Conquer the Cove 25K Trail Race Carvin's Cove 25K

Race Report: Conquer the Cove 25K

Conquer \ˈkäŋ-kər\
to overcome by mental or moral power
to reach the summit of a mountain by climbing

Yesterday Barry and I ran the Conquer the Cove 25K trail race, held at Carvins Cove in Roanoke. This race is the anchor event of the Roanoke Non-Ultra Trail Series and it has it all – a challenging course, awesome volunteers with great aid stations, and a relaxing atmosphere to hang out in once you’re done conquering the cove.

Conquer the Cove 25K Trail Race Carvin's Cove 25K

The race starts early at 6:30 AM to beat the heat, which means an early wake up call. We went to bed Saturday night with alarms set for 3 AM, but actually ended up getting woken up at 2:30 AM by a BAT on the curtains in our bedroom. Yes, a bat. Oh my gosh! Barry quickly went downstairs to get a leather work glove to catch it. Naturally, it chose that moment to fly around the bedroom, which had me out of there at the speed of Usain Bolt, slamming the door behind me. Luckily it landed back on the curtains and he was able to get hold of it and get it outside. Yeesh! I am going to have nightmares. I hadn’t been sleeping that well before that (typical pre-race night’s sleep) and I definitely didn’t sleep after that.

By 4 AM we were on our way to Roanoke. We arrived a little after 5 AM with plenty of parking still available (last year I got there around 5:30 and they were almost full up). It gave us lots of time to use the restroom, get our bibs and shirts, use the restroom again, and meet JoAnne! We have run many of the same races, and I cheered for her at Blue Ridge last year when Barry ran the full. But this was the first time we got to ‘officially’ meet. All of my raving about Mountain Junkies trail races convinced her to sign up for one, and I think she had a good time. Naturally, I failed to get a picture – because I never think to take pictures with people unless someone else suggests it.

At 6:15 we had the pre-race meeting and then we lined up at the start line. A few minutes after 6:30 we were off and running!

Conquer the Cove 25K Trail Race Carvin's Cove 25K

Carvins Cove is the second largest municipally owned park in the country. It has 40 miles of trails in 12,000+ acres of property. Josh and Gina (the owners of Mountain Junkies LLC) worked for years to gain the necessary permits and permissions to hold this event here, so it’s truly a treat. The race starts and finishes at Loch Haven Lake – a private lake club. The first mile of the race takes you out of the lake club and onto a paved road for about a mile before turning onto the singletrack trails of Carvins Cove.

Conquer the Cove 25K Trail Race Carvin's Cove 25K

The trail rolls for a bit, with a few switchbacks before taking a hard right turn onto our first major climb of the day – 700 feet over 1.1 miles. The last half mile of it is really steep and it had my calves and Achilles on fire.

Conquer the Cove 25K Trail Race Carvin's Cove 25K
Guess which way we turned….

Luckily my feet went numb towards the top of the climb, which often signals the end of the burning. It held true this time, but we had a two mile descent, and running that with numb feet was a little tricky.

Conquer the Cove 25K Trail Race Carvin's Cove 25K

I passed aid station #1 around 3 miles and like last year kept rolling past it on the downhill, shouting a “thank you” to the volunteers on my way by. Shortly after mile 4 the numbness in my feet went away and I was able to run with less caution.

Conquer the Cove 25K Trail Race Carvin's Cove 25K

It’s a 5 mile stretch from aid station #1 to AS #2 and try as I might, I could not remember what the trail was like from last year, after the long downhill. It’s mostly gentle and rolling, but the stretch can feel a bit long. Luckily, I made a friend named Justin along this stretch and we kept each other company until rolling into AS #2 around 8 miles.

Conquer the Cove 25K Trail Race Carvin's Cove 25K

I did want to mention one thing about this stretch. There are lots of burned tree stumps through this section from fires in recent years. I kind of think of them as our spectators. Up close they just look like black tree stumps, but from far away they do really good impressions of black bears!

