I’m not one to sign up for inaugural races. Typically, if a race peaks my interest, I prefer to see how the first year goes, let them work some of the kinks out and then read a few race reports before running the race. But there was just something about the Rim to River 100 in West Virginia that really tugged at me when they first announced it. I followed them on their Facebook page, and while it was the Spring of 2020 and we were still deep into Covid and quarantines, I knew I really wanted to run the race. They offered a refund if it was cancelled, the race proceeds were to benefit a non-profit and the race looked epic, what did I have to lose, so I signed up.
My big race of the year was the Bear 100 and since that race was not cancelled, it was my main focus. It was only 6 weeks prior to Rim to River but I felt I could recover and enjoy a beautiful 100 miler in West Virginia. (An inaugural race and the first 100 miler in West Virginia!) After the Bear I talked to my running buddy and also my pacer extraordinaire, Sherri Harvey to see if she was interested in another adventure, this time in West Virginia. When she took a look at the race, she thought maybe she’d like to run this one as her first 100! She put her name on the short waitlist and within days was into the race. Sherri knew for her first she’d like us to have crew rather than go solo, which was my initial thought. We quickly got Brad Goodridge on board to come crew and experience West Virginia with us.
Sherri didn’t have much time to plan, she had a few weekends for long runs between motorcycle weekends with her husband, next thing it seemed we were in West Virginia. The race director had sent out lots of emails with information on the race and had organized all the race information for Brad to crew us. They would start the race in waves with 20 runners every 15 minutes over a 2-hour period until all runners were on course. The overall cutoff time was 32 hours and you had to finish in 32 hrs no matter what your start time was. Cutoffs at the aid stations were based on the final wave of runners, so if you started earlier you needed to sort of keep up with “your” cutoff time because you could get to the finish over 32 hours and not get a finish. It sort of sounds complicated but it really wasn’t.
The start of the race was at Ace Adventure Resort where we had rented a cabin and had a very short walk with Brad down to the start. Sherri and I checked in at the startline and I talked to a couple people I knew and introduced myself to the race director telling him how excited I was for the race. It seemed that they were well organized. We had been instructed that we must start at our assigned wave time (6:45am), the bibs were chipped so they had your start time and you needed to start then or you would receive a DNF.
They had music playing and right on time, our race started. The start was about a half-mile of uphill on switchback roads in the resort before dropping onto some beautiful single tract trails that would circle us around the ridge of the resort. Sherri and I quickly settled into our pace plan of running the downhill’s and flats and power hiking the uphills. A plan that for me saves my legs and keeps me from going out too fast and blowing up. We didn’t have to deal with conga lines because of the wave starts and never felt like we were caught up in the game of going out too hard.
We saw Brad at the first aid station (AS) just 7.5 miles into the race. We knew we wouldn’t need anything at that point, but it’s always nice to see crew. We quickly came and went at that AS, just enough time to dump our jackets that we started in when it was still a little cooler at 6:45am. It would be 19 miles before we would see Brad again The next AS was an out and back section of the course. This section of the course included some of my favorite trails, with old mining railroad beds and beautiful scenery. It was just stunning.
We saw a few runners we knew in this out and back section and with the race so spread out it was nice to see a few more people. We headed from there to the 26-mile AS where we’d see Brad again. We were now down by the river and enjoying more beautiful scenery and views. Our friend Jennifer caught up with us and we shared a few miles and chatted with her. We got food from the AS and went to the car where the crews had set up for their runners. I said hello to some other people I knew who were there crewing other runners before getting what I needed. We then headed out again. We wouldn’t see Brad again until mile 55 and well into the night, so we had to be sure we had lights and some batteries with us now.
I’m not sure any of these pictures do this course justice but I don’t think I could describe it well either. It seems that the race director certainly showcased the best of the best the area had to offer and views that were just gorgeous. The course continued to have good downhills and uphills as we continued on our plan of power hiking, or hiking with a purpose as I call it, and running the downs and flat sections. By the turn around where we saw Brad again, it was definitely getting cool out. The day time temperatures were around 70 with the night calling for low 50’s. Being by the water so much of the time, it was definitely cooler during the night. We had our jackets on but tended to get chilled when we stopped at AS’s during the night hours.
