This race is held in Keene Valley NY, which is my favourite little corner of the Adirondack mountains. I don't remember how I first heard about it, but after doing it last year for the first time, I knew I had to keep coming back. It's a small race- about 100 in the long race (11.5 miles) and maybe a few more in the short race (3.5 miles).
The course is a point to point, and more or less goes up a mountain, over the top, and then down to the finish line in the valley on the other side. That's a very simple version though- there's 2900" of climbing, 3100" of descending, multiple stream crossing, a bog crossing (thigh deep nasty mud), and with several days of rain before the race, the majority of the trails were ankle deep mud, with quite a few sections of trail that actually had water flowing down them.
I went down with my 13 year old daughter Abby, who also did this race last year (the short course).
My race didn't get off to a great start- at the start line some of the guys around me were talking about how slippery the bridge around the first corner was, and of course, when I hit it, I went down hard. The good news was that my handheld water bottle took the brunt of the fall. The bad news was that it blew the lid off my bottle so I had to do the entire race (the crash happened less than 30 seconds in to the race) with no water.
After picking myself up and checking to make sure that there wasn't too much blood, I carried on. My strategy this year was to go hard on the flat sections, go steady on the easy hills, and power walk the steep hills. I got into that rhythm right away and was feeling good. The trick for me on terrain like that is to keep my heart rate under control- I'm not super strong on uphills, so I have to be careful not to blow up.
I kept grinding away and picking off runners, and got passed a few times too, but I felt like I was doing pretty well. I knew that staying dry was hopeless, so right away I was plowing though the water and mud, and was having a good time.
The uphill portion of the run goes for about 12 km- lots of gradual climbs, and a few really steep (like pull yourself up a rock face) sections, which bring you out to a spectacular summit with a beautiful view. One of these days I need to hike there when I'm not racing so I can spend some time there and soak in the view.
Once I got over the summit, the race was on for me. I'm much faster descending than climbing, so I knew that would be where I could pick up some time. I picked off quite a few more runners on the steep, muddy trails, and caught up to a few runners who had passed me earlier on. After a couple of kms of steep mudddy trails, the trail comes out on to steep gravel roads, which are tough. At that point I just tried to hold on and push as hard as I could to get to the finish line. In a race like this, it's amazing how much your pace varies- on the sections with uphills and bog, my slowest km was 12:10. On the downhill sections where I could really open up my pace, my fastest km was 4:01.
By the time I got to the valley my legs were shot. I was starting to get that wobble where you know they're on the verge of giving out, but I managed to stay upright and pushed through the finish for 15th place in 2:11:22- 3 minutes slower than last year, but considering the trail conditions I think it was a better time. That was good enough for 2nd in my Age Group, which was nice.
My daughter ran her race in 36:17, which was good enough for an Age Group win- a repeat performance of last year!
I really enjoyed this event. There's such a friendly & low key vibe to the whole thing, and I definitely will be back again!