5k (Blue Square) – Katie
This year I returned to Jay Peak to run the 5k, whereas last year I ran the 25k. With knee issues, and lack of training, there was no way I was taking that on; not to mention that it (25k) was the hardest thing I have ever done. Jay Peak is a mountain. The races at the festival are “trail” runs. BS- these are mountain runs. So, the 5k’s don’t summit like the 25k and 50k, but they are still “mountain runs”. The 5ks see you running up ski slopes and chair lifts… it’s intense. So, that being said, I ran the Blue Square, or “middle difficulty” race. The black diamond is “hardest”; the green circle “easiest”.
The weather was lovely, the trail crowd was fantastic as always. We headed out near the tram house and wound our way through the nordic trails. Eventually we came to a chair lift, and the course continued a ways up the lift field until we ducked back into the woods. The chair lift incline was steep and I hiked the whole thing. I was hoping this was the end of the climbs, after all… it was super intense. The course turned into the woods and was SUPER MUDDY! Finally, I ran past the lodges and could see and hear the finish line and thought I was done. Then I saw a volunteer pointing me up the mountain yet again. This last climb was the largest of the race, and was mostly through the woods. It was so beautiful and again I hiked it just enjoying the surroundings. When I rounded a corner and headed down, I didn’t hold anything back. In previous trail runs, I have been very reserved on the down hill, protecting my knee and quads. I though “what if I just give in to the gravity and momentum and try to get my time back”. With my Altra Lone Peaks, this is do-able (previously in 5 fingers this was a challenge). So I opened it up, flew down the last hill to the finish, and sprinted across the finish line. Because of my lack of prep and fitness for this race, I did run with the back of the pack. I hiked, ran, hiked, ran, and regardless of that, I loved this race. It is challenging, the most challenging 5k I have ever run. Maybe next year, I’ll do two!
25k – Jon
My quads were thrashed; my lungs burned; sweat was pouring through my Buff headband; I had “candy” mouth from too much Gatorade and Cliff chews…but I was smiling. Why? Because a little girl was waving at me from the side of the trail. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
This was the second year that I ran this race (in fact this is only the second time the race has been run). While the course changed a bit from last year I think it was for the best: more single track on the Long Trail; more climbs; fewer out-and-backs. It was a really good field: 102 runners for the 25k; 32 for the 50k. The weather turned out to be great. Not too hot; fog and clouds up at the peak but the heavy ones burned off shortly. Some extremely muddy sections, but overall the course was in good shape. Much better course markings compared to last year.
I wanted to really give this a go and try to push myself (in my deluded mind I was shooting for around 3 hours). I started at a slow, even pace, wanting to force myself to take it slow. The section up until the first big climb (see pics below) was a mixture of wide nordic trails and tight single track. Lots of close quarter running. I ran past the first aid station and started up the brutal 1400 ft, hands-on-legs climb. I decided put on some music for the climb (and for much of the end of the race) to try and take my mind off the pain—I burst out laughing when Toto’s “King of the Mountain” came on (not to mention later on when, crossing numerous slippery wooden bridges, I was graced with The Talking Heads’ “Slippery People”). Atop the climb we then headed into a steep Long Trail section that had some scrambling/nose to the mountain climbing. Up to the summit aid station, which was covered in fog, then some winding down, then back up some of the downhill slopes. (Since they altered the course pretty dramatically at the top it took a few minutes to get my bearings. Once I did I was grateful JJ [the RD] had changed things.)
One section that was added was a single track out-and-back on the Long Trail (half mile out; half mile back). It was a narrow, technical descent on the way out, and then we turned around and trudged back up. I loved it! It was brutal on the legs, and difficult footing with the wet rocks, but it was a lot of fun to cheer, high five, and joke with the runners we were passing.
Much of the rest of the descent down the mountain was on open downhill slopes, and was repetitive: hold on for the steep downhills, trying not to blow out my quads and calves; then try to run, or just power hike, the sudden climbs up the trails. This continued until the mile 9.5/10.5 aid station (really two distinct tables), which you hit twice: at the beginning and the end of a heavy climb . I wore my AK Vest and had been carrying one water bottle, opting to hold Cliff Chews and my iphone in the other. This was fine until I got to this aid station. With only tiny bit of water left I was told they ran out…(glassy eyed look)…so I continued down the hill and then climbed back up the winding switchbacks with a group of 4 others. We all grumbled about the lack of water, and it would get worse as we hit the aid station again only to find that water was still not available. Just Gatorade. I hate running with Gatorade. But I filled my bottle and headed off, trying to not stay bitter.
It wasn’t until the 20k mark that the lack of water really hit my. While I was getting some form of hydration, my mouth was turing into a candy dump from the mixture of sugar liquid and gummy chews. It was making me a bit nauseous, to be honest, but I knew I only had 5k to go. “There is nothing you can do about it; deal with it and just Gut it out.” That is exactly what I needed to hear…from myself. It gave me a good kick in the butt.
That is when I saw the little girl and her family. We were back on some of the first section of trail (just before the first section of single track), and as I rounded a bend, at a fast walk more than a slow jog, I saw her looking over her shoulder, waving a tiny hand at me. It was all I could do to keep screaming, “Thanks for the cheering!” It lifted me up and I pushed my pace up the single track climbs and out to the last aid station.
“You guys have water?” “Um, of course” “Oh hell yeah!” I downed two cups, filled my bottle, and took off at a fast pace. I caught up and pasted two guys before the bottom of the long descent, before we hit the finally climb under neath a chair lift (the same one that Katie hit at the end of her race). One foot in front of the other. The pain will end soon. I hit the top, and let gravity take me down the hill where I knew I was almost done. “1/4 mile to go.” a volunteered yelled at me. It felt so good to round the gravel path by the lodge and come to the finish hearing my name and seeing Katie, Sara, and Abe (and Betty the wiener dog!) waiting for me.
4100+ feet of vertical climbing in 3:25:49. Damn, I am happy with that. I hope to come back again next year, but maybe I will try a different challenge and run all three 5ks. No matter what, the Jay Peak Trail Fest was a ton of fun, and I hope the Auyer’s can make it a yearly adventure!
The drive in…
…the fog cover was thick!
See the guy in the blue Pearl Izumi shirt in the center-left? He won the 50k in just under 5:30! Incredible! And the older man with the white beard and hydration pack? He is 62 and finished just behind me. Wow!
This does not do the climb justice…
A look of determination or just simply pissed off?
Aid station atop Jay Peak.
Cloud/fog was still thick.
View from atop Jay on one of the exposed out-and-backs.
Looking down a chair lift hill while I was descending from the top.
Crossing the finish in 3:25:49
…and busting out…
…some JT moves.