A Devil Dog’s Tale (Tail?)
Toni Aurilio’s Devil Dog 100 miler is now three years old. You would think that with a December race date, she would have better luck with the weather than she has had to date. Or perhaps a year of ice and another year of cold rain and mud were all part of her evil scheduling plan …
Regardless, this challenging 100 mile and 100 km race on the trails at Prince William Forest Park once again teased another sell-out crowd into signing up and lacing ‘em on in 2018. As in Ice Year One, Mud Year Three saw a finishing rate for the five-loop 100 mile racers of under 50% (43% of the 117 starters). Nearly 75% of the 109 starters in the 100k finished their three loops under the 20 hour cutoff. 2017’s races were held in wonderful, dry conditions, and saw only an incremental improvement in the finishing rates. The Devil Dog races clearly draw a tough breed of runner, generally undetered by whatever conditions the trails may be in.
First to the finish was the VHTRC’s very own Keith Knipling (former club prez and current member of its “Bored”). Keith was back to defend his 2017 crown, and to continue his streak of three finishes (he was second in the Ice Year of 2016). His time in 2018 was just over 22 hours, which placed him four hours ahead of the second place finisher. Keith thus was the only runner to finish in the dark of this December night.
Fourth overall, and first woman, was the VHTRC’s Krista Offield. Krista was finishing her very first 100 miler, and she got it done in a hurry - her time was 27:41, which is the third fastest for women in the (short) history of the Devil Dog race. But again, this was the Year of the Mud!
Keith was also the only finisher to come in under 24 hours. Five runners finished under the 24 hour mark in the race’s inaugural year, so clearly the mud trumped the ice as far as impeding the runners. The weather guessers again failed miserably at their only job: guessing what the weather is going to be. The forecast called for a day in the 20s and 30s, with wet weather filtering in as the morning turned to afternoon. The rain would then give way to a warm front, and temps were set to be in the 50s by midnight and into the 60s by Day Two of the 100 miler. Well, that sure didn’t happen. The steady drizzle hung around much of the day, tapered off as evening fell … and then gave way to steadier rain and colder temps through much of the night. The course had its boggy sections for those daytime loops, but by nightfall, much of the course had become a slick mudslick that just added to the race’s entertainment value. Kudos to the runners who overcame those added challenges to find the finish line. And to the race staff and their hordes of eager volunteers, who provided top-notch support throughout the weekend.
Tentative plans are for the 2019 Devil Dog races to be held in their customary calendar slot, the first weekend in December. A clear pattern has developed, with even-numbered years featuring “weather challenges” and odd-numbered years providing clear sailing on fast trails to the runners. So expect wonderful condition and great things as the fourth year of the races come into view next December!