Plans for a group trip to the inaugural Back 40 Trail Weekend were in place; there would be trail running on Saturday and a mountain bike race on Sunday. A weekend cold front arrived with subfreezing wind chills and a forecast for rain. Our group of six arrived at the out of the way AirBnB rental within sight of War Eagle Creek only to find it dark and cold due to an unexpected electrical outage. Rural living has its own set of issues which we willingly accepted, but we opted to drive back into Rogers to the warmth and certainty offered by a chain hotel. After securing lodging, the long day of driving and stressful dilemmas needed to be soothed with nutritional sustenance and liquid refreshment which is plentiful around the Rogers area.
When plans do not follow the expected path, make a new plan and blaze a new path. Little did we know that our misadventures had not ended just yet. The next morning four women piled into one car dressed to run in the cold with bags of warm dry post-run clothes. We all thought we had at least an idea where the starting line was located and thought surely there would be signs; however, having never laid eyes on this trail system before, we got lost. We did find an aid station, though. When we asked for directions the poor kid standing there kept saying “well do you know where ____ is?” Well, no. Actually, we have no idea where we are. We are infinitely thankful to the kind sir who got in his car and led us down many a winding road to get to where we needed to be with seconds to spare before the start.
The trail weekend gave runners who ride or riders who run three options for “doubling” up by doing a 10K/10K, 20M/20M or 40M/40Mwith the same distance options if you just wanted to participate in one day’s event. Three of us chose to do the “Piglet” 10K version while our friend Kelly chose to go for the “Potbelly” 20-mile distance. One morning, four runners, three different mild injuries and miles of fun, the trail did not disappoint. I’ve been listening to friends and loved ones crow about the Blowing Springs and Back 40 trails for a long time without making the time to ride or run them myself. I now understand that I have been missing out. The 10K stayed on the older Blowing Springs section of trail with long flowing sections that made me want to run with my arms out while buzzing like an airplane and mix in a few gnarly rock gardens that may or may not have inspired us to claim “oh no, I’m not sure I want to ride that.” Upon collecting our custom wood chop finisher trophies at the finish line, we immediately headed into the large tent not only for the fact that there were heaters on inside, but Bentonville Brewing Co was on hand with a free pint for all the racers. We also took advantage of free hot hushpuppies and catfish from Catfish John’s food truck while we chatted with the few 10K runners who stuck around and as we waited for Kelly and many of the other friends who were out running the 20 and 40-mile distances. After changing out of our still somewhat wet with sweat running attire, we enjoyed hot coffee and breakfast tacos from The Main Bite. We figured if they were out there shivering with us we should support them by putting more good food and drink in our bellies. As the 40mile runners finished their first of two 20 mile loops, some decided they’d had enough of the cold damp weather and chose to stay put in the warmth of the tent. Kudos to those brave souls who went the full distance.
Sunday morning brought more of the same weather and brought its friend wind and the promise of rain. Suited up and ready to ride, we were five in the car for the morning and we didn’t get lost. The trails were as much fun to ride as they were to run. The trails have something for every rider-fast and flowy, some nice climbs and descents, and some technical rock gardens and drops. The trails weave in and out of the woods and along bluff lines with occasional boardwalks built under the bluffs. The Back40 sections also weave in and out of neighborhoods. Bella Vista mayor and trail race weekend visionary Peter Christie was seen driving between street crossings to cheer the racers who flocked to his city’s trails to run and ride. Knowing the beautiful custom pig awards would be waiting when we finished made getting to the finish line even sweeter. Waiting for friends to finish the longer rides was a repeat of the day before- beer, food, cheering, hot coffee and cocoa, and fun with friends. We’ll see you next year Back40 Trail Race Weekend. Thanks to Rush Running and the city of Bella Vista for the vision. And many thanks to Ryan Holler for one of the best race shirt graphics I’ve ever had the pleasure of wearing.