This past Saturday I ran my first race of the year, a trail race called the Frozen Toe 10K. It was also the first race in the ‘RNUTS’ trail series I signed up for this spring, put on by Mountain Junkies. The race started at 9:00 AM, so I didn’t have to get up super early to make the 1 hour trek up to Roanoke. I had a smooth trip up, and arrived around 8 AM. The race headquarters, a church, was easy to find and there looked to be plenty of parking. I took advantage of race day packet pickup, and grabbed my bib and race swag.
Instead of t-shirts, this race gave participants the option of socks or a buff. I chose to go with the socks. I was happily surprised to see they had skulls on them. Neat! They’re a thin wool-type material, and I think I’ll definitely be able to run in them during the winter.
Luckily we were able to hang out inside the church prior to the race, because it was 13 degrees at the start with a ‘feels like’ temperature of 8 degrees (even with the sun shining down!). We had a prerace meeting at 8:40 where they explained the course. As usual, I came out of the meeting feeling very confused and convinced I was going to get lost. That never happened, though. Shortly thereafter, we headed out to the parking lot for the start of the race.
Everyone was milling around, talking, and all of a sudden the starting gun sounded and we were off! We ran out of the parking lot and did a short stint on the road before hopping onto the Chestnut Ridge Loop Trail, which runs around Roanoke Mountain.
I felt like I dressed well for the race, and never felt overheated. When I would get to a shady section of trail my face and mouth would get really cold, but other than that I was fine. The cold weather also made for great trail conditions. No sloppy, muddy trails.
The trail was a bit rolling at first, but nothing too bad. I knew I was probably going to have to walk/hike a bit during this race since I’m not in the best shape right now. My running has been so irregular since November. However, I didn’t expect to take my first walk break just before the first mile marker. It was a bit disheartening, but I kept trekking along.
Somewhere between miles 1.5 and 2 I found my ‘trail legs’ a started to feel a bit better. I was still taking walk breaks, as we encountered some more challenging climbs through the middle miles, but I felt good.
I really enjoyed the course and I would love to go back and run it again sometime. We ran by a campground at one point, so maybe Barry and I can go for a weekend camping trip and run the trail. (That will have to be sometime in the future. I looked up the campground and its currently closed due to federal budget cuts in the National Park Service)
During the race we ran along a ridge, and then would go down into a hollow and back up the other side with switchbacks several times. There were a bunch of good views along the way. I’m pretty sure I saw the backside of Mill Mountain (the first mountain you run up during Blue Ridge) at one point.
The first half of the race went by a bit slowly, but the second half actually flew by. I think part of it was because I settled in and just enjoyed the race and being out there running in the woods. I took a few stumbles along the way, but luckily I never fell. That’s good because the ground was very frozen and very hard!
As I made my way through mile 5 I knew I was getting close to the end. I kept waiting to pop back out of the woods and onto the road we ran down at the start of the race. Finally I did, and was directed down the road a short way, back onto a trail, and then up a short hill and to the finish at the church. I was hoping to finish under 1:20, but crossed the line in 1:23 and change. Still not bad for my first trail race of the season (and fourth trail race ever). I feel like I’m still pretty inexperienced on trails, and have plenty of room for improvement.
Immediately after finishing, I headed inside for the post-race ‘party.’ As per usual with Mountain Junkies races, there was an awesome spread of post-race food. The line was a bit long when I got there, but it moved quickly. There were bagels, cookies, muffins, crackers, hummus, chocolate, fruit, and veggies.
I hung out for awhile and thawed out while enjoying my post-race food and watching the awards ceremony. They had really neat, handmade awards for the top 3 overall winners and the masters winners.
After that it was time to head back home before my overnight trip up to the northern part of the state. I had a great experience at my third Mountain Junkies race and I’m looking forward to the rest of the races in the coming months.
What type of unique ‘race swag’ have you gotten from races?
What’s the coldest race you’ve ever run? Temperature-wise, this was probably the coldest race. But I was colder both at the Hokie Half and the Asheville Half last year, both because of rain. I was also colder at the Star City Half, because I was underdressed.
If you run trails, how long did it take you to start feeling comfortable on them?