This was our third time running this race, which is part of the Dominion Riverrock festival.
The festival had expanded beyond Brown’s Island this year. Packet pick-up had been moved to the American Civil War Center, across the street from Brown’s Island. The race start was in the Belle Isle parking lot. There were several vendor booths and demos set up around the Civil War Center.
We picked up our packets, and then did a quick spin around the booths.
The first thing we saw were a bunch of people doing crazy tricks on what appeared to be a tightrope. Upon closer inspection, we learned that they were “slacklining“, which is similar to tightrope walking, except it is done on a nylon/elastic band that is slack instead of taught. This allows the participant to perform tricks similar to those performed on a trampoline, while also requiring the balance and coordination needed for tightrope walking. It is a sport I have never heard of, but apparently dates back to the late seventies.
They had some slacklines set up over some mats for people to try.
It’s much harder than it looks!
It took me a dozen tries before I made it all the way across, which made all the jumps and flips the athletes were doing seem that much more impressive.
Slacklining has been around long enough for it to have developed smaller subsets such as yoga slacklining, and aqua slacklining. There was a guy aqua slacklining across the river.
There was a bouldering wall.
The entire thing was beyond vertical. I didn’t like that some poor kid had to stand under me the entire time, or that I was the only person on the wall and felt like everybody was watching me. I would have had fun trying if nobody was watching, but with all eyes on me, I gave up pretty quickly.
Over on Brown’s Island, you could try your hand at stand up paddle boarding, or even SUP yoga. Yoga on the river, anybody?
We watched people practicing for the Freestyle Bike competition.
All too soon, it was time for us to make our way back over to the race start.
This race has a wave start. When you register, you are asked to submit your most recent 5k time. Not counting Montalto Challenge, my most recent 5k time is quite a bit faster than my current 5k ability. I didn’t take that into consideration when I was registering, though.
The past two years we’ve run this race, we’ve signed up for the second wave, based on pace, and for the past two years I’ve been a little frustrated to get stuck behind slower runners. Even though it’s just a fun mud run, I still want to do it as fast as I can!
This was the first year we were in the first wave, with the fastest runners. Based on the way I’ve been running lately, I was pretty sure this was a mistake.
We lined up near the back of our wave. Pretty much the only ones behind us were a couple dressed like Peter Pan and Tinkerbell. There were so many runners, that each wave was divided into smaller waves, with 100 runners leaving every 2 minutes after the gun went off.
The race started with a nice long climb up to the bridge, and across the river onto Belle Isle. Once we were over the bridge, we were faced with our first obstacle, which was a stone wall we had to hop over. It was slightly lower than chest height, and not too difficult.
Then there was a trail run. The pace slowed, but this time I was relieved instead of frustrated. I had time to catch my breath. Usually there is a rock hop across the river, but this year the course took us back across on a foot bridge. Then there was another long trail run that was all up hill. I was really struggling here, and told Kurt he could pass. He said he didn’t want to. As we crested the hill, we approached the second obstacle, which was a run through the James River. The turn around was MUCH closer to the shore than it had been in previous years, though. We only had to go knee-deep. Previously, the turnaround had been about waist deep.
In previous years, there was a jump onto a hay bale and a mud pit to crawl through before we crossed the final bridge, but this year it was just more trail running. I was tired and out of breath. Peter Pan and Tinker Bell were now ahead of me. Kurt was still with me, which was nice of him, but made me feel kind of bad because I knew he could have run faster.
We passed the start and were surprised to see that the last wave was just starting. I picked up the pace, hoping I could at least catch Peter Pan and Tinkerbell, but they also picked up the pace, so I crawled through the mud pit after them.
The salty sweat and mud was running into my eyes and stinging pretty bad, so we headed straight to the hoses to wash off. After we were cleaned up I wished that we had thought to get a picture of ourselves all muddy.
We made our way back over the finish line, to watch for a while.
The dogs were especially fun to watch, although the mud didn’t faze them a bit.
Overall, the actual race was a little disappointing this year. With most of the obstacles missing, and the lack of the rock-hop across the river, it pretty much just felt like a combo trail/road run with a mud pit at the finish. We were wondering if the changes to the race were because of the 2010 participant who was suing the race organizers, or because they added the dog division this year and needed the course to be dog-friendly. Regardless, the Riverrock Festival is such a cool event and we still had a really great evening. We’ll probably do it again next year.
My 29:31 finish was good enough for 8th place out of 261 in my age group and 34th out of 1114 women. I feel like that pace, even with the hills, should have felt much easier. I’m just not feeling at all strong these days.