Sunday, January 10, 2016

Race Report: Frozen Toe 10K

photo credit: Kristen Chang

Yesterday I ran the Mountain Junkies Frozen Toe 10K on the Chestnut Ridge Loop Trail on Roanoke Mountain in Roanoke, Virginia. I was glad it was more muddy than frozen.

I was excited because it was to be a new trail race experience for me - the only other trail races I have done have been the Brush Mountain Breakdown on my home trails that I know well. I didn't know this trail at all, and I didn't even look at the elevation profile or plan. I just figured whatever it was, it was. Down, up, flat...just go!

I rode to and from the race with ultrarunner Jordan Chang and ironwoman/runner Kristen Chang (of Real Food for Fuel). (And because they are so fast and finish races long before me, I have them to thank for the finish line photos!!

The only advice I'd been given was from fellow local masters runner Linda who said to go out pretty quickly on the out-and-back asphalt loop or risk being caught behind slower runners on the narrow trail. Apparently everyone had that strategy and the group took off like a shot aiming for the human turnaround cone. That's a brave volunteer!

Once we hit the trail, I stuck to my place in the single-file line and we steadily made the mile and a half climb up the mountain. It did not yet feel like "racing" and I could feel myself growing a bit impatient, but I also knew this is part of the challenge of trail racing. I debated passing people but when I watched the few who did, I saw the energy it took to accelerate uphill off the beaten trail. So I opted to settle in and save my energy on the narrow trail.

Soon our efforts were rewarded with a mile back down on what, by my standards, was a plenty rocky and root-covered trail. The seasoned trail racers probably found it very tame and quite a number of girls flew past me. I won't lie - it was humbling!! They were more sure-footed and/or less risk-averse. But I wanted to keep my crutches in retirement, so I pushed myself to the edge of my downhill leg-and-brain comfort zone and just didn't really stress about it. 

This was shaping up to be very different than my Brush Mountain Breakdown race experiences where the small field meant you often had the trail to yourself. I was in a pack of runners for much of the race.

I found myself behind a male masters runner, later introduced as Kemper. He seemed to be running smart, steady, and confidently and something told me that I would be wise to fall in behind him and follow his lead on pacing. In doing so, I found myself passing a few people on the uphills, running strong and happy on the flats, and feeling like I was finally racing! My goal was to try to keep up with him (not always easy), stay focused, and remain upright.

photo credit: Kristen Chang

I did keep up with him, and finished ahead only because he dropped and retrieved a glove in the final half mile. At the finish I thanked him for helping me to a more patient yet overall faster run than I would have had otherwise. I learned a lot.

Kristen, Rachel, me

I finished as the top master's female in a time of 51:11, 8th female overall. The winning female time was 47:16 and the master's record is 49:13.

Thank you Mountain Junkies for the socks. I had forgotten that my trail shoes "eat socks" (as Kristen aptly described it). Having worn the wrong socks, the race socks saved my day!

I also appreciate the beautiful hand-engraved award that captures the essence of the Frozen Toe 10k race and the heart of the trail running community! I had a great time!!