' Race Recap: Muddy Monk Four Stars Trail Run | Adventures with FitNyx

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Race Recap: Muddy Monk Four Stars Trail Run

My second run this summer (and first straight-up 5k) was with a local trail running organization called Muddy Monk.  Not only did I have a great run, but I made some friends and started integrating myself into the Chicago running community.  I've been keeping an eye on Muddy Monk opportunities ever since, and finally had room in my schedule to go back for this past weekend's Four Stars four miler!

I also had the opportunity to use the race as a meet-up with a Chicago entrepreneur with whom my office is looking to partner for some exciting events!  Priti Patel started MindPoint to encourage mindfulness in the workplace, and has developed a system by which to measure the impact of increased mindfulness on valuable job assets such as focus and productivity.  We'll be having her work some magic in our office in November - but I wanted to get to know this very interesting and insightful woman much sooner!  I was honored she chose to come run with me, and we had a great time!

We didn't plan the bright orange matchy,
but I love it anyway.

Priti is probably in better shape than I am, especially as I haven't been running much lately now that my job is taking more of my time, but I pushed a bit to stay with her and we chatted the entire way.  Eventually we had to pull the pace back a bit - I'm a race talker but most other people just aren't, and I think the dual task of running and talking eventually wore Priti down a bit, so we finished the last mile or so a little slower.  When our results were posted, I was happy to see that I had finished in 44 minutes flat, for 11 minute miles.  I'm sure we could have run faster, but I'm pleased with my splits for a race I spent socializing.

Photo courtesy of the wonderful people at Muddy Monk.

The biggest killer on the course, which for the most part was a very scenic dirt track through the Old School Forest Preserve, was the sled hill at the very beginning and, after the course looped back on itself, at the very end.  Hills are tough on paved tracks, but going up a forest hill was REALLY rough, especially with the footing!  This particular hill was steeper on one side than on the other; we had difficulty gauging how best to approach either side, but still made it in one piece.

Photo courtesy of the wonderful people at Muddy Monk.

While most of our run was pretty uneventful, the Four Stars race itself celebrated a very exciting first: this was the first time in Muddy Monk history that one of their races was won outright by a female!  We'd seen her coming back when we were only about a mile and a half in - pretty impressive stuff!  The after-party also had a costume contest, though neither myself not Priti had managed to pull together a "Chicago themed outfit" to enter.  The winners were dressed as the Snowpocalypse and the Polar Vortex.  Everyone agrees that was a well-earned win!

After the race, while we were eating our hot dogs and recovering along the edge of the picnic area, we were approached by a young woman who looked very familiar to me.  As she drew nearer and was clearly trying to get my attention, I realized it was one of the women I'd met at my first Muddy Monk!  Priti and I invited Erica to join us for some finish-line photos before we all had to head out for the rest of our Saturday plans.

We had a really beautiful morning for a trail run, and as usual the Muddy Monk organizers did a fantastic job.  I'm already signed up for their Halloween-themed Thriller 5k in October, and am considering trying one of their winter Chiller runs.  I know I'm a wimp when it comes to cold, though; any winter running is really up in the air right now!

Organization: Muddy Monk has some great communication and planning.  Registration and packet pick-up at the race were smooth and quick, the race started promptly on time.  The Muddy Monk runs do official timing by hand-recording your finish time as you cross, so there is some room for discrepancy, especially if you started in the back like we did or if you were a little behind the recorder's line of sight when you finished (which explains why, though we crossed at the same time, Priti's official time was seven seconds faster than mine - they hadn't seen my number as I crossed).  Chip timing costs money, though, and until I'm planning to win some of these races (har har) I'm perfectly content with Muddy Monk using a creative solution that keeps race costs down.  Some people had trouble with the directions to the race, but I didn't have that experience, I pulled right in to the well-marked park entrance with no issues.

Photo courtesy of the wonderful people at Muddy Monk.

The course: A really pretty trail through the Old School Forest Preserve, but not a technical track like my last Muddy Monk experience.  We started on grass, which lasted up the sled hill and back down, then around the pavilion to the main path.  The vast majority of the run was on dirt/crushed gravel, which was very soft and easy on my knees!  It was a simple out-and-back course, and should have been two miles each way, but the organizers admitted it ran just a smidge long, so maybe my time was even better than I thought!  There was a water station at the turn-around, which on a cooler day would have been plenty; the morning was pretty hot and humid though, and I wouldn't have minded two water stops.  I know, I know, it's a short race and I shouldn't need water at all, but I'm still building that endurance and more water would have been nice.

The swag: For a $30 registration fee, Muddy Monk races give some nice stuff!  The race shirt was a technical tee, which is always a good deal.  Instead of a finisher's medal, they give a finisher's beer glass.  I'm a sucker for some cool bling, but receiving a functional prize is quickly becoming a preference.  I still use my water bottle from my first Muddy Monk, and it's triggered more than a few great conversations with other runners, sometimes in unexpected places.  After any Muddy Monk race, you can also purchase shirts or glasses from previous races, often as low as $1 per item!

The bottom line: I'll do any Monk race I can fit into my schedule.  These guys are great.  'Nuff said.

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