A commonly held belief first purported by psychologist Franz Boas holds that the Inuit and Yupik language groups provide innumerable words and suffixes for the concept of “snow,” but the belief says nothing about “cold.”
To be sure, there must be at least two ways to describe the local 30-degree conditions just after sunrise this past Saturday.
On the one hand, there’s “30-Degrees Through the Kitchen Window,” where one might stand in pajamas, gaze outside at the seemingly warm sunshine and mull over the distinct possibility of a return to a warm bed.
Then there was the “Little River 30-Degrees.”
That’s that greeted participants in the Trailheads’ trail runs Saturday at the Little River Regional Park and Natural Area in northern Orange County. It was a 30-degree morning where the ground crunched beneath running shoes, where opening car doors even moaned and creaked with disapproval, and where runners’ day-glo technical fabrics were truly tested by a biting wind that dropped the chill factor to something around 238 below.
Still the event boasted the biggest gathering yet for the 10-mile and 7K (4.3-mile) event, now in its ninth year.
“It’s the biggest crowd we’ve had,” said Steve “Squonk” Hoge, the race director for the inaugural 2006 event and one of the original Trailhead members. “It’s also definitely one of the windiest (race) days. It was beautiful here at around 6:15 a.m. with the moon still out and the sun coming up later though. That was awesome.”
Some runners stayed a step ahead of the chill by generating their own heat with a fast pace through the course of the races.
Blazing through the 10-mile course was men’s 10-mile winner Stevven Anderson (1:04:10). Erik Grumstrup (1:04:25) finished second, with Matthew Waller (1:05:26) in third place overall. The men’s masters’ division winner was David Dunson of Chapel Hill (1:10:28).
“I’m on the roads a lot. This is my first trail race, ever,” Anderson said. “I did roll my ankle a couple of times, but this race makes you stronger and uses different muscles than you’re used to.
“There are a bunch of switchbacks, so you’d build your momentum, then you’d have to stop to turn and build momentum back up,” Anderson said of the course. “So it was tough to get a fast time on this course, but it’s all about the place.
Next up for the overall 10K winner will be more of the same, presumably in more hospitable conditions.
“I’ll run the Tobacco Road Half-Marathon in March,” Anderson said, “and then I’ll come back for the Capital City 10K in May.”
Lorraine Young (1:21:547) of Raleigh finished first among the women in the 10-mile race, with Alisha Little (1:13:46) in second place and Marley Burns (1:17:38) rounding out the top three spots. Shannon Johnstone (1:21:47) captured the women’s 10-mile masters division crown.
“It was a beautiful course – very technical with lots of hair-pin turns,” said Young, who had never run the Little River course before Saturday. “It was a good challenge, but it was fun. I’m happy with my time.”
In the men’s 7K, Curtis Swisher (26:41) of Kernersville three-peated his 2012 and 2013 first-place finishes, while Jack McAdams (27:39) of Durham and Tyle Stelzig (27:42) earned silver and bronze respectively. Russell Westbrook (28:05) earned the men’s masters division crown.
In the women’s 7K, it was Allison Peters of Kernersville (28:25) taking first place. Boyd Vicars (28:36) placed second and Natalie Sherman-Jollis (30:38) were also on the medal stand. Jamie Dilweg (32:19) was the female masters’ winner.
“In the beginning, there was a lot of downhill,” Peters said, “then toward the end, there was a beast hill. It was rough today. I didn’t get warmed up well at the beginning because of the cold. I didn’t warm up until around mile two.”
More than Do-able
The runs followed the forested single track trails 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.
The park also offers a butterfly garden, camping, an event space, a playground and picnic shelter and horseshoe pits.
Little River supervisor Mike DiFabio said the race has been allowed to more-than-double in size from its original 300 runners in 2006 due to sensible stewardship.
“This year we capped it off at around 650 runners, which is about 50 more runners that last year,” he said. “And with the (clear) weather, I think we’ve got almost all of those registered runners here. The Trailheads have done a great job getting the message out about carpooling. The more people that carpool, the more people we can allow in here.”
“We also had 38 runners from the 40 runners in Fleet Feet’s trail running program, sponsored by Montrail,” said Layna “Willow” Mosley, who co-directed the race with fellow Trailhead Dave “Booda” Elam. “This is the first time Fleet Feet did that, and they’ll starting training again in February for our Philosopher’s Way Trail Runs in May.”
(A nine-month pregnant Mosley braved the elements on borrowed time Saturday, as she was already two days past the due date on her third child.)
Through a common love of trail running, ultra-running, mountain biking and other off-road adventure sports (as well as some quirky nicknames), the Trailheads celebrate nature, preservation and sensible stewardship of areas such as Little River and the Carolina North Forests in Chapel Hill.
Such stewardship includes an annual donation from race proceeds to the Little River Regional Park and Natural Area.
“So this is our ninth one of these,” DiFabio said, “and over the years, we’ve already received about $45,000 in donations from this one trail race series – one, single trail race each year.”
“We also give a donation to TORC (Triangle Off-road Cyclists – torc-nc.org) for their trail building and trail maintenance,” Hoge pointed out.
The TrailHeads will now focus on their next race, the Philosopher’s Way Trail Runs in Chapel Hill on May 3, with registration to begin soon through the Trailheads’ website ( www.trailheads.org/). Hopes are high for perfect, spring-like conditions in any language, though there’s no telling how many Inuit words there are for “70 degrees and sunny.”
As sun drew higher and warmer by the event’s conclusion and Hoge shed a fur “Yeti” jumpsuit in which he’d arrived, he considered the success of the Little River series.
“It’s kind of crazy to think what this was nine years ago and to look at what it is now,” he said. “It’s good to know that there are all of these trail runners in the world, because that makes the world a better place.”