Now we headed back after the seeing Brad at the turnaround. It had been 55 miles there but would be only 45 going back because we would skip a couple of out and back sections. It always feels good to be halfway and counting down the miles. It was now another 27 miles to Brad again and that was always something we looked forward to. These were the early morning hours and felt like some of our slowest. Before getting into an AS we always talked and made notes as to what we needed to do when we got there. One thing was always to eat some real food. The AS’s were all excellent with good choices of hot foods and awesome cheerful volunteers.
As we literally dropped in the AS where we saw Brad next, the steep downhill got to Sherri and her knees and feet were hurting. Mine weren’t much better. The course was surprisingly rocky and lots of roots in sections and I think we both managed to kick more than our share of them. I for one sacrificed at least one toenail to that course which is something I haven’t done in several years. We now had 18 miles to the finish as the day was beginning to warm up just after sunrise. We were able to unload all our headlamps, extra batteries and empty our packs of any extra gear we no longer needed. We kept our light jackets, beanies on our heads and gloves on until it warmed up a little more.
Because we didn’t have to run an out and back on this section like we did on the way out, we headed to an AS we had not yet been to. Once at the Ace Beach AS, we were greeted by some of the most energetic group of volunteers offering us all kinds of food. Sherri’s stomach hadn’t been feeling too great but she was able to drink calories at the AS and her electrolyte drink. All of a sudden we both saw small Butterfinger candies and that was the thing that called to us. First time either of us had touch something sweet during the race, but now only 11.5 miles to go it was our reward. We knew we had the only creek crossing on the course ahead and some good climbing after that, so we got going fairly quickly from the AS. In 7 miles we would see Brad for the final time before the finish. Sometimes the final miles coming into an AS seem like the longest, you think it will be around each corner and it’s not. I always love it when Brad meets me just outside of the AS on the trail. I know when I see him that the AS is just around the corner and he always meets me with a happy smile on his face and encouraging words.
We knew the final AS had beer as many of the runners coming in with us were looking forward to that. I heard they had pancakes and that’s what I wanted. We walked the last little bit into the AS with Brad, again got rid of the extra gear, beanies, gloves and jackets. My friend Michelle who had already finished the race was also there along with a good crowd waiting on runners and cheering us all on. Final push and it’s a buckle for Sherri. There was never a longer 4.5 miles, I have no idea how that always happens in races. As Sherri and I stood at the top of the last short drop just above the finish arch, I looked at her, gave her a high five and congratulated her. We ran down the final hill to music playing, crowds cheering and hearing our names called over the microphone. What an awesome way for Sherri to get to finish her first 100 and be handed that buckle! Our friend Jennifer who had finished not long before us was also there cheering us on. Brad had our vehicle backed up to the finish area and we sat on the back of the van for several hours. Sherri and Brad had a beer, we chatted with other runners and we cheered for those who were finishing. We enjoyed watching so many finish that we had run with and just being safely social distanced with our community. The race director and the volunteers totally knocked it out of the park with their first race. I could not have been happier to be part of it!
The day after the race we went into the little town of Fayetteville to have breakfast at the Cathedral Cafe. We ran into other runners, some of them we had spent time with on the course and some had been AS volunteers. At the Water Stone Outdoors store, one AS volunteer remembered us from the race and we were treated like local legends. We even got to see and say hello to the race director once again as he came into the store. It was definitely a 100-mile experience I would recommend to others. I couldn’t have planned a better race to be Sherri’s first 100 miler! I would not call it an easy course but then I like beautiful and epic, not easy! And of course, no 100-miler is easy, don’t kid yourself.
A couple of after thoughts about the race:
I personally thought the course markers were some of the best, although some may not have agreed. I’ve run races in at least 10 different states, East, West, Mid-West and I’ve seen lots of course markings. I’ve never seen a course that had mileage markers on many of the turns, both going out and coming back you knew where you were by the mileage markers. The flagging at night also had reflective tape and were easy to spot.
There were port-a potties or bathrooms at every AS.
The AS volunteers were among some of the best even though most had never been to a race before or weren’t even runners. They took the best care of us and were always helpful, happy and extremely encouraging.
The social media, emails and communication leading up to the race was some of the best. Their Facebook page was always showcasing photos from parts of the course and the AS volunteers were on their before the race asking what the runners wanted for food/drink. It was so clear that they wanted to do the very best job and they did.
The race also went over the top to put safety measures in place due to Covid. Masks were worn at the start/finish and at aid stations, with plenty of spacing at AS between runners and the workers.