Friday, January 19, 2007

Swinging Bridge Run

I'm heading up to Virginia this afternoon for tomorrow's Swinging Bridge Runs. These are low key events held in the Cumberland State Forest with the start/finish area in Bear Creek Lake State Park. They are put on by the Richmond Roadrunners and directed by Kevin O'Conner and offer a 50K and a 35 K option. There used to be a 10 miler, that was closer to 11 miles, but it has been moved to a seperate weekend.
I first experienced this race in Dec 2001 before my ultra debut in Feb of 2002. I went to run the 35K , which would be my longest trail run to date. It was a cold but beautiful day with perfect running conditions. There are several creek crossing and a wade across the Willis River. I learned that day to not worry about wet feet. I was going to try and avoid a creek crossing by walking over a fallen log. When a branch I was holding on to snapped I fell about 7 feet to the ground and had the wind knocked out of me. Fortunately I missed the water and decided from that time forward I would wade or swim or whatever it took to avoid that happening again. Had a great time and felt good all day.
I went back in Dec. 2002 and intended to make this my second ultra with a 50K finish. Mother Nature conspired against me and most of the other entrants. It had snowed 7 or 8 inches earleir in the week and after melting, and refreezing for a few days we were left with a course covered in 2 to 3 inches of solid ice. Although I was in much better shape than the year before, the slipping and sliding and trying to run over broken, jagged chunks of ice slowed me down considerably. I was a full hour slower getting to the 35k point and Kevin wouldn't let me continue. I thanked him because I didn't want to have anymore "fun"anyway. I think 8 out of about 30 runners finished the 50K that day.
I returned again in Dec. of 2003 because I like the trail and the race and I really wanted to get a 50K finish at his event. Once again Mother Nature had a surprise for us. A hurricane had passed over the area in Sept. leaving hundreds of trees fallen across the trail. Despite efforts by some locals to clear the trail we still had at least a 100 or more to climb over, under or around. But that was the least of our trouble. The creeks were also flooded and the temperature was about 30F. I was running with my friend Tom Smith when we came upon the first of several creeks. We were wading for about 100yds through ankle deep water, crunching through a layer of ice trying to follow the trail when we came to a group of 7 or 8 others stopped in their tracks. We could see the trail markers on the other side of the swollen creek but how to get there?. I picked a spot to try and taking the lead started across thinking it may be thigh deep but it came up to my chest. BRRRRR!!!!!! And to think I had to come back the same way. After a couple of miles we came to another flood plain and waded again to another crossing . It was only thigh deep but I slipped and was wet up to my neck. How did we survive before technical running clothes? Amazingly, even with the sub-freezing temperature, within minutes I felt warm and nearly dry. Tom dropped at 35 K but I was determined to get my 50K finish on this course so I continued on. Luckily the last portion of the trail only had a few downed trees and none of the creeks on this higher ground were flooded, just toe dippers and I was finally able to finish in 7:34.
The next year the runs were moved to January on the same weekend as Carrboro so I haven't been back since then but with Carrboro moving two weeks earlier this year I am freed up to return. It is a truly nice run, but I will be taking the 35K option this year. I would love to do the 50 K but one of my top goals this year is a 100 mile PR at Rocky Raccon in two weeks so I am tapering.


Anonymous said...

I'll have to keep this one in mind for next year. Thanks for talking about it and I hope you had a great run. Just a tad windy out today here in Maryland!

runjoey said...

Thanks Caren. It is really a nice trail. Lots of creek crossing and still a lot of fallen logs but mostly a very runnable course with no major climbs.It is a bargain at only $15. The aid statons are very adequate for a 50K and you get a pretty long sleeve shirt with a drawing of the bridge.