WOW - What an amazing day at Babcock this year!
We had a record turnout with pretty much perfect conditions for our 2014 Gristmill Grinder- I am so psyched about how it all went. Many new faces took the tour this year and from the comments it was two thumbs up on the course. We also had a strong group of Babcock vets and locals who put on a great showing. We had fast times, lots of smiling faces and an awesome crew of volunteers.
You knew it was going to be a special day, months in advance. The race had filled to the cap by January 21st this year with almost no advertising at all. Trail damage over the winter was minimal as compared to last year so the trails were mostly runnable. And people did run there. As the day approached an almost tangible electricity was in the air. It was apparent online though facebook, and my phone almost literally exploded as the volume of texts, phone calls and emails went off the chart. It made me nervous actually, though I couldn't understand why. Maybe it was because Babcock had become such a popular event and I didn't want to let anyone down. I really should have just shrugged it off though - because Babcock NEVER lets anyone down!
Before runners ever started to show up we had water and tables being dropped off at Aid Stations and banners were being hung at the Start area. A few key directional arrows were being placed and signs were put up for parking. Everyone was moving - and as the packet pick up was being organized by Mary, Kim, Julie and Ginger wearing a "Sock Monkey" costume (thanks so much you guys) a few folks started to mill around. Then you came - in a steady stream of cars from all over the region - you came. You could see some nervous smiles from some first timers, and hugs from some old friends. Temps were pretty nice, about 50 degrees with cloud cover. The course was dry for the most part which could mean some fast times would be posted. I felt like I was vibrating I was so excited. Finally we were ready, and like the calm before the storm folks lined up at the start and stood still. After a couple of starting gun flops - the gun is fired and Babcock #10 is under way!
A lead pack of serious runners almost immediately pushed ahead of the rest of the group. This pack had three people in it that had won at Babcock before, one of which was Robert Smith from Huntington who had won the race several times in the past. Also in that pack was Joel Wolpert from Belington WV. Joel had been recovering from an injury and had not raced here in a few years. Joel also has the course record.... hmmmm. Representing the women in the front pack was Jamie Fields from Fayetteville. Jamie has taken top honors for the women several times over the years, though we had a few new faces in the women's category. This would truly be a race... but it would be much much more. There were many first time Babcock runners and many first time trail race runners. For these folks Babcock would be a journey. On the first trail section they would be running and bounding like kids in the woods, crossing creeks, watching for rocks and roots. At times in some sections of the course these folks would be on cruise control and run easily on the soft moss through the rhodo tunnels. At other times and other sections there would be steep mountains climbing up out of sight. You just put your head down and go. Babcock constantly changes and challenges you right from the very start. There are sections with huge vertical drops just 2 feet away from your feet and places where you scramble and have to use your hands to climb. In the middle of the rugged wilderness you are running alone - but never alone. Other folks pull you along, a word or a gesture helps you to pick yourself up. You run. You run through mud and rocks, along waterfalls and cliffs. You become a trail runner....
As the first finishers came into view at the finish the results began to post. Robert Smith held on and finished 1st overall with a PR at Babcock and a time of 1:23:40.2. Joel Wolpert's course record stayed intact, and he was just a few minutes back for 2nd overall with a time of 1:28:52.6. Amazingly fast times! For the women we would have a new overall winner - Kristin Eddy from Herndon VA with a time of 1:45:18.9. The 2nd overall woman was also new to Babcock, Megan Truelove from Scott Depot, with a time of 1:50:12.7. As these runners came into the finish line other folks were still running... through the mud and rocks. Pulling yourself up with your hands, looking at the waterfalls as you jog by. You are trail runners...
Thank You All - for making this years event such a success! Babcock is a special place and when you are here it is even more special-. So- due to popular request we have already set our date for next year - April 18th, 2015. Mark your calendar now and plan to register in the fall. We will announce when registration opens. Until then- come back and visit! You know all those rhododendron in Babcock? Well, they all bloom in mid late May and it is worth a visit. Take your time and some pics along the way. Let us know when you come and we may join you, until then - Happy Trails!!
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All race recaps with links to results and photos are on the right sidebar so grab a cool beverage and relive a decade of running at Babcock- we hope to see you on the trail!
Keep checking back for news and updates and help us spread the word - Babcock Gristmill Grinder 2015 is coming!!