Race Recap: Quadzilla 15K Trail Race

imageThis course is a beast! It’s not just some cinder rail trail, it’s a technical trail with some of the craziest climbs and descents I’ve ever experienced. Just to give you an idea, the woman’s course record is held by my friend Megan, who once qualified for the Olympic Trails marathon. Megan’s time (the course record) is a 1:16. For a 15K, that’s an 8:09 pace. It’s located at Trexler Game Preserve, which I’ve posted about before because I sometimes go there to run, but it’s not for pace. It’s for hills and agility. Here’s the elevation profile:

Not only is the elevation crazy, it also features extreme running conditions. There’s mud, loose shale, rocks, tree stumps, creek crossings (nearly waist deep for me this year since we’ve had a ton of rain!), and uneven surfaces. It’s an awesome run, but it’s one of the most challenging races due to the conditions.

I got up kind of late that morning – 5:30 – and didn’t leave my house until about 6:30. It’s only about a 20 minute drive for me, and they had race day packet pickup from 6:30-7:15. I was at the game preserve and parked by 6:50, chatted with some friends, got my bib and was in the line for the bathrooms by 7:20. I jogged back to my car to grab my GU (so thankful I did that) and then to the starting line for a quick warm up. I saw one of my friends towards the front, and the race isn’t chip timed so I headed up front to hang with him. I don’t know that I really belonged in the front of a trail race since I’m not a trail runner, but I’ve run the course before and know where I’m going, so I figured I had that going for me.

The race started promptly at 7:30. I went into this with no expectations, just a hope to get close to my best time on the course. I knew the reality of what I was getting into. I ran 25 miles in the two days before, and I’m mostly a road rat. I was not going into this to “win” – I’m not a trail runner and this was not my arena, so I can’t expect that. My only goals were to run as much as I could (some of the climbs are so steep that you physically can’t run up them), not get hurt, and have fun. I ran the race in 2012 and came in around 1:27, and again in 2013 in 1:29. I went out really hard in 2013 with an expectation to run a PR, and it was a pretty hot/humid day.

I saw the woman who won the race at the start, and she took off. Normally, I would start chasing her, but I told myself to let her go. I had 9 miles to catch her IF it was in the cards for the day, but my focus was not to race anyone but myself. We hit the trail head and immediately started to climb. I was in 2nd place at this point, but I knew it probably wouldn’t last. The trail is pretty narrow and other than the first climb, it actually levels out a bit here so once we got to the top of the first climb, I passed a bunch of guys to get some open trail and let it fly a little. My first mile was my fastest but it was also the one with the least amount of elevation change. My biggest surprise: I felt awesome. No idea why, since I beat my legs up over the two days prior, but hey. Roll with it.

Around mile two, there was a short descent. We were pretty deep into the woods at this point so it was well shaded, and it had rained a bunch in the previous days. The ground was super muddy, and I came around a turn and ate shit – like totally wiped out. That’s when I got passed by what ended up being the 3rd place female. I was fine, stood back up and kept on going – just covered in mud. Before mile 3, another girl came trucking along and passed me – she ended up being the 2nd place female. It was only about a third of the way through the race and these chicks looked like serious trail runners – I had no business chasing them and I told myself to just run my own race. Enjoy the trail, run comfortably, and let the race come to you.

My shoe came untied a little before mile 4, and I considered just letting it go. I’ve run races like that before. I was afraid that I would hit another muddy area or get to the creek and totally lose it, so I made myself stop and tie it – I hate doing that! I took my GU around mile 4 and though I was already having fun, that’s when the terrain goes from hard to extreme in terms of the obstacles you are avoiding. I was having an absolute blast – I was running with a pack of guys, and we kept passing each other in different sections of the course and cheering each other on. I was still in 4th place, and feeling extremely strong.

Although it’s a pretty steady climb the whole way, the really steep sections are at the end. There’s a series of hills with serious elevation changes over a pretty short span of time. And remember – what goes up must come down. Although climbing hills is tough, I think descending on an unsteady surface is much harder and it was where I lost my 4th place position. I actually got through the biggest climb – the one they actually call the beast – and was still in 4th, but the descent was what killed me. I wore trail shoes, I just suck at descending. I need to practice this. The 4th place female passed me on the descent and was hopping down the trail like an effing mountain goat. She also looked like a pretty serious trail runner – damn, where did these chicks come from? I guess I wouldn’t know them since I’m mainly a road rat.

