Oboz Trail Experience: Charlottesville

The Oboz Trail Experience is a challenge to hike or run a certain number of predetermined local(ish) trails within a month. With only seven locations this year, I was surprised that Charlottesville made the cut (among the likes of Bozeman, MT, Burlington, VT, and Fort Collins, CO.) I’m assuming it’s because a new Public Lands just opened here.

Total distance varied by location. For Charlottesville, there were 22 trail segments totaling 101.52 miles to be completed within the month of October. It’s free to sign up and all you have to do is connect an Activity Tracking account and the website updates automatically once you complete a segment. The trail segments ranged from 1.76 miles to 13.29 miles. Some are flat and relatively easy and some are mountainous and technical. The combined elevation gain for all 101.52 miles was 30,516 feet.

I was worried about the technical aspect (figuring out how to connect and sync my Garmin) because it’s not something I’m great at, but it was easy and everything went (relatively) smoothly.

I can’t upload (download? I’m clueless.) maps to my Garmin, and the challenge did seem to assume that you could do that. I had to put some effort into figuring out where I was actually supposed to go once I was out there. Luckily, I was familiar with all but two of the trails. But the exact route I needed to take for the challenge often differed from the one(s) I usually take. I ended up with a few bonus miles as a result, but that just added to the challenge.

It was fun to monitor everyone’s progress on the Oboz Trail Experience website. There is a map of all of the included trail segments that switch from red to green once you complete them. You can click on each participant’s name and see their map and which trails they’ve completed. There’s also a Facebook page where you can share pictures, ask questions and interact with other participants.

Oboz and Public Lands donate $10 to local nonprofits (Ivy Creek Foundation, Rivanna Trails Foundation, and Shenandoah National Park Trust for the Charlottesville one) every time someone completes an associated promoted trail segment.

There are also several promoted trail segments that you get prizes for completing. I think you pick them up at Public Lands, but I haven’t done that yet. I’m trying very hard not to accumulate things I don’t need. One of the prizes was a pair of Farm to Feet socks that I could actually use, so I may try to pick them up at some point.

I ran most of the segments but did some hiking too. Running isn’t allowed at Ivy Creek so I had to hike that one. Once I started the challenge, my competitive edge took over and I wanted to finish as quickly as I could. Since I don’t usually run every day and was worried I would end up injured if I did, I hiked some of the segments so I could complete more of them each week.

The only bad thing about this challenge is all of the driving involved. I’ve cut way back on how much I drive for environmental and economic reasons. I typically only need to fill my gas tank once a month at most. I was filling it weekly during the challenge.

Getting out on so many trails did wonders for my mental health though. I may need to let go of some of the guilt and drive to more trails. Trail running makes me happy.

The challenge got me back to some of my favorite trails that I haven’t been to in a while. I loved watching the sunrise from Turk mountain.

Walnut Creek used to be my favorite place to run and I hadn’t been there in over a year.

It also got me out on trails that I love but tend to avoid running on because they’re so technical (Three Ridges and Riprap/Wildcat.)

Three Ridges

I always try to run Riprap/Wildcat in the spring when the Rhododendrons are blooming but it is equally spectacular in the fall.

Overall, I didn’t run more miles than I normally would have during the challenge, but I did run more trail miles. I also did more hiking and a lot more climbing.

The sections of the Rivanna Trail included in the challenge made me realize that I really should take advantage of it more than I do. The Rivanna Trail is a twenty-mile singletrack loop around Charlottesville. It’s a great perk that I tend to take for granted.

There was an afterparty at Public Lands with free food and Oboz shoe giveaways. I was in Montebello getting ready to run Mountain Masochist that night, so I wasn’t able to attend. Although if I’m being honest, I wouldn’t have gone anyway. Social things are hard.

CATAss Run (September 4, 2017)

“Fat Ass” runs adhere to the motto “No fees, no awards, no aid, no wimps.”

In his post The Fat Ass Ultra: A History on the Trail and Ultra Running website, Sherpa John writes:

Many folks aren’t too keen on the idea of Fat Ass events, and that is a part of their design. Fat Ass runs typically serve as training runs and social events for those more “committed” ultra runners. Think about it, running 50K or 50 miles for nothing more than the satisfaction that you can do so. No awards, no t-shirt, no nothing. Just miles. In essence, this is the beauty of Fat Ass runs.

The CATAss 25K/50K is our local Charlottesville Area Trail Runner’s version. According to their website, this was their fourth and final one of the year.

It was my first. I was nervous about going. I’ve done a couple of CAT (non-Ass) runs in the past and I’m always one of the slowest people there. Plus, social things scare me.

But I went.

Photo credit: David Carl Smith

Options were given for just about every distance up to 50K. Brian and I chose the 24 mile option. The course was nice, but tough. We had done all but the Jones run and Doyles River trails on other training runs. What a doozy those two trails turned out to be. Lots of technical rocky sections and super steep climbing. But also some nice waterfalls.


We were told we needed to carry enough food and water to last for whatever distance we were running. It had been heavily hinted that there would be a “surprise aid station” at Turk gap, though.

Sure enough, Andy Jones Wilkins was up there with an impressive spread of food and drinks and his ever-ready smile. I swear, the guy lives and breathes for running. It doesn’t matter who’s doing it. If someone is running, Andy is happy.

Photo credit: David Carl Smith

I was really glad he was there, because I would’ve run out of water otherwise.

We ran with a couple different groups for the first 5.5 miles, and saw some people who were doing shorter distances heading back down, but after about mile 7.5, we didn’t see another runner until the finish. We knew that David and Costi were behind us because they were sweeping.

I had some chafing issues (apparently 2Toms SportShield can only stand up to my level of sweating for about two hours). And, although it works great (for a while) if you apply it to dry skin, I’ve had no luck trying to reapply it when I’m already sweating. I don’t sweat like a normal person, though. My shorts were dripping down my legs two hours into the run. Brian’s shorts weren’t even damp. 2Toms still works better than Body Glide, though.

My knee/IT band started bothering me around mile 17, on the descent from Turk mountain. It’s still hurting this morning, which of course is stressing me out.

But I got to jump in Snake hole about a quarter mile from the finish, which felt spectacular. Cold mountain water to wash away all the sweat and grime, plus we were almost done!

We ended up with about 4600 feet of elevation gain and 24 miles almost on the dot (24.06 to be exact).

When we got back to the parking lot, almost everyone was long gone, but there were a few people who had run 18 or 24 miles still sitting and standing around a table full of snacks down by the river. We hung out for a while, but I needed some real food too badly to stay for long. I wish I’d thought to bring a sandwich. It would’ve been nice to sit by the river and wait for the rest of the runners to come in. My stomach just wasn’t having it.