First of all, mad props to Jeff for putting together one hell of a race. He came up with a killer (almost literally) course, a cool race format and even went the extra mile by inviting everyone over his house for beer and potluck vittles afterward. The assist goes to Ian for helping with course marking, planning and prizes. A free race with prizes!
Well, the Blackstrap Hell Trail Challenge almost lived up to its name. With all the rain over the last couple days, I figured it would be a bit muddy, but I had no idea that it would be all mud. Some of the mud was even under two feet of water. Jeff devised a seeding system in which the faster people would start last. He came up with some secret formula using entrants time from the Bradbury Trail Running Series and May's Pineland Farms Trail Challenge. The theory was that everyone would finish at approximately the same time. As it turned out, his seedings worked amazingly well, and was within one or two minutes for most of us.
I started in the middle of the pack with another runner, Don. We ran together for the first quarter mile until the first (of many) major stream crossing. D and I had done a very brief warm up on the course but didn't cross this stream, so I knew it was coming. I watched Don make his way through and realized it was mid-thigh deep. And about a second later, I was waist deep and on my face in the mud on the other side. Two minutes into the race, and I was completely soaked and covered in mud.
The first fall out of the way, the rest of the race was pretty uneventful. Well, as uneventful as this race could be. Everything was wet, slippery, squishy, and it was tough to keep from sliding away. The trail was either mud, water, wet leaves over mud, slippery rocks, uneven slippery rocks, or wet leaves over uneven slippery rocks. Even without the wet trail conditions, this course would be really, really hard. It was very hilly, including one all fours scramble. In short, it was awesome. Jeff and Ian did a great job marking the course, and unlike some others, I had no trouble following the course.
Eventually, some of the fast guys started to catch me. On an extremely steep downhill, Juan took one of the best falls I've ever seen. He looked like he was going to down about six times, until he finally ended up head over heels and down. Did I mention the slippery mud? He got up and kept going. Shortly after that, Stephen passed me only to turn his ankle with an audible pop about a second later. It sounded bad, and his limping let me know it was bad. Hopefully, he has some ice on it tonight.
After these calamities, the course went up a long hill, and I passed a couple people. Then a reasonable downhill, followed by the longest uphill ever. It just kept going. Eventually, I reached the powerlines, which signaled the almost end of the race. I passed a couple more people, including George who told me their were Pringles at the finish. This put a little hop in my step, which is what I needed, because Floyd was gaining on me. I thought that I must be coming near the end, but as I crested one hill I realized I still had a long way to go. I have to admit that a part of me kind of gave up here. I had the "are you kidding me moment," and I realized how tired I was. Need to work on that. Shortly after Floyd caught up to me, and I knew that he was going to pass me. So, instead of trying to hold him off, I threw myself on the ground. Well, that wasn't really how it happened, but I did almost take him out. I picked myself back up, and tried to chase him down. A couple minutes later I went into a puddle and couldn't get out. If I was in a cartoon, you could have heard a woop woop woop woop woop. The legs were spinning, but I wasn't going anywhere. I half decided to give up since I knew that I wasn't going to be able to get upright, and I dove forward. Once again, I picked myself up, and I made my way towards the finish.
It was a messy effort, but a good one. My time was 51:40ish, which for that terrain is nothing to be upset about. I'm a little disappointed in that give up moment, but I'm sure with more work, I'll remember how to push through those. And, really, it wasn't like I just sat down in the trail...I dove into the trail. GRRRR. All in all, a good race, and a lot of fun.
Most of us made our way to Jeff's house, and thanks need to go out to his wife, Cacky, for letting a bunch of muddy, stinky people invade her home. Food, beer and a good time was had by all. Can't wait for next year...maybe next time it will be muddy.