|Finish line photo with RD: Andy Jones-Wilkins|
The 100k race distance is a cruel monster. It's not far enough to demand the reverence that which a 100-mile race demands, yet it's certainly far enough to expose any runner not wise enough to take it seriously. There is no faking it and nowhere to hide from her pain.
Straight up, running in the winter is not my thing. I do it because I'm a runner and that's what I do. Frankly strapping on a headlamp in the pre-dawn hours to the howl of a single digit wind, blowing snow, and treacherous footing are not my cup of tea. I would far rather enjoy the beauty of winter gliding over the trails on cross country skis instead of post-holing with my trail shoes. I slogged my fair share of miles though this winter in West Virginia – ushered out the door by the fear of an early season tune-up in the hills to my east called the Thomas Jefferson 100K on March 14.
My goals for this race were simple: 1) Cover the distance. 2) Keep the effort controlled. 3) Don't get hurt – the Massanutten 100 is the focal point for the spring and I need to be able to jump right back into my training after a couple days of rest/recovery. 4) Enjoy it!
The race takes pace in Walnut Creek Park – just a few miles outside Charlottesville, VA – and consists of seven 9-mile loops. Walnut Creek is an ideal location for a running event. There is ample parking, a central pavilion, beautiful woods, and some buttery single track. The race started at 5:00 am with a steady cold rain ushering us into the dark woods. Even with my conservative plan, I somehow found myself leading the pack from the start. I was going slowly, but no one seemed to mind. Eventually I stopped to let out some coffee and the peloton went around. Queue the day of running alone . . .
Running loop courses is something new to me. It was an interesting day of mental tricks to fool myself into finding something novel and inspiring about each loop. Loop 1 and 2 – no problem, just a warm up; get to drop off the headlamp. Loop 3, take off heavier gloves. Loop 4, change out jackets. Loop 5, just suck it up and do the loop. Loop 6 was the carrot on the stick; time for some tunes – a rarity for me. At the end of loop six, I met up with Greg Loomis and shared some miles with him. Finally having some company was great and eventually we met up with John Baldwin as well at the start/finish area. I got to start out loop 7 with them (they were on loop 6) and really enjoyed just cruising along on some tired legs looking for the finish line. The buttery single track was now really "buttery" – the muddy trails really had my hip flexors wrecked. John and I covered the remainder of the loop together after Greg slowed a bit and I was happy to finish in 11:43, good enough for 3rd place. Full results HERE.
So my impression: All of the above goals were met and the race really exceeded my expectations. This is a top notch event. The pre and post-race meals were amazing, super nice swag, and the volunteers treated all of the runners like kings and queens all day long. Be sure to check out this race in 2016 and I look forward to making seven loops around the park yet again!