Continental Divide Trail Race

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Future of Our Sport is Up to Us

By: Alison Bryant

Photos by Anthony Corriveau

On August 27, Jason and I served as race directors for the third edition of the Continental Divide Trail Race. For thethird year, this race also served as the USATF 10 Km Trail Championships. This year, I actually was able to run the race as well as race direct.

The weeks leading up to the race are always busy, fielding emails and phone calls, picking up donations, and filling out bib numbers. We had extra inquiries this year with Hurricane Irene projected to hit the North Carolina coast on race day, luckily the race was  far enough inland to receive only a little wind from Irene. On Friday, I left work at 11:30, went to multiple stores to buy 152 hotdogs, equal numbers of buns, 30 pounds of grapes, and an onion. Yes, I was having a cookout, to answer the questions of every checkout cashier. Then I drove up the mountain to the Laurel Ridge Camp, Conference, and Retreat Center. The camp has been gracious enough to allow us to use their facilities for the last three years. It is a beautiful setting, right on the Eastern Continental Divide (thus the name of the race.) I then spent the evening putting up signs, cutting up onions and jalepanos, being sure that everyone had paid for their pasta dinners, and double checking bib numbers. I fell into bed exhausted at 9:30, but was up before my alarm went off with nerves. Not so much about running, more about race directing. I then set up registration and spent the next two hours doing race day registration and assisting with the pre-registered entries. I was happy when warm-up time finally came and I was able to get some of the nerves worked out. Still, I returned to the registration/food area multiple times to be sure that everything was under control.

Finally the race began. The race starts on top of the mountain in an open field and runs off the side of the mountain four times, forming a cloverleaf pattern. The first downhill is the harshest but the second and fourth climbs are the most difficult. I quickly settled in to about sixth or seventh place. My mind wasn't really in the race yet though. I had too many race director problems to take care of still. I ran past Dave Dunham, our USATF liason, and asked him the question that a male runner had asked me on the starting line about team uniforms. I then came up the hill and saw the camp assistant director standing there. “More toilet paper . . . women's bathroom . . .” She seemed to understand. I tumbled back off the mountain, with a woman right on my heels. Then we hit that second climb, 18% for about a quarter mile. I quickly left the other woman and caught the woman in front of me. Bystanders there toldme that I was the only one running that hill, which kind of surprised me, because that hill is NOTHING compared to some of the stuff I had run earlier this summer. At the top of the hill, I saw the man who had asked the question about team uniforms at the start and was able to give him the answer. Then I finally felt like I started really racing. The woman I had caught passed me on the flatter ground and we ran close together for about two miles, then we went up a small hill and into tight single track again and she fell back. On the final climb, nicknamed “The Rock Climb” by our runners in 2009, I was gaining on the third place woman but ran out of technical trail. She used her sub-18:00 speed to pull away from me when we hit flatter ground. Up the hill to the finish line, I finished in 54:28 for fourth place.

Now, I was happy to place fourth in a national championship, however I was also disappointed. The fact that I placed fourth was telling of the lack of competitiveness of the women's field. I know that there are plenty of faster female trail runners out there, I ran against them all summer. As is too often the case in the trail USATF championships, the best trail runners did not show up. What does this say for our sport? We say that we want to be taken seriously by USATF, however when the time comes to display our abilities, the best of the best don't show up. Runners can say that they don't run the USATF championships because they are not competitive, but 

the only way to improve the competitiveness of the races is to show up. Ladies, this is an open invitation to you all across the country. Come run our race next year and let's make this a real championship, not just a championship in name only. 


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