August 28, 2004
This is my third year of running the Bulldog Trail 50K, but this is the first year that it is put on by a new Race Director, Nancy Shura-Dervin. The race has been modified slightly – the biggest part is that they don’t have permission to use the Backbone trail, so essentially, we do about 28K (an almost complete loop with an extra hill loop early) and then we turn around and go back almost exactly the same way. The RD makes a specific announcement that we will NEVER find ourselves on a sustained paved road, and to follow the chalk marks on the ground.
So… we start on the route, and almost immediately, it doesn’t seem familiar to me; we are heading away from the big hill that we usually like to climb. Within about 15 minutes, we are a sustained, paved road. Hmm… Then I see the race leaders coming back towards me… then they turn around again and head back up the road.
I am running with my friend “Black’n’Blood” and we find marks across the road and follow them for a bit. I eventually tell him that I am going to retrace my steps back to a point where I know where I am. He says he’s going to continue to follow the marks until it gets where he’s supposed to go.
My backtracking takes me back to a volunteer who says that someone came early in the morning and sabotaged the course, and points me in the correct direction. One HOUR has elapsed and I have covered ONE MILE.
I am now interspersed with the runners doing the 30K (who started 30 minutes behind us), and heading up the big hill one hour later. Fortunately, it is foggy and stays cool until right about the time I head down the hill at the other side and hit the turnaround. NOW, it’s HOT! (Had the course not been sabotaged, I could be at least 30 minutes further up this hill before the extra heat kicked in!)
When I get back to the flatlands on the other end (i.e. close to the finish), I remember that we are not supposed to do the same 2-mile loop we did in the morning. I ask the volunteer that is redirecting me up that hill if she is SURE that we are supposed to go that way. She says an emphatic, “Yes” (but I still know it is NOT correct).
I finish in a less than impressive 8:24, and figured that I ran at least 36 miles (a TAD more than the 30.5 posted on the website). “Black” does between 38 and 40 miles, because what he followed looped around and back to the start, and he didn’t get to Mile 1 until at least 90 minutes had elapsed.
At the finish line, I get the same medal as I have gotten in the past, and an incredible shirt that says, “Bulldog TRIAL Race.” Apparently, someone did Spell Check on the shirt, but didn’t actually read what it said.
In the aftermath of the race, the response from race director regarding the problems with the course (both the sabotage and the misrouting at the end) was that the runners should take responsibility to know the course and to follow it correctly.
That convinced me not to run this race again. I am conscientious about following the trail correctly, but when you get to intersections that do not have labeling, I don’t think I should be guessing which way to go, especially when there are markings on the ground… AND it never pays to fight with volunteers over the direction of the course.
I felt the RD should have said, “I’m sorry that some individuals messed with the course. That may be the price we pay for having a race in a state park. Next year, I will be sure that all volunteers are familiar with the course and their responsibilities in directing runners.”
In the end, Bulldog turned to be a real “trial” race.