Conquer the Cove 25K Trail Race Carvin's Cove 25K

Aid station #2 is known as the ‘party zone’ and it is always that! The 25K course comes through at mile 8, before the next major climb up Brushy Mountain, and the marathon course comes through here both at mile 8 and again at mile 18. All of the aid stations are set up similar to an ultra – with food options from PB & J to chips to orange slices, and the volunteers are awesome.

Conquer the Cove 25K Trail Race Carvin's Cove 25K

When they caught me taking a picture of the cowbell, they said “Oh no! We haven’t given you any cowbell!” and a volunteer grabbed it and started vigorously shaking it. I looked around for the taxi I had ordered to pick me up at AS #2 and take me to the top of Brushy Mountain, but he was nowhere in sight. I guess he couldn’t find the fire road. So I had no choice but to continue on by foot up the second major climb of the day – 1,000 feet over 2.3 miles.

Conquer the Cove 25K Trail Race Carvin's Cove 25K

My old friend, Justin, had forged ahead up Brushy Mountain, and as I began my climb I made a new friend. I didn’t get her name, but she told me she was about to turn 50 and had been fighting a sinus infection all week. We had both run Blue Ridge, so we discussed that a bit, and then we talked about the climb ahead. We stuck together for about 3/4th of the way up and kept each other going. Our running/hiking schedules didn’t always match, but there were a lot of times when we would end up running or hiking together. Several times she gave me a “go girl!” or “good girl” everytime I started running again or ran by her. When she would go by me, I’d give her a thumb’s up or clap (she had earbuds on at this point and couldn’t hear me without taking them out, which is why I stuck to gestures).

Conquer the Cove 25K Trail Race

This climb is a long one, and the fire road just keeps twisting and turning. But finally, I did make it to the top and cruised downhill to AS #3, just after mile 11. The volunteers were so helpful. Before I even got there they were shouting out asking what I needed. I had a cup of Gatorade, wiped the back of my neck with an ice cold wet towel (Which felt amazing! It wasn’t super hot out, but it was very humid.), and ate a few potato chips. Before I knew it they had me fed and watered and were sending me back out on the course for a punishing two mile descent.

Conquer the Cove 25K Trail Race Carvin's Cove 25K

I came into AS #3 around 2:45 or so and I really wanted to finish in under 4 hours (last year I finished in 3:41). I didn’t know if I would make it, as I still had nearly 5 miles to go, but I was going to give it a shot! From AS #3 runners head down a trail called ‘The Gauntlet’. It is a two mile descent that has your quads begging for a flat section of trail. You would think it would be a relief after the climb up Brushy Mountain, but you would be wrong. 🙂

Conquer the Cove 25K Trail Race Carvin's Cove 25K

Conquer the Cove 25K Trail Race Carvin's Cove 25K
Ignore the distance… my watch was off by over a mile by the end of the race.


From mile 12 on, I just focused on the mile I was in. There aren’t any major hills from here, but even the little ones feel like a mountain at this point. I got to see a few of the full marathon leaders go by, which was exciting (they were on mile 22-24), and then I caught up with Justin! We pretty much stuck together the rest of the way, which really helped me keep going. I definitely felt stronger during the final miles of the race this year, so I ran more at the end this year than last. Just before mile 15 we found ourselves back on the paved road where it all started earlier that morning. It’s only about a mile from here, but boy does it feel like a long way!

Conquer the Cove 25K Trail Race Carvin's Cove 25K

Barry came back to collect me, as he often does. He had a great race day and finished in 2:30! He’s such a strong runner. After all that, he still ran Justin and me in from the pavement back onto a single track trail, and finally back to Loch Haven Lake. This is one finish line that feels especially great to cross, with a high five from Josh! I finished in 3:49:01, about 7 minutes slower than last year, but I’m happy with that. It was hotter/more humid this year and my training hasn’t been spectacular.

Conquer the Cove 25K Trail Race Carvin's Cove 25K

After chilling by the fire pit area for a bit, Barry and I headed down to the beach for a dip in the lake. The cool water felt wonderful on my sore muscles – especially my calves!

