The Punk the Monk 5k is one of the Muddy Monk trail races located around the Chicagoland area. The race on Saturday was located on the trails of Deer Grove Forest Preserve about 40 minutes from downtown Chicago in Palatine, IL. The premise of the trail 5k was simple, punk the monk! Art, the race director, ran the 5k in his monk costume, and the challenge was to beat him across the finish line. The race also promised all runners a t-shirt, a race bib, a finisher’s award, a free beer (for participants over 21 years of age), and snacks all for $28 (or $25 if you registered as a team).
The free beer was too tempting for Ian to pass up so he decided to sign up along with Katie , Kelsey , and Emily . We met at my apartment before the race and despite leaving a little on the late side, we made it to the race area, easily found parking, picked up our packets, and even had a few minutes to spare.
One of the things I love about the Muddy Monk races is their low key, relaxed feel. Around 10 am (race start time), all of the runners were called to the start line (besides Em who had fallen that morning and decided to sit out), announcements were made, there was a countdown, and before I knew it we were running!
The race started and finished on the top of a small hill, so we took off running downhill. The snow was more than a few inches deep (my guess is 6-7 inches but I could totally be over exaggerating) so it felt like we were leaping through the snow. There were a few areas were the snow was packed down but in order to run in them, we had to run in a single file line which made passing people difficult. This part of the race was really hard! I remember looking feeling winded, looking down at my watch, and seeing that I was running an 8:30 min/mile– not slow by any means but definitely not a pace that normally makes me feel winded. I passed the monk and then about 1/2 a mile later, we ran onto a trail through the woods and the snow was less deep but the ground was slicker making it more difficult to secure your steps (mile 1- 8:24 min/mile).
Running through the trails was really beautiful and I started to find my stride right around the aid and water station near miles 1.25. I turned around and followed the people ahead of me as we veered right onto a different trail (as opposed to out and back) and started heading deeper into the woods. That initial veer was part of the course but somehow my group must have taken another wrong turn and we ended up running through some backyards and off the course. Fortunately, we caught the mistake before it was too late but as we ran back and met up with the rest of the runners, we realized that while we had initially been the second group of runners (I think before getting off course I was second female?), our error had taken us an extra 0.4 miles and we were now running in the pack of runners (mile 2- 8:28 min/mile).
By this point my legs were feeling the extra work of running through the snow and on top of uneven ground. I was tired and my lungs were burning– I must have been working really hard trying not to fall over! I just wanted to finish. I knew I wasn’t going to place so I started looking around for Katie or Kelsey and Ian to finish the race with them. I couldn’t find them but I did see the monk ahead of me and I made it my goal to pass him again. All of the runners had packed down the snow, making it easier to run through, and I ended up passing the monk for the second time right around when my watch beeped 3 miles (mile 3- 8:19 min/mile).
I knew I still had a ways to go before reaching the finish line so I did my best to just stay in front of the monk. I kept running wondering where my friends were when all of a sudden, I spotted Katie in front of me. I didn’t think I could catch her, she was a decent distance ahead of me and the finish was up a hill, but I did my best to increase my speed and crossed the finish line a few seconds behind her (last 0.63 miles- 7:31 min/mile).
According to my Garmin I ran 3.63 miles in 29:53 for an average pace of 8:15 min/mile. What a tough (but so much fun!) race!
After finishing, Katie and I found Emily and grabbed some water. Ian and Kelsey finished about 5 minutes after us and after grabbing our finishers mugs, we got in line for our complimentary beer!
We ended up hanging around for 30 minutes or so drinking, snacking on peanut m&ms and twizzlers, and thanking the Muddy Monk for putting on such an awesome race!
Even though the race was really hard, I had a blast like I always do at the Muddy Monk races. Now I just need to decide which of his races to do next!
Have you ever run a trail race? How do you feel about running through the snow?