Saturday, October 13, 2018

2018 Rick O'Donnell 5.22 Mile Trail

I really enjoy trail running, but it isn't something I do very often.  I find that looking down to ensure I don't face plant really messes with my posture and causes areas of my body to fatigue and hurt that don't usually bother me.

That being said, I was really excited to give the Rick O'Donnell trail run a try in September,  The event is held very close to my house and while I thought it might be somewhat hilly I knew going around the park lake would be beautiful.  The event lasts for 8 hours, so you have two options at sign up.  You can choose to simply go around once which is approximately 5.22 miles.  Or, you can elect to go around as many times as you can within the 8 hour time limit.

View of Lake from starting area

I had intended to try and go around as many times as possible when I signed up for the event, but over the course of time plans changed and I ended up only going around once.  Some work associates joined me for the event which made it a lot of fun and more than made up for the shortened distance.  The Maryland area has been getting a large amount of run this summer and the course was a bit muddy with a few higher than normal water crossings.

Now that I have seen how the event is setup and run, I do know that I will be back and certainly will attempt a much longer run.  While I didn't get any photos of the setup, it was extremely well supported.  Since it is a loop course, they had food/water support at the start line as the runners completed each loop.  For those only going around once, there was a separate area to allow the repeat runners easy access to water and food as they made their next loop.

Strava Map of the 5.22 mile loop

As the trail proceeds through the starting area there are numerous picnic tables and plenty of open space where runners had setup their own support areas with additional food and beverage options to help them meet their distance goals.  I hadn't thought about what I probably would have wanted to bring had I gone for a 50k distance or more, so seeing the amount of setup was certainly eye opening for me as a plan the adventure next year.

Having company on the course was also a lot of fun.  One thing that did surprise all of us was a few bee/hornet nests along the course.  Within the first mile or two, my two friends both got stung multiple times each.  Later on in the course around mile 4 or so we could hear other runners getting stung.  I didn't see anyone with a severe reaction, but if anyone with allergies decides to run this event, please do bring appropriate medication with you just in case.  Perhaps all the extra rain or other factors created the bee issue, but we certainly weren't expecting it, nor could we really see anything obvious to avoid.

The course had a wide variety of "technical" trail areas.  Everything from fairly fine gravel like dirt as you can see in the photo above, to larger rocks, roots and everything in between.  There were two creek crossings, but only one was really challenging given the extra rain the area received in the prior weeks.

The trail is clearly well used through the year given how visible and easy to follow it was.  Additionally, the course was very well marked by the event staff, so there was never an issue trying to figure out which way to go at various branch points along the trail.  There were also plenty of entertaining signs along the way as well.  I wonder if they would have changed some of them out over time to keep runners doing multiple loops entertained as they ran for 8 hours?

Strava Elevation

The elevation was more than I had expected.  As you can see in the photo above from Strava there is some significant change over some fairly short distances.  I am sure this would catch up with you on each successive loop.  Probably about 450 feet of gain each time around the course if my math is correct.

Overall this was a very enjoyable event.  I will certainly plan to run this again in the future and will take advantage of the ability to do as much as possible within the 8 hour time limit.  Seeing the course, the setup and how other runners prepared for their support was certainly an educational experience.  Very different preparation than for my usual half and full marathon road races.  I am glad I decided to do a single loop for my first experience.

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