Race Report: Mt. Madonna Challenge 12K

Crossing the finish line in 2nd place at the 2008 Mt. Madonna Challenge Trail Run

I came in second! Woo-hoo! Granted, it was a small race and very small for us girls, but I came in second nonetheless!

(In the spirit of full disclosure, I am a member of the South Valley Running Club, the directing organization for this race.)

And now, the Mt. Madonna Challenge 12K race report….

This race is just great. At around 60 runners in the 12K, it might be the smallest race I have ever done. It was surprisingly cool at the 9:00 AM start time, with a slight drizzle.

The course is tough, but I have to say it wasn’t as hard as I’d imagined. Reviewing the course map last night, I really psyched myself out. The elevation gain is 1100 ft., which is about what you climb in the first mile and a half (give or take). Let me say that another way. In the first mile and a half, you climb 1100 ft!

If you can breathe enough to notice, the climb is beautiful. Actually, the whole run is beautiful. This morning we were blessed with fog, making it all the more dramatic when you reach the top. For about the first .75 miles, I stayed with what I believe was the third pack of runners. The lead pack took off at “Go” and I never saw them again. This included the woman who would ultimately win.

After that initial climb, you level out for a while and pass two campsites. The campsites created unexpected fun as we suddenly had an audience cheering us on, while cooking breakfast on camping stoves. That was a nice treat.

Around this time I caught the second pack of runners, what I’ve learned in Olympics terminology is the “chase pack”. I was stunned to see that I was catching one of our club’s most talented athletes. This was incredibly encouraging! I knew I wouldn’t beat him, but if I could keep him in my line of sight, I would run a good race. It was also about this time that I realized nobody was behind me. Another encouraging sign.

When I hit the first aid station, around three miles, I asked, “How many women are ahead of me.” The answer, “Just one,” was what I was looking for! Last night I decided I wanted to place in the top five, but I figured first through third was out of reach. Now I had a shot. I pretended to be in the Olympics, running for the silver. Ha ha!

There is a steep descent for over a mile, which I booked down at under a 7:30 pace, never losing view of the talented club runner ahead of me. A couple more climbs, a couple more levels, a couple more descents. I crossed the finish around one hour and eleven minutes, with my arms raised over my head, running in seventeenth overall and the second female.

What a fun run!

I have to say I was so focused on my running that I didn’t take much time to look around. However, Mt. Madonna is simply gorgeous as a rule, with spectacular views and sky-reaching redwood trees. The trail is not hard to navigate, never gets too rocky, and it is relatively wide. Even on the single track, it was easy enough to say “On your left” and get around.

I recommend it to anyone who likes trails.

The only bummer was no medal for second place. Oh well, next year I guess I will just have to try and get first!


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