Bull Run Run Training 1.
BRR training started a week after the MMT training run. I did both sets of training last year and doing them again this year. The only difference this time is I will be running in the BRR (actual race) this year. Last year, I only did the training runs but not the race itself. It’s long story, which I am about to tell.
What is BRR? It stands for Bull Run Run. The race has been rebranded as BROT, which stands for Bull Run & Occoquan Trail Run, but I prefer BRR better for short, because that is the name I first encountered with this race and it rolls off the tongue. Yes, it is related to the American Civil War also, the Battle of Bull Run. I don’t know much of its history even though I visited the Manassa battle field and its museum. Funny thing was during the training run, an older runner was listening to a podcast about the Bull Run Battle. He forgot to bring his ear piece, so he had it on speaker. The few of us crowded around him to listen along with him.
Note, I use the abbreviation of BRR to refer to the race (in April) and the training runs interchangeably, but rarely will I refer to the trail itself, even though that is the name of the trail. I know, hope it won’t be too confusing to my readers. In the same way, I’ll refer to MMT as the race and its training runs, even though it is the name of that trail.
History, my history: Since forever, might be 2017 or 2018, in my early years of running, I had wanted to do this race. Every single year, I missed the registration because either they only opened for club members or by invitation only or they were quickly filled out and I missed out.
There is some weird procedure to get onto the wait list. You are given a random number when you registered, and then the pick is based on a particular day of the stock market closing index price mentioned ahead of time. Depending if the index goes up or down, it would determine the sort ordering, for getting people off the list. They say it is clearly explained on their sign up website and is fair since the stock market is supposed to be random.
I just find the sign up procedure weird. And math, I love math, but for a lot of people, it could be a turn off. It is like you have to solve some high level math problem to sign up a race. They also use some Latin words on their races too (yes, it runs by a bunch of brainy older people — lawyers). I took Latin as my foreign language elective, so I love Latin. But if I am a younger zoomer/millenial, I might not sign up. I’m not knocking at them. I was introduced into the racing world using the modern way of run-signup and ultra-signup websites, so was expecting something more slick. BRR sign up site is just unusual. Anyway, I finally got on the sign up list this year, without much problem. It was like my fifth or sixth try.
So I will be religiously doing all the training runs. The truth is the race no longer scares me as it once did and I don’t need to train for it. I could do a 50 miler on any weekend without breaking a sweat (maybe a little), as I proved last season. However, I found from last year that BRR training run was very good for my MMT and I think a lot runners who will be running the MMT would do the BRR as preparation. So here I am.
We had a good day. The temperature was between 35-45 F, way warmer than a week earlier. It felt it was more like fall weather. They were saying last year temperature was 6 or 16 degrees. Making today a nice day for a winter run. I had expected the run to run west, where my house is, only later after finishing, I found on their Facebook page that they made a last minute change, to have the run toward east because of the trail work being done on the west side. But anyway, it did not matter. A training run is a training run. Running eastward actually was more beneficial for me due there being more hills.
I originally planned to wake up maybe at 3:30 am but overslept until 5:30, because I stayed up too late the night before. Anyway, I got home late due to lunar eve-eve new year’s celebration. I made very little preparation unlike the week before when I prepared for the MMT training run. This was a local run, and in the city, so no need to fret about packing emergency aid, food, and everything. Water was the only thing I needed. And no need to set an alarm, so as it turned out, I overslept.
So I got up around 5:30 and I was thinking to myself, if could I still make it. I did not think I could make it on time after a bit of calculations. The original plan was to run from my house to the trailhead maybe at most 5 miles away and from there run to Hemlock Overlook, which was also about another 5 miles, where the rest of the group would meet. At the time, I did not know the distance was 5 miles, but I was planning a 4 hour run to the real starting line. We were to meet at 8 am, so it meant a 4 am start from my house. It would have given me a lot of mileage that day, again, at the time I didn’t know how far, but I was planning for a 30-40 mile day.
