I’m linking up today with the Weekly Wrap linkup, hosted by MissSippiPiddlin’ and HoHo Runs. This week I’m sharing my race recap from the New River Trail 25K, which I ran the Saturday before last (October 17).
The race started and ended in a town called Fries (pronounced ‘freeze’), which is less than an hour from us. However, Barry and I chose to camp at a campground in town for the weekend, and I’m so glad we did! For the first time ever, we were able to walk to and from the race, which was awesome. The campground itself was small, but once of the nicest we have stayed in. We also enjoyed walking around the town of Fries throughout the weekend, as it’s one of the cutest small towns. Naturally, I didn’t take any pictures of the campground or town.
It was a pretty chilly weekend, and race morning dawned with temperatures hovering around freezing. However, we had a late race start of 9 AM (there was also a 50K that started at 8 AM), so there was time for it to warm up a bit. Barry had me worried when he decided to take a quick shower at 8:40 AM, 20 minutes before race start, but we were soon on our way walking over to the trailhead and arrived at 8:55 AM. It was very foggy by the river!
After a quick trip to the porta potties we gathered at the start line. Someone shouted “3-2-1 GO!” and all thirty of us were off! Probably the most low key race morning I’ve ever had.
The entire race was run on the New River State Park trail. This is the trail we often run on at home, but this time we got to experience a new section of trail (the trail is 57 miles long). The race was a trail race in the technical sense, as in it was run on a crushed gravel and dirt surface. But the New River Trail is similar to a bike path and there are no crazy hills, or roots and rocks to dodge. So I was pretty sure I would pull off a PR, since my past 25K’s have involved a couple of mountains.
The first 5.5 miles of this race took us from Fries to Fries Junction on the trail, which pretty much followed the New River. The temperature was hovering in the low 40’s, and it was chilly alongside the river. Kind of one of those days where it feels very cool in the shade but very comfortable in the sun.
I could feel that I was going out a bit too fast in the first few miles, but I couldn’t help myself. The views of the river as we ran down the trail were gorgeous, the weather was perfect for running, and I felt good. This probably sounds stupid, but it was one of those days where you’re just grateful to be alive and be out in the world doing something you love.
The miles ticked away as I ran along with my philosophical self. All of the race participants had spread out pretty quickly, and I pretty much ran the entire race on my own. I didn’t mind, though. I actually find it most peaceful when I’m running on my own during a race but can see others behind me or off in the distance. Before I knew it, the first 5-ish miles were done and I had arrived at Fries Junction. From there, we made a right turn to cross the New River and run towards Galax.
Just before mile 6, I started to feel fatigued. I knew I had gone out too fast, and now it was time to dig a little deeper and keep going. Our turnaround was at mile 7.5-ish, and I told myself I had to at least keep running until then. And then I came across something that momentarily distracted me: a tunnel. At first I thought it was so cool to run through a tunnel! And it was. But the tunnel was also long enough to become absolutely pitch black in the middle, so that you couldn’t see anything. It probably wouldn’t have been as scary if I hadn’t been by myself, but I was so it was. And I sprinted through 🙂
As I made my way towards the turnaround, I saw the 25K leaders on their way back. It was fun to cheer each other on, which is one of my favorite things about an out and back course!
I was just past mile 7 when I saw Barry running along on his way back. As usual, he had made a couple of friends.
I kept running towards the turnaround and all of the runners going the other direction kept saying “you’re almost there!” and “you’re close!” and “it’s just ahead!” And then there it was. I made a very anti-climactic loop around a pole as two volunteers cheered me on, and just like that I was on my way back.
I had been running for about an hour and 20-some minutes at this point, and I told myself the least I could do was run until 2 hours. Plus after the turnaround I felt like I was running on a slight downhill. On the NRT you’re almost always running on a very gradual uphill or downhill. I soon found myself back at that tunnel.
I was still running alone and it was just as spooky as the last time! From the tunnel, it was a short stretch back to the bridge across the New River and then I was back at Fries Junction.
As I arrived a Fries Junction, close to mile 10, the volunteers working the aid station cheered me on. I had my hydration pack on and used gels during the race, so I never stopped at the aid station either time. I made a left turn to start heading back towards the trailhead in Fries, and knew I had just over 5 miles to go.
Just shy of mile 11, my watch hit two hours and I slowed to a walk. I really don’t like taking a walk break, but I just needed it mentally. Mental strength is definitely an area where I need more work. I consumed a gel, took a long sip of water, and turned on some tunes on my iPod. Up to this point, it had just been me and my thoughts, but I thought I could use some motivation.
With just over 4 miles to go, I started running again and started breaking the race down into manageable chunks. I focused on running the next mile, half mile, or sometimes even just to a landmark in the distance. At some point through this section the lead 50K runner came flying by. I think he won the race by over 10 minutes. I kept plugging along and made it to the half marathon point before slowing to another walk.
At mile 13.2 I started running again (it’s not like walking felt any better anyway) and ran strong until mile 14.5. With what I suspected was less than a mile to go, I once again took a brief walk break. I was fighting off calf and hamstring cramps. This stretch felt short on the way out, but felt much longer on the way back. I think it may have actually grown longer while we were out running, somehow.
Luckily, around this time an older gentleman ran up behind me and said “come on, you’re not going to let an old guy beat you, are you?” He got me to start running with him and went on to tell me he had been chasing me for the past 3 – 4 miles. I enjoyed running along with him as we chatted about our day. He said he had run the 50K in the past, but chose to run the 25K this year (2015 was the first year for the shorter distance). I focused on our conversation instead of how tired and achey my legs and hips felt. Before I knew it we had hit mile 15 and I could hear the finish line. He encouraged me to pick it up, and I thought maybe I could make it under 3 hours. Alas, I crossed the finish line in 3:00:58. Still a 41 minute PR!
I had two surprises at the finish line. First, I was handed a pint glass with the race name on it. How cool, and totally unexpected! Second, Barry had gone up to the campground and gotten the dogs, and was waiting for me at the finish line with them. It was so cool to see him and see them. Naturally, they tackled me and tried to lick all of the salt off of me when I sat down next to them after the race.
After hanging out for a bit at the finish line, Barry and I dropped the dogs off at the camper and headed over to the Fries Community Center. There was a group of women there that had a whole buffet of food for the racers. They had at least eight different types of hot soup (I had chicken noodle!) and then an entire spread of breads, cookies, and fruit. They were super friendly, too, and really enjoyed having everyone there! That was a really nice special touch from the race. Barry and I hung out for a little while, before heading back to the campground with full bellies.
Overall, a great small race with a lot of special touches! I definitely hope to do the race again in the future. I’m not sure I’d want to do the 50K (call me crazy, but I’d rather do a hilly/mountain-y ultra than a flat one!) but then again you never know!
Have you ever been able to walk to/from a race?
Small race or big race? I like smaller races. They tend to be more low-key, but often have special touches!
What would you think of going through a tunnel like the one at this race?