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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Chilly Cheeks Race Report

Chilly Cheeks '09 results are now available here.


Let's just say this race lived up to it's billing...and then some! The day started out with a 1.5 hour commute from Hamilton out to The Reading Liederkranz House. When we pulled off route 422 and headed uphill on the winding road which eventually lead us to the ice covered parking lot, we knew this was going to be a slightly different kind of event. We wouldn't learn just how different, however, until it was all over with.

After gathering in the Liederkranz House to keep warm for a bit, the crowd starting making it's way outside for the 11am start. It was a light 1/2 mile jog down to the start where we stood around and waited for things to get going. The race director entertained everyone with a couple of instructions/warnings/jokes and then the race was underway.

It all started out quite normal. We quickly exited the park where it all started, ran down a hill and hooked a right to begin our off-road trek. A slight but steady incline in the snow covered trail quickly gave us all a false sense of security. Then at about 1 mile in it all went to hell! All of a sudden we took another right turn and proceeded to scale a mountain...there was no trail...there was no clearing...just rocks, trees, and brush and we climbed...and climbed...and climbed. By the time we reached the top we were relieved to find ourselves back on actual trail. As nice as it was we soon realized we were somehow at the bottom of yet another hill. This was the theme for most of the day. We ran uphill and when we got to the top we found that the "top" of that hill was really just the bottom of yet another hill. As everyone knows though what goes up must come down and it did in spots. Usually that would be a welcome experience after such treacherous inclines. Amazingly enough, however, the downhills -- covered in rocks, snow, ice and leaves -- were no easier to get down than the uphills were to get up. Much of our time on the downhills was spent in a combination of not trying to run into the person in front of us, listening for the person behind us to keep them from taking out our legs when they fell, and grabbing for trees to try and keep ourselves upright.

The race went on like this the entire way until approaching the second water stop at about mile 5 or so. It was at that point where we were faced with two decisions back to back. The first was whether to leap down or slide down the remaining piece of the mountain -- running it was simply not an option. The second, upon reaching the bottom, was whether to hydrate with water or Yuengling, both of which were being served ice cold! Regardless, of what we chose it didn't matter because we were back on the hills within seconds. Along the way we were greeted with signs which the race director had strategically placed on the trees to remind us that we were now approaching the section of the race where it was about to get tough. WHAT!?!?

It was about another 1/2 mile in when we reached it. The "it" was the infamous Mt. Waddafug (which they say is short for: "Mt. Waddafugisthiscuziknowitaintnotrail!"). This beast went straight up, up, and then up some more, and was in no way, shape or form a trail of any kind. Words cannot describe it and nobody in their right mind would/could stop at that point and take a picture of it. It's just one of those things that need to be experienced to understand. After finally reaching the top somehow we made our way up and over a small retaining wall that led us down onto a road. The jump down off that retaining wall, if one were capable of jumping down off it at that point, felt like a leap off a rooftop. In reality the retaining wall was no more than 3 feet but when every muscle in your legs are on fire they have a way of buckeling underneath you anyway.

With the worst now over (or so we thought), it was a jog to one last bout of downhill insanity before running back into the park where it all began, heading back out onto the trail we started on, and then taking one last quick turn into one last scale of a mountain. This time we were cheered at from above by spectators. One would think the fact that there were spectators would mean that it was over, right? Wrong! After literally crawling to the top and making our best attempt to stand upright again in a crowded parking lot we were informed that the finish was only just a couple of 100 yards away. So we ran through the parking lot, hung a left and, of course, ran UPHILL to the finish line.

Here are some pics, taken by flyers26:

The 14 brave warriors
(a.k.a. -unsuspecting victims)

That first uphill -- can YOU see a trail?

"Little climb!"

Is that a bear!?!?

We came, we kicked our a$$!

By the way, you might notice the bandage on Frank's left hand in that last picture. This was the result of a puncture wound he suffered during a fall he took on one of the downhills. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the fact that not only did he take the spill, suffer the wound, and tend to the bleeding but he then proceeded to get up and still be the first in the group to reach the finish line. For those who are wondering, Frank went to the ER when we got home and received four stitches and a tetanus shot but is doing fine and looking forward to the next we all are!


  1. Nice job on the post Bill!

    Here are some pictures I snapped during the race. One warning: I've got two pics of my injured hand near the end of set:

    I have to say, this was an an awesome race! I'm so glad I was able to make it out with everyone to this event, even though I've got four stitches in my left hand now. The doctor said it was a deep laceration, so he turned it inside out to clean it thoroughly -- quite a sight to watch. Lesson learned: Get TRAIL SHOES for next year. Using normal running sneakers on the Chilly Cheeks is just asking for trouble.

    If you're asking yourself "How did Frank do that to his hand...?" here's what happened:

    As I descended one of the hills after the sign "This gets TUFF now", I couldn't control my speed. It was near the bottom of a descent with a sharp turn to head back up the mountain. There was nothing to grab. When I tried to used my foot as a brake, I flipped, face first into a large rock and low tree stump with a sharp edge protruding, hidden under some leaves. I managed to land on my hands and luckily so, or I would have needed stitches in my cheek. It felt like I was stabbed with a knife, through my glove into the base of my palm. I didn't know how bad it was until I peeled back the glove and saw my own flesh, peeking at me from my blood covered hand. The runner behind heard me comment: "Uh-oh, that's pretty deep." He asked if I was okay but there was nothing anyone could do to help me; we were on a mountainside. I wrapped it with my glove to control the bleeding and finished the race using just one hand on the down-hills and final climb. Did anyone see my trail of blood? :) At the finish I found an ambulance -- thanks to the EMTs who fixed me up with temporary bandages until I could make it to the emergency room back home.

    I can't wait to tackle this beast again next year! Hope to see you all there.

  2. Great race report. Your description of the course was very detailed. You've got a good memory.

    Frank is a warrior, but we all knew that. I wouldn't have been surprised to read that he carried a couple of people off the trail too.

    Congratulations to you all.

  3. Great job everyone! Sorry to hear of the severity of your wound, Frank! That was an exhilerating race to say the least and the weather was appropriately perfect! My legs were maxed out Mt. Waddafug but I think I actually started to master the butt scoot down some of those down hills by the end! The last hill to the finish was more like an intro to mountain climbing. And it was too funny how EVERY single person thought the finish would be at the top only to hear the bad news that there was that last 100 yds to victory. Looking forward to the next race, hope to see you all there!

  4. That was a tough course.
    When I tell people that I had to "walk" during a race, they can't believe it.
    My answer is run this course, and you'll see.
    You have no choice.
    Great job by all in our group!
    Again, this was a TOUGH course.