A Three Day Journey Through Mud, Rocks, and More Mud
For those not familiar with a stage race, it's a race that takes place over several days. The Grand Viduta Stage race is a three day affair that is run on the trails of Monte Sano mountain, in Huntsville, Alabama. The race starts with a 13 mile run on Friday, followed by a 16 miler on Saturday, and finally a 14 mile run on Sunday.
I ran this race a couple of years ago, but last year I opted for a marathon in Nashville. Needless to say, I decided it was time to return to the trails. I'm going for my 10th finish at next year's Mountain Mist 50K, and I really need to work on my trail running.
Brandon Mader is the race director for the Grand Viduta, and he said the first day was going to be a lot of rocks. It didn't disappoint. There were plenty of rocks. In addition to the rocks, it had rained several days leading up to the race, so many of the rocks were slippery. The neat thing about this race is you run on several trails that are unique to this race. Wagon trail and Wildflower trail are a couple examples of trails that are not part of Mountain Mist or the Dizzy 50K. Also, Brandon does a good job of mixing things up. We ran down Waterline and then at another point in the race we were dumped out on Waterline again going back up.
The first day ended with a run up Toll Gate to Old Railroad Bed, and back to the land trust parking lot.
(Heading out on Day One)
(A well deserved beer at the end of a 13 mile Day. We had a choice between PBR and Rolling Rock. Not even close.)
The second stage of the race was billed as the most runnable, and it lived up to it's billing. Although it was three miles longer than the first day, I finished 3:50, compared to 3:38. The second stage consisted of the Cold Springs Trail, Mountain Mist trail, and Fire Tower trail, to name a few -- all nice single track.
About 12 miles into the run, a nasty fly started buzzing around my head. I tried everything to shake him. I sped up and lost him for a moment. I think he was only resting, because he caught back up with me. I took off my hat and tried to whack him, but to no avail. Finally, he made a critical mistake; he flew into my ear. I trapped him with my glove, and sent him to his final resting place, somewhere on a trail on Monte Sano. R.I.P.
(Running on a pristine section of trail)
(David Holliday and Mica Aguilar)
One aspect of the Grand Viduta that is really nice, is that after each stage, you have a chance to hang out with friends and drink a few beers. I think Ryan Harbaugh was the photographer.
The final day of the Grand Viduta was a total sufferfest for me. I was spent, and it showed. It was my slowest day. I'm used to running through mud. We have a lot of it on the slush mile in McKay Hollow, but nothing prepared me for the endless, deep mud on the Arrowhead trail. It seemed like it would never end. Also, due to some storms earlier in the year, there were several trees that had fallen over the trails. Some I could climb over, but some I had to crawl under.
Earlier in the day, Brandon had us running down K2 (Goat Trail) and then spilling out onto Powerline. This is the exact opposite way that you run this section for Mountain Mist. So, my head was spinning.
Anyway, the race ends with a climb up Death Trail to the State Park's Amphitheater.
(A deceiving picture. This had to be one of the nicest sections of the third Stage.)
(Three Days of Trail Run Glory)
Finally, many thanks to Brandon Mader, Sean Allen, and all the volunteers. Thanks to Melissa Hopper for the race photos.