I knew there was one more climb coming up before the final out and back on the course. It ends downhill, so I thought I would try to keep #4 in my sights until the turnaround and then try to catch her. At that point, we hit the creek crossing. Here’s what it looks like from one of my training runs – when the water was low and we were in a drought:

imageThat was back in May – since then, we’ve had TONS of rain and the water was almost up to my waist! It was pretty tough getting across it but it felt so good. I was splashing water all over my head because it was HOT. I don’t think I’ve mentioned that just yet – the race fell on the hottest day we’ve had so far: mid 90s, 90% humidity, and a heat advisory. It was cooler at the start, but things had really heated up by this point.

As we emerged from the creek, I could see 4th place on the final steep climb. She was pretty close. She began to walk (it’s really steep) and I began to walk, but I told myself that when she started to run again, that I was going to start running again. So I did. I emerged from the woods into the field that you end by doing a little out and back on – it’s the worst part of the course, but necessary to make it that 15K distance. It’s an uphill as you come out of the woods and the grass is so high, making it difficult to run. So I plodded along, and she didn’t gain on me. She saw me at the turnaround and took off, and I did too but I never caught her. I think I could have, but I looked at my watch for the first time during the whole race (I’m usually one to watch my Garmin like a hawk but I made myself not look that day) and saw…1:23??? I was well over 9 miles at this point and heading to the finish – I could hit 1:24 – a three minute course PR for me!

That was enough for me. I ran steady, and when I hit the final stretch, I took off. You come out of the field and get to finish on the road – and my legs felt GREAT, especially when I hit the road. I could see 4th place crossing the finish, and I crossed very shortly after in 1:24:12!!! What?!! 1:24 wasn’t even in my vocabulary that morning. I was looking at my old times and though it would be cool to be around the 1:27 I did the first time I raced this course. My 1:24 was good enough for 5th place and 2nd in my age group – the woman who finished ahead of me was the same age as me. Crap! I was actually more bummed that I didn’t sprint just a little bit harder to bring it in under 1:24, but I’m not complaining!

imageThis was the first race that I’ve run by effort in a long, long, time. When I say I didn’t look at my watch during the run, I really didn’t look at my watch during the run. It was crazy. It was like I forgot about it – and anyone who knows me would tell you that I’m a total clock watcher. I was caught up in enjoying the trail, the people, and the challenge of running something so technical.

The post race food spread is pretty decent, but the only thing I wanted was the watermelon – it’s all I’ve been eating this summer and it was SO refreshing. It was super hot! My feet got wet in the first mile when I hit the mud, and I realized very early on that I paired the wrong socks with my trail shoes. I cooled down by jogging to my car to get my sandals…the backs of my feet were bleeding from blisters:


But the worst was on my pinky toe (don’t mind my dirty sandals and nasty looking feet!!!):

imageOuch! Pretty sure I will be donning band-aids when I wear sneakers for a little while until the battle wounds heal. The awards were awesome – hand painted tiles! The old race director was a volunteer this year and had passed the race onto someone else, so this was a new addition to the event:

Overall, it was a well-organized event that I would highly recommend to anyone! The trail is TOUGH for anyone who hasn’t done serious trail running before, but not impossible – you just have to adjust your expectations. Same goes for seasoned runners. I ran a 15K in 1:06 a few weeks ago, and here I was absolutely thrilled to be crossing the finish line in 1:24. But you can’t compare – the 15K from a few weeks ago was on a trail, it was nowhere near as technical or as steep as this one. It would be like comparing apples to oranges. Many of my friends walked away with age group awards, also:

imageGreat race, great company, great trail, great awards! Couldn’t ask for a better way to spend the hottest day of the summer. I’ll be back again next year!

Have you ever run on technical trails before? Ever raced on one? Want to come run Quadzilla with me next summer?!




57 Replies to “Race Recap: Quadzilla 15K Trail Race”

  1. Congrats in your race!! That sounds like a beast of a course. Love the AG award!! I’ve run a few trail races but they scare me! The most fun I had was the Groundhog Gallop 8K. It was a pretty easy trail but we had to cross water twice in Feb. It was freezing cold!! I actually won 2nd in my AG and got a cute groundhog statue. πŸ™‚ It was a fun race!