Because I was running late, I decided to drive to the trailhead instead. The actual meet location was too early for me to be there and I wanted to have some early miles done. As I was driving, I made up my mind to go a trailhead nearer to my home, Rt 28 parking lot, but it was not the lot where everyone to meet. It saved me from running 4 or 5 miles from my house, but still would give me plenty miles for the day. I arrived there before sunrise. I was the first person in the lot. I got everything ready and as first light dawned (around 7 am), I hit the trail. It is a county park, so technically we were not allowed to be on the trail when it is dark. That was the reason I waited for some light, so I didn’t have to use a headlamp and also I would not be violating any local ordiances. I doubt anyone would call the cops on me, but you never know.
I tried this run last year too but I was slower last year and missed the group start. This year I started 15 minutes earlier and I must have run faster. I met my goal of getting to Hemlock by 8 o’clock.
The first couple miles, I was running at a slower pace, of 15 min mile. It was very slow. I had not warm up yet and the terrain was uneven. It was a bit cold but I knew also it should be warming up by noon time.
I arrived at Hemlock as the group just started off. I could see them from maybe 100 yards away. I was not too late. I caught up with the group as they were circling around the parking lot. There were maybe 75-100 of us, which was quite a big group for a training run. Some came late too as usual since this was in the city. There were whole lot of excitement.
I was more familiar with the trail this year than last year. I made many posts about this trail before. Those were the days when I first explored it on my own, I think around 2020 and 2021. It was such a joy then as it is now. Now running on it again, and finally the first time with the big group, I felt great. I had previous good memories as I ran. BRR training was where I met Iris, who later helped crew me at my Devil Dog. People like Iris are dear to me. That was just last year, but it felt so long ago. This year, Iris wasn’t there. A race director once told me, that volunteers are his dearest people, so it is the same for me. Anyone helped me in a race, they are my “brothers and sisters, and mother and father.”
BRR and MMT are almost same for me in my mind. I’d lump both of them together. They were both organized by the same group of people, my local trail running group. It is quite famous here in the tri-state (DC, Maryland, and Virginia, well DC isn’t a state, but you know, we treated it like one). It’s name though is probably well known to our surrounding states as well, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. MMT is probably more well known around the nation in the trail community, since it had been around for a long time and it is a 100 miler.
But as for the BRR, it is much more modest. It is a local race. And it is only a 50 mile compares to the 100 miler sibbling. This training run had only about 1500 ft of elevation change. The course is a series of rolling hills, so not that bad actually, at least for me who went to last week training for the MMT training run, where we did 5000 ft of climbing in a single day. Still I believe, BRR helps my training.
I fell into my pace after couple miles. I met up with a friend from DC (Jana), and we ran together to the Bull Run’s Marina. I was surprised to see her here. She recently has done a lot trail runs, such as Naked Nick. She said though 50K is her max. I tried to convince her to try running a 50 miler, but she said she doesn’t do night time running. I said, it is only maybe an hour of darkness, and if she moves fast, she would finish before dark. I hope some day to get her to join me on longer runs.
At the marina, we took a break at the aid station for this run. It was an out and back, so we would be back here again. It was well stocked with everything we needed, fruits, candies, sodas. And this training run was all free to us. It was festive because we had a big group there. We took a couple group photos. I recognized many familiar faces. However, I am not friend with them, like I am with Iris, Ram and Caroline. They were not on first name basis, but rather it was hey runner. Some people turned around here early to go back to Hemlock, since this is individual decision of how much or how long they wanted to be out there. For a few of us who needed more miles, we continued toward Fountainhead Park, which was about 6.5 miles away.
Jana also went for a few miles more so that she would finish the day with 12 miles. I wanted to go until I was tired. 12 miles were too little for me. Though since I had 5 miles earlier, if I turned around then I would have 22 miles for the day, Jana told me. I did not believe her at the time, but her math did check out.
