2021 Green Monster 25k | Trail Race | Pennsylvania
This year I once again ran the Green Monster 25k. I love and hate this race. The trails and the forest are amazing and beautiful. The course however is the most challenging course per mile for me that I have run.
There aren’t a ton of races I run year after year. Especially races that are as challenging as this one. Usually that is a one and done type of race. I have run this race 4 out of 5 years since I first ran it.
I love trail running and running in general. A big part of what I love is testing myself and pushing myself. This course is one of the biggest tests for me crammed into one of the shorter distances that I enjoy. So it is great for a challenging event where I don’t have to spend 8, 10, 12, 24 hours running but can feel like I really put in a hard effort.
A Love Hate Relationship
For me this race has the most challenging climbs. Start off with a 1+ mile long climb. Then there are two other shorter but much steeper climbs. There is also almost nothing completely flat. And it feels like most of it is at least a gentle uphill. Not my strength.
Another huge challenge but in a much more fun way than the climbs is the steepest descent I have ever run. As I drop down the face of Frankenstein’s Forehead. Amazing and technical and will burn up all the muscles. But I love it.
But this race also has literally my favorite section of trail I have ever run, and maybe that is the real reason I keep coming back. After the initial huge climb there is a relatively flat section along the mountain top. Then begins this amazing descent.
The downhill run starts off literally rocky and technical. Not super runnable, but I still love it. And as I proceed downhill. Picking up speed and momentum the trail becomes more and more runnable. It also cuts a beautiful swath through the forest and follows a ridge down the side of the mountain. The flattens out some but still has just enough slope to keep the momentum going if you push just a little. Running this section this year with my friend was the best I have felt running in a long time.
Another thing that I love about this event is it is a place where I started running a lot of trails with my friends. We would come here specifically to train for this event. And there are still always great people here pre and post-race to hang out with.
If you are the kind of person that just loves to be out in a forest then this is the race for you. I am not going to try to sell you on this race as an amazingly scenic event because most people probably would not call it that. But if you love rocks, and roots, and plants and trees then you will love it here. If you just love feeling like you were plopped down in the middle of a forest then this is it.
This Years Goal
My goal has always been to try and improve on this course. If not actually improving my time then by at least feeling better on the course. My second attempts on the course was one of the worst on the course I was slower than my first time and felt worse. It was a warm day. I don’t do heat. I especially don’t do heat when it is combined with climbing.
Last year was my third attempt on the course. I wanted to finish in under 4 hours. The race went pretty well. But I missed my goal by around 1 minute.
This year my goal from last year carried over. Finish in under 4 hours. I really thought I had a good shot at it this year. This year I did a lot of training. More than probably ever before. More well rounded. Running, biking, strength training, and yoga.
I had trained a lot. I ran 3 ultra-distance events. Surely I could manage a decent time at a 25k, right?
Well maybe, maybe not.
Running The Green Monster Trails
So the plan for the race was to run this race with my friend. Hopefully we would run together. Have a great time as we always do. Be swift. And both PR.
It was not too far into the race before my friend and I were talking and decided this whole PR thing might not happen. We both really wanted to focus on having a good time and enjoying the run, but neither of us was feeling like it was going to be a fast day for us.
So we decided to just enjoy the run. If it came to us and things went well and we PR’d it would be a bonus. We put it out of our minds and we ran.
We both were running pretty well. But by the time we reached the second major climb my friend was pulling away. As we began the ascent of the second climb she left me in her dust.
It had been a rainy summer. I expected a certain amount of wetness to the course. In addition just as the race kicked of it started to rain more. And it rained for most of the race.
It rained a lot. You can see I on the video I shot.
There was appoint where the trail leads up a hill and I was running up as the water was running down the trail and over my feet. That has only happened to me one other time in a race. Not really something I look forward to or enjoy.
I continued to grind out the miles. Not feeling particularly good or bad. But I was just not feeling like I had any extra energy. I had brought an extra soft flask in addition to my 2 liter water bladder, that held my main hydration source, just in case I would want anything extra from an aid station. In the past I had relied on Mountain Dew from the aid stations to get me through to the end when I was feeling like toast.