    1. Thank you!! It was a beastly course but super fun!! Trail races scare me every single time, too! If there was one by me where I could win a groundhog statue, I would be all over it – freezing water and all, it sounds awesome!

  2. I think I’d like to try a couple of trail races at some point (just add them to the ever growing list of races I’d like to run eventually), but maybe not one quite this technical. Waist high stream crossing? No thanks! You did a seriously amazing job! Sorry you couldn’t catch 4th place at the end, but a 3 minute course PR is super impressive (especially on such a hot day!).

    1. LOL! Thanks! I’ve never seen the creek that high, it was insane! I was totally fine with letting 4th place go. The 3 minutes off my previous best time was more than enough for me!!!

  3. I definitely want to start running on trails more so I can get some hill work and also some agility work, like you said. You use different muscles in your legs when you’re trail running to help keep you balanced and moving forward since the terrain is so uneven. I also like trail runs because they force you to control your speed. It’s nearly impossible to go out in a full sprint on the trails because of the different debris and other obstacles you have to watch out for, and the elevation changes. They’re a great way to work on pace.

    Congrats on your PR, that’s awesome! And unexpected which makes it even better!

    1. Thank you! I’m still on a high! You definitely need to get on some trails – it’s an AWESOME workout and I think it really compliments road running! It’s like getting a strength and agility workout while running!

  4. Congratulations on your race and fun award :). Races like this are definitely out of my comfort zone and it sounds like it was a little out of yours, but you had a great finish time and it looks like you had fun! I think many people avoid trails because they can’t run as fast and you can’t really PR (well, most people PR on the roads) but you can compare your times on the same course to previous years and that helps.

    I actually like trail runs sometimes because it slows me down. If I’m doing the race as a training run, to prepare for another race, I like that it keeps me from “racing”. It also seems to work different muscles in my legs so it’s almost like cross training within a run. And, in the heat the trails are usually shaded and cooler!

    1. Thank you! Trail races take me out of my comfort zone for sure, and that’s exactly what I needed!! I don’t look at it as not being able to run fast or PR – I look at it as a totally different type of activity. But I know a lot of people who have the mindset you described. It’s a shame, because they are missing out! You are so right – it’s like cross training and running at the same time!!

  5. So awesome! I love the camaraderie of trail running–it’s such a welcoming and encouraging place! For not being a trail runner, you KILLED this! I agree that descending is a lot harder–and I’m so afraid of hurting myself! I think it’s easier to go uphill on technical trails then hit the downhills. Congrats on an awesome race!

    1. Thank you!!! That’s what I love most about trail running – the camaraderie! The descents are soooo hard for me!!!! Same thing – I’m scared of going down and hurting myself!

  6. I’ve never trail raced but I think I would really enjoy it. I used to run cross country in high school and really enjoyed running through nature. Congrats on an amazing race and that award is pretty awesome!!

  7. Wow awesome job!! That race sounds super tough but also fun. I’m so glad you went into it with a good mindset and just ran your own race. Running by effort is my jam lately, it’s so awesome. I actually set my half PR running almost entirely by effort. You almost always do better than you think!

    You’re getting stronger every day!! Love the tile, so beautiful

  8. I can’t even IMAGINE running that race. To say I suck at trail running would be such an understatement. We have a race series around here called “5 peaks” and I’ve done it a couple of years in a row, but not lately. I do those races just to change things up a bit but yeah, there’s no way on earth I’d ever place in any of them. Trail runners are their own breed, and I am an alien in their world. You totally killed that race! You’re so strong. Amazing.

    1. This was my third time running it. The first time, I somehow got 3rd in my AG but it had to be a fluke. I am so not a true trail runner – you are so right that they are their own breed! I am convinced they are part mountain goat.

  9. wow! That’s crazy about how deep the water was for the creek crossings!! I’ve never raced a trail before but looking to get into it a lot more because I have some bigger goals for myself πŸ™‚ You crushed this race!!! Awesome job! Would love to run it with you next year πŸ˜‰

    1. It was so crazy! I’ve run there for years and never saw the water that high. It felt great, though!!! Totally come run it next year – so worth it!!!! You would enjoy trail running. It’s an awesome challenge!

