Big Elk Off Road
by Jessica Buch • November 11, 2022
Mid Atlantic Super Series
Big Elk Off Road
Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area, Elkton, MD
August 20th, 2022
We are back again in Elkton, MD, for a second round of XC racing at Fair Hill. The Big Elk course is entirely different from the Spring XC course but still comes in at around 7 miles a lap for a total of 22 miles with approximately 2,100 ft of elevation.
I felt confident coming into this race after just getting home from a trip up to Maine that included no shortage of MTB rides. The weather was perfect after racing in so much high heat and humidity all summer. The Cat 1 Elite women’s field had a small turnout for this race compared to most of the season, and only six of us lined up at the start.
Big Elk is always a fast race. Even the Spring XC course is quick. The trails here at Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area are very flowy, and even though this course does offer some tech, it isn’t very challenging.
The course begins on a gravel road prolog that tapers off into the woods. The trails are peppered with small creek crossings; I’ve tried counting them. There are 6 or 7 open crossings and 2 or 3 with bridges, so you cannot be afraid to get your toes wet. The views along the course are beautiful as you twist around the flowy trail system. Old farm ruins, open forest floors covered in May Apples and ferns, and Big Elk Creek runs right through the middle. There is no lack of climbing, but the climbs are well balanced throughout the lap and are linked together with fun descents and a few tricky spurts of rock and roots. At the end of each lap is a drain, a very long gravel road climb that seems never to end. In all, it’s a great course, and I enjoy this race every year as a break from the more challenging trails.
I raced solid and hard but couldn’t keep up with the lead group after the first lap and finished this race in 5th place with a time of 2:39:01. I am in 2nd in the series and looking forward to getting my revenge at Granouge Rewind in two weeks, the final race of the Mid Atlantic Super Series XC season!