Usually I only resort to this around the end of the race. The last aid station or so. This time I didn’t wait. I really wanted to get a pick me up and see if I could rally and get after this PR. I started filling with my soft flask with Mountain Dew at the second aid station.
By the end I drank 1.5 liters of Mountain Dew by the end.
By the half way point of the race I was right on the borderline of being able to finish this race within my time goal. I would have to finish in roughly the same amount of time it took to get to the half way point. Not an easy task.
I had more hope once I got past the third large climb featured in the 25k course. I knew the hardest parts were behind me. The question was did I have anything left or would I just run out of time.
When I got to the point where the 25k course joins the 15k course I felt more motivated. This means I am getting near the end. Close to Frankenstein’s Forehead and then a relatively flat run to the finish.
Just one more climb to grind through in this next section.
I really had no idea what to expect of Frankenstein’s forehead after all this rain. For all I knew it was just going to be a stream running down a hill with zero footing to be found.
I was pleasantly surprised when I found it to be not much more than its normal gnarly downhill decent with maybe just a bit more mud and looseness.
Then it was time for some stream crossings and a dirt road run to the finish.
So Much To Love Here
Super challenging hill climbs aside I really do love the trails here. They are technical but not impossible to run on. There are a lot of runnable areas including my favorite spot. Even Frankenstein’s Forehead is runnable with practice.
The forest here is just beautiful. The trails on the course are almost all single track. It is hard but not insurmountable.
There are trails lined with mountain laurel, which I still need to get up here and see when it is in bloom.
After the completion of Frankenstein’s Forehead there is an amazing section that is at least a mile long. The trail winds along a gorgeous stream. The stream meanders through the forest. The trail takes you along for a ride next to and through the stream. There are several stream crossings. And after a race that most years I have run it is warm for the time of year it feels great to run through those streams. Stopping to dunk my hat in the water and splash water on myself.
This year it was not hot enough to require me to do that. But I had a goal to reach so I found myself splashing through the streams like a child as I pushed to strive for my goal.
These streams are so beautiful that I have made it back to just walk along them and take photographs at a time I am not enduring a grueling training run here.
There are also great access roads here. Another nice feature of this place. That way it is possible to come to the forest and explore a little bit at a time or start in different places on ones adventures. This is a feature that I have not taken advantage of yet, but I plan to in the future.
After descending Frankenstein’s Forehead I was pretty close to the end of the race. It felt like actually achieving my goal for the race this year might be possible. I just had to stay focused.
Focus and committing to the goal was the key. I needed to run at a pace that was a little more than a comfortable pace. But I also needed to run at apace that I could sustain for the next couple of miles or so that were left in the race. I also was likely going to need to have enough left in the tank to actually speedup once I reached the dirt road and had a smooth course to the finish.
This is where the weather on race day was my friend. On most of my other attempts at this race the weather has been unseasonably warm. Temperatures in the 70s in October. And that is just not for me. Warm days are my least effective running days.
Usually by the time I get to this section of the race I am hot and tiered and I need to stop at the stream crossings to let my feet soak in the cold water and dunk my hat in the water to splash it on my head. All in hopes of cooling off and just getting to the finish at a reasonable pace.
On this occasion it was a nice cool autumn day. I did not need to cool down. I ran through each of the streams. Splashing like a mad man. Probably to the annoyance of some of my fellow runners also navigating the streams. But I had a goal to achieve and that required max effort. And max effort meant not slowing down and walking across the streams. I ran.
I successfully navigated all the stream crossings. Then I arrived at the dirt road. I knew I could speed up some and I knew that I had to speed up some to achieve my goal. But I could not speed up too much too early. There was still at least a mile to go to get tot he finish line.
I was able to give it a good go down the dirt road. I was working hard. It felt hard. It did not feel good. Once I could see and hear the finish line I tried to give it a little extra juice. There wasn’t much left in the tank. But there was enough to get me there. Just enough.
I finished in 3:57:34