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.
When the Marine Corps Marathon went virtual I initially planned to defer to next year, in the hopes that a live event would be able to be held by then. But I was torn because this year’s race had a special finisher’s medal for the 45th anniversary that contains volcanic ash from Iwo Jima. Normally, I don’t care about finisher’s medals. But this one was really cool. And then my fellow wild mountain chicken, Charlotte, told me she and her dad were planning to run their virtual race in Bedford and invited me to join in.
So this special medal and the promise of running with friends is how I ended up shivering outside of an eye doctor’s office in Bedford far too early on a crisp October Sunday morning. I was accompanied by Charlotte, Brandy, and Charlotte’s dad, Larry. Our course had been concocted by Char and her dad, and I had been promised a history lesson of Bedford as we ran.
We started our run just before 6:50 AM. It was a chilly 39 degrees and we were ready to get moving. In the early miles we were fairly quiet as we settled into our pace. We ran by a house whose blow up Halloween decoration was still up. It looked so cool in the dawn light.
I was having fun running in a totally new place and taking in my surroundings. I had worked back and forth with Char and her dad to map out our course and I was finally seeing it in person. As we approached mile 3, we saw our crew: my dad and Christine. It was still early and I was still sleepy!
We ran down to the end of a dead end road and I took a quick pee break in the bushes. Then we came back down past our crew and headed onto Independence, which was the busiest road we would run on. We ran single file down the road towards our turnaround on a long, gradual uphill. My hamstring had gotten a little aggravated at Allison Woods, and it was already talking to me on that uphill.
Between miles 5 and 6 we turned onto a road that had less traffic. As we ran down the road, I saw the most vultures I’ve ever seen all in one place. It was very ominous looking. One even spread out it’s wings and made a big show as we ran by – I felt like Snoop Dogg should be there narrating the scene. (YouTube Snoop Dogg Plant Earth if you don’t know what I’m talking about)
Around mile 7 we ran by a sign that said “You’re Here!” I’m not sure why, but I found this really funny, because we still had nearly 20 miles to go. I burst out laughing as we ran by it.
Between miles 8 and 9, we linked back up with our crew. Lauren and her little boy had made it to town, and it was great to see them. I dropped off some trash at my dad’s truck and picked up some more snacks. I was still good on fluids, as I hadn’t been drinking as much with the colder temperatures.
From there we headed onto a section that went by the hospital and into a residential area. We started hitting some bigger hills and my hamstring started screaming at me. Somewhere through here my piriformis joined in, so that was a real joy. But I decided to just accept that it was going to be how it was going to be. We settled into a rhythm of walking the uphills and running the flats and downs – just like trail running. Brandy, Char, and her dad are all really fast walkers and I had to work hard to keep up when we were walking! Usually, I would start to fall behind and would have to jog to catch up. We also got some distraction and motivation through here when Char’s dad’s wife, Janet, drove up alongside us. She had an American flag displayed through the sun roof and would honk occasionally to keep us moving.
All of the houses in this area were gorgeous, and the mountains in the distance were picturesque. I was running along, just taking it all in. I also thought it was funny seeing some of the political sign “wars” between some of the houses. Before I knew it, we were headed towards our halfway point. Along the way, we made a quick stop at Char’s dad’s house (potty break #2 for me). We then rolled back into our crew spot just before mile 13. This time, I was ready to refill one of my flasks with more Tailwind. Throughout this run I primarily fueled with Tailwind. I also had one Huma gel, two or three oatmeal cream pies, and some Swedish fish.
From here, we made our way back to our starting point around mile 14ish. We were about 3 hours into our run and I was still feeling really fresh.
All of our crew joined in with us for our next mile. Char and her dad recreated the Marine Corps Marathon blue mile by incorporating walking by the Bedford Boys memorial flags that line Main Street in Bedford. We also passed by Green’s Drug Store. It was special to share this together as a group, runners and crew.
We returned back to our starting point, and I took another quick bathroom break at the gas station (that’s pee break #3 if you’re counting). From here, we headed down College St. and towards mile 16. I loved all of the houses along here. They were old and historical looking, and each one was unique. Charlotte told me some of the history about them as we passed.
Getting a tour of Bedford from two of its own all day was truly fantastic. The route really showcased the town. I especially loved running alongside Char’s dad, who has lived in Bedford practically his whole life, and hearing all of his stories. Char and her dad also knew almost everyone we passed during the day, and would tell Brandy and me little tidbits about each of them.
