Montalto Challenge 5k (May 4th, 2013)

IMG_20130504_143601_662The Montalto Challenge 5K fell on my Birthday this year. I had mixed feelings about the way this worked out. On the one hand, it’s one of my favorite local races. On the other hand, my husband and I had done the Via Ferrata course on my birthday the year before, and I really liked the idea of continuing the tradition of trying something completely new and different on my birthday each year.

However, life has a way of interfering with even the best of intentions. Between changes in my work situation and still not feeling fully recovered from the Blue Ridge Marathon two weeks before, I was dragging. The idea of merely trying to think of something new and exciting to do seemed overwhelming. Never mind having to actually plan for and then do it. So we registered for the Montalto Challenge. It would be my third time, and Kurt’s first.

Race logistics changed this year. They added a packet pick-up option on Friday night at Monticello. They also had everybody park at Monticello on race morning and offered shuttles to the starting line for walkers and runners and to the finish line for spectators.

We picked up our packets Friday night. As always, I was impressed with the Swag for this race:

IMG_20130504_094611_844water bottle, cool race shirt, flower seeds packet, and coupons for Ragged Mountain and the Monticello Gift Shop.

It was about 45 degrees and overcast when we got to Monticello race morning. I was happy that we could use the heated, indoor bathrooms before heading down to the starting line.

We ran the two miles down as a warm-up. I was grateful for the long, brisk warm-up because it meant I wasn’t too cold waiting for the race to start.

We were faced with this warning sign as we lined up for the race.


I loved the starting line and mile markers:

IMG_20130504_075001_362My goal for this year was to break 30 minutes. I had finished in 29:24 in 2010 and 31:10 last year.

The first mile felt pretty good. Most of the second mile wasn’t too bad, and when it was bad it was mostly in my head. I felt much worse when I let myself think ahead to that last, (killer!) mile. Mile three was, as I knew it would be, miserable. I was sucking wind and feeling queasy as I made my way up the switchbacks.

montalto elevation

The Albemarle Pipes and Drums band was right on the course this year. I think I actually liked it better when they were out of sight. It was kind of  eerie and cool to run up the mountain to the sound of bagpipes in the distance, but not to be able to see where the sound was coming from. I still loved the fact that they were there for us, though. And I’m sure they were freezing in their kilts!

I crossed the finish line in 29:11. Happy Birthday to me! A race PR is probably about the best birthday present there is for a runner 🙂 It certainly wasn’t my fastest 5k, but it was the fastest I’ve ever run this all-uphill course.

It was brutally cold on top of the mountain, though. My hands were too cold to work the camera on my phone. Kurt had to take our picture.

IMG_20130504_083506_217I was thrilled to see that they had hot coffee. I grabbed a cup and a hunk of Great Harvest bread.

It was way too cold to hang out on top of the mountain for long, which was really disappointing. The views from the mountain are amazing, and Montalto is usually closed to the public, so this race is the only chance we get all year to be up there. I definitely would have loved to stay for the awards ceremony, music and spectacular view, but I was sweaty and cold and not dressed for the conditions. We quickly decided to jog back down to the car.

I did realize, once we were at the top that a pick-up truck had transported runner’s sweatshirts and such from the bottom to the top. Had we known ahead of time that that was an option, we would have taken advantage of that, and could have stayed much longer.

Final Time: 29:11
Splits: 8:12, 8:46, 11:33 (that third mile is a doozy!)
2nd out of 7 in my age group
18th out of 100 women
63rd out of 208 finishers