one is hanging out. So the three of us swing by The Old Mill Restaurant for a snack and a brew on the back porch overlooking the millpond. Talking running and racing on an idyllic fall day is as good as it gets right now for me. We walk back over to the gazebo and the RD, Eric Grossman, is dropping cones from the last turn to the finish line. Soon Adam Cassidy arrives first OA, well under 8 hrs. First female Annette Bednosky arrives 8th OA well under 9 hrs.
. She is one tough runner. She has a couple of scrapes but overall great condition.
Beth and Jim leave to go back up the mountain to get his truck. Since I’ve volunteered to help here, Eric, lets me fill in the times on the spreadsheet and hand out finisher’s shirts. Of 30-some starters, all but one runner and one DNF make the 12 hour cutoff.
After the award ceremony, I flip on my headlight for a chilly 8 mile ride home. After a good night’s rest, I’m ready for another day of running on the trail. But give me a coupla years for the 50 please.
Thanks for reading,