Friday, March 30, 2012

McKay Hollow Madness 25K Trail Run 2012 Race Recap

There is a saying I have heard other runners use: "The only limits we face are the ones we place on ourselves."  You never know what you are capable of unless you give it a try.  What if I had said, "There's no use trying to race a tough 25K only one week after the Virginia marathon?"  Then I wouldn't have known that I could do it!  I am glad I gave it a try, and I encourage you to try something a little out of your comfort zone too!  Here is my story.

My friend, Julia, was also running the race and agreed to give me a ride up there.  Rick and the kids would meet me at the finish.  We arrived at 6:30 a.m. for a 7:00 a.m. start, but no worries.  The line for the bathrooms was short, and we already had our race numbers since I had gotten them from Fleet Feet the day before.  The weather was nice (50s) and PERFECT for racing.

Here is a picture of Julia and me right before the race began.

Before the start (Katie in black, Julia in white)
Photo by James Hurley
Now, you may remember from last year that the race was cancelled due to lightning, but I ran the course that day anyway.  Who runs the course in a downpour with thunder and lightning?  In my case, someone who is stubborn and fiercely determined.  Someone who doesn't take no for an answer.  This is one of the qualities that I hope to be remembered for.  In fact, I am ashamed of myself when I am not this way.

I was even more hungry to run the race hard today since I didn't get the chance last year.  I won the race in 2010 because I loved the course and felt it suited me well.  I wanted the chance to prove that I was still capable of running it well today, in spite of the fact that I'd run a marathon a week ago.  I wasn't going to let that stop me.  And, truth be told, I actually felt surprisingly well and fairly recovered, all things considered.

The Race
I started near the front and really ran hard for the first mile.  I loved the feeling of racing, the beautiful weather, and the knowledge of the trails ahead of me.  I was eager to begin the race that I wanted so badly to run last year.  A couple of young girls started really fast (and toed the start line with the elite men, too!), so I figured they might be competition.  Turns out they are a pair of sisters, 16 and 17 years old.  Pretty tough pair, and they run 100Ks and many other events as well.  I quickly decided to make a slow gain on them (my first mile was a 6:59, and I wasn't into going faster than that knowing what was ahead!).  I passed them easily on the first hill once we hit the trails, around 1.5 miles.

My goal for myself was to beat my pace from two years ago, which I had figured out to be a 10:02 (2:36 for 25K).  What I had forgotten and didn't learn until the end of the race, however, was that the course was only 14 miles in 2010.  Oops!  It didn't really matter though, since the downhill and flat parts were much faster than a 10 minute mile, but then the climbs were much slower.  It is very hard to predict overall pace with this variation, so I just tried to run my best.

I enjoyed the course and was in a good position.  I was not passing or being passed much at all.  I liked the muddy trails and sloshed happily through the puddles.  I enjoyed running with some guys who called me a "downhill specialist" because I take my downhills pretty fast.  I liked the challenge of the hills.  I was pleased to hear people out there really cheering for us (like one woman around mile 9 who was clapping loudly for each person who passed, even though we were pretty spread out).  And it was fun to get photographed going under the big tree limb seen below.

Going under...when everyone else went over!
Photo by Gregg Gelmis
I later saw this picture in a facebook album and was shocked to see that I was the only one in the album who went under the tree limb and not over!  You can see how high it is!

I really don't remember a whole lot of details about the race.  If you have never run trails, it is hard to imagine what it is like.  You certainly get gorgeous views and see all sorts of beautiful things (we all saw a deer bounding past us at the start!), but you are also really focused on the ground in front of you.  I saw lots of rocks, mud, and sticks.  You have to watch the ground really closely so you won't land poorly!  One wrong landing can be the end of your race.  I find it refreshing to focus on the task at hand.  You don't have too much energy left to think about other things.  You are kind of lost in your own world, and for much of it, you are alone and kind of feel like the only person in the world!

Mile 14 was very slow and tough.  It is a huge hill (an over 700 foot climb) that we crest as we head towards the finish.  I covered it in 17:30.  Fellow Fleet Feet teammate Timothy Pitts tried to chide me in a very good-natured way to get me to speed up: "I'm coming for you, Katie!!!"  But I could not go any faster, and he passed me on that hill.

Once I saw the finish line, I started running as fast as I could.  I surprised myself with a 2:30:34 and another first overall win!  The crowd was loudly cheering, but the voice I heard above all was my daughter's.  What a special moment!

Sprinting in!

Finishing first!
Photo by James Hurley

Fist-bump with Rick (and look at those muddy legs!)
Photo by James Hurley
It was fun taking pictures with some of my teammates and the other winners.  I really like Race Director Blake Thompson's sense of humor.  He called us "McKay Hollow Madness victims, I mean participants" in an email to us all, and his prizes are always crazy too.  Here was are posing with my mad snail lawn ornament prize for first place.  The shirts have an enormous snail eating people on them.  Crazy!

2nd, 1st, and 3rd place (left to right) with Race Director Blake Thompson
(click on picture to see the blood-red snail eyes near my hand!)

And here I am with fellow teammates Christy Scott and Lynn Curry.

Photo by James Hurley

A 25K is supposed to be 15.5 miles, but my Garmin said the race was only a little over 15 and others agreed with that distance.  My pace, ironically, exactly matched my pace from 2010--a 10:02.  This was just a coincidence!

Gorgeous views!

Official time 2:30:34 
1st overall female, 15th overall
Race website here

Good blog about the race and its difficulty: Ultra Kraut Running


  1. Congrats on the win! I love the log picture!

  2. This is such a great post and so inspiring too!! Congrats, my friend!!

  3. Congratulations Katie!! You are such an inspiration racing a 25k, A TRAIL 25k, a week after a marathon, wow!! I hope to be that strong in the future :)

  4. Nice win!
    How funny about the log. How in the world did everyone else get OVER it?

  5. Very nice recap Katie! Congratulations!