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Owen Bradley pushes the limits of how much mud you can splash onto a single pair of Brooks Cascadias at one time

Owen Bradley took the time to write the following article about his experience running the 2011 Rock/Creek River Gorge trail race. In rough conditions, after twisting an ankle badly in his last race, he took home the overall win for the 6.5-mile race, besting the second-place finisher by two-and-a-half minutes!

All kids love playing in the mud, or at least I did. The conditions at this year’s River Gorge offered an opportunity to reconnect with those childhood joys. I ran the shorter 6.5 mile option, and was glad I did since it was only 45 degrees to go along with all the rain.

The course starts with a 1/4-mile gravel road section, then takes a sharp left turn onto the trail, which the guy who was slightly ahead of me on the road missed. I hit the woods first and had a couple of guys very close behind through the first eighteen minutes.

These guys kept me pushing the limits of my doubled-ankle-braced body (editor’s note: see Owen’s report from the Oak Mountain 50k for the backstory). I was able to build a lead before I hit the Snooper’s Rock aid station at approximately mile 3.25 (24 minutes into my run). I was hoping to improve on my time of just under 48 minutes from last year.

I then started the jeep road, which offered challenging traction in rainy conditions, even for my especially-grippy Brooks Cascadia trail running shoes. Typically, the course offers breathtaking views of the river basin, which were obscured by the clouds today. I always try to attack this approximately-two-mile jeep road, but it always wins with its frequent array of hills (long and short).

I was all alone when I took the right turn and started back on the single-track. This trail descends quickly and eventually leads back to the same trail that the run started (which is now mainly uphill). As time kept ticking, I realized that going faster than last year in these conditions was not going to happen. I then just wanted to run under 50 minutes.

After I ascended the rock stairs, I pushed to the finish and just made it in time, finishing in 49:56.

I immediately changed into dry clothes and put on two jackets. I would note that, just because the course was the shorter distance option does not mean it is easier; I think the terrain is actually more difficult then the longer course.

Despite the weather, the run was a success: I did not twist an ankle, and got a victory for Rock Creek Race Team!

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