Jay Peak 25k Race Report
Sadly there is no Recipe Sunday this week. This is because Katie and I ran the Jay Peak 25k, which was one race in the Jay Peak Trail Running Festival (which was held on Saturday Sept.1 & Sunday Sept. 2).
I don’t want this to be the typical race report. We went into this race knowing full well that we weren’t really there to “race.” We were both racing on very little training (what with Katie starting school the other week and me coming back from almost a month of injury recovery)—instead we wanted to just run together, walk/hike as much as we wanted (not necessarily as much as we needed), and to try to have “fun” and enjoy the views. With that said this post will be a way to share some of the fun (and not so fun) moments from the race.
[As to the point about the views: this was by far the most beautiful race we have ever run. From the foliage, to the scrambling sections of the Long Trail, to the amazing views atop the peak itself—if you can run this race you should, if for no other reason than the scenery.]
Driving to the race Jay Peak looms large on the horizon, towering over the landscape. Arriving to the resort you get to see exactly what you are about to run/hike/walk up, and it is certainly intimidating. The race kicked off without much fanfare and a decent sized pack of racers (a mixture of 25kers and 50kers). The day turned out to be a perfect mix of milder temperatures, sporadically overcast, and no rain—perfect.
Right before the 5k point we heard lots of voices and shouting—”No no no, don’t go that way!” Hmmm. As we exited the heavily tree-covered single track section and rounded the 5k point we saw the entire pack of runners, who had left us earlier, coming back towards us up a hill. Turns out ALL the runners went the wrong way down a hill and had to go the other way—which lead up the face of the mountain. (At this point I think we climbed something like 1468 ft. in just over a mile.) While we were doing this I noticed a man, dressed not unlike the Amish; walking up the same route as us; with his hands behind his back, as if he were walking down a city street. And he was PASSING US! What the what?! I hope I’m as in shape as him when I’m 60 or 70 or however hold he was.
Getting to the first real aid station at the peak (somewhere around mile 5) we were able to look out with an unobstructed 360 degree view—the White Moutains in the east, towards Canada in the north, east towards Lake Champlain, and south down the Green Mountain spine. We also saw where we were going, which was down the ski slopes on the otherside (southeastern-ish) of the mountain and back up a sister peak. To see the sheer steepness of the descent in addition to the tiny specks that were the other racers running up the next peak was an amazing sight.
Always another uphill. I cannot stress physically AND mentally taxing it is to always see another climb. And never a small one—these were up the downhill ski slopes! Quads burning, calfs aching, arms pumping and often clawing up the trail. It’s no wonder that we hiked as much as we did (which was probably for the best given our training, which had been almost zilch). We did take a wrong turn once or twice, and we had to backtrack and then double back once which resulted in added mileage. That was both physically strenuous and mentally frustrating: not knowing if you are going the right way, then having to walk back up hill to figure out where the turn should be results in both energy and morale lost. Luckily we never got that far off course.
There were two major plus’: one was our eating and hydration. We carried humus wraps and dates; the aid stations had chips, pb&js, gatorade, and GUs that we could eat. Add to that we each carried a hydration pack and took S-caps every hour for our electrolytes. No cramping or passing out, and pee that was the correct color! A+ for us. The other plus was neither of us got injured. Despite running only a couple hours since coming back from my injury, my calf felt fine—great, in fact. Even Katie, who felt like she might have strained her Achilles during the run, finished without any significant pain or injury. Only normal soreness. A++!
Getting to the end of the race we were both expecting a time close to 6 hours…but low and behold the clock still showed “4-something” and we crossed the finish line in a time of 4:49. That seriously lifted our spirits and made the run all that more worthwhile. We never set out to get a good time, so to find out that we did better than expected was a great feeling. Add to that the post-race festivities: veggie burgers and a beet/vegetable salad + some Tram Ale and the day was a success in my eyes. We also got to have some great conversations with a few veg-runners (the race director included), and once on the course I was asked if I was the No Meat Athlete guy who wrote that book (Matt, I hope you don’t mind that I was mistaken for you).
There were two surreal things to say about this race. Not having a watch allowed us to not be beholden to the clock. Time melted away, leaving us with our thoughts and the trail. We had no idea how long we had been running, nor what time of day it was. I said “good afternoon” to a passing hiker only to realize I had no idea if it was the afternoon or not. Being lost in that way, while unsettling at times, allowed for a freedom and a peace that I have rarely experience. Then, when we got back to St. Albans we headed to get some food for dinner. A rather odd sensation came over us as we realized how strange it was to have just be up to the top of Jay Peak (at 3,766 feet) and now find ourselves shopping for food in a supermarket. The burning soreness of tired muscles conflicted with the mundane calmness of being back to normalcy, creating a very surreal moment of understand just what we had accomplished.
The experience of this race was brutally exhausting, and we found ourselves in some dark places that required a strong will to persevere through—but it is incredibly rewarding to know that we could push through pain and gut-out the race even when we were tired. Scott Jurek’s mantra, “Sometimes you just do things” was tossed around a few times. I feel very thankful to have been able run this race together, and been able to share in the range of experiences and emotions that we did.
[I thought I would just throw in a map, and elevation profile and hill chart for info’s sake. The course had to change a bit at the last moment, so the map is not exact nor is the elevation a perfect match…but most of it is correct, so you get the idea of what we did.]