It feels like it’s been a long time since I ran a real, in-person race. In reality, it hasn’t necessarily been that long, as my last in-person race was Allison Woods in October. But before that was Montvale last March, literally days before the world shut down due to COVID-19. Unfortunately, the virus is still around. But race directors Josh and Gina of Mountain Junkies were able to hold this year’s Frozen Toe 10K with several precautions in place (masks, small group starts in waves, etc.).
The day before the race we got about 4 inches of snow. That, combined with the cold temperatures, made for a true ‘Frozen Toe’ this year. The cold temperatures were definitely to our advantage, as I’d rather run through snow and frozen dirt than the thick mud we had on some parts of the course last year.
I arrived at race headquarters about an hour before the 9 AM start time and met up with Charlotte, Lauren, Paulina, and Lauren. We hung out for a bit and I made a trip to the porta potties before heading up to the starting area. The race start was broken up into waves of 25 or less that started about 3 minutes apart. The front two waves were runners competing for overall placing, and the rest were broken up by age group. The small groupings allowed us to stay spaced out at the start. They also cut out the road section due to merging the start/finish area, shortening the course to 5.5 miles.
At 9:09 AM, my wave was off and running. I took off along the grass towards the single track trail of the Chestnut Ridge Loop without any real goals in mind. I was just really excited to be back out there running a local trail race. We spaced out fairly quickly, and I settled in to a comfortably hard pace.
The course was in great shape. There were a few spots covered in ice and a little bit of mud in the final mile, but overall I didn’t have to slow down or be careful due to trail conditions.
My first two miles clocked in faster than I expected. I decided I’d continue pushing and see what I could do. In years past, I have run the race during a “clockwise” year, but this year we ran the Chestnut Ridge Loop counterclockwise. It was fairly similar to the other direction – seldom flat with three main climbs and about 750 to 800 feet of total elevation gain.
Mile 3 was a tough one with that big climb, and my pace slowed down some as I primarily hiked up the hill. But I was still working hard and moving well
As I passed the halfway point, I was really starting to feel it. It was a net uphill until mile 4.5 or so, with a few good downhill sections. I tried to push hard on the downhills to make up for my hiking. Although I do think I hiked less than I have in years past on this course.
With one mile or so to go, I got to the top of the last uphill section. I knew it was primarily downhill from here and I vowed not to hike any more. I focused on my surroundings and the joy I felt being back at a real race. I also really enjoyed seeing all of the miniature snowmen someone built all along the course!
As we completed the loop, I could hear sounds from the finish line back at the church. I ran as hard as I could out of the woods, up the little grass hill, and through the finish line. It hurt, but it felt so good.
Overall, I felt really strong and I’m happy with how I pushed myself. I can’t compare overall times, since the course distance and direction were different, but last year I averaged 12:59 pace and this year I averaged 11:59 pace, finishing in 1:06:33. It was a good year for me at Frozen Toe and I’m so glad I was able to participate in a live race. And I finally got my fix of my favorite Mountain Junkies post-race food: pumpkin bread and one of Dru’s lemon cookies!
I don’t have anything else on the race schedule until June. I’m planning to get in some solid training between now and then, and I may or may not have already mapped out most of that training starting on March 1. For now, it’s time to soak in the rest of the first month of 2021 with some playtime on the trails and some hope that things continue to improve.