I don't remember how I heard about this new race created by
Annette Bednosky, but I spent only a day or two back in May
making my decision to enter it. The web site enticed me;
the concept and the venue seemed perfect for me: a flat,
smooth, scenic 50K in October on the beautiful New River Trail
just a couple hours south of our home in Virginia, directed by
one of the best female ultra runners in the country.
How could I go wrong??
1,089-foot long bridge over the New River
at Fries Junction.
It wasn't until a few days after I registered on-line that I
realized I, um, might have a bit of difficulty finishing it
within the allotted seven hours! Oops. Another challenge for an
After plunking down a fair sum of money to enter this race, it
became my secondary goal race for the year (my primary goal is a
good showing at the 24-hour run on December 31 at Across the
Years). I had become a plodding slug for several months after
last year's ATY race, trying to save my remaining knee cartilage
for only races that really matter to me. Now instead of practicing my
run-walk strategy and slower pacing for ATY, I needed to prepare myself
for the faster, steadier pace I'd need to do to finish the NRT
50K. Hopefully, that will also help me at ATY.
Distance isn't my problem, speed is. That's a constant that
hasn't changed since I began running 29 years ago.
I'll find out in a couple of days if my training for NRT was sufficient.
INTRODUCTION TO THE NEW RIVER TRAIL
Southern Virginia is blessed with two superlative long,
multi-use rails-to-trails systems: the 35-mile Virginia
Creeper Trail from Abingdon to Whitetop Mountain and
New River Trail, which is a
linear state park.
The New River Trail parallels the (very old) New River for 39
miles and the equally-scenic Chestnut Creek for about 13 miles.
Over a mile of the NRT fronts dammed Claytor Lake near the northern
terminus. When it doesn't meander between water and rocky cliffs, the
trail winds through beautiful pasture land, crosses the river
and creek on about 30 bridges, tunnels through two large hills,
skirts a couple small towns, and passes in the shadow of the
historic Shot Tower.
of the New River is interesting. Geologists place its
formation at 300 million years ago, possibly the second-oldest
river in the world after the Nile. (So how come it's called "New" River and not the "Old" River?!) It begins in the
mountains of Ashe County, NC and flows north through Virginia
and West Virginia, site of the popular New River Gorge,
eventually merging with the Gauley, Kanawah, Ohio, and
In Virginia, the New River Trail State Park offers festivals and
workshops, nature and history programs, camping, picnicking,
birding, wildlife photography, fishing, birding, boating,
kayaking, tubing, horse rentals, and 57 miles of hiking, biking, and bridle
trails. The trail's flat, relatively smooth crushed rock surface
is mostly shaded and perfect for runners,
walkers, cyclists, and equestrians.
Two cyclists enjoy a foggy September
morning on the NRT.
It's also the perfect venue for a foot race. Thank goodness
Bednosky had the vision to
recognize that and the guts to establish an ultra marathon here!
(I imagine simply gaining permission from the state to hold an
event in the park was a big hurdle.) The race reached its
maximum of 125 runners in August. The course is definitely PR
material for runners who are well-trained and a great place for
runners who are new to dirt or the ultra distance to experience
a long "trail" race.
CHECK IT OUT: COURSE PREVIEW
A couple years ago Jim and I drove down twice to run sections of
the NRT between Draper and Ivanhoe Depot in the middle and
northern part of the park. We saw a total of about 25 of the
trail's 57 miles. (Photos from those runs were lost during a
computer hard drive crash. Since then we've been backing up
pictures in four other places!)
Flat, fast, and scenic -- what's not to
Jim gets bored on the NRT but I love it, especially since I
shouldn't be running hilly or gnarly trails any more. I haven't
been able to get him to go back down there to run until
recently, when we decided to go check out the course for the
race. This was our first time to see the trail at the southern
end of the park. I think it's more scenic than the other part
we've seen, an excellent choice for the race.
In the interest of saving precious time during the race, I took
87 photos during a 15˝ mile
training run on the course September 17. That way I won't be
tempted to carry my camera during the race. (OK, I'll still be
tempted, but I promised myself I won't carry it.) You can see 66 of
those photos on our
Picasa photo-sharing site;
I'll add pre-race and post-race photos to it after the race,
plus any photos Jim's able to take at the Cliffview aid station.
For our training run Jim dropped me off at Cliffview,
where he'll be captaining the turn-around aid station during the
out-and-back race. I ran northwest to Fries Junction and
southwest to Fries on the inverted V-shaped course. (Actually,
it's an inverted Y because on the outbound direction during the
race, we will run 3/4 mile out-and-back north of
the junction to make the distance 31.2
miles.) Jim drove to the town of Fries (pronounced "Freeze"), which is where the race begins and
ends. He ran the outbound direction on the course, ending at Cliffview.