As we got into more of our out and backs at mile 16, I was still having a great time but the miles were feeling a little longer. Again, we were hitting some bigger hills. In total, we climbed around 1800 feet for the day – quite a lot for a road marathon!
As we climbed up a really big hill at mile 17ish, Charlotte said something about a little camp at the top. I could see some people gathered up there, but I didn’t realize they were our people until we got there. What a nice surprise! I wasn’t expecting to see them again until mile 21 or so. We were on an out and back section and got to see them again at mile 18.5 ish.
Our surprises for the day weren’t over yet. As we were passing back by our crew at mile 18.5, our Meg’s Miles friend Felix showed up! Felix lives over in Lynchburg and he drove out to Bedford to surprise us and join us for some miles!
Felix would go on to join us for the final 7 miles, which was awesome and totally unexpected. We saw our crew again by the Primary School, around mile 21, as we headed out on another out and back. We still had plenty of hills to tackle in the final 10K. Felix and I had a good time challenging ourselves to run up the hills through this section. Then we would regroup and continue on.
I had some Coke from a little 8 oz can when we passed by our crew at mile 21, and finished most of it when we returned to our crew at mile 23. There was just a 5K left to run. My upper hamstring and priformis hurt so much at this point. But I still felt strong and despite those pains, it felt good to push.
Just before mile 25, Felix and I ran up a huge hill to the Welcome Center. I had to pee (again), so I ran past our turn and to the Welcome Center. Our crew was there in the parking lot and someone laughed at me for needing another restroom break. Felix waited for me on the corner and Brandy, Char, and Char’s dad passed by while I was inside. I linked back up with Felix and we had fun hammering to catch up with them on an out and back to the elementary school. On the way back, we met up with our crew and Janet passed out flags to each of us for our finish up a very big hill to the D-Day Memorial. This was it. Homestretch.
Charlotte had let us know that she had been contacted by a lot of media about our virtual run, her family’s connection to the Bedford Boys, and our finish at the D-Day Memorial. Sure enough, I got my third surprise of the day as we rounded the corner at the top of the hill and there were so many cameras. I said “oh, Charlotte.” I felt so nervous about our run being covered by the media. But at the same time, it was very cool that they were covering it.
We circled around the road at the memorial and hit 26.2 miles, as we made our way back to the Overlord Arch for our finish. We were all quiet through here. The D-Day Memorial is a powerful place, with the sounds of bullets hitting the water. You think of how scary that day must have been for those soldiers who stormed the beaches at Normandy – many of them still boys. I think we were all reflecting on our day and the significance of our run and where we were finishing. We finished our day walking under the Overlord Arch, completing our virtual Marine Corps Marathon run in 6:44 and change.
The media took some photos, and then Brandy and I stepped to the side as Char and her dad did interviews. Afterwards, we spent some time together with our crew and toured the rest of the memorial. All in all, it was an excellent day with perfect weather and the best people.
With our finish at the memorial, I reflected on how countless men and women have sacrificed their lives for our freedom. We commemorate those valiant souls and are thankful for the life they’ve allowed us to live. Life has looked very different in 2020. The pandemic has changed the way we live and has disrupted normal things, such as running a large road marathon with 30,000 of our closest friends. But one thing that I have seen exemplified over and over again is the resilience of the human spirit. We have found ways to stay connected and ways to carry on in a new normal. We continue to walk through difficult times and greet each day with a fighting spirit. And I think that’s one of many tangible ways we can honor the service and sacrifice of our military. Oorah!
I am training for the Marine Corps Marathon, which will be held virtually this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. My race day was on October 18, which means this week was race week!! This post concludes my virtual MCM training series.
Monday – 4 miles easy I had the day off of work, so I made plans to meet up with my friend Lori for a trail run in Roanoke.
My legs were still a bit sore and tired from Allison Woods. It rained lightly during our run. Honestly, I’d had enough of the rain after last weekend, but it did make the leaves really vibrant!
I love trail running this time of year, except for playing the game “leaf or rock.”
Tuesday – Rest
Wednesday – 5 mile workout This was a fairly light workout and it felt good to get my legs turning over a little. I did 15 x 30 second pickups with 30 second rest, along with a warm up and cool down.
I thought they were already setting up the Christmas lights at the park. But when I went over to look at them, they turned out to be set up for a Halloween light show. Cool!
Thursday – Easy hike It was a gorgeous day, so I went for an easy hike back at the park. You get to see a lot of beauty when trail running. But I think sometimes you can miss a lot of it since your focus is primarily on the ground.
