Frozen Toe 10K – Race Report

Happy New Year! Let’s hope we see some return to normalcy in 2022, because I’ve got some big goals on the horizon (see upcoming races on the sidebar). Barry and I decided to participate in the Mountain Junkies Roanoke Non-Ultra Trail Series this year. The “RNUTS” series is a set of trail races ranging from 5K to marathon distance that takes place from January through June. The first race of the series kicked off yesterday, January 8, with the Frozen Toe 10K.

The Frozen Toe 10K is run on the Chestnut Ridge Loop trail in Roanoke and has about 800 ft of elevation gain. This year the race delivered on its name, as we had snow the week leading up to the race and the temperature at the start on race morning was 17 degrees. A little cold in my book!

Barry and I arrived at the race about 45 minutes before the start, picked up our race bibs and swag, and then hunkered down in the truck until it was time to run. When it was race time, we gathered in the parking lot. At 9 AM on the dot, we were off and running. The race started and finished at New Hope Christian Church. From the church, we did a short out and back on the road before hitting the single track trail.

Photo credit: Jay Proffitt

My running hasn’t been very consistent since Christmas, especially the past two weeks, so my goals for this race were to run steady and stay on my feet! I’m happy to report, I accomplished both of those goals. About 4 tenths into the race, we turned onto the trails.

The race alternates which direction we run the loop from year to year, and this year was a clockwise year. I think both directions are similar and I don’t really have a preference. The clockwise direction has rolling hills with three main climbs. I alternated running and hiking as we made our way towards mile 1 and up the first main climb.

As we ran along, we spaced out some and I found myself mostly running alone. The trails were in great condition and I enjoyed how pretty the woods were. There’s something about snow that makes things seem so peaceful and quiet.

The miles ticked by with some more downhill through mile 2 before the second of the three main climbs. After that climb we had the longest downhill of the day and I enjoyed letting go a bit and just letting it roll.

It can be tricky to dress appropriately for the cold. You don’t want to overdress, because then you’ll sweat a lot and be freezing from that. I decided to go with pants, a short sleeve, a quarter zip long sleeve, mittens, and a beanie. My back did sweat some from my pack, but otherwise I think I got it right. Before I knew it, I hit mile 4 and had just two miles left to go.

Photo credit: Jay Proffitt

A little past mile 4 we hit the biggest climb on the course. I’m very familiar with this hill. It’s long and has a switchback or two in it. I hiked all the way up and was glad to get it behind me. From there I only had a little over a mile to go.

It was funny to see how some parts of the course were snow covered and in other parts it had melted completely. The snow covered parts felt much cooler than the sunny parts – I supposed the snowy parts were on north-facing parts of the loop.

Some of the not snowy parts of the course

It’s essentially a net downhill to the finish over the last 1.2 miles, and I clocked in my fastest mile of the day. I didn’t push hard on this race, but just stayed around a threshold pace and tried to stay steady. I finished with one of my slower times on the course, in 1:26:04. But I felt alright overall, except that the cold air was hard on my lungs and made me cough.

After I crossed the finish line I met up with Barry and grabbed some post-race food (including the famous Mountain Junkies pumpkin bread!). We didn’t stay in the finish area long since it was so cold outside. I was ready to go get in the truck and put on a dry shirt.

Overall, it was a good start to what I hope is going to be a big year. I’m looking forward to getting back into some structured training, and the next race on the calendar is the Forever 5 Miler on January 29.

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