For runners, a 400-meter track changes little from facility to facility. And from one year to the next, a 5K road race is much the same animal: pavement is pavement. For trail runners, it’s anyone’s guess what a given trail run might dish out from one year to the next — or from one day to the next.
Thanks to Mother Nature’s mixed-bag of weather last week, this past Saturday’s the Little River 10-mile and 7K (4.3-mile) trail runs at Little River Regional Park dished out a smorgasbord of running surfaces. What was wide pavement for a few hundred yards quickly turned to soft single-track trail; and what was high and dry, quickly turned to a quagmire in areas. Toss in ice, snow, and a handful of frosty, slick boardwalks, and there was plenty to keep competitors on their toes, if a bit off their PR’s (personal records).
“The course is the same terrain as it’s been,” race co-director, TrailHead Dave “Booda” Elam said Saturday morning. “What made this year different is that the Little River flooded its banks by about two-and-a-half feet. There was a nice silt deposit along the trail where it runs by the river. If runners slipped there, there’d just be boulders and stumps (in the river below them).”
“We had a lot of water on the course (Friday),” Elam’s fellow race co-director and TrailHead, Layna “Willow” Mosley said. “These trails dry pretty well, but down by the Little River, it can get pretty wet. We may see some pretty muddy people and some ‘trail love.’ But we’re pretty lucky—we have a beautiful day.”
Beautiful, and a bit chilly, with lingering snow along north-facing hillsides and icy elevated boardwalks.
“It was a little muddy this year and little icy on the bridges,” men’s overall 10-mile winner Jason Biggs said, “so the times were a little slower than last year. It was really muddy down by the river.”
“The worst parts for me were the wooden (bridges),” women’s 7K runner-up Jamie Dilweg said. “The course was definitely muddy, but I actually thought it would be muddier. You could slow down in the muddy patches, but that area on the boards was long, and it was so slick I was afraid to walk on it.”
Enjoying 10-miles of varied terrain at a brisk pace was men’s 10-mile winner Jason Biggs (1:14:57) of Cary. Crystian Kumnick (1:14:58.4) finished second, with Raleigh’s Dan McGowan (1:15:00.5) in third place overall. The men’s masters division winner was Garth Somerville of Cary (1:16:49.2).
“I pretty much led the whole race,” Biggs said. “Dan (McGowan) was behind me, then Chrystian (Kumnick), and then one runner I don’t know, and we were all running together pretty much the whole way. I put on a few surges, but they kept coming.”
Kerry Allen (1:19:58.4) of Washington, DC finished first among the women in the 10-mile race, with Rita Beard (1:22:00.7) of Raleigh in second and Jaclynn Cooney (1:24:35.5) of Whitsett, NC rounding out the top three spots. Margo Pitts (1:27:13.4) of Raleigh captured the women’s 10-mile masters division crown.
“The second place woman was in first for about five miles,” Allen said. “It was fun, but it was tough…but it was my first trail race: I have nothing to compare it to.”
In the men’s 7K, Curtis Swisher (27:12.7) of Kernersville repeated his 2012 first-place finish, while Greg Turmel (28:20.5) of Durham and Jack McAdams (28:45.4) of Durham earned silver and bronze respectively. Conrad Hall (28:54.8) earned the men’s masters division crown.
In the women’s 7K, it was Allison Peters of Kernersville (29:00.1) taking first place just seconds behind the men’s 7K overall winners. Jamie Dilweg (32:35.4) placed second, and Hollis Oberlies (32:45.9) of Greensboro was also on the medal stand. Missy Grant (35:39.8) of Raleigh was the female masters winner.
I was very happy with my time, because it was technically a PR for me,” Dilweg said. “In this mud, I still PR’d by four seconds.”
The runs followed the forested single track trails which course through Little River Park Regional Park and Natural Area on Guess Road in northern Orange County. The park is a pristine natural area boasting nearly 15 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, picnic areas, bathroom facilities, a campground, and a playground. Managed by Orange County, the park offers nearly 400 acres of natural area.
Through a common love of trail running, mountain biking, ultra-running, triathlons, and other off-road adventure sports, the TrailHeads celebrate nature, preservation, and sensible stewardship.
Elam said big numbers will hopefully translate to a record donation to Little River Park.
“Our cap last year was 550 runners, and this year the cap was 600,” he said. “We sold out at 600, but we also had excellent carpooling: I think we had just 320 cars.”
“We’re hoping that will mean a record donation to the park,” Mosley added.
Funds raised by the event will be presented to the Little River Regional Park at a later date. Past years’ races have raised as much as $5,000 per event.
Elam said that a core group of fellow TrailHeads familiar with staging such events was key to a smooth-running operation.
“We’ve got great volunteers, and we’ve got great runners,” he said.
“Everyone of our volunteer team captains returned this year but one,” Mosley pointed out, “so everyone knew what they were doing.”
Mosley also thanked event sponsors: Fleet Feet Carrboro, New Balance, the Open Eye Café, and Proaxis Physical Therapy / Balance Movement Studios.
“The TrailHeads will now focus on their next race, the Philosopher’s Way Trail Runs in Chapel Hill later this spring, with registration to begin soon through the TrailHeads’ website ( http://www.trailheads.org/pwtr/
The Philosopher’s Way Trail Runs will be staged in the Carolina North Forest, will little chance of snow or ice and a zero-percent chance of pavement.