' Race Recap: Punk the Monk 5k Trail Run | Adventures with FitNyx

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Race Recap: Punk the Monk 5k Trail Run

Races are, at the core, about overcoming adversity.  To many non-runners, this is about the adversity of your adversaries - someone has to win, right?  But for those of us who are building running and racing into our lifestyle, we know the adversity faced can come in many, many guises.

Yesterday, I had to overcome a LOT of adversity.

I'm a huge fan of the Muddy Monk trail run group, and was very excited to be heading to my fourth race event with them.  I hopped in my car and headed off - and right away I hit my first obstacle.  I went the less-efficient route, and the drive took far longer than I had anticipated.  Despite the unexpected length of travel, I still arrived on site with 15 minutes to spare before go-time - or so I thought.  This race was at the Lakewood Forest Preserve in Wauconda, at a pavilion site that had limited parking available.  With the piles of plowed snow, there definitely was not enough room to accommodate all the runners, and I was out of luck on a nearby spot.  To make matters worse, everyone milling around in the parking lot decided to ignore the car that was trying to get through, and it took me far too long to get through the tiny lot.

I had never been to this park before, and was starting to panic about where the heck I could put my car and still make it to the race on time.  After a little driving, I found a lot behind the ranger's station - almost a 10 minute walk from the race!  This meant I had to take a bag, because I couldn't just throw my layers in the car five feet from the start line, and that I was definitely going to miss the gun.  My frustration levels were through the roof, and I seriously considered just driving back to the start, picking up my shirt, and heading straight home.

When I finally arrived, the registration table was all but packed away, and the runners were already moving.  Fortunately - and this is a big part of why I love the people at Muddy Monk - everyone at the pavilion was incredibly nice and wanted to get me on the trail as quickly as they could.  I honestly believe it was the friendly smiles and the eagerness to help fix my so-far-sour race experience that convinced me it was worth running the race at all.  They pulled my race bib, grabbed me a shirt to stuff in my bag, checked that bag, and sped me on my way.  I took off quick down the path and tried to make up for the lost time.

SO.  Here we are, three paragraphs in, and it's finally time to talk about the actual event!  This was my third trail run, but my first in snow, and I was not entirely prepared.  I was wearing old shoes with minimal tread, and though I'm a little ashamed to say it, I haven't done any running since my last race a month ago.  Plus, I'm a bit of a klutz, so odds of a total wipeout were high.  Since I was starting late, I decided to make up as much time as possible early: catch up to the back of the pack right away, then systematically pass people until I finally found people at my pace.  The first stretch of path was wide and pretty well trod, so the slippage was minor and it was easy to move quickly.

When I finally caught up to the pack, I made a frustrating realization: trail runs are often on single track anyway, and it can be difficult to pass slower, more cautious people even in dry woods - but in the snow, when the single track is etched a foot deep in the snow, it's almost impossible to get around the column of people picking their way through the trees.  Of course, the slower people don't move out of your way, you have to fight your own new path around them.  In this case, that meant leaping into the snowy mounds on either side of the trail, thrusting your feet down into the soft, unbroken snow, and slugging forward as fast as you can while dodging branches and underbrush.  It was HARD to pass people!

Eventually I managed to get through the back third, and after a little while the path opened up again to a wider trail for another stretch, helping me make up even more time as I plowed forward with renewed gusto.  We rounded a corner onto a big open field, and the sun glare (on the warmest day of 2015 so far) was brutal.  Note to self: sunglasses next time I run in snow and sunshine!  We came across the water station, and I realized I hadn't seen any distance markers yet.  I had to assume that we were halfway, since I knew Muddy Monk short runs usually had the aid station about halfway if the terrain would allow, but I was a little disappointed there weren't mile markers (or if there were, I'd missed them).

Photo courtesy of the Muddy Monk organization.

