Sunday, May 15, 2011

Havoc at the Hideout 5 mile trail race



Sunday May 15, 9 AM, 45F and raining

It has been raining the whole night. Me and Mike (migangelo) are approaching the registration shelter enjoying the sticky mud squishing between our toes.
This annual X-Dog event takes place on a private ranch nestled deep in the Pacific Northwest lush forest. The scenery around is beautiful and I am getting quite excited.

Cold, wet and muddy at the start

Since I started running 10 months ago I have done three road races barefoot but this is my very first trail race and also my first X-Dog event to run. I am not sure what to expect on the course but the X-Dog description is really compelling:

The venue is incredible with terrain that will satisfy every adrenaline junkie. No experience is necessary and all abilities are welcome. The course travels Hornings Hideout property, and enjoys (if you are not breathing too heavily, and the sweat is not filling your eyes, and the snot is not clogging your nose) spectacular views, lakes, creeks, dirt, logs, and more (especially the sweat, breath, and snot parts).
The course is a one lap loop with plenty of single track, and other wide sections of trail for passing and being passed. The layout and design is second to no other trail.


Everyone around us is enjoying their soaked up boat anchors so it is easy to get some attention.
You guys aren’t going to run it barefoot today, are you ?” we catch an interest of a tall guy glancing down at our naked feet.
Well, that’s the plan,” I reply trying to look calm hiding all the shivering from being cold.
He keeps going clearly trying to weaken our determination:
Believe me, I am all for running barefoot and I have run without shoes on grass before but you do not want to do that on this course in these conditions."
"I saw the course yesterday, there are some crazy steep downhills in ankle deep mud with sharp rocks buried underneath that will slice your feet like butter,” he sounds quite convincing.


I am starting to think having my KSOs in my backpack as a backup is not such a bad idea after-all. My goal is just to enjoy the ride, have fun and finish the race without injury.

Martin (stomper) arrives just in time and that makes our trio of barefoot runners complete for today.

The gun fires!
I start somewhere in the middle of our pack of 230 adrenaline loaded junkies. Some in costumes, going Hawaiian is the theme of the day.
I am feeling the comforting cushy mud under my feet.
Slipping and regaining balance. So far so good.
Uphill on a single-track.
Downhill on a muddy slide. Martin comfortably slides down by me sitting on his butt.
A piece of a forest road.
A nice soft grassy meadow.
I am all warmed up by now so I start adding some speed. My feet feel like springs swinging with high cadence. I start passing people and feel energized and invincible.

The whole course pretty much looks like this.






After about 2 miles we hit the killer uphill climb. Nobody really runs anymore. ‘Zombie walking’ and crawling seem to be the only options here. I quickly realize moving uphill barefoot in a deep mud actually has its advantages. I curl my toes down and use my feet as “hooks” to get some traction. Everyone around me in shoes seems to be uncontrollably sliding back and many kissing the ground so I easily pass another bunch of runners and hit the top unharmed.

Downhills are a different story. I have a vivid picture of NakedSoleNate’s slashed feet in my mind. But I have no plans to be the next Definitive Gross Picture Thread thread winner. I am trying to stay on the side of the trail taking advantage of all the leaves, grass and debris I can find to maintain some traction. It is somewhat working but I also get my share of fun falling down into the sloshy mash. A couple of times. Get up and keep running man!

The scenery changes again. A quarter a mile on a crushed gravel forest road. It is not so bad as it looks. Bending knees a lot and a really high cadence should do it. Pumping some adrenaline helps as well.



Two knee deep creek crossings and a final sprint to the finish line. That was quick. I am almost surprised where the whole hour has gone.
I grab my camera and snatch some pictures for Mike and Martin finishing.


Mike at the finish


Martin finishing



We grab a couple of beers from the keg and then the rain slowly stops.



My feet feel great and all in one piece. All I find later that evening is just a bruise on the top of my left arch and a small cut on the other arch. Both gone in the next two days and I am up and ready for more fun.



My time was 53:46 which I am really happy with. It placed me 63rd from 230 overall (10th from 18 in my age division, average pace 10:30 ).

I am definitely hooked on BF trail racing now so the next day I am already signing up for another 10k trail race in June. And if I push my luck a bit more it may even be sunny!

Some race stats:
Length: 5.09 miles
Elevation gain/loss: 980 feet
Max. slope: 39% up, 43% down

Aerial images of the race course (track taken from my GPS)


Course elevation profile

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