A brilliant central Virginia spring day greeted what for many was a return to trail racing after over a year of race cancellations due to COVID. The setup crew faced some brisk dawn temps, but the sun quickly brought temps into the 50s for near perfect running weather and great trail conditions. COVID still loomed as runners masked up for bib pick-up and were rudely grilled about COVID exposure by yours truly. Other changes included a wave start, which seemed to help alleviate the normal trail bottleneck at the early fierce climb, and no aid station, which we hope didn’t impact runners too much.
As race director John Andersen turned wave 1 loose at 8:00am, the contest quickly turned into a battle of youth vs experience. In the men’s race, 18 year old Mason Love stayed on Mike Fox’s heels for most of the race, and out-kicked him in the final 1/4 mile with a winning time of 24:29. The wily Fox said he felt the kick was coming and tried to run Love’s legs down early, but youth (and Mason’s own experience) prevailed as Love charged to the finish 6 seconds ahead of Fox. 16 year old Michael O’Neill filled out the podium with a 26:15 time, factoring in his wave 2 start. O’Neill certainly has earned a wave 1 start for any future races!
The women’s race turned out to be much closer than it seemed during the race. Grace Gray won it with a time of 28:42, which placed her 11th overall. Beth Melton “virtually” shadowed Gray with a 28:51 out of wave 2 for second place. Emily Smeds, a youthful veteran of our past trail races, rounded out the podium with a 29:06. Unfortunately this so-called “reporter” has no details on how the women’s race unfolded during the race. We’ll try to do better next time.
Love finished just over a minute off of Dave Hryvniak’s course record time of 23:24 in 2017, and Gray was just 30 seconds off Mackenzie Carlson’s 28:12 time in 2018. We suspect there are better times yet to come from both winners!
Overall the wave start seemed to work well, and assuming all runners started in their assigned waves the times are correct. However, it prevented some classic head-to-head racing strategy with two of the six podium finishers coming from wave 2, starting 5 minutes later (as race pictures proved). If we continue with wave starts in the series, we will learn more about who belongs in wave 1 and try to have the top men’s and women’s finishers match the order they crossed the finish line in.
Thanks to all for coming out to get our 2021 trail race series started successfully, and special thanks to all the volunteers who helped make the event go so well!
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More pics available on the CATs Facebook page. Photos by Nelle Fox, Marc Griffin, Melanie Dorion, and Bob Clouston.