  10. Omg, the pace for the course record clearly shows how difficult of a course that is! Nice job on a PR on that hot day too! I’d think if it’s going to be hot on race day, it might as well be a trail race where you’ll have more shade & no real reason to stare at your watch πŸ™‚
    I hope your blisters are doing better! Perks of being a runner, right? πŸ˜‰

    1. Thank you! It was a really hot day but a great day for a trail race, especially with the creek crossing! The water was ice cold and felt great. Ahhhh blisters…just some more battle scars!!!

  11. I’m such a trail weenie even though I’ve done a bunch of trail races/ultras. My little road runner legs just aren’t tough enough to really be good on trails. You totally rocked it, and it was definitely a good call not to look at your watch! I’ll come run with you…but maybe a nicely paved road race instead πŸ˜‰

  12. That. Looks. AWESOME!!!! I love trail running and love how much fun I have every time I do it. I never look at my watch either when I trail run–it’s SO much more stress free for me than on the road where like you, I’m a total clock watcher.

    That elevation chart looks so freaking awesomely scary. I ran my first night trail race last year, a 27k, and it had this killer hill around mile 10 that left me with crampage like whoa!!! But it was a blast.

    Congrats on a PR–you killed it!!!!

    1. You would LOVE this trail for sure if you love trails! All the local trail runners do loops there to train for their ultras!! OMG a night trail run – now THAT is crazy badass!!! I would totally wipe out!!! Amazing!!!

  13. Great job! Congrats! I ran some cross country back in high school, but other wise I’ve never done a trail race. The age group awards are cute. I hope your poor toe is healing.

  14. You’re amazing!! That time on a technical trail!? Holy moly! Congrats on the award too! And don’t you worry about those feet…I can definitely relate as I’m sure a lot of us can. ❀

    1. Thanks, lady!! It’s pretty tough but so fun! OMG MY FEET. There are actually 3 blisters, but the pinky toe one is the worst. It’s nasty. I know my runner peeps know the feeling all too well! I hope you are doing well πŸ™‚

  15. Awesome running!!! That’s an amazing time with that elevation. I love trail running, I have a tendency to run like a maniac down hills. I love it. I am bummed that I dropping out of my next race- a trail 25K- next weekend. Silly leg. Great AG awards!

  16. Awesome job!! I’ve done ONE trail run, and it was so much fun I have yet to sign up for another. Can you sense my sarcasm? Holy hell it hurt! I should try again though…

  17. Awesome job, Allison!! That race course and elevation sounds and looks so crazy…and super fun! I think I’d love to do it next year πŸ™‚ But really, it was sooooo hot that day. You are such a beast! Take me on that trail soon!! Of course, I’d probably be lucky to run it at 11 min/mile pace hahahaha

    1. Thank you! I’m up for running that trail ANYTIME – it’s such a cool place. It’s so funny because we have nothing else like that around here. When I run it by myself and not in a race, I DO run it at an 11 min pace!

      1. Haha ok maybe I’ll be more like 12 min pace then!! LOL But yes, when I come back from Chile let’s have a blast with it!

  18. Sounds like an intense race indeed — but a very memorable one, given the challenges. Why is it called teh Quadzilla? Does it have something to do with wrecking your quads? Or are there four big hills?

    1. It’s a great race! I’m pretty sure that it’s called Quadzilla because the hills completely trash your quads! There are more than four hills for sure, and the really big ones are ridiculous!

  19. Great race report!! I just found your blog today through Hollie’s blog. I actually love the QuadZilla and have run it every year but this year, since I am currently 39 weeks pregnant. I missed running there this year so it was nice to read about it. I don’t know you but I am friends with several people in your last pic πŸ™‚ . Congrats on your awesome time and an amazing race!!

    1. So cool that you are familiar with the race!! I missed the first year and last year due to injury! Are you from the Lehigh Valley?? Congrats on your new baby – sounds like you at due soon😁 thanks for stopping by and reading!!

      1. Yes I am…..and it’s nice to read a local runners blog πŸ™‚ I’ll look forward to reading your posts about the local races until I can return. I’m hoping to do the Christmas city candy cane 5k in Dec…..RW 5k if I’m feeling ambitious πŸ™‚

      2. Awesome!! I’m not sure if I’ll do any of the RW festival because I’m running the Hartford Marathon the week before. But I’ll totally be there cheering!!! I usually jump into the holiday races soothe Christmas City 5 might be on my agenda. We will have to meet up!! Good luck with the little babes!!! Soooo exciting 😍

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s