Wildcat Ridge Wildlife Management Area
10 August 2013
I registered for Wildcat Ridge thinking I could use it as a training run for the 50-miler I’m working toward in October. I planned to “take it easy” and estimated I’d finish in about eight hours. Wrong! I worked my butt off and finished in 10:40. I felt like I did my homework on this one: I carefully read the race director’s description of the course, I looked online for photos and videos of the course (found a few, nothing threw up a red flag), I studied the course map, etc. None of that prepared me for what I actually encountered during the event. I’m learning this will probably be the case for every trail run I ever do. 😛
Wildcat Ridge has some serious technical trails. I would guess I was only running about 3-4 miles of every 10.5 mile loop. (I think I might have been able to run a little more if I had been wearing a more cushioned shoe. I did see some Hokas on the course and I was jealous.) I spent most of the time picking my way over rocks and there was a lot of climbing. At least two sections were steep enough that I worried my running shoes were not going to give me enough traction to get up and over. I had to use my arms a lot to pull myself over and around trees and to use trees and rocks for balance. (Also, I had to touch moss, which grossed me out.) I did quite a lot of hiking and climbing at one time, but that was a very long time ago!
There were a few water crossings, a little bit of mud, a couple of short sections of paved road, but what I will remember about Wildcat Ridge is the rocks. There were just so many rocks. My ankles are sore and my feet are bruised (and yes, my shoes have rock plates). The course had some gorgeous views of a reservoir and a pond, plus there was a lookout point right before mile four. I also had good company for most of the run and met some really interesting people.
After I realized how long it was taking me to negotiate each loop, I really wanted to quit after two. I had been out for 6+ hours and I was exhausted and my feet really hurt at that point. My husband (aka Team Norma) was there for a pep talk, so I headed back out. That third loop was HARD. I didn’t think I was ever going to finish. I kept losing the trail markings. I wanted to cry at mile 29. But I also kept thinking that I would be out even longer for a 50-miler and I needed the mental training for that, even beyond the physical training. I’ve never been so glad to see a finish line!
As far as races go, I’m glad to have this one under my belt, but I probably won’t do it again unless I move somewhere that gives me frequent access to mountain trails. Unless you have a lot of trail experience that includes a lot of climbing, I wouldn’t recommend this for a first ultra. But if you are looking for a challenge and you have tough feet, this is a race you will definitely enjoy!
Trees and rocks and water to climb over, trying to reach those blue ribbon trail markers.
There is an aid station at the top of this rock.
Me trying to get to the aid station at the top of the rock. I was likely cursing the rock.
New friends Barco and Kat.
So many rocks…