It was too early for me to be turning around though. After saying goodbye to Jana, I continued toward Fountainhead. I got to mile 14, and turned around at the road, wolf run or something, maybe a mile or two before reaching Fountainhead. During the real BRR, this would be an aid station. By then many already turned around, and I believed I was the last one. I caught sight of Tracy and Tina — I believed I ran with Tina (from Baltimore) last year on this run, but she didn’t remember me. She arrived late last year and everyone had left, so it was me and her and she didn’t know the way and I led that time. Anyway, she was on time this year. She partnered up with Tracy. I didn’t know Tracy at the time.
I tried to rush back so that the group if they were waiting for me would not have to wait for too long. I don’t need people to wait for me, but I am known within this group as one who likely to get lost and also one of the slowest. I was then stopped by a couple Asian hikers, because I looked Asian, they started up a conversation. They wanted to know about my parents and if I attended church, since chinese here in the area all kind of know one another. All they just need you know who your parents are and who your pastor is before long they could identify you. I stopped and started talking to them. Last I’ve been to a chinese church was almost 20 years ago. Things changed.
Then a couple more runners came by and I believed they were part of our running group. I quickly caught up to them and joined in their run. Indeed, they were part of our training run. I was glad I was not the last person on the trail. Sorry to the asian hikers. They did not know I was in a group run. I left them behind. Actually, I stopped for way too long (maybe 15-20 minutes) and I was cooling off to the point I was starting to shake. Again, we are in two different worlds between runners and hikers. Hikers felt they have all day to talk. We runners are more bounded by time and have to get going.
I found out the two runners started late and kind of doing their own thing but they were stronger runners than me. Josh came to the run from Virginia Beach and he did the BRR 50 miler race last year. His friend, Spencer, was the area native. They wanted to have 20 miles that day. I told them I already had 19 miles in and hoping maybe for 10 more by the time I finished. I could only stayed with them for about 2 miles and had to slow down. Their pace was too strong for me. I think Josh could run the race in 8-9 hours. Spencer is a bit weaker, but not by much. They both were in excellent built and young, maybe 5-10 years younger than me.
We got back to the Bull Run’s Marina. Quatro the aid station captain and this training run RD, was still there. We were guessing he would have left by then. The time was around 11:30. I was glad because at least I could get water and some cookies for my return trip. From the Marina back to Hemlock is about 4 miles. I was bonking hard during this stetch. I took the red trail up to Hemlock instead of following blue circling around the base, and climbling up on the otherside. My short cut saved me maybe a mile. Of course, during the race, this would be a DNF. Today though wasn’t a race.
Quatro was already back from the Marina. I expected that. He said couple other runners were still out besides Josh and Spencer. Shortly, we saw them came in (Tracy and Tina). I stayed for a few more minutes until Josh and Spencer also came in.
I still had five more miles from Hemlock to my car. Slowly but surely I made it back to my car. I did come across of the group that was repairing the trail.
For training goes, it was a run. A good run. Last week I worked on more technical stuff. This week was mostly working on the consistency in my run. I needed both types of training. The trail was runnable and so it was a good training on relatively flat ground with some hills tossed in. I had some solid “fast” miles while I was with Jana. Jana was about my pace, but I had to run to keep up with her. I believe I could out run her, but on this training run, she was stronger.
I still have to work on to be a stronger trail runner. I crapped out too early. I need to have stronger endurance. I need to run faster uphill and also downhill. I know I would do fine for the BRR race because I am a strong hiker. However, I want to be able to run the full 50 miles instead of just hiking it. Also it would help me on the MMT in May. BRR training is complementary to the MMT training.
BRR will give us a generous 13 hours to finish. I think I could do it in 12 hours. I hope maybe get it down to 11. Any below 11 hours would be a pipe dream. Since the training run was not a race, I finished around 2 pm. 7 hours after I started. I put in 27-28 miles. I did not have my gps watch on me, so couldn’t tell the actual distance I ran. There will be a few more training runs, one in Feb and one in March. Overall, I had a great time, a much more enjoyable than when I was at the MMT first training run. A couple guys recognized me from the week before.
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