There is now less than a week before the Monument Avenue 10K. For my final phase of training I am sticking to non-running cardio exercise, as I think I have the legs to run a decent time, but my pace will probably be determined by how hard I'm breathing! In that vein, I dusted off my mountain bike and went to survey the James River Scramble course.
The first thing I would like to say is that it feels like a lot further than 10K! Just the thought of running some of those sections is enough to scare a man. The second thing that struck me is that the trails are going to get pretty congested at certain points, what with 1250 runners crowding through there. I hope people are good natured because an over eager competitor could easily push someone off a cliff.
The start is harmless enough, although the first half click probably has more terrain than the entire Monument Ave race. It's smooth sailing over the Mayo Bridge, then the first real pain strikes shortly after in the form of the staircase up onto the flood wall. Thankfully running along the top of the floodwall provides another section a flat terrain. As if to make you pay for how easy you've had it so far, the course then heads straight up the side of an old railway embankment, kicknamed the 'Mayan Ruins'.
At this point there is a slight reprieve as you come out on Riverview Drive for a while, then across the railway, down the spiral staircase and onto another flat section of fireroad. I've just realised I misread the map when i was out on the trail. I had thought the course took in a section of Buttermilk trail, which would have been lethal, but actually it loops back on the footpaths next to the river. This way you come out on the rocks to the South-West of Belle Isle and have to rock-hop to get over to the island. Therein lies probably the worst section of the course, on the interior of Belle Isle. "Gnarly" is the only way to describe it! You'd have thought it would be smooth running back to the Start/Finish line, but I have no doubt the undulating footbridge under Robert E Lee will claim some casualties.