The second half of the run was nothing but single track and single file.  After the water station I never passed anyone else, but at least the group I was stuck behind was keeping a sustainable pace.  The trail closed in a little more, so there really wouldn't have been an advantageous spot for passing anyway, and I accepted the pace and settled into a decent little stride.  My only major slip came about a half mile (I'm guessing) from the finish, when the man in front of me pushed back a branch and it snapped back at me.  I managed to dodge, but lost my footing in the process and almost wiped out completely.  Fortunately I managed to catch myself just before I hit the ground, and was up and running again quickly.

After making a big loop around the preserve, the single track opened back onto the very first stretch of wide path to return to the starting area, and I saw my final opportunity to make up my lost time.  I passed about 15 people in the last 100 meters, and felt great about my performance.  One of the organizers who realized I was the girl who started late was impressed with how quickly I finished - but I knew I was out of luck on adjusted timing.  Muddy Monk doesn't use chip timing, so everyone was on gun time only.  When the results were posted last night and I had a time of 39:58, I knew that was considerably longer than my actual race time.  My rough start had set me back, but I had fought through that adversity and ended up having a very solid run, and at the end of the day, I was pretty proud of myself!

Photo courtesy of the Muddy Monk organization.

Oh yeah - there was actually a point to this run, too.  It's called "Punk the Monk" for a reason: the guy in charge of the Muddy Monk group dresses like a monk for this race, and anyone who beats him gets an extra little finishing prize.  This year it was a can koozie that says "PUNKED".  It's a little silly but it's still a nice idea, and gives the event a unique flavor.  I didn't punk the monk, and probably wouldn't have even if I had started on time, but I did get a quick selfie (or is it a monkie?) with him after the race!

Organization: Muddy Monk gets big points for efficiency and for their ability to make up for some unfortunate parts of the experience.  A less organized race group would have butchered this event, but I have got to give credit to the smiling faces who helped make my morning so much better!  As usual, the post race festivities were well done, including free hot dogs and beer (if that's your bag, baby) and the pleasant surprise of free post-race stretching and massage compliments of a local physical therapy program.  Lines for the food and drink were pretty long, but moved quickly.  The stretching area was pretty empty, so I was able to step right up for my turn, and received a lot of attention since there was no line through which to rush.

The Course: Almost all single track, very snowy and slick, and surprisingly technical considering the snow.  I supposed I expected the woodsy parts of the run to be less technical since the deep and slippery ground cover was already a formidable obstacle.  I'm afraid I cannot comment on the scenery much, as I was so focused on my footing that I barely looked around, even when the sun wasn't scorching my eyeballs.  My biggest negative is that the distances weren't marked.  Being stuck in single file is just a natural hazard of trail running, and I can't really hold that against any particular event.  I also think the course might have been short of 5k: my GPS tracking had the course at 2.6 miles, and despite being in the woods where sometimes signal is hard to find, my route map looks pretty accurate.  Trying to give Muddy Monk the benefit of the doubt, but definitely a little suspicious on this one.

The Swag: Repeatedly, Muddy Monk impresses me with their stuff.  I paid $30 for the race and received a really nice tech shirt, a cool mason jar beer glass, a personalized race bib, and all the freebies of the post-race event.  AND, as always, free photos of the event were posted hours after the race ended.  As a local, family-run group, I truly believe Muddy Monk focuses on pouring as much of the race fees back into the participants as possible, instead of pocketing big profits.  Having that aura of "customer appreciation" is really important to building a successful racing series, and it's definitely a big part of why I keep going back to these races.

The Bottom Line: I almost left, but there's something about Muddy Monk runs that keeps me coming back!  I had a solid run, and enjoyed myself despite the early problems.  Would I run in the snow like this again?  Maybe, maybe not, but I'll definitely be back in May for the next Muddy Monk race!

Have you had a day where you felt everything was telling you to just give up?  How did you handle that adversity?  And who else ran this weekend??

1 comment:

  1. I almost signed up for that race! But it was below zero then and I knew that even if it warmed up, there'd still be a ton of snow on those trails. Bummer on the parking, but glad you had fun anyway.