Friday – 3 miles easy
Saturday – 3 miles easy I ran first thing in the morning with Barry. We ran by some fall babies 🙂 They’re so cute!
Sunday – Virtual Marine Corps Marathon race! Spoiler alert: We did it! But you’ll have to wait for my race report for more details.
This race was my first in-person event since running Montvale back in March. Kim and I signed up together. I chose the 6 hour option and she chose the 12 hour option. Our friend Mo decided to sign up for the 24 hour option, and we also knew a few brave souls registered for the 100 mile option.
The weather forecast had been looking really good for this race. Then tropical depression Delta began to strengthen before it turned into a full fledged hurricane. It made history by making landfall on the gulf coast in October, and it made for a very wet and muddy weekend for us as the remnants passed through. In the week leading up to the race we watched as the forecast went from 20% chance of rain to 100%. I packed every piece of rain gear I own, and on Friday evening Kim and I hit the road for North Carolina.
It rained that night and it was raining when we woke up on race morning. We made the short drive from our motel over to Allison Woods. Allison Woods is a large piece of property that has been in the Allison family since the 1700s. They also operate an outdoor learning center there. It’s awesome that this event is able to take place there.
Kim and I set up across from Mo and Leah. They had arrived the night before and had stayed onsite in their camping trailer. We picked up our packets and attended the pre-race briefing. The race had several additional precautions in place for Covid, including masks and social distancing. There were about 100 runners registered for the event, and the race director explained that we would start five minutes apart in small groups. I believe the order went: 4 milers and 24 hours, 100 milers, 12 hours, and 6 hours.
We made the short walk back down the gravel road to our crew area and made our final preparations. As I said with Crooked Road, we were all smiles, ready to run, and blissfully unaware of what was to come.
Since this was a halloween race, I decided to run as a minion!
We watched the first couple of groups start. Then it was Kim’s turn, and five minutes later at 8:15 AM I was off and running!
Loop 1 – 49:18 (miles 1-4) The course was a 4 mile loop with about 360 ft of gain per loop. From the start/finish line we headed into the woods on a trail for three quarters of a mile. Then we turned onto an air strip that had the thickest grass I’ve ever run on. We ran down to the end of the air strip and into the woods where we did a loop before coming back onto the other side of the air strip. From there, we ran back down the air strip, with the grass slowly giving way to dirt and gravel, and ran through our parking/crew area about 1.5 miles into the loop. We ran almost back to the start/finish before making a sharp turn into the woods. After another short trail section we popped out onto a dirt road. We did a long loop on this road, including an out and back past a bamboo forest. Around mile 3 we hit another trail section before coming out onto the road we drove in on. We turned off of the road for one more short trail section that took us back to the start/finish line.
I was really excited to be running and I had been looking forward to seeing what the course would look like. So I ended up going out a little fast on this first loop. My ‘A’ goal was to get 7 loops for a total of 28 miles. That would mean I would need to split 52:26 per loop. I finished this loop more than 2 minutes under that split.
Loop 2 – 52:08; 1:41:26total time (miles 5-8) I linked up with Kim partway through this loop in our crew area. Leah was at our crew spot helping Kim when I rolled through and she cheered us both on as we headed down the road together to complete the rest of our second loop.
Kim and I were both still fresh and running maybe a little faster than we should have been. But it was just as well since the trails deteriorated so much after this loop. I was still having fun in the mud but Kim was not a fan.
Loop 3 – 59:39; 2:41:05 total time (miles 9-12) Kim and I stuck together through the rest of loop two and the first part of loop three. After we passed through the crew area on this loop, we separated as I made a pit stop at the porta johns. Throughout the race, I’d say we were never more than a mile from a porta john, which was nice.
It was pouring but since the temperature was in the 60’s I wasn’t cold and was able to run in shorts and a t-shirt without a rain jacket. It was such a big difference from Crooked Road 24 Hour last year.
By this loop I knew all of the sections really well and was able to break the loop up into chunks in my head. The course did continue to throw some variables at us, as the trails became muddier and slicker with each loop. Some of the mud was super slick, while other parts were that shoe sucking mud that tries to pull your shoes right off of your feet.
Loop 4 – 59:45; 3:40:50 total time (miles 13-16) I had finished my two hydration flasks by this point, so I made my first stop at my crew area about 1.5 miles into this loop. I swapped out my flasks for two fresh flasks that were pre-filled with Tailwind. I also grabbed some more fuel and continued on my way. The race did have a main, manned aid station at the start/finish and an unmanned minimal aid station about halfway through the loop. But we were encouraged to crew ourselves as much as possible in the Covid era, so that’s what I did.