This is where Jim's aid station will be
He promises to take some pictures here on
I am thrilled with this course. If
I have to do a 13:27 pace for 31 miles anywhere, this is
the place I'm most likely to do it. The weather forecast looks
good, so I'm eagerly awaiting race day.
Annette has done a magnificent job pulling this first-time race
together. You can tell that from the details on the
race web site and in her correspondence. She and Jim have been in frequent
contact by e-mail regarding the aid station at Cliffview,
sharing ideas and diagrams.
In a recent letter to us and a
blog entry dated yesterday,
Annette shares her nervousness about getting everything right so
the runners have a quality experience. We both wrote back to
her, encouraging her to trust that she's done everything
possible to cover the bases and to trust her volunteers to do
their best to help her pull it off on Saturday. Race
directing is a huge responsibility, one that neither Jim nor I
have ever wanted to tackle. It's enough stress to captain an aid
We have faith in Annette, her husband, and everyone associated
with the race that it will be a very successful and memorable
event. I'm guessing it will fill up even faster next year.
Expect to see a herd of cows at the "Triple C" farm.
- One of the most unique aspects of the NRT 50K is its concept as a
"green," environmentally-friendly race. This description is from the
home page on the
This is a “green race.”
We will use local, recyclable items and products from companies
with “green” practices as much as possible. We will use minimal disposable
materials and those that must be disposable we will choose recycled or
recyclable in our area as much as possible. To this end we encourage use of
hand held water bottles/waist packs whenever possible! When choosing materials,
foods and supplies for aid stations and runner “giveaways” we are striving to
have 75% of our goods come from either local manufacturers and/or growers
(within 100 miles of course start) or from companies that have a demonstrated
commitment to reducing their impact on the Earth. To our knowledge this is the
first ultra/endurance event in the Southeast /Mid-Atlantic region that will be
an intentional “green event.”
Runners are even asked to bring their own bowl and spoon for the
homemade soup, bread, and locally-grown apples and other fruit
provided after the race. That's cool.
The course won't be as "green" in October
as it was in September!
All race proceeds and additional contributions benefit the
The National Committee for the New River
a non-profit organization that protects, restores and educates
people about one of the oldest rivers in the world. NCNR works in all
states (North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia) of the New
- When entering the race, runners had a choice of a hand-held Nathan
bottle or locally-made pottery cup. There was no question for me;
I'll take something hand-crafted any time. I'm glad I chose a cup -- you can
see how beautiful Pat Morrison's tumblers are in the photo in Annette's August 27
- Each finisher under seven hours will receive an attractive
long-sleeved Capilene shirt from Patagonia. The
women's version is a pretty, soft
blue color. I have to run fast enough to get that shirt!!
Beautiful little falls along
- Awards will be presented in three unique age categories to the top
two or three males and females in each group: under 39,
40-54, and over 55. Annette added the older category (the one I'm in)
when she saw how many runners over 55 were registered. Thank you,
Annette. There are at
least five women entered in the race that are over 55. I'll be happy
just to finish under seven hours. I'm not shooting for an
age-group award. Award winners will choose from a variety of donated
products as they finish; there isn't an awards ceremony, per
se. Overall winners receive a special pottery medal.
- Annette also has a lot of door prizes donated from her sponsors (Clif
Bar, Montrail, Nathan, Patagonia, and local merchants and growers.
She'll have home-grown food products, fleece jackets, packs, and
other very nice items that will be awarded in a unique drawing that
illustrates the "green" nature of the event -- it's designed to
increase the chance of getting something you really want, and not
another *whatever* that you don't need. When we pick up our race
packets we'll receive two tickets. We get to choose which specific
items we want to take a chance on winning. (We've already received a
list of items and sizes.) Tickets will be drawn while we're out
running. When we finish, we'll check the list to see if we won that
item. I think this is a great way to do door prizes! (Yes, even
if I don't get anything!)
Interesting shoals in the New River; almost looks
like a road across it
Volunteers also get to choose from a very nice array of gifts from race
sponsors and local donors! Jim quickly skipped past the list of
manufactured items and debated between fruit preserves and pasta sauce,
both made by Annette. I think he finally chose the preserves . . .
Yum! I'll get to enjoy them, too.
I'm can't wait to run this race on Saturday. I'm totally
psyched. Even Jim is looking forward to his role as an aid
station captain. It'll be fun to spend more time with Annette
and other friends who are running or working the race. I bet the
course will be even prettier than it was in September. More leaves
should be colorful by now. I hope I have enough spare time at
the end of the race to regret that I didn't take my camera with me!
Next entry: my race report
Trying to chill out,
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and
Tater (in spirit)
© 2008 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil