The reason I titled the post like I did is because when I think trail running, I think about being surrounded by trees, roots, dirt, and usually rocks. Maybe, if I am out west, I can eliminate the trees. I don't typically think of concrete, overpasses, train trestles, and smoke stacks, but that's exactly what the XTERRA run course is like. I don't see this as a bad thing, though. The only other course that even remotely resembles it that I've done is actually Escape from Alcatraz. Anyhow, I ran the course today and took pictures with my phone (which left me wondering...how did we function before touch screen-compatible thin running gloves? I know the answer to that as well as I do to the question of how we functioned pre-iPhone) For some general shots of the Richmond venue, see the bottom of my previous post about it.
The first 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile are along Richmond's Canal Walk, so it's concrete and very flat. There are some signs, etc to dodge, but otherwise it just kind of meanders. At one point you pass under what I am guessing is part of an old warehouse.
After crossing the bridge, you've still really yet to hit any elevation change, but as I recall from running the course in June, it's hot as can be. There's practically no shade, and the sidewalks and roads you run on just get so hot you can fry an egg.
There are really some great views of the James River from the bridge and immediately once you cross over to the south side, but you're in a race! There's no time to enjoy the scenery of rocks, rapids, remnants of the 20th century transportation and manufacturing industries. I had time to, though!
|From the floodwall, somewhere around mile 1.25ish of the course. Score another for the panorama and my love of taking pictures of urban things.|
|When I first saw this off in the distance in 2011, I figured we were running around it. I figured no way was there stairs in the middle of a triathlon...that would be silly. I was wrong...and this is the easy big set of stairs (~1.1-1.2 miles)|
|This seems innocuous enough, right? A fairly quick course, it would seem. After all, who ever heard of a "trail run" that takes place under an overpass?|
It's right after 1.5 miles that the "fun" begins. That is, XTERRA Richmond begins to show that it's not just gravel paths and sidewalks and the occasional staircase. The picture above is shortly before the "Mayan Ruins" which can only be described as the fury of Quetzalcoatl himself. Then again, if I were him, I'd just say the hell with it and go around.
|You don't often see this on the side of a triathlon run course...|
|You get lured in first by the first real test of your trail running balance skills on a very iffy downhill. The day I ran it, it was wet, which made hopping down from step-like rock to step-like rock awfully difficult.|
|This photo doesn't do it justice. In summer time, everything will be green, possibly starting to overgrow it a little bit, which makes it that much more difficult.|
After the Mayan Ruins is a loooong stretch on flat roads, but it takes a little while to flush your system from that massive effort to crawl up that pile of wood and nails and dirt, so that's probably for the best. The next real exciting little feature is crossing a footbridge across the railroad tracks and going down a spiral-esque stair case. This is not fun when you've run a significant calorie debt like I did and have no real feeling in your legs. At this point, you're also near where you entered the trail system for the bike, as well.
|From the right, which is up on the side of the cliff, you cross the bridge, then go down the stairs on the left, and end up coming out and running towards where I am standing when I took this (~2.5-2.6 mi)|
You zip back onto the gravel path for a bit and there's a short stretch of two-way traffic (demoralizing on the way out if you're as far back as I was because the people you're seeing are about a mile ahead of you), then it's back away from the gravel trails and onto some more fun stuff, including plenty of potential ankle-breaking rocks.
we don't need no stinking bridges. Instead, you'll hoppity hop from rock to rock. I'm not kidding. There were some signs that I vaguely recall to guide you, but on race day, I think you're pretty much good to get on whatever rock you want. I don't think there's one required line...because I don't know there's a good one. You will end up running/leaping across little pools of water, but mostly it looks/feels like I would imagine the moon is, except you still weigh the same (otherwise, we have our new secret for getting down to race weight). This particular day, there was a family on the far bank watching the crazy person jumping across the river from rock to rock, but on race day, there were spectators abound because I would imagine there are quite a few spills.
|This was a good starting point, though I didn't see another red arrow until I was 90% of the way across the river.|
|Panorama from the starting point of the crossing.|
|A look back. The end is actually the hardest part because you have to actually use your upper body to get up onto some of the rocks. Terrifying for a skinny little triathlete|
|This is just a sick joke to put at the end of the crossing, but you've got to do it. I can't imagine there's ever much of a bottleneck here though; this course tends to blow people up and spread them out.|
Anyway, I liked the course when I did it (or maybe I blacked out the painful parts) because it's unique. There are plenty of courses, both XTERRA and just ordinary cross country and trail races that are just flowy wooded areas with some rolling hills thrown in. Don't get me wrong, I love that too, but this course just adds that little something different that makes it its own thing. There's a reason why so many of the pros keep coming back to this one, and it definitely isn't because of the wonderful triple digit heat that we get in Virginia in the summer. This course is great, and I only wish I could do it more often/not suck at it.
|For the history buffs: They really like the Civil War in Richmond. They really like the Civil War in Richmond. They really like the Civil War in Richmond. Was it, like, important to the war or something?|