It seems like it’s been awhile since I wrote one of these. To be honest, I had my doubts that this race would even happen since we are in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. And I can’t believe I just wrote that… how is this real life? Anyway, major kudos to Josh and Gina of Mountain Junkies for managing to pull this one off. They had some added precautions both pre- and post-race, at the aid station, and for the runners. But it was nice to sneak in a little normalcy and find some peace in the woods at a race event before further tightening of the belt occurred.
Kim and I carpooled up to Montvale early on Friday morning. I was excited to be headed up to run my favorite Mountain Junkies race, but also a bit apprehensive. Due to some other circumstances going on, I hadn’t gotten a long run on trails in three weeks.
We arrived at the park and picked up our shirts and bibs. Then we hit the bathrooms, grabbed a few photos with our Trail Sisters group, and listened to the pre-race announcement. From there we had about a quarter mile walk to the race start. I was happy to find large rocks in the creek this year – as I think I’m still cold from wading through the creek before the race start last year!
The 10 mile and 5 mile races have a staggered start, so the 10 milers gathered for our start while the 5 mile runners waited to cross the creek. It was a great day for running! It was partly cloudy with temperatures in the mid-40’s. Before I knew it, we were off and running!
The race starts off flat for about the first half mile before starting to climb. Then it’s primarily uphill until the first water stop around mile 1.8ish. Overall, the course has about 1,000 feet of gain, but it truly feels like rolling hills. The trails are also very twisty turny singletrack, which makes it fun because everywhere you look there are runners in the woods. They might be right in front of you, or they could be a mile ahead or behind you.
Pretty early into the race, I settled in with a group of three: Lauren, Lacy, and myself. As it turned out, we ended up running the whole race together. I enjoyed the company and the camaraderie kept me moving.
About two miles in, we started getting passed by the front runners of the 5 mile race which had started 10 minutes after us. The trails are pretty narrow, and it was hard to constantly step to the side of the trail to let them pass. I was so glad when we finally hit the split around mile 4 where the 5 milers headed for the finish and the 10 milers started on our second loop.
We hit the halfway point and I started voicing out loud how I was just not feeling it. I’m usually pretty good about not being negative during a race and not giving a voice to those negative feelings. But I just felt so sluggish. I’m so glad I had my little group to keep me moving! Before I knew it, we were making our second pass by the water stop at mile 7ish (??). I’m not sure exactly what mileage we were at by then. But from there we got to enjoy another downhill.
We hit the split again and this time we got to go left towards the finish! Around this time is actually when I started settling into the run – nearly two hours in! Go figure. I actually felt good and really enjoyed the final two miles.
We rolled along the last two miles and it wasn’t long before we were back down at the creek. Lauren went through the water, but I opted for the large rocks. Then we ran down the grassy area and the paved path to the finish. This stretch always feels a little longer than it actually is. We crossed the line in 2:13 and change.
Almost immediately after crossing the finish line, I was called for third in my age group. Talk about quick turnaround service! Hah! Then I met back up with Kim, who totally crushed it out there. So far this year, she has run two races and both of them were trail races. I think I’ve almost got her converted.
We enjoyed some post-race food and then hit the road to head home. Overall, it was a fun day. I’m so thankful we were still able to participate in this event, as I think it’s going to be awhile before any other races can be held. Time will tell.