The children’s rhyme that one thinks of when reading the name of this race is appropriate and a good indicator of things to come. It’s not the words that one has to worry about, but the assortment of impediments that may break your bones. As stated on the website of the race, one should expect any combination of sticks, stones, boulders, mud, scree, trail debris, rocks, sand, slippery rocks, roots, loose rocks, etc. What an exhaustive list, eh?
Knowing what to expect isn’t enough. Along with the beautiful autumnal colors, come the leaves that hide the treachery of the course. If the description doesn’t make you ponder about what you’ve gotten yourself into, surely the location of this devilish run will. Just in time to get one in the mood for Halloween, I welcome you to experience the trails at Devil’s Den State Park.
Another gem in the Natural State, Devil’s Den is located near West Fork in the Boston Mountains of northwest Arkansas. Visiting during this time of year, Mother Nature provides a painting of fall with an explosion of colors as you enjoy the impressive network of trails. The race organizers wanted to make sure you got a crash course on the trails spread throughout the park.
Styx n’ Stones Trail Runs offer two distances. One can run a 15k (9.3 mi.), which are seldom found in Arkansas or a 30k (18.6 mi.), which, to my knowledge, is the only one in the state. Both distances run the first 9 miles together, so hopefully you won’t get lost during the first half.
This is race number five after the Arkansas Traveller 100 in the Ultra Trail Series established by the Arkansas Ultra Running Association (AURA). Northwest Arkansas Speed Association (NASA) hosts the event. This year the race was held the day after Soaring Wings Half Marathon on Sunday October 28, giving runners the opportunity to do both.
Being nestled deep in Lee Creek Valley, the near freezing temperatures had me thinking twice about leaving the warmth of my vehicle. As I walked over to see the rock dam that formed Lake Devil, other runners had some of the same thoughts before the start.
After receiving final instructions from Jason Auer, northwest Arkansas race director extraordinaire, we headed toward the bridge that ran over Lee Creek. After crossing it, we made a left and headed under the bridge, which took us to Yellow Rock Trail. The climb made the temperature feel pleasant. I heard yells of exaltation as I figured those ahead were appreciating the Yellow Rock Overlook.
The course took us on some of the horse and mountain bike trails. It was a diverse course to say the least. Running through campgrounds teased our senses as many were out preparing breakfast. At one point we ran through a grassy field, which made me think of a Civil War re-enactment. Although you’re trying not to break any bones, stopping to take a look around is encouraged. With the Ozark National Forest surrounding you, Devil’s Den provides natural beauty of backcountry areas.
My favorite part of the course came close to the end. Properly named Hell’s Half Mile, it was a descent that forced you to be more attentive than during any other part of the course. It was fun running downhill. It was nowhere near as graceful and violent as watching Kilian Jornet, but dreaming is allowed. After you finish the descent, the end is about a mile away.
I recommend you visit Devil’s Den for the race or to getaway and relax. Jason Auer and Mark DenHerder did a fine job of making this race happen. I had never had a lentil burger until this race, but was happy they were available. I could have drunk the salsa and hummus provided post-race. I suppose I worked up an appetite. You had to be there.
I survived with no bones broken. I can assure you I didn’t see any devils out there, however, there were a few speed demons that blazed the course like bats out of Hell.
The next AURA race is the 3rd Bona Dea 50k, Saturday, November 10, 2012.