This past Sunday was the first Blackstrap Hell Trail Challenge, which turned out to be 6 miles of slick, muddy, wet single track and bush whacking. The course was great; just to get to the starting line you had to walk through 6 inches of water. Of course, that stream wound up being very convenient later for washing mud off, although it was rather chilly…

The race packet consisted of a laminated card with a trail map. It wasn’t as confusing as the course map for the (now defunct) Mystic Places Marathon, but it came close. I especially loved the part of the map where the trail stopped. After some pre-race instructions, everybody went up to the starting line where they were started in reverse seeded order. Rather than having everybody starting at once and jockeying for position on the single track and then standing around cold and shivering after the race, the goal was for everybody to finish together. Since it took 28 minutes to start everybody and we all came in within about 10 or 15 minutes of one another, it worked pretty well.

There were numerous stream crossings, and the ascent per mile on the course was the same as at the Bradbury Mountain Breaker earlier this Summer. Many of the climbs involved going up trails that provided a natural place for the water to go from high place to low, although we didn’t have to run down the actual waterfall on the course. We just got to run alongside it for a quarter mile. There was one section where you had to scramble on all fours up a rock face, which was fun (and doubly interesting given that I only had one hand available.)

Randy Woods going through a puddleI didn’t really race; instead, I carried my video camera and shot footage of the runners as they went. I’ll post a link to the video once it is edited and available online. Scattered throughout this report are screen captures from the videos. I finished dead last, behind the injured folks who just gritted their teeth like true trail runners and got themselves back to the line.

Maurie passing people on the trailThere were even a few canine competitors. I saw Maurie run by me early in the race as he tried to catch up to Django, who had started earlier. Maurie’s owner, James, was calling for him as he came up to me, but there was no way that James was going to catch his dog. Not that that should be surprising; last Winter Maurie always had to run with whoever was in front. Even after he caught up to Django, he decided to keep moving up to the faster folks. Once he was done running, he did head back up the trail to find James and run him in to the finish.

Alan Morrison going through a puddleAfter everyone was back, we broke camp and the majority of us headed to Jeff Walker’s house, who was the driving force behind the race and put almost everything together. Cacky must have a lot of patience to put up with so many runners, although most of us had thankfully changed into dry clothes ahead of time. There was plenty of pasta salads, bagels, moose meat chili, home made bread, and beer to finish things off while Jeff figured out the awards.

Powerline Trail RunnersAt least half of the people who came to the after party got to win something. There were some good prizes; a Run for your Life DVD, Moeben sleeves (I need to try those out some time before my 50 miler – if I’d known they’d be up for grabs as a prize I’d have raced!), a book on ultramarathoning (I didn’t catch the title) and plenty of water bottles and shirts from the Bradbury races.

Here are some relevant links about the race for those interested: