As you all know, yesterday was the big race day for the Jupiter Peak Steeplechase. All week I had been on the fence about even showing up, because I knew just how under trained and not ready for a race like this I really was. Not only would it be the farthest distance I have ever run (even in training, I had literally never run over 13.5 miles) it was also the most elevation gain I’d ever run up. That was a little bit intimidating for me
Fast forward to race morning, when I woke up at 5:00am and was downstairs drinking my coffee I was still contemplating whether or not it was a good idea to race that day. About an hour later I decided to just go for it and whatever happened, happened. I wouldn’t put pressure on myself to finish in any certain time frame, I just wanted to finish. It’s a pretty cool thing to say you have finished the Jupiter Peak Steeplechase around here
I had nerves like I’ve never had before when I was standing at the start line. I was hoping the nerves and anxiety would help me get through it when I got tired, but that did not happen. Around mile 2…I knew I was in for a challenging day. It was crazy because it pretty much started on single track so you either had to fall in line and run the pace of the person in front of you or find some small spot where you could jump around them on the side of the trail. I had the joy of getting stuck behind two people who not only ran as stiff as a board with their elbows out, but my fast walk was their run pace and they wouldn’t let you pass…fun. They made me angry, really just watching the stiffness of their running form made me even more angry.
The aid stations along the course were awesome. Because we were on trails there were of course no bathrooms but they had these things stocked and the volunteers were awesome! Each aid station was playing music and they just had plates full of shot blocks, pretzels, gummy bears, gu’s, bananas…all kinds of stuff along with water and Powerade.
There is about 1 easy mile on the way up to the Jupiter Peak base and it’s mile 2.5-3.5. After that it’s allll straight uphill. I was thankful I knew this was coming, because the group I was running with clearly did not know what was ahead of us and were getting pretty comfortable picking up the pace and using a lot of their energy. I did try to give them a heads up…I felt like I’d appreciate that being done for me. I made the decision long before race morning that I needed to be okay with letting myself walk some of the steeper uphills and not burn all of my energy before even being halfway finished. This strategy ended up saving me because I took off way in front of the group and my legs weren’t feeling too bad. Then the base of Jupiter Peak came. Holy. Cow. This was not something I could have ever imagined being ready for! You just saw a line of people scrambling up this ridge that never seemed to end. You actually had to scramble too, I was on my hands and knees trying to dodge falling rocks that were accidentally being kicked down from above me. The energy at the peak was pretty awesome which helped things a lot. The music was blaring and everyone was cheering you on…and there was thankfully an aid station up there! Then comes the trickiest part of the race, once you summit Jupiter you aren’t quite done yet, there’s still one more peak they’d like you to go up. The ridge in between is a little under 1 mile and I got sick about every 2 ft of it so that was fun! At this point I was feeling just awful, sick to my stomach and every step felt like it made it worse. I managed to make it over the next peak and by this time I was starving. I made it back down to the next aid station and grabbed a handful of pretzels. I couldn’t stomach much so I was able to make them last almost all of the way until the next aid station where I grabbed a few more.
The last half of the race is all downhill, which I was initially looking forward to. However, by the end of the race I would have killed for some flat ground! My core was just in knots and I had sharp pains under my ribs. In other words, someone needs to start doing core work again. The last 3 miles were just riddled with pain and they could not have ended fast enough! BUT crossing that finish line was incredible! 15.7 miles, 3,800ft elevation gain, and all without music! I finished in 3:19:58. Pretty much all day yesterday I kept saying I would never do it again, but when I woke up this morning I kind of have the urge to give it another try. I know I can finish faster than that, especially with a little more training and hopefully a few less stomach issues I now also see why it is so important to strength train as a runner. My arms and core are on fire today! All in all, it was a great morning. Mountain Trails Foundation knows how to put on a pretty spectacular event!
During the race, they suggest that you bring your own water rather than just being dependent on the aid stations since there is so much ground (climbing) covered in between stations. I have never been a huge fan of fuel belts so I decided to go the way of a hydration backpack and ended up choosing the Camelbak Dart. I ran with it a couple of times before race day, so I kind of had an idea of how it would feel during the race. For the most part, the Dart does everything I need it to do with not a whole lot of cons. The hydration bladder was big enough to last the whole race, but I think without the aid stations I may have run out of water (it’s 50 ounces). I’d say it would be fine for around 10-12 miles in the woods, but we don’t have a lot of humidity here so quite honestly I’d cut those miles in half for a really hot and/or humid day. The front also had 2 pockets, one with a place for your keys and a pocket under that, that I usually keep extra fuel in and/or my phone depending on if I’m listening to music.
It does bounce around a little bit on me and I’m not sure yet if it’s just too big for my frame or if that’s just the way it fits. When it’s worn with a tank top it scratched my shoulder blades pretty bad the first time I wore it longer than 10 miles, but yesterday I put Body Glide on the pack (because I couldn’t reach my back :)) and it helped that issue 100%. No chaffing/scratching on my exposed skin! The front chest strap is a little loose and a few times each run I seem to need to tighten it back up.
None of the cons are anything too bad, as you can tell. This was also my first pack I’ve run with so I’m not really sure if a little bouncing is expected or not. I think down the road I will probably check out a different backpack to see if there is less bouncing on my shoulders because on the downhill it can get a little frustrating.
In the end, it definitely did it’s job and none of the cons kept me from enjoying having it during my run!
And I wore my medal with everything yesterday…
I hope you guys are all having a great weekend, enjoy your Sunday!