The MONSTER Post (Part 2)
These are some great shots that my Dad took as he was chasing us around the Virgil Forest.
Since we had our own personal photographer we were able to have shots before the run. I especially like how we are so happy and smily…oh how that would change fast.
Katie started at 8:49, and then headed left down Rt 392.
I started at 9:00, following the same route as Katie. Almost right over the hill in the photos we took a right onto Tone Rd., a gravel road that lead us to the entrance to the trail.
After you turn off Tone Rd. onto the trail, the course ascends up to the top of Virgil Mountain. The elevation at the base is about 1300-1440 ft., but the course quickly rises to 2132 ft in less than a mile. Most of the course is single track, with lots of roots and rocks and difficult foot, sometimes hugging the edge of drop-offs into streams and gorges. There is little level ground to run on, and both of us wound up walking/hiking most of this part of the course. The difficulties did not end, as we made a short descent and then went back up to the top of Greek Peak (2080 ft.). The trail continued to be narrow, traversing muddy logging roads and interspersed with sharp switch-backs. All of this before you are a quarter of the way through the race. We’ve run technical courses before, and we train on courses that require concentration and nimble feet, but make no mistakes: this is a seriously difficult to course. That being said, the views and the scenery were breath taking: I can only imagine running this trail in the fall when the leaves have turned—it would truly be an awe inspiring run.
My Dad was a great help throughout the day, going above and beyond what he needed to do by driving to meet us where the course intersected different roads. The first two pictures of me are right after the first aid station at mile 3.2, on Van Donsel Rd.; the second two are about a mile later on O’Dell Rd.
Katie had gotten lost up on Greek Peak due to being separated from the runners in front and because some of the white blazes were a bit washed out (read MONSTER Post Part 1). My Dad waited on O’Dell Rd. to see her…we has reading the paper and almost missed her.
Here is Katie heading on the trail out to the turn-around…
…and here she is coming back from the turn-around.
I had thought that the middle part of the course between the two aid stations would be the easiest. I had forgotten, however, that a slow downhill going out would feel much worse coming back, especially late late in the race. You can see by the map (above) that there is a steep ascent to the turn-around, and then a gradual, though hilly ascent back to the first aid-station. While the trail does open up at parts, most of it remains narrow, steep, and with difficult footing. At some places I felt like I was only running on roots because there just wasn’t a clear place to land. There really is no way to explain just how crazy some of the trail sections were, and even though we had trained on trails and our training runs were verging on 2 1/2 hours this still earned its namesake as a MONSTER of a race.
After you re-descend Greek Peak and Virgil Mountain, you come back out onto Tone Rd., which seemed much longer than I had remembered it to be. That is where I found my Dad. I tried to muster a Howard Dean yell, but all I could do was make a power fist.
Dad waited for Katie on Tone Rd. as well, and then he came back to the finish area to catch her crossing.
Our photographer (i.e., Dad) thought it would be funny to take a picture of my stung leg with the bib in my toes…somehow it works. The smiles are a combination of relief and exhaustion.
On most races of this distance you will usually get a bunch of shwag, and possibly a big shiny medal. The greatest thing about this race was that for conquering the Monster we were awarded small, unpretentious, handmade clay necklaces. It was fitting, and the hardest race award we have ever earned!