Iron Mines 25k Race Report
Not every trail 25k earns the moniker of epic but yesterday Iron Mines did. Red Newt Racing held the inaugural Iron Mines 25k/50k which is Race #3 in the 2019 Salomon New York Trail Series (next up is Whiteface Sky Race and VK). This ended up being one of my top 3 hardest race efforts I've ever put in and goes to show how big a part the mental game can play and how a 25k fits into a training plan.
At the sound of the horn I dashed off eager to see how some recent training injuries would fair and was immediately surprised to feel no nags or niggles. Descending around mile 5, I emerged onto a dirt road, promptly missed a right turn across a small dam, and found myself smoothly crushing 6:00 pace down-down-down a dirt road. About 3/4 mile down I realized I must be off course, no more pink flags. Fudgesickles is not what I said. I dashed back up that dirt road, found the turn and with a steady mind began to claw my way back into the race, I was now in 9th.
I picked 3 racers off on the out-and-back section, saw the leaders, and high fived Laura and Megan at the turn around aid station. It was awhile and much rocky gnar before I saw and gained 5th. From there another uphill mile until I saw Devang and Mike Diblasi in 3rd and 4th places. We hooted and hollered to each other and while floating an easy downhill I said ‘lets run em down fellas.’ I was refocused with the sly smirk of the hunter. The legs were feeling good despite having ice-ice-baby on repeat all week with a shinsplint. Pro Tip: you can jam an ice cold gallon of water perfectly between your gas pedal shin and the console to keep swelling down on any drive. 10 mins on/10 mins off.
A mile later I passed 2nd who surged with me when I passed and his competitive fire sped us through a blur of vibrant, spring greenery and more rock-strewn singletrack. The trails were staggeringly beautiful, filled with tons of (mostly) runnable hills, frequent but short rock gardens and climbs that emerged to craggy aeries with headspinning 360 vistas of the protected Norvin-uber-Green State Forest and the sparkling waters of the ginormous Wanaque Resevoir far below.
Now out of water for 45 mins I had been fervently eyeballing the cascading streams we crossed when I heard the second Aid Station bantering with first place. On my downhill approach I yelled 'Hey Manny!' He returned the greeting and immediately climbed away from the aid station while I staggered in to fill my flask. I was able to finally close the gap and reclaim the lead but Manny and his sturdy legs were climbing strong and he sure as hell wasn't letting me out of site so I settled in telling myself to stay steady, no surges yet. We had the biggest climb coming just ahead and I thought this was where I'd turn the screws but my legs were not having it and I had to hike vast sections of the beast while Manny closed the gap.
The Wanaque Resevoir shimmered below as we meandered around the rock outcroppings of the summit area and still Manny was right there. I patiently waited for the big descent I knew was coming and then decided it was time to bust my move. I jumped on the gas and immediately gapped him but dared not look back as I found my legs were feeling battered and the cramps were beginning to flicker (Oh god not now!). I realized at this point in my haste to chase I had forgotten to eat any calories. Well, better late than never. I jammed a gel in and readied another. Might as well do two. That should do it. That decidedly did not do it. I ran with a choppy gait, crampy and bonking smack-dab into Joe Azze of MPF with his GoPro.
I instantly missed a turn and Joe followed me through the bumble and up a hill which I was embarrassed to walk up on camera. While hiking up the short hill I said "Joe, I'm shot.' He reassured me I looked great and said I had not but a mile or maybe two left. I mentally added up the distance comparing it with my deteriorating state and used it as fuel to trudge on soon grabbing my choppy amble towards the finish.
This last portion was quite hard for me having certainly bottomed out all muscle and liver glycogen stores running well over lactate threshold for most of the race. Without continuous positive self-talk and determination I don't think I would have held on to win. I cantered in with a newfound respect for New Jersey and a heck of an experience.
Congrats to all the racers and hope you had a blast no matter the outcome!