Saturday, September 06, 2014

Gunpowder Keg

Gunpowder Keg is a low key "fat ass" style trail race put on by the Baltimore Road Runners Club (they have a trail race series in addition to lots of road races). The distances for this year's event were 25K and 50K (two loops). Since I needed to get some miles in, I figured why not drive out for this event; it was fun last year with a group, but it would just be me going this time. It cost a $5 donation to the park to enter the race, what a bargain!

It was hot and humid again, kinda weird since the summer wasn't too bad in this area, but we had a heat wave over the last week or two. Normally, the hottest week of the summer is in July or early August, not the first week of September.

Anyway, the race course was similar to last year's event, except it started differently: rather than bottleneck/funnel entering the trail from the parking lot, we ran down a paved path (the same paved path that is the finish), back up an old road, and then into the trail. The great advantage with this is the hill climb naturally spread out the field, avoiding the bottleneck.

I ran with a friend I hadn't seen in two or more years, Kim. In fact, I'm surprised she recognized me. It was fun to chat a bit and hear about other planned events. By the time we hit the first unmanned aid station (2-3 mi in), she dropped back and I pressed ahead.

I saw two women running ahead of me, dressed in matching Charm City Run outfits. Every time I got close to them, I'd slow up and take a picture, so I didn't actually catch up to them until after the 2nd aid station, near the bridge.

This section of the course was scenic, since the trail was right along the water. In fact, almost too close - one bad foot plant and you could also slide right into the river. So I ran carefully, making sure I didn't step into an eroded trail section and kept an eye on rocks.

I chatted with the two women - they asked me if I had done this event before, and I had the previous year. One asked if it was true about the bees, she had a friend that refused to come because of the bees last year.

I told her that was true. Last year, I was running along with a group and somebody ahead jumped on a log in the middle of the trail. Unfortunately, that stirred up a nest of yellowjackets (I'm not an insect expert but I'm pretty sure it wasn't bees) and we wound up running through a minor swarm. Out of 7-8 people running together, everybody got stung once, some more than that. I was stung once right on the kneecap. Later in the race, I was running with another woman when we came up to another nest. We could see them swarming like a cloud right over the trail. At this point, the trail was near the river and the woman looked at the swarm, looked at the river... and jumped in to walk around them. I followed her after thinking about it a few seconds. More stings avoided!

Anyway, I told the two woman this story, and in some unlucky timing, we literally hit a swarm 5 minutes after that, and I was stung on my left thigh. Everyone else was stung as well. Argh!

Later at the aid station at the bridge (the course looped back), I told them the bad news: we hadn't even gotten to the places the yellowjackets were last year. Fortunately, there were no more incidents for the rest of the race.

The route crossed York Rd, where there was another aid station. I chomped down a few snacks, refilled water, and continued. This section of the trail was scenic and shady, but also had some hills. Footing was tricky as the trail wandered close to the river as well.

By around mi 10, I was starting to feel the heat and humidity. There was a shallow stream crossing, and took the opportunity to splash water on myself, dip my hat into the water, and put it on. That kept my head cool for a few minutes and felt really good.

Back at the York Rd aid station, we just had 1 - 1.5 mi left to go. I knew there was a long gradual climb ahead, so it would be some work to get back to the finish. After doing that and getting to the paved trail the race started on, I noticed another modification - our path up was on a new trail that cut the switchbacks.

At the top the race officials/volunteers asked if I was going out for a second loop (i.e. doing the 50K). I probably said no too quickly, and they tore off the timing section of the bib.

I do like this event and the trails are nice. I'm just thinking that visiting in the fall/winter might be better, to avoid stings from yellowjackets.

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