Conquer the Cove Trail 25K – Race Report

This past Sunday I was up bright and early to make the drive up to Roanoke for the Conquer the Cove 25K Trail Race. This race is the anchor event to the Roanoke Non Ultra Trail Series, put on by Mountain Junkies LLC. The race had an early start time of 6:30 AM, since it is often hot and humid this time of year. Luckily, we were blessed with temperatures in the mid-60’s with about 70% humidity.

Conquer the Cove Trail 25K & Marathon

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I arrived at Loch Haven Lake, a private membership club that headquarters the race, at 5:30 AM. Parking was tight, but they had volunteers helping direct everything which made it go smoothly. It was a short walk down to the pavilion, where I picked up my packet (bib, shirt, etc.). One neat thing they had in the packet was a bandana that has the course map for both races, and the elevation profiles.

Conquer the Cove bandana

I headed back to the car to drop off my packet and pin on my bib. Then I walked back down to the pavilion for the pre-race meeting. My friend Jessie was also running the 25K, and we were able to meet up before the race. This time we managed to get a picture together (unlike last time)!

Conquer the Cove 25K

Right after the pre-race meeting I decided to take one last trip to the porta johns, which were right near the start. I waited in line briefly, and just as I closed the door on the porta john I heard someone yell “3, 2, 1!” and then I heard a gunshot and everyone started cheering. Crap! About 10 seconds later I was jogging up to the start, and was able to join in with the tail end of the group of runners. Just like that, I was off for my longest trail race yet! Side note: The race was 15.86 miles long.

Conquer the Cove Trail 25K & Marahton

We made our way out of Loch Haven and turned onto a paved road, which we ran down for about a mile. Then it was onto the trails! The course was rolling for the first little bit. A little before mile 2, we encountered our first major climb. It was about 1.1 miles long and it was very steep! I bet you can guess which way we turned to make that climb…

Conquer the Cove trail race

Courtesy of Mountain Junkies Facebook Page

I was reduced to hiking, as were those around me, interspersed with very little running. My calves and Achilles were on fire, and at times I wanted to just stop and rest, but I kept moving.

Conquer the Cove 25K

Towards mile 3, we began a long two-ish mile descent. It felt good to just let gravity take over. My feet had gone numb (it happens sometimes when my calves get really tight) and I had to be careful and pay attention to the terrain to keep from tripping or falling.

Conquer the Cove Trail 25K

Courtesy of Mountain Junkies Facebook Page

Just before mile 3, I reached the first aid station. I was rolling on the downhill and didn’t want to lose my momentum so I didn’t stop. I had my Nathan hydration vest (we were required to carry water, the amount was up to you) so I was good to go on fluids. I said thank you to the volunteers and kept hammering away.

Conquer the Cove 25K Trail race

The next few miles were on rolling, single-track trails. It was a really pretty area and I tried to take it all in, while also keeping an eye on the terrain to avoid rolling my ankles. The area we were running in is called Carvins Cove Natural Reserve, which has 40 miles of roads and trails on approximately 12,700 acres (the second largest municipal park in the nation!). I’ve read that Josh and Gina, the founders of Mountain Junkies LLC, worked for years to gain permission to use this property for an event, so I knew it was a treat. The 5 mile stretch to aid station #2 felt long, but I finally rolled in just before mile 8.

Conquer the Cove 25K aid station

The volunteers were super helpful, and offered me a variety of things upon my arrival (Gatorade, water, lots of food options). The aid stations were set up similar to an ultra. From what I can remember, they had peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, potato chips, bananas, and orange slices. I had a cup of Gatorade (which was ice cold, God bless them), and an orange slice.

