When the summer ends and fall rolls around there are a number of things that you can look forward to: Crisp cool air, leaves changing colors….& Mountain Madness. Mountain madness is a race put on by NJ Trail Series each fall for the last 4 years. The main race is a grueling 50k with a 25k & 7.7 miles option. This year Mountain Peak Fitness offered cash prizes to the top places.
I ran this race last year with mixed success. I had a physically good day, feeling strong throughout the race. But I made a mental error and missed a turn causing unnecessary miles & time to my finish. I finished around 6:40. I looked forward to this year’s race as a chance to get it right. Due to a busy summer of little thing like getting married, buying a house & starting a new job, I had not raced since early June and my training was spotty. I was finally able to start logging some serious miles at the end of August & built up a good base for the race. I had the chance to run the course twice with my MpFit/Campmor teammates to re-familiarize myself with the course. Or should I say familiarize myself with it. This year’s catch was the race was being done in reverse. Whether that was good or bad I would soon find out.
I arrived on race morning with my wife (she would be running the 7.7- her 1st trail race). It was cool but humid. Rain was possible for later in the day. The race started at 9. I started off easy in the rear of the pack. There was a tough climb right at the beginning. My plan was to start slow & conserve my energy for later in the course. I power walked the 1st climb until I saw MpFit/Campmor teammate Joe set up taking pictures. Great- no one wants to be photographed walking. So I had to run a little up the hill till I was past him. Back to power walk. After that the trail turned to some nice runnable single track. I settled into a good pace with one group of runners then hopped onto another group further up the trail. I was feeling good and running at a decent pace. I was little worried I was starting too quickly but stayed with the runners I was with. Aid station (AS) 1 came quickly. I grabbed a cup of water & was off again (was wearing my Nathan hydration pack & did not need to stop to refill bottles) the trail was still pretty easy as aid station 2 came. Again a quick in & out. I had past the group I was with & came upon 2 more runners. I ran with them for a mile or so before I pulled ahead. My legs felt like auto pilot. I was taking energy gels every 45 minutes to keep up on my energy.
After passing through aid station 3 there was a long downhill on a road. At the bottom would start the next big climb over the mountain into Ramapo Reservation. I stuck to my strategy of walking the hill to conserve strength for later. I began passing runners who were part of the 25k event. It was motivating to have runners to chase down. As I headed down the trail to AS4 a group of runners who I had passed caught up to me. I felt like I was keeping my pace. Were they going faster or had I slowed down? I came into the station and took some extra time to refill my hydration pack. The hardest part of the course was coming up & I wanted to be prepared. The green trail back to the start/finish area was a long had climb. I settled in & powered up. I pulled away from most of the runners who had caught up to me. At the top I began running again. Soon I was on the yellow trail. It was hard, harder then I remember when I trained on it. It was hilly & rocky (it seemed more so then the rest of the hilly & rocky course). I was starting to drag some. I put on my iPod to give me something else to think of rather than the 12 or so miles left. I was soon past that section and back into my groove and nearing the start finish area. Once here, runners had to go out on a final 7.7 mile loop. I came in good spirits ready to tackle the final mile. I changed my vest out for a handheld bottle, checked with my wife how her race was (good!) and was back out. I had passed a runner who was heading out on my way in & he was my goal to catch. The loop, known as the mountain bike loop, was the easiest part of the course. It was mostly double wide & fire roads. I felt strong & pushed a hard pace. I caught the runner ahead of me in about 2 miles. Some light rain had started to fall. It felt good. The miles passed quickly. Soon I was near the finish. I put on a kicking song & charged to the finish. I ended with a time of 5:54:09, good enough for 11th overall.
I had as good as a race as I could have. No wrong turns, major falls or mishaps. Always could use a little more training. Thanks to my fellow MpFit/Campmor teammates who were out on the course cheering everyone on & working the aid stations & for helping with my training. Now time to start thinking of next year.