Wildcat Ridge Romp 50K Race Report—And My First Overall Win!
Ahh, belated race reports! I wanted to jump in here and write about the Wildcat Ridge Romp 50K because a) the race is super well organized, especially for a very chill, grassroots race; b) it’s wicked fun; c) I had a great race and d) the looped course is a new concept to me. So, here goes. The Wildcat Ridge Romp 50K wasn’t really on my calendar until a couple weeks ago, though I knew I was going to do some 50K race the weekend of August 10. Originally, I’d found one in upstate NY that I was going to do on my way to NJ and then to VA Beach and then PA for the NICA GRiT camp. But to do that one, I would be sleeping in my van and racing, then doing a quick dash to NJ. Since I really wanted to binge-watch the hell out of season 3 of Stranger things, I realized I wanted to find a race that would let me get to NJ earlier, so I started searching. Serendipitously, the Wildcat Ridge Romp had a 50K happening on the 10th that was only 50 minutes from my parent’s house. Perfect.
I showed up at the very casual start line feeling nervous (this is only my 3rd 50K). The race itself is a 10-mile loop of the Wildcat Ridge and features some really gnarly singletrack, some gorgeous views, small chunks of gravel road and a couple of tiny road sections, and a ton of fun. Compared to Killington or Bear Mountain, the climbing was SO MUCH LESS but still a few decent popper climbs and sustained slogs in each lap. Still, it wasn’t a 50K mountain run, so I was a little unsure of how to pace since Killington and Bear Mountain’s terrain basically set my pace for me with the amount of climbing there.
There were about 40 of us on the start line and some of the women looked FIERCE. I was definitely a little nervous, but the casual race start countdown kind of calmed me down, and when the director yelled GO, I was the first off the line (thank you, cyclocross) and kind of awkwardly found myself leading across the grass and into the woods. I kind of wanted to drop back, but I kept asking myself ‘are you running at a comfortable pace’ and the answer was yes, so I just hung out. At about a mile in, one guy who’d been on my heels passed me on a short climb, and another guy went with him. I was super tempted to let them go, but I figured ‘what the hell, it’s early’ and just dug a bit to stay with them, figuring if it got too hard, I’d just drop back. But after that little climb, they chilled out and I shifted into second behind the one guy.
After a few miles, I finally chilled out enough to start cracking jokes, and by mile 6, we were chatting away and I shifted back into leading on a gravel descent. Turned out the guy (Kurt) who had passed me was originally from Belgium, so we had a lot of cyclocross stuff to chat about, and I’d stayed in a lot of places that were near places he’d lived. Between that and runner-nerd-outs, we chatted a lot that first lap! After a few miles, we were out of sight of anyone else in our race, and I started realizing that a) I might actually win in the women’s field, and b) I was leading these two guys and I know damn well I have a good finishing sprint, so I started thinking ‘if I can stay with them, I could win the damn thing.’
Our course was 3 laps, and I realized I LOVE this format. I find pacing really hard when it’s one loop of a course I don’t know, since I never know how much to leave in the tank in case it ends with a ton of climbing (ahem, Bear Mountain). But this course was perfect, since I knew that it was entirely run-able, and having ‘markers’ of where I was in conjunction to the finish was great.
My Belgian friend had a bit of a crash, unfortunately, and while he got up and got back to me and the other leader, he ended up dropping back at the 10 mile mark. I didn’t stop at the aid station, because I carry all of my fuel for 50Ks. I stick with Tailwind to drink—around 1.5 liters over the course of the 50K—plus a couple of caffeinated gels. My only fueling mistake was not taking two caffeinated gels: I only did one because I packed the other in the back of my vest and only had a non-caffeinated one that was easy access.
PS: My gear, discussed in great depth, is all listed here: Tracksmith kit, Nike trail running sneakers, Tailwind nutrition during, nuun before and after, Osprey hydration vest and more.
As I started the second loop, the other guy (Chris) who’d been running with us caught back up to me after a mile—he stopped for a minute at the aid station. At this point, I admit I had a moment of ‘oh crap, if he can catch me now, he’s definitely going to win this race.’ But I kept running steady and he just dropped in behind me.
We kept rocking through the singletrack and the gravel descent again, and when we hit the one popper climb that brings you out to the reservoir (at around mile 7 on the loop), when I got to the top of it, I realized he wasn’t behind me anymore.
I tried to stay pretty chill and keep running smooth and smart, and hit the 20 mile mark/2nd loop/aid station soon after. As I ran out, he was running in maybe 2 minutes behind me.
By the end of the race, with around 2 miles to go, I looked at my watch and realized I was on track to come in under 5 hours, and I just sent it to the finish.
I came into the finish with a 20 minute lead for the overall win. My first ever overall win in any race! I’ve won women’s overalls before—like Summit 700 last month—but this was huge for me.
More exciting, though, I finished the 50K trail run in sub-5 hours, which is a big freaking deal for me. And I set the women’s course record by over an hour, and set the 5th fastest finish time of men and women. I know it’s a small race, but honestly, it still felt huge for me. I was super proud of the last two miles, especially when a guy I’d passed as he finished the 20 mile race said to me after the race that when I passed him at around 49K into my race, I looked like I had just started racing and was completely fresh.
I also finally didn’t have any major gut issues before, during or after, which was pretty sweet. (Everything I Do to Avoid Stomachaches and GI Distress on Race Day)
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@nj_trail_series Wildcat Ridge race was THE MOST FUN and despite 50 kilometers of crazy racing this is how happy I looked at the finish. Won the race overall (!) in the 5th fastest time/fastest women’s time for that course. Met a Belgian living in NYC who could talk cyclocross with me for a few miles & a couple of other rad guys who chatted for the first lap. Awesome day on the trails and now I am going to go eat everything ever. #ultrarunning #trailrunning
I’d HIGHLY recommend checking out the NJ Trail Running Series, it’s really well-organized, super fun, and the people who volunteer and race are awesome. It’s such a cool little community, and it would be a great way to try out trail racing without the stress of a huge race venue. There were people at all levels there, and most of the races are looped and have distance options so you can go as long or short as you want, and there’s always an easy way to cut down your race mileage if you’re not feeling it. (And compared to a lot of other race entry fees, these are super affordable, especially if you sign up early!)