Race report for the West Virginia Trilogy 50k
The West Virginia Trilogy is a staged race held over three days in the mountains of the highest point in West Virginia. There is a 50k Friday, a 50m Saturday, and a half on Sunday. Dan Lehmann and Adam Casseday are the race directors. Let me be the first to say that they know how to put on a race!
I discovered the Trilogy last year. In fact, it was my second trail race experience and my first 50m attempt. It was also my first time camping alone (and it had been 10 years since I had been in a tent). The first hour there I discovered two things:
1. I had come home
2. I needed to get tougher
The ultra trail running community was where I was meant to be. Camping, woods, rain, mud, starry nights… I loved it all! More importantly, the people could not be beat.
You get home cooked meals with your registration and dessert always follows a healthy dinner. Afterwards, you are responsible for cleaning your own dishes. I LOVE this entire process! The RD’s have created an amazing community where we all eat, clean up, camp, and run together for the weekend.
I registered for the 50m this year, to get redemption from last year’s DNF (pulled a muscle from a fall). Due to my daughter’s homecoming, I was forced to switch to the 50k on Friday. Dan was very supportive and helpful during this time.
The night before the race, I joined several runners at the observatory and we got a complimentary astronomy lesson and a chance to look through a large telescope. The Trilogy is held in the darkest area this side of the Mississippi, so the stargazing was amazing.
The morning of the 50k turned out to be perfect. It was a little chilly, and there was no rain (that would come later in the race). I ran about half of the race with my good friend Marit Janse, and Bill, and Marci Colyer. I was hoping for an 8 1/2 hour finish, but I realized early on that my body was still not loving me from the Barkley Fall Classic.
The race is hard and technical. It’s really rocky. A lot of times it was hard to get a good rhythm going because of the terrain. There are at least 10 stream crossings (several almost knee deep), and multiple hill climbs over a mile long. I lost Marit during the longest climb. I was not quite as fast as my friends as they trudged up the side of the mountain.
For about 16 miles I ran alone. It began pouring the rain and I loved it! There is something special about running through the woods, splashing through the mud and muck that makes me come alive. It rained for a long time, but I was content. I made it to the first cut off with a little over 30 minutes to spare. I downed some hot broth and took off. The next 5 miles were good to me. I used my spare minutes to climb up one of the mile long hills, and I was able to run the ridge. The last 2 plus miles were downhill. The path was narrow and cut into the hill. If you slipped or took a misstep, you were going over the side. I took my chances and flew down it. Yes, I almost took a long tumble over the side about 10 times, but I didn’t fall! This 2 mile stretch of downhill running made it possible for me to catch up with my friends later on for the last 3 miles.
Before catching up to my friends, I have an encounter with a dog. I’m hiking up another hill, and at one point I look up from the path and see a large white dog ahead on the trail. I immediately paused. At first, I thought I was hallucinating. I was out in the middle of nowhere, there should not be a dog here. I shook my head and looked again. He was still there. As I took a cautionary step towards him, his hackles rose and he growled at me. Oh crap, I thought, I’m going to get bit. I looked around for his owner and raised my voice as I talked to him, hoping they would call him off. There was no owner to be found. I then began to talk sweetly to him, calling him to me, as I tried to advance a second time. Once again, hackles and growling. I continued to call to him, assuring him I would not hurt him, and prepared for the bite I knew was coming. He finally came to me. Once he got within a foot of me, he stopped. I held my breath. He whined at me, barked, and then took off running past me. I exhaled with relief. I felt bad that I could not take him out of the woods with me, but I was happy to not have been bitten.
I was really glad when I caught up with my friends! It had been a long, hard day and I was ready to be done. I crossed the finish line in 9:24. It was not the 8:30 I had hoped for, but I was still happy with my performance. I had taken the time to get some wonderful pictures, survived a stand off with a dog, and managed to finish a tough technical course in the rain with over an hour to spare. It was a good day!
I highly suggest this race weekend to all of my running friends. Come join me next year for one (or all) of the races offered. I’ll be there, ready to conquer the 50 mile. It’s a challenging weekend filled with beauty and friendship.