Varmint Half Marathon (June 8, 2013)

IMG_20130608_172458_967The Varmint Half Marathon is an interesting event that takes place in a very rural area of Virginia. The story behind the race involves an unusually large coyote that had been eating all the local sheep.

The nearest chain hotel is about an hour away. Yet the race, now in its 20th year, always seems to draw a decent crowd. This year, there were 283 Half Marathon finishers and 110 5k runners.

Last year, we had come for the unique experience and challenging course. This year, I was there for a sheep. The prizes for this race are hand-made sheep. I was about a minute and a half away from winning one last year, and this year, I desperately wanted one!


My time last year had been pretty slow. I figured that, even on a bad day, I should be able to take at least five minutes off last year’s time, which would put me in a good position to place in my age-group.

In fact, I thought it was going to be so easy, that I didn’t even bother to taper properly. In the two weeks leading up to the race, I did cut my weekly mileage, but I also started teaching an early morning Boot Camp class twice a week. So, even though I was running less, I added some pretty intense workouts each week, plus a much earlier wake-up time.

I also somehow managed to forget to pack my normal pre-race meal (SO unlike me! I’m particular about what I eat and I never forget my food). But I did, and I was at the mercy of the hotel breakfast. Luckily they had plain oatmeal, peanut butter and bananas, which was about as good as I could’ve hoped for.

Race morning, my calves were still sore from Boot Camp and I was feeling pretty run-down. Yet for some reason, I still thought it would be a piece of cake to beat last year’s time. Why do I continue to over-estimate my abilities?

There were long lines for the Porta-johns. Kurt took this cool shot of people’s shadows as they were waiting in line.

IMG_20130608_074337_357It was humid, and a little chilly until the sun came out. Then it warmed up alarmingly fast. We could definitely feel the sun as we lined up at the starting line.


The first few miles felt hard, but it sometimes takes 5 or 6 before I really start to feel good, so I wasn’t too worried.

Unfortunately, this time it just kept getting harder.

I had one Gu, which I planned to take at around mile 6 or 7. When I got to the water stop at mile 6, the volunteers (mostly kids) were having a water gun fight. There were cups of Gatorade, but no water. A handful of runners had arrived just before me and everybody seemed to want water, so a line had formed. I didn’t feel like waiting, so I just grabbed a Gatorade instead and figured I’d wait to take my Gu with some water at the next water stop.

After what felt like miles, I finally saw the next water stop. It was already much later in the race than I’d wanted to take the Gu, so I went ahead and swallowed it, figuring I’d wash it down with water as soon as I made it to the stop. Again, there was Gatorade, but no water. I asked for water and the girl told me they were out. At first, I thought she meant they just didn’t have any poured (like at the last stop)but she looked around helplessly and it slowly occurred to me that there wasn’t any water left. My jaw dropped, and I snapped “COMPLETELY?”. “Yes” came her sheepish reply.

I felt really bad for snapping at her, but I couldn’t believe that on such a hot day I couldn’t get water at two stops in a row. I had no choice but to wash my Gu down with some thick, sweet gatorade. Yuck. My stomach felt sick and I was just so THIRSTY. I fumed for a while. I was hot and spent and annoyed. I was mostly angry at myself for snapping at the poor girl. She was out there trying to help and it wasn’t her fault. She definitely didn’t deserve that.

By the time I finally took my gu, I knew I didn’t have much of a shot of placing in my age group. I pushed as hard as I could, but there were so many women ahead of me.

I knew I wasn’t doing well, but I have to admit I was more than a little surprised when I got within sight of the finish and realized I was only barely going to beat my time from last year. I knew I was in much better shape this year, and yet the run had felt infinitely harder. I guess I have now learned the importance of a proper taper.

I drank a ton of water and then wandered over to check the results. I’d finished in 1:56:45 and placed 5th in my age group. I’d run a little faster this year, but was even further away from placing than I’d been the year before.

IMG_20130608_103531_133The setting for this race is absolutely beautiful. There’s a reason why they call it God’s Thumbprint.


IMG_20130608_072750_815 No sheep for me again this year! It’s kind of strange how badly I want one. I don’t want to wait another whole year for another chance to win one, but I guess that’s what I’ll have to do.

IMG_20130608_103047_650I had to get a picture of this guy’s shirt. I’m not sure what I would have thought about it if I’d just seen him out around town, but since he was at a race cheering for all the runners, I thought it was pretty funny.

varmint elevationPlacement:5th out of 24 in my age group
32nd out of 147 women
97th out of 283 finishers

Ivy Creek Natural Area

Distance: ~7 miles of trails
Walking: yes
Running: no
Biking: no
Dogs: no
Kid-Friendly: yes
Wheelchair/stroller accessible: education/barn, yes; trails, no
Fee: free

Activities and more information can be found on Ivy Creek Foundation website.

Check out Ivy Creek at Terrain 360.

IMG_20130406_163003_221Ivy Creek is a natural area, so no dogs are allowed. Running is also not permitted. For this reason, it is a great place to see some wildlife. I’ve spotted foxes, turtles, and many deer.

IMG_20130320_093129_948From the parking lot, find the trail that leads toward the education building and barn. Pass the trail/information kiosk on your left, and head toward the barn.

IMG_20130406_163411_762Just past the barn, you can pick up the trail system. Follow the red trail down to the creek. This is a great place to stop and let the kids do some exploring. Continue further down the path, and you will likely find some solitude and you might even spot some wildlife.

A trail map is available here.

Directions from Charlottesville: head north on 29. Turn left on Rio Road, then right onto Earlysville Road. Very soon, you will see Ivy Creek Natural Area on your left.