I love trail races! Trail races are not your standard 'gravel' bike path or level high school x-country course, but rather rocky granite filled single track, deep pockets of mud, waist level river crossings, and sometimes straight-up bushwhacking. The Monroe Dunbar race was just that.
I have wanted to run this race for the last few years but with my chronic knee conditions from an accident and surgery years earlier, I was hesitant to run the distance and challenging terrain. In fact, the last time i ran a distance over 10 miles on a technical trail was in 2003. Yet, I had a good year running and with time well spent on better foot placement and strength training, i was ready to finally give this race a whirl.
The course was essential up the mountain for 2000 or so feet over 5 miles, then back down to the start in a loop. After the first mile, the climbing began. There was just enough room for 1 person to progress up the slippery slope at a time. As the trail got steeper runners would progress into a fast hike to prevent their heart rate becoming to high. I was feeling pretty good so when I had the chance I passed on the switchbacks.
After reaching the summit the trail followed first a fire road on the ridge line then veered into some herd path that required more focus to the ground and the air as rocks and tree limbs seemed to pop out of nowhere.
The descent was especially sketchy. The trail was quite steep with lots of moss covered granite and roots. I was cautious as i followed a line to safely place my feet. Yet as i was moving forward, i could hear yelps from behind. They had to be animals, they where moving so fast. Nope, they were humans...fast humans In a short moment a runner passed by my in a full sprint. He was certainly moving at a 6 minute mile pace. Then several other runners followed. Apparently, my strength in the uphill does not compare to the ability to run like a gazelle down a single track trail. I have some practice to do if I'm going to compete in next year trail race series.
I finished the race feeling incredible. It has been such a long time that i have been involved in a trail race this long and technical, and now, i cant wait for the next one.
Oh...and the post race food was incredible....chili, meatball subs, all sorts of homemade banana breads, baking goods, pasta salad, and more, right by the shores of the deerfield river. For the 15 or so dollars, you get yourself one hell of an event!