Saturday, October 27, 2012

Son of Uwharrie - Eno River Run 11 Miler

Everyone has that one odd cousin that you loved to hang out with as a kid. You know the one. He was not quite right in the head, full of shifty ideas. But you were fascinated by his devil may care way of life. Spending a warm Fall day with that cousin guaranteed an adventure of one sort or another. Or possibly a trip to jail. But it was worth the possible penal time to see just what he had in mind for an afternoon of fun.

Eno River Run is that cousin. He's the son of old uncle Uwharrie, and it shows. Uncle Uwharrie has raised a son nearly as tough and gritty as his father, but with a wicked sense of humor born of years of trying to live up to the old man's expectations, but never quite making it.

Cousin Eno taunts you with the easy start, but then jumps out from behind a tree and kicks you square in the guts with a nasty, rooty, rocky hill. And when you've recovered from that, he pushes you into a an icy stream and laughs maniacally at the squishing noises coming from your shoes as you stumble over the countless roots and rocks of the next mile of the trail. But then, he laughs with you as you fly down steep hills and along the easy flat trail sections by the river. Cousin Eno isn't really cruel. Just slightly different. And FUN!

The Race
This is the first year of the Eno River Run trail races (there is a 6 miler and an 11 miler). I signed up as part of the Tough as Trails race series, mostly because I got a guaranteed entry into the Uwharrie Mountain Run 40 Mile Ultra (my number one goal for the entire Winter race season), but also because I had planned to run this race as well. Bull City Running really know how to put on a great race, so I knew this race would be good. What I didn't expect, was exactly how tough the course would turn out to be, and how much I loved the race when I finished.

Few's Ford. Crossed twice during the
11 mile race.

I intentionally avoided setting any sort of time goal for this race. I just wanted to enjoy the experience and have as much fun as possible. With that in mind, I set a few simple goals for the race.

  • Don't look at my watch. My watch is possessed by a small demon that taunts me mercilessly when I check my time. He's the cruelest, most evil little minion of self doubt and despair ever created in the bowels of Hell. Once he starts dancing around in my brain, I can't get him out. So, best not to even open the door for him.
  • Take as many pictures as possible. Not only will that slow me down and keep my pace sane, but I might actually get a handful of decent shots out of the several hundred that I snap along the way. (full, public album is here on Facebook)
Good Lies
I hadn't hiked the trails of the Eno River Run race course in several years, so my memory of them was foggy, to say the least. Reading the course description on the race web site led me to believe that there were two water crossings (at Few's Ford on the Eno River) in the 11 miler and none in the shorter 6 mile race. Well, that was a LIE! Within the first mile or so, we had to cross a stream. You could try to keep your feet dry by hopping across wet, algae covered stones, or you could just splash through the stream. Guess which route I took. Luckily, I was wearing my Altra Superior trail running shoes (review coming soon!) and they drained in no time flat. A few miles later, we had to splash back through that same stream crossing before heading down the trail to the "bouldering" area of the race.

The start.

You *could* try those rocks on the left, if you
want to get blood in the stream. ;-)

Good Truths
I did remember the bouldering section of the trail from a previous hike, so I knew that it was not runnable AT ALL. It was however very fun to clamber over giant boulders by the Eno River during a race. I did slip once on a rock that was wet and slightly muddy from the racers who had passed through before me, but I recovered without any serious problems. Overall, this was my absolute favorite section of the course. 

Yeah, we "ran" through here.
Ok, we did "run" through some of the bouldering area.

Good Times
The final big challenge of the 11 mile race was the crossing of the Eno River itself. I've been to Few's Ford many times with my kids so I knew this was a fairly easy, albeit longish crossing. The water was crisp, but not frigid and the crossing itself was made even more fun by all the people on the river bank cheering on the racers. Few's Ford is immediately next to the race start finish area, so spectators have an easy walk down to the river to cheer on the racers. Brilliant!

There were stair cases.
And then there were STAIR cases.
Too fun!

Great Race
I finished somewhere in the neighborhood of 1:47. I only know that because it was the first time I actually looked at my watch during the entire race (goal achieved!). Overall, I had a wonderful time. I got the chance to talk to another Scott during the race, who happened to be one of the organizers of the Medoc Trail Races (perhaps my favorite race in the entire state). I climbed big rocky, rooty, nasty hills. I crossed streams 4 times during the race. I never fell down. I finished happy. You can't ask for more than that!

Eno River State Park is simply gorgeous!

A stainless steel beer delivery device as a
finisher's award. Again, brilliant!