For the 2013 racing season, I wanted to challenge myself with new courses & competitors. I found both at the Chilly Cheeks 7.2 miler in Reading, Pa on February 24th. The race is one of many put on by Pretzel City Sports and was part of the La Sportiva Cup Series as well as a USATF Mid-Atlantic championship series race. Being part of both series ensured top notch runners from all around would be there. They were.
On race morning my wife and I drove out to Reading for the race. It was only about a 2 hour ride. The race had an 11am start time so it was nice not to have to rush out to early. Check in was held at a “social” club at the race finish. It offered a warm place to wait for the race start. I warmed up on the course by running the finish out. From what I saw it was going to be a hard race. As race time neared, the participants walked the ½ mile to the race start. The weather was somewhere between cool & chilly. I got to the start and took a spot in the front. At about 11:15 we were given the start command. The race headed down the road, made a right onto a path and another right up a hill. And I mean up a hill. No trail or path. Just straight up the side of a muddy hill. It required hand over hand & grabbing roots to get up. Competitors slid down beside me but I made it up. We came out back in the lot we started in. The course then turned down the road the other direction & then we turned onto the trail.
From the start the pace was hard. I was pushing to stay toward the front. The trail immediately started to go up. A long up. I tried to settle into a good pace. I was passed by a few runners then passed a few myself. The course was hard. It was up & down the whole way. At times there was no trail at all. We hit a long downhill & came out on the road to the first water stop at 2.5 miles. I grabbed a quick drink. Back into the woods and a long uphill followed yet again, probably for close to a mile. It soon evened out some but was still hard. I had a runner close in front of me & on my heels. Soon the 2nd water stop came, 5.2 miles down. We continued on a long fire road and eventually we were going up a steep section yet again. The very top needed hands to climb up again. At the top we hopped a wall, ran the road a bit, then hit the trail for a long downhill. It was rocky, the type of trail I like to bomb down. But it was tight & I had trouble passing people and got stuck behind a small group. I soon recognized the trail where I warmed up and knew the finish was coming. I tried to push the pace some but the group stayed with me. There was a steep rocky hill to climb before the finish. I managed to pass 1 runner. 4 others were right ahead. I tried to kick to pass some more but could not close the gap. I finished in a time a 1:01:47 in 31st place. I was hoping to do better but I ran my hardest.
The course was hard for a start of the season race. There was top notch competition. The race was by Jordan McDougal, a runner from the La Sportiva racing team. Post race there was a band and free breakfast. All in all, It was a good trip. Though I did not do as well as I would have liked to, I found a tough course and competitors to race against. I plan to head out there again.