Conquer the Cove 25K

I spent less than a minute at AS #2, and then headed back onto the course for the roughly 2.5 mile climb up the fire road. This was the second major climb of the race. It wasn’t nearly as steep as the first one, but it was nonstop. I alternated between hiking and running and just kept chipping away. About halfway up, I joined up with two other runners and we hiked and talked the rest of the way to the top. I never got their names, but they were great to talk to! I got some inside info on Marine Corps 🙂

Conquer the Cove Trail 25K

There were some amazing views of the surrounding mountains on the way up, which helped distract from the climb. Finally, a little after 10 miles, we crested the top and began a half mile descent to aid station #3. At this point I had developed quite the headache and was hoping to find some Tylenol at the aid station. No luck, but the volunteers were really helpful and offered me other options. I stuck with a cup of Gatorade and two more orange slices. Then it was back to the race, for the 2.1 mile quad-busting descent on a trail called “The Gauntlet.”

Conquer the Cove 25K trail race

The race website described this section of the race course as a “fast descent that will have you ready for a flat stretch of trail” and they weren’t kidding. All I wanted was a flat section to run, but there never really was anything flat the rest of the way. We were either going up or going down, although at times it was gradual and close to flat.

Conquer the Cove 25K

During the last 2 miles of the race, my legs and hips were very tired and had a deep ache. My calves were also seizing up on me and threatening to full-on cramp (they never did). All I wanted to do was stop, but I was going to keep moving forward no matter what. Finally, I passed the fourth and final aid station just before mile 15. With just one mile to go, I found myself back on the paved road we had started on.

Conquer the Cove 25K

I was so tired and this felt like a very long mile. We made a left turn onto a single-track trail and I could hear people cheering at the finish line in the distance. I could see the swimming area through the trees and knew I was close. I came out of the woods, ran across a bridge, and up to the finish line.

Conquer the Cove Trail 25K

Courtesy of Mountain Junkies Facebook Page

My official finish time was 3:41:57. It’s a lot slower than I run on the roads, but I’m proud of my finish time. I was only a few minutes slower than I was at the trail half in March (the one where it snowed), and I think that’s pretty good given that this race had more elevation and was 2+ miles longer. I feel like I’ve gotten stronger on trails in the past few months. Check out the elevation profile:

Conquer the Cove 25K elevation profile

After finishing, I hobbled around a bit and looked for Jessie. Since the race was headquartered at Loch Haven, we had access to the lake and a lot of runners were taking advantage of that. I met up with Jessie at the lake and we hung out for a bit. We were both cold, so we didn’t go in the water.

Conquer the Cove trail race

After hanging out at the lake for a bit, we decided to head up to the pavilion and grab some post-race food. They had a great spread, just like they did at the trail 10K in Bedford last month. I realize this picture shows you next to nothing, but my brain was not functioning properly at that point.

Conquer the Cove trail race post-race food

This time, they even had the grill going and were making hamburgers (beef and vegetarian burgers were available). It was a great day for a cookout!

Conquer the Cove cookout

I filled up my plate and headed over to sit near the finish line area with Jessie and a group of people. We enjoyed some post-race food and cheered on runners as they came in to the finish. My burger was delicious, but my favorite was the crackers with the hummus. The crackers were so salty, which is exactly what I was craving after sweating for over 3 hours out on the trails.

Conquer the Cove food

Overall a great day and a great (and very tough!) race! The race organization and volunteers were wonderful, and I look forward to taking part in more of the series trail races next year.

2014 Conquer the Cove 25K medal

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If you made it through this very long post, you are a rock star. Thanks for hanging in there!

What is your favorite post-race food?

18 Comments

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  1. Looks like a good time was had by all. And that burger looks great. I thought you would’ve hit the lake for a quick ice bath?

    LUD.

    1. The burgers were delicious! I was going to hit the lake, but I got really chilly after the race (it was overcast), so I only put my feet in.

