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Bushwhack, Don't Backtrack

I'm going to start my Bushwhacker 10 Mile race report by digressing. You should know that I've been suspicious of the institution of marriage from an early age, despite the fact that my parents have a good, solid marriage that's still intact. Call me The Cynic, and believe me when I say I've come a long way from early adulthood. [Random fact: I was once the proud owner of a novelty lighter that read 'Marriage: It's Not A Word, It's a Sentence!'] So when I finally met Tom and he pulled that crazy 7-weeks-in proposal, I wanted to be sure we kept things free of the drudgery I believed could be lurking just beneath the surface. 

Thus, the Secret Date was born, where one person declares a slot on the calendar as such and the other knows nothing but the basics of where to be and what to bring.

One such date consisted of telling Tom only that he needed to wear clothes to go for a bike ride. That one ended at a Nats baseball game. Tom upped the ante by getting train tickets and a hotel for a day and night in New York.

This time I chose the Bushwhacker Adventure Running Race put
on by EX2 Adventures. We'd been dying to do one of their popular Backyard Burn series, but there always seemed to be a conflict. This incarnation, from Hemlock Overlook Park to Fountainhead, had a twist: Racers are allowed to bushwhack or shortcut within the boundaries of the park. This was something we had never done despite the number of times our trail shoes have worn the dirt off that path. I signed us up without hesitation.

As the race drew closer, my competitiveness percolated. I debated letting him in on the secret so we could study the course and devise a strategy. I resisted.

We awoke to a downpour. But by the time we left the house it was turning into a beautiful sunny day. We dropped Tom's truck at Fountainhead where we would finish, then drove my car to Hemlock where the race started. Valerie Meyer was doing the timing and she had the most innovative devices called e-punch timing keys.
They were fitted with a string you slipped over your wrist and a velcro strap that hooked onto your index finger. They worked wonderfully and were comfortable to wear. There were three checkpoints on the course and you had to stick your e-punch into a sensor which kept track of your splits. There was also a sensor at the "finish area" which consisted of a plastic-fenced square rather than a traditional finish line.

We studied the map for a short period but weren't able to settle on a strategy so we agreed to wing it. We stuck to the trail for a bit and then went bushwhacking, following others. Our first bushwhacks did not pay off as the terrain was dense with downed branches to jump over and low-hanging branches to duck. It took a lot out of us and we repeatedly emerged just ahead of the people we had been running with before leaving the trail. As we reached the river Tom spotted someone heading upstream. They were in for a long day!

We continued at a pretty good pace (for me; my romantic husband had decided to hang with me since it was an official Date or he would have been long gone). We paused to look at the map a few times and rack our brains as to the topography we would encounter at each bushwhacking opportunity. Our best bushwhacks were between Mile Markers 13 & 14 and
where we chanced upon a very runnable downhill wagon trail between Mile Markers 15 & 16. Anyone who has hashed knows well the thrill of running wild through some great shiggy. This was a marriage of shiggy and competition. Pura Vida!

We finished in 1:49 and no one was more surprised than me when the RD announced me as Second in my age group (and Fourth woman overall!). Tom finished less than three minutes behind the third, fourth and fifth place men in his age group -- who knows what he could have done had he been racing.
Cherry-picking races may just become our new hobby!
EX-2 Adventures put on a great race and gave away lots of gift certificates and some nice schwag. We had a blast and escaped with only a scratch or two, that is until in my excitement I hopped up on the wet and slippery finishers podium a
nd smashed my shin into the 1st place platform. Ouch.

Knowing these shortcuts is gonna make sticking to the Bull Run Run 50 Miler trail a lot tougher next year!


  1. COOL!!!!

    I love the entire idea...the Secret Date and the Bushwack with the electronic thingy dingys!!!! Very fun, thanks for sharing...and congrats again on that age group award!!!

  2. You're a rock star, Kirstin! Good running with you last night. And I'm looking forward to a bike ride soon. This weekend or next week potentially....


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