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Another Backyard Burn

I ran the fifth and final Fall Backyard Burn at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park on Sunday. As usual, EX-2 put on a well-organized, fun event on challenging trails that featured plenty of hills.

It was a chilly morning, thick with fog on the drive to the start. After I got my packet, Hubz and I spied Kate and Tracy and jumped in their warm car. 

Tracy, Kate and Kirstin before the start
There was lots of joviality as we compared our small, well-organized race in the woods to the horror stories circulating about The Great Chocolate Debacle.

I've always run the 10 mile distance of the Backyard Burns, but this time I opted for 5.5 miles, thinking it would be fun to change things up. 

That turned out to be a good call. Thanks to a stomach bug, I'd spent most of Friday sleeping. I wasn't sure if I'd have anything in the ol' getaway sticks just two days later, but I figured I'd have a nice short run/hike regardless, and anything more would be a bonus. 

Mentally, I've been itching to get back out and race. I took it really easy the month after Marine Corp Marathon. And I mean easy: I ran six times for a mind-bending sum of 26 miles. 

We gathered, grinning, at the start line with about 100 other runners, and then we were off. The starting loop is designed to thin out the pack before runners hit the lovely, leaf-blown singletrack. The three of us hung together for the first mile or so, chatting and laughing, enjoying the morning in the woods.
Kate kicking butt on one of the many hills, Tracy just behind
My legs were feeling fine, so I reluctantly picked up the pace. After all, I was only doing one loop, so I ought to see what I could do. I'd left my Garmin at home and only wished I'd had it to see what the elevation profile was like. Gotta love the hills!

Passing someone about a mile before the finish. Dumb shadow.
I kept my effort hard, but below my normal "racing threshold," and it felt like the right pace for the day.


About a mile from the finish, the trail narrowed. I caught up to my friend Katie from Highlands Sky 40M and ran with her for a short bit (she too was running the 10 miler) and then it was time to start my final kick. 

Katie, all smiles
After a short but bouncy boarded section, there was one more hill to keep it interesting. I saw Hubz with his camera and then I was sprinting my little heart out.

I really *was* having this much fun
I grabbed a piece of pizza out of sheer habit and joined Hubz in time to cheer on Tracy and Kate as they ran past.

Kate (in white) and Tracy (in green), running through the woods
We hung around, catching up with trail runners we knew, cheering on runners and enjoying the crisp air and warm sunshine. I don't think I saw anyone out there who didn't look happy.

After another piece of pizza or two, we convinced Kate and Tracy to join us at Paradise Springs Winery, which just happened to be right at the entrance to the park. 

And that, my friends, is called a perfect ending.

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