On Saturday, January 4 my hubby Bill and I traveled with our friend Nancy to R.B. Winter State Park in mid-state Pennsylvania to participate in CJ’s Resolution Challenge, a three-hour timed race to benefit autism awareness.
This was my fifth CJ’s, so you know I love the race, which is always held on the first Saturday in January.
This race is actually two events rolled into one. When registering, you can opt for the RC Revolutions Race or the Last Man (or Woman) Standing Race.
In the first option, racers run a 1.5-ish mile loop for three hours. The man/woman who completes the most loops wins the race. Pretty straightforward.
In the second option, participants run the first loop in 20 minutes, the second loop in 19 minutes, the third in 18 minutes, et cetera. The last man/woman to successfully complete the loop in the designated amount of time wins.
We chose the first option.
The loop is a mix of single-track trails filled with roots, rocks, and mud and gravel park roads.
The weather conditions at the seventh annual CJ’s were overcast skies, intermittent light drizzle, and hazy. The temperature hovered in the mid-forties, 45 degrees higher than the temperature at the beginning of the fifth CJ’s two years ago. You never know what the first week of January will bring in central Pennsylvania.
We picked up our packets and Bill availed himself of one of the donuts from the registration table, then we went back to the car to pin on our bibs and deposit our race swag. This year, each participant got a blanket with the CJ’s logo.
Ten minutes before the start of the race, we ambled over to the starting line for our pre-race instructions.
I had been scanning the crowd to find a very talented fellow blogger I know who was also running the race but I could not find him. Luckily, he found me and came over to say hello.
The race director counted us down and we were off. The loop began on a trail portion of the course, an uphill. The first 100 yards of the race was crowded, but the pack quickly thinned out.
Nancy and I ran together and Bill, who was taking it easy that day, ran separately. We fell into an easy conversation resulting from a very long friendship. As we turned onto a downhill section of gravel road, which quickly became another uphill, I could hear Nancy’s breathing become more labored. She was suffering from a cold and not running her typical pace.
The road quickly morphed into another, longer trail section which contained some rolling hills and some stream crossings. Luckily, wooden bridges spanned the streams so runners did not have to wade across and get wet feet.
Another, mostly downhill, gravel road section lead us back to the starting line, our first loop completed in approximately 16 minutes.
We completed two more similar loops, then stopped for a drink of water at the aid station, which was stocked with candy, orange sections, pretzels, crackers, Coke, Gatorade, and various bars, gels, and beans.
At the beginning of our fourth loop, I began running my own pace. My running has been going well lately, except for an occasional recurrence of a nagging hamstring injury that flares up at the end of a long run. I wanted to run as far as possible before the potential for pain showed up.
I ran the fourth, fifth, and sixth laps solo, then stopped again for some pretzels and Gatorade.
Before the race, my goal was to complete nine loops for 13.5 miles. My longest run since the Marine Corps Marathon was almost 12 miles, so I thought this would be a reasonable distance to attempt. I began counting down the loops until my ninth one. I was aware of my hamstring, but certainly not in severe pain during these three loops.
At the end of nine loops, I still felt good and had plenty of time left, so I decided to do one more loop at a very easy pace. I walked up many of the hills, my hamstring beginning to ache.
When I finished my tenth loop, there was time left on the clock. I decided I would wait until the three-hour mark (you cannot begin any loops after this time) and see if Bill or Nancy came across the finish line. If one of them wanted to do one more loop with me, I would consider an 11th loop.
I shut off my watch and stood beside the trail. At 2:57, I saw Nancy coming down the hill toward the finish line. “Do you want to do one more?” I asked her.
Dumb question. Of course, Nancy wanted to do one more loop.
We did one more very slow loop, crossed the finish line together, then got our medals and walked into the pavilion for some hot soup, bread, and chips. There were also home-made desserts available for the runners.
The official distance we covered was 16.5 miles, but Nancy’s Garmin showed 17.3 miles.
If you ever find yourself in Central Pennsylvania on the first weekend in January, this is a race not to miss. Here are some of the pros:
- Excellent organization
- Benefits a wonderful, worthwhile cause
- Beautiful scenery
- Good mix of trails and roads
- Delicious and plentiful food both pre-and post-race
- Well-stocked aid station
- Different swag each year
- Plentiful parking near the race start
- Unusual race format
- Very reasonable registration fee
Here are the cons:
I enthusiastically recommend this race to anyone. You can do any distance you like, even if it’s only one loop. Runners are not required to run the entire three hours.
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