  2. This looks like it was an AWESOME race and a killer elevation profile! All of these trail races you’ve been doing have really made me want to head that direction for some races this fall and next year!
    Logan @ Mountains and Miles recently posted…Lately…My Profile

    1. You should definitely come down this way sometime for some races!!

  3. Wow-this looks like a great race! I did a 17+ mile trail race one year that went up for 10 miles to over 13,000ft above sea level, then came straight down 7 miles. It was rough, but so worth it! My favorite part of trail races is definitely the aid stations. Pretzels are amazing because they are so salty.

    1. Oh my gosh, a 10 mile incline to over 13,000 feet!? That is intense! 7 miles straight downhill would be really tough, too. I have been spoiled by the aid stations at trail races 🙂 It’s going to be hard to go back!

  4. Congrats on finishing that hilly race! The bandana with the course map on it could come in handy during a race!
    Tina@GottaRunNow recently posted…Garmin Forerunner 220 GPS Watch ReviewMy Profile

    1. Thanks, Tina! The bandana was a really neat, and unique, piece of “race swag.” The map would definitely be very handy, as long as I could figure out where I was in relation to the course 🙂

  5. Wow what an amazing race. Crazy elevation on this course. Great job fighting through I know how tough those climbs can be. Your race reports have me pumped for my first trail race whenever that is lol
    The running schlub recently posted…Yay National Running Day!!My Profile

    1. I know you know those types of climbs well! I bet you’ll rock your first trail race, especially if you keep conquering that mountain each week!

  6. Great recap! I am sorry we didn’t get to meet up at this race! I was also in the restrooms when the race started but I was in line for the “real” restrom (which was only 1) and I think I was about 5 minutes after everyone! I had stomach issues that morning (and that is all I will say) and my last flare-up was at mile 1. I have never experienced that before and hope to never again! I lost so much time betwen the start and the 1st mile it was crazy. The elevation here in Delaware is flat (we have the beach) so this was a super tough course for me but I loved it!! I will be back next year to try it again. Hopefully we will see each other. I see from your races we have run (or will run) a few of the same. Last year I did the Marine Corps 1775K and the Marine Corps Marathon (my first one) so good luck to you at the MCM in October! I will be running the Chicago Marathon in October and looking forward to it as I have never been to Chicago.

    1. I wish we had been able to meet up, too! I’m sorry to hear about your bathroom issues. That’s never any fun at a race. At least it got better after the first mile. I’m glad you loved the race so much! It was so tough, but yet I loved it, too. I am also hoping to be back again next year.

      MCM is going to be my second full marathon. I did my first full last November in Charlotte (Thunder Road). I hope you have a great time in Chicago! Your training is probably about to start, isn’t it? I think my MCM training starts at the beginning of July.

  7. Congratulations! That profile looks pretty serious 🙂
    love the bandana! I may have to add this one to my list for next year. I don’t think I can pass up on such a beautiful trail run that finishes on a beach!
    Jo recently posted…Seen on the run (June 4, 2014)My Profile

    1. Yes, you should definitely add it to your list! I have had great experiences at both of the “RNUTS” Mountain Junkies races I’ve done, and I highly recommend them. Let’s make a plan to both run this one next year 🙂

  8. Impressive!! Your time was awesome. Think about how many things you do when you’re NOT running for 3+ hours—can you believe you ran that whole time? Do you think ultras are your future or do you like road races just as well?

    1. Thanks! It is crazy to think how many things you can get done in that amount of time, and that I spent that whole time running!

      Hmmmm ultras… I think I’d be open to a 50K trail race in the future. But I’m not sure I’m interested in going much further than that (at this point, at least). Trails in general are actually starting to out weigh road races right now 🙂 But the back half of my year this year is packed with road races.

  9. Sounds like a beautiful course! Loved the detailed recap, too!
    Debbie @ Deb Runs recently posted…My Dad, The Brooklyn DodgerMy Profile

    1. It was definitely a beautiful course, but also a very tough one! I think there’s a high probability I’ll be back next year! I’m glad you enjoyed the recap. I always find them so daunting to write.

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