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

Charlottesville 10 Miler

IMG_20130315_185102_405I think it’s time for a reality check. I haven’t made any of the time goals I’ve set for myself for the past year and this year’s Charlottesville 10 Miler was no exception. I wanted to break 80 minutes. I’ve run a half marathon at that pace, so I thought I should be able to run 10 miles at that pace. I guess I need to face the fact that I’m just not as fast as I used to be. I’ve had to take a lot of time off in the last couple of years for injuries, and although I’ve finally been healthy enough to train fairly consistently for a few months, I’m still not back to where I was.

It was cold, wet and DARK when we arrived at the JPJ on race morning. I was happy that we could wait inside, and that we would not have to stand outside in the cold waiting for a port-a-john.

Just as Kurt and I stepped outside to do our warm-up, it started to rain. We did just a half mile warm up then went back inside to wait for the start.

It was still dark and raining even harder as we headed to the starting line.


I was getting wet, but I’ve been much colder waiting for a race to start. Other than the rain, it seemed like pretty good running weather.

There was no singing of the National Anthem and no gun to mark the start of the race. Or, at least, I didn’t hear anything. At some point everybody in front of me started running, so I did too.

My first mile was, by far, my slowest mile of the entire race. At 8:40, it was also pretty far from my 8:00 goal. My next few miles were faster, and I was feeling pretty good. I knew I still wasn’t at my goal pace, but I wasn’t confident enough to run the early miles any faster.

The hardest part of the race for me, was the uphill stretch on Main Street around the beginning of mile 9. Just as I was approaching the steepest part, I heard a guy behind me say “We’ve kept up an 8:20 pace from the start. Not bad for a couple of 36 year-olds.” Hmmmph. 8:20? That’s better than I thought I was doing. I had switched to my “B” goal, which was to set a PR. I’d set the bar very low with my 1:27:42/8:55 pace time back in 2008.


People around me were slowing down as we climbed the steep hill, and I found myself slowing with them. Just before I turned the corner to leave Main Street, I realized what I was doing and that I still had energy. I started to pick up the pace. I had to concentrate really hard to keep myself from slowing down again, but I was able to hold my pace to the finish.

My final time was 1:22:32/8:16 pace. A PR by more than 5 minutes, but almost 2 and a half minutes slower than my goal. It was still good enough to put me in the top quarter of all finishers and the top 10% of my age group.

charlottesville 10 miler elevationFor some reason, the elevation profile for this course doesn’t look as bad as it feels.

The Charlottesville 10 Miler is such a huge tradition here in Charlottesville. I’m happy I was finally healthy enough to run it again this year.