Conquer the Cove 25K Trail Race Carvin's Cove 25K Conquer the Cove 25K Trail Race Carvin's Cove 25K

You may notice that the medal around my neck is different from the one in the picture with my shoes. That’s because Barry traded medals with me. The one I got was identical to last year’s so he traded, since his was different (neither is date specific). Who says chivalry is dead…


After my dip in the lake, it was time for some food! They had the usual scrumptious Mountain Junkies post-race food spread, and on top of that they were grilling burgers. Yum! Such a great way to cap off the last race of the series.

Conquer the Cove 25K Trail Race Carvin's Cove 25K
Technical fabric shirts can be difficult to photograph.


And with that, the series is complete! This year was my first time doing the RNUTS series. I ran five out of the six races and had a blast (and I volunteered at the other one). I ran in single digit temperatures, shin-deep snow, ankle-deep mud, the heat and humidity, with distances ranging from 5K to 25K. Quite the well-rounded series, if you ask me. Definitely one I hope to do again in the future!

Who else raced this past weekend?
Have you ever participated in a race series before?
Have you ever had a bat in your house? Ever had one wake you up in the middle of the night, because it was IN YOUR BEDROOM??

14 thoughts on “Race Report: Conquer the Cove 25K”

  1. In response to your questions, No, No and No. However I did have a vision of Scout and Hank tearing through the house like Snot chasing the squirrel in Christmas Vacation!


    1. Haha, unfortunately (or fortunately, maybe?) they slept through the entire thing! Once the bat was actually out of the house they made an appearance, stumbling and yawning into the hall wondering if it was time to get up already.

  2. Awesome recap – I felt like I was right there with you! Congrats to both you and Barry on your well-rounded spring trail series. Our final PR-organized trail run is this Saturday at Lake Fairfax.

    I raced on Saturday in Annapolis, and I’m still beating myself up over it. I didn’t run a smart race, but at the time, I didn’t know… Hoping to get my recap posted later today!

    I’ve never had a bat in my house, but I did arrive at a client’s house and she had a sign on her gym door that said not to open it because there was a bat in there. I think the animal guy had just left with it when I got there… It’s been a couple of years and I can’t remember the details.

    1. Thanks! I always find race recaps challenging to write, so I’m glad it read well!

      I’ve encountered bats before, but always outside. This was the first one I’ve ever dealt with inside, and I hope it’s the last!

  3. Congrats! Sounds like a great race – challenging and fun at the same time!

    Knock on wood, I have not had a bat in my house. But when one of my boss’s first moved here, he was staying in our company guesthouse and called me because he had a bat in his room! I’m not sure what he thought I’d do about it, but my husband and I went over to check it out anyway. We never found the bat after it “disappeared” under his bed. I would have switched rooms if I were him! No thank you!

    1. It is definitely a great race. How funny that he called you about the bat. If I couldn’t find a bat after knowing one was inside I definitely would not have been staying in there!

    1. I know, right!? They really do from far away, but I didn’t think it would really capture in a picture until I was up close.

  4. I love all your pictures! I carried my camera the whole way, but never took it out.
    So sorry your taxi failed to meet you 🙂
    Why are the miles at the end SO MUCH longer than the miles at the beginning??

    1. The miles at the end of the race have GOT to be longer than the ones at the beginning. There’s no other explanation!

      By the way – there are some race pictures up on the Mountain Junkies Facebook page now. They’ll probably continue to add more throughout the week/weekend.

  5. So glad to find this review! I am slightly terrified – I signed up for the 25k this year but live where it is flat! My first half marathon is this month so I have lots of training to do this spring. Better find some staircases!

    1. HI Anna- I’m glad my review helped! It is definitely a challenging race. The best strategy you can have is to just keep moving forward, whether that’s hiking or running, up the two main climbs. I bet hitting some staircases during training will definitely help! It’s a great race, though, and I know you’ll have a fantastic time! Enjoy the post-race cookout, too. 🙂

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