Repeating is hard: Mahlon Mayhem is a trail race put on by NJ Trail Series in Mahlon reservation in Jefferson, NJ. The race, in it’s second year, has distances of 100k, 75k, 50, 25k & 12.5k. The course is a 7.5 miles loop with an out & back section. I raced the 25k last year & scored my first overall win. It was with great anticipation that I signed up again & wanted to “defend my title”.
I arrived on race morning about an hour before my start. The start area was already abuzz with activity from the longer distance races that started earlier. I surveyed the area trying to decipher who would be my competition for the day. The race started at 9am & we lined up just minutes before. The count downs started - 1 minute, 30 seconds, and I readied myself for the start. Would it be a casual pace at the gun or an all out effort from the go? With a simple Go, we were off.
The first half of the trail was double wide & I settled next to another runner at the front leading the pack. I took notice of his effort as he seemed at ease running. My heart rate was a little high but comfortable. The 2 of us slowly started to create a gap on the other runners. The trail began with an uphill (didn’t remember that one from last year) & began to grow rockier (again- thought they added extra rocks). At about 2 miles in, the other runner started to get a slight lead on me. The gap continued to slowly increase. I felt good & was running at an effort I knew I could sustain for the entire race. Now was an important decision. Do I kick it up a notch & try to chase him down and risk blowing up or stay within my limits & race my race? Experience has taught me to be patient and race my race. I picked it up but stayed at within my heart rate zone I had planned. Soon he had a sizable lead but was within sight distance. The trail turned to some single track, a section I like to refer to as “the connector” because it links you to a fire road that you do an out & back on. You then run the “connector back to the double wide. At that point you climb a hill to the highest point in Morris County (which isn’t that high). A fast down hill followed by some more flat brings you back to the start & time for the second loop.
I came though, dropped my shirt & HR monitor (it was humid) and head off for lap 2. This is where is became really difficult. I was in 2nd place. 1st was out of sight, 3rd someplace behind. I was running alone. I have a hard time keeping my pace if I do not have someone to chase. It becomes a mental game. I dug in & just kept chugging. The lap felt fast. On the out & back I saw the 1st place runner heading back as I was still going out & told him good race. As I turned around I searched for the 3rd place runner. I saw him & he seemed close to me. I kicked it up a notch. As I neared the finish I tried to pass a runner from another race & took a tumble! Ouch but I was up & running without even a thought. I crossed the line in second place, 7 minutes behind 1st and 3 minutes ahead of 3rd.
My dreams of a repeat win did not come true. I was happy with how I ran & some days there are just people faster then you. I enjoyed the post race activities & cheered the other racers in. I left satisfied & waiting for next year.