Race host/organizer: Richmond Road Runner’s Club
Registration: through Raceit.com
Cost: $20 for RRRC members: $25 for non-members (entrance fee to the park is included in registration)
Packet pick up: Race-day packet pick-up the morning of the race was inside a heated building with bathrooms, which was nice. (There was no expo.)
Getting there/parking: Roughly an hour west of Richmond, Virginia. Parking is limited so registrants are encouraged to carpool.
Total number of runners: ~200 / 161 finishers
Course: The terrain was challenging, to say the least. Most of the course is on technical, single-track trail, with lots of roots and rocks covered by a slippery layer of leaves. Parts of the trail were very muddy. The trail runs through woods with rolling hills, some steep, and requires multiple stream crossings. My Garmin reported 669 feet of elevation gain, but it felt like much more. Depending upon the water level, it may be possible to keep your feet dry during the stream crossings, but unlikely given that the crossings are quite slippery. In wetter years, I think the water is at least ankle deep, and keeping feet dry is not an option. And the water is icy cold.
We began passing the faster runners going the other way shortly after our first water stop, and because the trail is single track and you’re supposed to yield to faster runners, we stepped off the trail to let each runner pass. We didn’t mind at all, but it definitely slowed us down a lot.
Overall: RRRC always seems to go a great job in managing races, and this was no exception. Race was timed but not chip-timed.
Starting wave management: N/A
Course management: Trail was well-marked, although a few people took a wrong turn
SAG: 3 water stops
Facilities: Indoor bathrooms at packet pick up and a porti-potti at the start. None on the course.
Swag: good quality cotton unisex long-sleeve t-shirt
Post-race food: minimal (bananas & maybe something else?)
Post-race party: N/A, but some of the runners brought food and tail-gated afterward
Age divisions: 5 year age divisions, but I don’t know what the awards were since I missed the awards ceremony
Awards ceremony: the awards ceremony was over by the time we finished the race
Bag check: N/A. (It was such a small race, people left jackets at the start and first water station, which we passed on the way back.)
How race went for me: In my limited experience, this is the most difficult race I’ve run. While I had been running trails semi-weekly for about 6 months prior to the race, I wasn’t prepared for trails like those at Bear Creek. The layer of leaves on the trail hid all of the roots and rocks, and made it very difficult to get solid footing. Ten miles of running on leaves up and down hills took a toll on my body. I tripped twice in the last couple miles and landed hard on my knees, and both knees were hurting by the end. That said, my friends and I thoroughly enjoyed it, and intend to do it again next year, when we’re better prepared and know what to expect. It felt like a huge accomplishment to finish, even though we finished near the back of the pack. The woods were beautiful and it was very peaceful once the group spread out.
Conclusion: I highly recommend Bear Creek for those who run trails regularly, but I would not recommend it for the novice runner, or for the runner who only runs on the road.