Birmingham, Alabama: a city with numerous trail systems both surrounding and squeezed next to a busy downtown. The Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve (RMNP) is one of the numerous trail systems inside city limits, encompassing 1000+ acres. Inside of RMNP are the remains of an iron ore mine standing in stark contrast to the green hills. Shady tunnels under southern hardwoods pierce the preserve and provide over eight miles of blazed single-track. Proving true to its terrain, the Ruffner Mountain High Crusher Ridge 21k (raced concurrently with the 42k and 63k) was indeed a ruff course.
The race-day atmosphere with this ultra group was fairly relaxed. After lacing up my Montrail Bajadas and pinning my number, I grabbed my hand-held bottle and headed to the race start. The lovely race director, Vanessa, reviewed the course markings and colored flags, then led us in a tasteful prayer, wishing everyone a great race. The runners lined up behind the bulky timing mats and within moments we were off, rushing into the preserve.
The race started in a fairly benign manner with racers towards the front less anxious to jockey for position. I knew I wanted to keep someone close by as this was new territory and I tend to wander a bit in races. Luckily, I stayed with a gentleman by the name of Mario for about the first seven miles; after that point he took off in search of the two guys holding first and second. Fortunately, another gentleman caught me and kept charging along on the right course. After seeing the thirteen-mile marker, you could hear the small crowd (of which several were family members) cheering at the RMNP visitor center. I finished my single, half-marathon loop and quickly joined my parents and brother’s family for some recovery treats.
The course was great (at least for my 13.1 miles). The terrain was rocky, steep, and peppered with stairs, horseshoe dips, and even a hill with a rope used to descend into a ravine. The aid stations served the runners quite well and one station was blaring 90’s music to keep the fire road segment manageable. In addition to the old mine, great views of Birmingham and even a fire tower were found on the same course. I was happy to complete such a difficult course in 2:03 and to clench the first female position on the podium.
With awesome terrain, historic sites, and a supportive family available in the same race, I’ll be heading back to Ruffner Mountain B’ham to explore more trails.