“Just wait till you get on the trail, you haven’t had a chance to ride this part yet, you’re going to wish you had your bike.” said Joe. I’ve ridden or run enough of the trail at Iron Mountain to know I was in for a treat, even if the “treat” was running two laps of a five mile loop on terrain ranging from rugged singletrack to pavement, with jeep trail and wide gravel in between. Iron Mountain sings the Siren song to mountain bikers, enticing riders to roll over her rocks and roots and to swoop her berms. When the tune is sweet for the roll, it’s usually sweet for the run so it’s no surprise that the trail calls to runners who prefer the feel of grit under their feet over pounding the pavement
The race began in the parking lot of the DeGray Lake spillway and went across the street to enter the newest section of the more than 20 miles of single track at Iron Mountain. Joe was right, within 1/4 of a mile I was putting my hands out like they were on handlebars as I ran along the berms, lining up as if my wheels were turning on the dirt instead of my feet. Built with bikes in mind, the climbs and descents are switchbacks. The singletrack varied from smooth to rock garden, testing the agility and balance of racers. There weren’t a lot of runners which surprised me. This is a great trail and with 5 and 10 mile options it should have been an attractive event for a wide range of athletes, so be on the lookout for this run next year. I fell into pace with someone pretty quickly and we spent the next 9.5 miles pushing, pulling, and encouraging each other along.
Post-run shenanigans included a parking lot party as we cheered the last couple of runners in and waited for awards. It had been a chilly morning and as runners cooled down, many went in search of the jackets that had been tossed aside at the start. There was talk of favorite sections, talk of sections that were tough, talk of the hunter that made a front runner stop in his tracks and talk of bringing bikes back to hit that sweetness. I’ll be back. I’ll bring my bike. And I’ll probably be bringing my running shoes too.
This was the first race of the Arkansas Trail Series, make sure to get signed up for the shorter but more technical 4 mile run, Race the Base, at Pinnacle Mountain State Park.
Results are up on the DLT Events web site. We’ll have the rest of the photos up today on our Facebook Page.