I had a strong return to long-distance trail racing at my first Tuckahoe 25K

Vanessa Junkin poses in front of the Algonquin Ultras finish arch, which has a Tuckahoe 25K banner hung under it.
Here I am before the start of the Tuckahoe 25K.

After not making the second-to-last cutoff at the Algonquin 50K in February, I had my sights set on making the cutoffs at the Tuckahoe 25K, which was held Nov. 19 at Tuckahoe State Park on the Upper Eastern Shore.

Participants had gotten an email with the cutoff times, and they were also listed on a yard sign along the course, but since this was my first year running this race, I didn’t have a mental image of where the spots were.

So, I mostly focused on keeping my miles under 15:00 to meet the four-hour cutoff. I actually expected the course to run long, as that’s been my experience at other trail races, so I allowed for an extra cushion (however, my watch was right on with the expected distance).

My friend Diana and I headed up for the race early that morning. It was really cold — probably the coldest day of the season at that point — and we walked up to the pavilion area. After a bathroom stop, we walked back to wait in the car.

Although the common saying is “nothing new on race day,” and that’s still something I recommend, I did take the cold weather opportunity to try out some of my new gifted Brooks Running gear. It was my first time trying out the pants I wore — the Run Within 7/8 Tight — and they worked well for the race. They actually aren’t meant to be full-length pants, but they are on my super-short inseam. I also wore the Brooks Caldera trail shoes that I wore for the Pemberton 24.

I had only run at Tuckahoe once before, and I hadn’t done any technical trail running since the Pemberton 24. However, I had recently trained for and run the Atlantic City Marathon, and I have been feeling strong with my running since getting an answer to the coughing-while-running issue I’d been suffering from.

Vanessa Junkin runs on a trail with a runner in front of her and a runner behind her.
Here’s an action shot of me (center) during the Tuckahoe 25K. Photo by Joe Andrews.

My strategy was basically to run when it made sense and walk when it made sense, while trying to keep as many miles as possible under a 15:00 pace. The race went onto a road almost right away, so I took advantage of that and ran my fastest mile of the day (although I still paced myself, of course). There was another unexpected road section and I was able to make up some time there, too.

I pulled over to the side about a mile or so in to take off my gloves, as my hands warmed up quickly. Along the way, I saw friends. I ran near Diana for a little bit until I lost her. It was a little hard to recognize everyone along the way, as everyone was more bundled up than usual.

There were some sections of the trail that were completely covered with leaves, so I went slower during those parts. And, there are also some steep hills, so I walked those.

There was an area around Mile 8 that was more like a rail trail surface, so I did some more running in this area.

Along the way, there were yard signs to read with different messages, and I also saw Magnus the gnome in the Crusher Tree. (Unfortunately, I saw a post on social media that he has since been stolen, so if you’re reading this and you have him, please return him!)

The first cutoff was at 10:07 a.m., at the Ranger Station (Mile 10.3). I checked my watch as I arrived, and it was 9:55 a.m. — 12 minutes to spare. “10:07” was marked on the ground with paint. I got to see some friends here and had an Oatmeal Creme Pie and some chips. I didn’t eat a ton at the aid stations — I used some UCAN gels and drank the water I brought. I also refilled my water at a small aid station before this one.

The next cutoff was 13.1 miles into the race and right before the Radiator, a section of the course during which the trail goes back and forth several times. One of the volunteers made it seem like I was pretty close to the cutoff (at least that’s what I thought I heard), but I estimate that I was about 12 minutes ahead at this point.

Vanessa Junkin runs on the trail.
Here’s another action shot, from near the Mile 10.3 aid station. Photo by Joe Andrews.

During the last few miles, including the Radiator, I had been going back and forth with my friends Lauren and Matt a lot. Then I also saw another friend named Lauren in this area. There were some other participants I’d also been going back and forth with that I didn’t know.

I did slow down some in the Radiator. My feet felt like they had blisters — I wasn’t having the plantar fasciitis issues I’d dealt with earlier this year, but I did feel some discomfort. However, once I got my shoes off after the race, it didn’t seem like I had blisters where I felt discomfort, so I’m not sure what happened.

In addition to the Radiator going back and forth, I think I was also just getting tired by this point because of the hours of trail running. I did have some issues with coughing in the last few miles, but it was nothing like what it had once been.

I made my way toward the finish and was surprised to see a bit of a bright green arch, as it seemed like we just kind of popped out of the woods and were at the finish. I was also surprised that my watch logged 15.52 miles — I figured since Race Dictator Trent Swanson was involved, it might be a bit long. Algonquin Ultras works with the Centreville Crushers to organize the race.

Afterward, there was plenty of food to enjoy, including churros (which I’d heard about in advance), chili, chips and nacho cheese. The beer in the keg was just about out, but I did have some of the cider, and I also got to take home a Ten Eyck Brewing Company can that had been personalized specially for this race.

This race also has great swag. Upon finishing the race, I received the finisher award — a wooden triangle with the race logo burned into it. Ahead of the race, I got a shirt, socks, visor and magnet, along with the unique triangle-shaped bib.

I was so pleased to finish the race with almost 18 minutes to spare, with an official time of 3:42:03. Although I still need to get in more miles — and more trail miles – as I train for the 2023 Algonquin 50K, this does give me confidence about meeting the eight-hour cutoff for that race.

I also ended up running my fastest trail 25K. Although I’ve certainly run this distance faster on the road in marathons, the only other trail 25K I’ve run is PHUNT — which is brutally hilly. Since both of my times at PHUNT were over four hours, I got a personal record just by meeting the cutoffs at Tuckahoe.

Want to run the Tuckahoe 25K in 2023? Registration opens Jan. 1 at 7 p.m.

Selfie of Vanessa Junkin with Tuckahoe 25K finisher award.
I pose with my finisher award after crossing the finish line of the Tuckahoe 25K.


Mile 1: 11:55
Mile 2: 13:23
Mile 3: 12:31
Mile 4: 11:56
Mile 5: 14:24
Mile 6: 16:21
Mile 7: 14:42
Mile 8: 12:20
Mile 9: 17:18
Mile 10: 14:04
Mile 11: 13:37
Mile 12: 14:42
Mile 13: 15:13
Mile 14: 14:59
Mile 15: 16:25
Last part (watch had .52): 7:55 (15:15 pace)

Finish Time: 3:42:03; Watch Time: 3:41:52; 14:18 average pace

Check out my BibRave review — and write your own — here.

Tuckahoe 25K swag — shirt, visor, socks, magnet and bib.
The Tuckahoe 25K features lots of swag!

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