Rough Trail 25k (14.5 mile) race report
This was my big race for the fall. The Rough Trail is a 7.9 mile trail that is regarded as one of the toughest in Kentucky. It's located in the Daniel Boone National Forest with the race start and finish at the Koomer Ridge Campground. We ran 5.5 miles of the race on Rough Trail with the rest on adjoining trails.
The first mile was on the road around the campground and a guy shot to the lead with another following. I was in 4th just behind 3rd place. We turned onto a trail that took us back near the start where we took the Koomer Ridge trail a short distance. I looked at my watch and was at 11:30. A left turn put us on the Arch Trail that looped around for almost a mile returning to the Koomer ridge trail. I stayed right behind 3rd but the first two guys were out of sight. My first split I had written down was the turn back on Koomer ridge. Going through in 20:50 was 10 seconds faster than goal. The next .8 mile section took us to the Buck Creek trail where we dropped down 350 ft, crossed the creek and went back up the other side. All of the sudden, the 2 leaders where right there and I had caught up with third place. All four of us crossed the creek at the same time and I took the lead.
One runner was able to keep up on the hill and was right on my heels. We got to the ridge and took a left turn on the Pinch Em Tight trail. This was my second split and I was 20 seconds behind my goal of 42 minutes. I led until we hit the Tunnel Bridge Road where the other guy passed. We got to the Grays Arch trailhead for the first aid station. A couple minutes down this connector trail brought us to the Rough trail. I was 30 seconds slow of my projected 54 minute split. The rough trail took us to Grays Arch a mile later where we turned left to stay on the trail. Yesterday I took the hike up to the arch but today the rough trail kept descending another half mile. We started the big climb and I was right behind the leader where I was glad to stay. I hiked more of this ascent than ran because of the steepness. When we got to the top of the ridge, the rough trail took a left turn. At this point I was exactly on my goal of 74 minutes 8 miles into the race. We immediately went down again on some of the most technical part of the trail. At points it looked like a big ditch descending at a 15-20% grade with a bunch of fallen trees and rocks thrown in.
The leader seemed apprehensive so I went around and flew down this section to break the race up. At the bottom we started right back up. This ascent was the easiest of the 3 climbs on the rough trail. After climbing to the top, it was back down for a mile and then a short section going back and forth across the Chimney Top Creek. After the final crossing we ascended up the trail to Chimney Top parking area where our second aid station was. I hiked most of the ascent after being able to run up most of it fresh the day before. After checking into the aid station with my number, I headed back down the trail I just came up. My goal time was 1:46 but I had lost 2.5 minutes over the last 3 miles doing a lot more hiking than anticipated. I passed 2nd place a minute down the hill so I knew I had close to 2.5 minutes on him. After flying down, I got to the water crossing where I took a left turn on the Koomer Ridge trail heading back to the finish. The ascent back up to the ridge was a lot harder than I imagined. It was one of the sections I hadn't been on before the race and I was even hiking sections that weren't very steep. It seemed like I would never get to the top. I made it though and got to the Buck Creek turn off we had taken at the beginning of the race. I had .8 miles to the Arch Trail that we had to cover in the reverse direction. I lost a lot of time in comparison to my goal pace and was trying to calculate an estimated finish. I knew nobody was going to catch me so I didn't try to push any harder than needed. My last split check was the turn to Grays Arch and I was at 2:16:50 almost 6 minutes slower than goal pace. For some unknown reason, I thought I could kick this last mile in 9 minutes when I made my projections. It took me 10:27 and I got to the finish in 2:27:17. Even after racing a bunch of tough trail races, I didn't think this one would be as hard as it was. My last 6.5 miles was run at a 11: 17 pace!
Waiting for results but I was a few minutes ahead of 2nd place. We were fortunate to race as there is a wildfire a couple miles away but it has been contained on the other side of Tunnel Ridge road from the trails we ran on. I could see a little bit of fire from the highway this morning.