Last weekend Barry and I headed up to Montvale to run the Montvale 10 mile trail race. This race is my favorite in the RNUTS series. The trails wind through an old growth forest and they’re super twisty, which is fun. Check out the map from my GPS data:
Barry and I arrived about 20 minutes before the start of the race. It was just enough time to pick up our race swag and bibs, hit the restroom, and catch the tail end of the pre-race talk. It was a gorgeous sunny day, albeit a bit windy, with temperatures in the low 40’s. We were promised that the trails were in excellent condition, other than a few muddy sections near the creek. But before any of that, we all had one obstacle to tackle just to get to the start: the creek.
I think the ‘feels like’ temperature that morning was in the 30’s and let me tell you that water was icy cold! The creek dipped in the middle, and the water came up to my knees while crossing. We mingled at the start with soaked socks and shoes. My feet were freezing, and then numb, but my socks and shoes did dry out during the race… just in time for us to run back through the creek on the way to the finish. Ha!
A little after 9 AM, we were off and running. We started out down a flat, grassy trail along the creek. There were some muddy spots through here, but they would pretty much be the only sloppy sections on the course, other than the last little stretch to the finish. Within the first mile, we turned off of the wider access road and onto singletrack trails.
I focused on running a smooth, comfortable pace. The race also had a 5 mile option that started 10 minutes after us. I had hoped to make it to mile 2 before the front runners of the 5 mile caught me, but it was not to be. As I made my way up the gradual climb to the water stop around 1.5 miles, the top three guys came flying by. The 5 mile does one loop, while the 10 mile does two loops. So from mile 1.5 to our split around mile 4, I was constantly having to let faster runners pass. Everyone was polite in passing, and I made sure to listen for them coming up so I could yield to them. But I was getting tired of not being able to just run.
Finally, we made it to the split and the 5 milers headed off to the finish. I was really happy to let them go and finally have the course to ourselves. Things got peaceful and the course got quieter. I was finally able to just settle in and enjoy the trails.
During the first loop I had felt really ‘off.’ I seemed to have pains that were just rotating around – one minute my hip was bothering me, the next my achilles, etc. Nothing lingered or got worse, but it seemed to be a constant rotation of pains. But a little over the halfway point I finally just stated to feel like myself.
One thing I love about this race is how the trails are constantly changing. You’re going uphill one second, downhill the next, and then you might have a short flat stretch. It’s fun and if I was stronger I think I could definitely run the whole thing.
Around mile 6, I realized I had a shot at a course PR. That wasn’t the goal going into this race, but I figured why not go for it. With that resolve in mind, of course something crazy had to happen. Between miles 7 and 8, I came to a three way trail intersection. The girl sweeping the course was standing there with an armful of course markings. Uh, oh. She was confused to see me, and I was surprised to see her. She thought I had gotten off course or had gone the wrong way. But I explained I was pretty sure I was on course, and that there were other runners behind me. There was another woman who had been taking photos just up the trail. She walked down and pointed me in the right direction. About a quarter mile later, I saw another pink and black polka dot streamer and knew I was on course. All of the markings were fine the rest of the way to the finish, and the photographer stayed in that three way intersection to direct the rest of the runners. Sometimes things happen in races, and you just have to figure it out. Not a huge deal. However, I did lose at least two minutes in the confusion and wasn’t sure if I would get that course PR anymore.
The last mile of this race always kicks my butt. You’re so close to being done. But then there are a few short, steep climbs. Once you get up those, you get a nice view of a field and some mountains and then you have a big descent down to the creek. THEN you’re really almost done.
In years past, the creek crossing has had a skinny, bouncy log. However, I guess it has washed away since the last time I ran the race. Instead, I waded back through the water. I thought “Hey, cool. Now my shoes are super clean.” But that was short lived. The grassy section heading towards the finish had ankle-deep, shoe sucking mud. So much for clean! I had a minute left to PR, and I pushed hard for the finish. I crossed the line in 2:04:50, good for a 10 second course PR.
After the race, I hung out with Barry and enjoyed some post-race food while the awards were going on. When they got to my age group, I was surprised to hear my name called for third place. Full disclosure: there were only three in my age group, so it was an automatic placement. But hey, I showed up and ran, so it counts right?
Next up Barry and I both have the Terrapin Mountain Half Marathon this weekend. It’s got over 3,000 feet of climbing, and is sure to kick my butt.