I had everything set up so I could get in and out in under a minute when resupplying. I had planned for my A goal of 28 miles/7 laps and I knew I couldn’t give away too much time resupplying. But by this loop I knew my A goal had gone out the window. Instead, I was focused on reaching my B goal of 24 miles / 6 loops.
Loop 5 – 1:02:18; 4:43:08 total time (miles 17-20)
As I came through the crew area on my fifth loop, Kim was there re-supplying. We headed down the road together. As we approached the spot where we turned into the woods, we saw there were cones set up. A race official informed us that part of the course was being rerouted due to the trail conditions. He told us to head down the road and make a right. We did so and there was another volunteer at the spot where we would have come out of the woods at the bottom of the road. He told us to continue on the normal course from there. Kim and I wondered what this would do to the total mileage for the loops, but it doesn’t look like it affected them much at all.
On our way back to the finish, the reroute meant that we stayed on the road instead of ducking back into the woods for that short trail section. Instead we headed uphill and to the finish line.
Loop 6 – 1:02:52; 5:46:00 total time (miles 20-24) I knew this would be my final loop. Kim and I were still running together. The first trail section had gotten so bad we could barely run any of it. We moved through the mud as best we could. There was a little hill up onto the airstrip that was particularly slippery.
As we turned onto the air strip I started running again. I had a goal of always running the air strip, even though the grass was super thick, since it was a flat part of the course that also was not muddy. I realized Kim was no longer with me. I glanced behind me and she was waving me on. I found out later she had started to have some cramping issues. Luckily she was able to take care of them and continue on with her race.
I enjoyed seeing each aspect of the race course for the last time. I was tired and could definitely feel where I had been on my feet for awhile. But I also still felt pretty good overall. I’d love to come back to this race in the future with better weather conditions and see what I could do.
I crossed the finish line in 5 hours and 46 minutes. This was a 6 hour timed race, but only complete loops counted, which meant I was done at 6 loops since I did not have time for another full loop. So twenty-four miles total on a pretty tough day. I’m happy with that!
I talked to the race director for a little bit after I finished. I also got to pick out my finisher’s award. They had an array of little hand painted ceramic medallions to choose from (all the same size/design but varying colors).
A lady also called out to me that I had won a t-shirt in the raffle. Cool!
After my run, I got changed into dry clothes and my rain gear (as the off and on downpours continued). I hung out with Leah, cheered on Mo and other runners, and crewed Kim during the second half of her race. At one point, Leah also made me grilled cheese sandwich, which was basically the best thing ever.
Overall, I had a great time out there and a good experience at Allison Woods. I accomplished my B goal, and given the conditions I’m very happy with that. I will definitely return to this race in the future. I’d love to see what I could do on the course, especially in better conditions.
I am training for the Marine Corps Marathon, which will be held virtually this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. My race day will be on October 18. I’m in full on taper mode now. Usually, that means cutting mileage down, but I had the Allison Woods Halloween Hobble 6 hour race this week. Originally, the Marine Corps Marathon would have been on October 25, two weeks after Allison Woods. But since the live MCM got canceled, my friends chose October 18 to run our virtual MCM together. So that put the two races a week apart for me.
Monday – 25 minute bike
Tuesday –6 mile workout Normally I do my run workouts on Wednesdays, but my coach recommended I move the workout up a day since I changed my goals for Allison Woods. Originally, I was going to just go and have fun and soak up the race atmosphere. But after giving it some thought, I decided to aim for some big goals for Saturday’s race.
My workout was pretty light. It felt like a “tune up” for my legs with a 2 mile warm up, 3 miles at marathon goal pace, and a 1 mile cool down.
Wednesday – 4 miles easy My past several runs from Saturday through Tuesday had not felt all that great. Finally, on this run I felt relaxed and light and bouncy.
Thursday – Rest
Friday – Easy 3 miles This was a quick lunchtime run on the treadmill. After work, Kim and I hit the road for North Carolina.
Saturday – Allison Woods Halloween Hobble 6 Hour
We ended up getting hit by the remnants of Hurricane Delta during the race. So it rained on and off the entire day. The trails quickly deteriorated into a total mud fest. I was able to get in 6 loops for 24 miles total – my “B” goal. I’ll have a full race report later this week.
Sunday – Rest
Total miles: 37 miles Weeks to MCM:1 week!! Final countdown is on! Race day is this Sunday!
"I've opted for fun in this lifetime." -Jerry Garcia