Mastodon Challenge 15k Race Recap & TOTR

Spoiler alert: This was the first race EVER that I said I wouldn’t race (but just run for fun) and I DID!!

What made me do it?

  • I didn’t know the course.
  • It was hilly and you know I love hills. (just kidding!)
  • They only gave awards in 10 year age groups and only for first place (I could maybe win 2nd or 3rd but that’s it.)
  • I had a 5k scheduled for the next day.
  • Lots of uneven pavement (Remember how I fell last year.)
  • I bumped into a former student’s sister and we ran together.
  • I was down about not winning any awards for my last 2 races so I decided to enjoy this race.
  • Scenery watching – the Hudson River, old buildings and neighborhoods, parks, bike paths…

All good reasons, right?

I have had these intentions so many times in the past.  Each time, as soon as the gun goes off (or race starts), I forget about having fun and run as fast as I can.  It happens time and time again.  Sometimes, it pays off but more than not, it does not.

So for the second year in a row, I signed up for this race.

Last year, I chickened out and changed my mind the day of and ran only the 5k.

Mastodon Challenge 5K

last year – check out the bloody legs!!

This was the course map and you can tell that you never repeat any part of the route which keeps it interesting.


Here’s what the website has to say about the course:

We start both races by the Cohoes Falls in a park named after a heroic Vietnam War Veteran – Colonel Robert Craner – Craner Park. 

After that we take you:

  • Past the Historic Harmony Mills – now luxury loft apartments,
  • By the Restored Cohoes Music Hall which produces some of the best entertainment this side of Broadway!By the business district, with great architecture
  • Past a historic Armory soon to be turned into a Brewery/Restaurant.
  • Next, you run through a park and on the old Erie Canal Towpath which brings you up to
  • The Mohawk Bike Trail (where the whole thing started!). The path is shaded this time of year, but don’t get comfortable because the hill that brought you to it is just the beginning.
  • Once you are off the path, you pass by wonderful schools, parks and neighborhoods but they come at a cost.
  • From there you run up 4 hills that hurt and lots of inclines along the way….don’t worry – we have 8 water stops and entertainment along the route to keep you going. From church groups to Boy Scouts and schoolchildren, to the High School Band… we are here to welcome you and make this as painless as possible. Our volunteers are at every corner and they are so excited you can’t help but appreciate their enthusiasm. Watch out for paper maiche mastodons on the sidewalks!
  • Once you hit mile 7 and 8 you are golden! We take you back to the shade of the Bike Path and down a couple of hills with the mist from the Beautiful Cohoes Falls ahead of you.

But look at the elevation!!! Downhill during the first mile and the last mile and the rest are uphills and rolling hills. Fun, fun, fun.

The weather started out cool and cloudy but it was the nicest it had been all week. (Eventually even the sun came out 🙂 )


I got to Cohoes early (around 8 am) and found a spot in one of the parking lots. Then I walked about .25 mile to the park where you picked up your race packet. (It was a good thing that I got there early because they closed the street and many had to park over a mile away.)

cute gender-specific tech shirt

I had time so I walked across the street to look at the Cohoes Falls.


It was so beautiful. I sat for awhile and relaxed.


And then walked around a little exploring the area.


In September of 1866, while breaking ground for construction of Harmony Mill No. 3, the bones of a mastodon were discovered, deeply buried in two potholes that had been worn into the bedrock at the end of the last Ice Age. Who knew?

Finally I headed back to the park.  I wound up chatting with a few runners.


workouts at the finish line before the race

I was wearing my Lake George Half shirt and many people came up to me to ask about the race.


I hadn’t run long in weeks (only 2 but felt like more.)  Last weekend, I ran a 10k and it was really tough.

But I stuck with the expectation of finishing upright. (My 15k times vary between 1:42:40 and 1:31:35.)

The 15k started 15 minutes before the 5k so off we went. I was with a bunch of runners and we walked up the hill and passed by the 15k start and ended up at the 5k start so had to double back.


Since there was no starting line, I started close to the front and just let everyone fast pass me by.

Neil Sergott photo

Neil Sergott photo

The first mile was mostly downhill but my legs after 2 days off felt like I hadn’t run in ages.  (I guess I should have warmed up a  bit.)

Eventually my legs limbered up but then the hills came. First not too bad but then steeper and steeper.  I am not proud to admit that I walked up the first the big hill and ran the minor ones.  That is a big deal for me because very often, I walk up ALL the hills.

What helped me take it slow was the fact that there were water stop at EVERY mile. I didn’t know when the next one was so I kept stopping and walking to drink water.

There were lots of twists and turns and so many volunteers on the course directing runners and making sure that the traffic was stopped.

Of course, there were several more steep hills (which I walked up) and rolling hills (which I ran) but by mile 4.5, the big hills ended and we were just left with the rolling ones.

I loved the fact that the course had such variety.  You were running in the city past factories and through a brick path in a park, and in old neighborhoods and on the bike path. Through much of the course, you were high enough to look down at the Hudson River.

Having so many cups of water was keeping me hydrated and full that I only ate one Gu during the whole race (which is odd for me.)

As I took my time on the course, most runners seemed to be passing me by but I was behind one runner for quite some time. Eventually I caught up to her around mile 5 or 6 and realized that I knew her.  Her twin sisters were students of mine years old and I have met her at several races in the past.

We started to chat about past races, future races, Lake George and what ever.  This is the first time that I have run at someone else’s pace.  I’m not sure if our conversation was slowing me down or running with her was discouraging me from walking and helping my pace.

Either way, the last miles were pretty enjoyable.

Neil Sergott photo

I kept waiting and waiting for the downhill to come and finally it did near the end.

As soon as I saw the finish line, I started to sprint and crossed around 1:36:XX

Neil Sergott photo

Neil Sergott photo

So I did finish the race upright and my time wasn’t great but it could have been worse.


me & Chrissy, my partner in crime

For the first time after a race, I wasn’t hungry even though they had bagels, donuts, yogurt, fruit but I did drink some chocolate milk while waiting for the results.

Like last year,  I came in 2nd in my age group.  Unfortunately, they only gave out awards for first.


not even close (even if I had a PR)


mile 1 – 9:06
mile 2 – 9:53
mile 3 – 11:02
mile 4 – 11:17
mile 5 – 10:40
mile 6 – 10:52
mile 7 – 10:21
mile 8 – 10:38
mile 9 – 9:48
.3 – 8:03

Garmin time – 1:36:07
Official time – 1:36:10


The course was actually awesome if you could ignore the hills (which I did) and if they gave out more awards, it would have been even better.

The most important point was that I didn’t run fast and had a really enjoyable race. My legs felt great (which was good since I planned to do a lot of walking later.)

I rushed home to shower & change.

I spent the rest of the day with my mentee, Amanda and her 2 sons at the annual Tulip Fest. We walked around the park for 4 hours.  The kids went on the rides, made musical instruments, rode ponies, pet animals. and of course, we had ice cream and fried dough. They had fun & I enjoyed spending time with them.




I decided to postpone my dinner out with my hubby. I was pooped.

Besides, I had another 5k race the next morning. and then a Mother’s Day dinner. Oy…

Since it’s Tuesday, I’m linking also with

with Erika @ MCM Mama Runs,
Marcia @ Marcia’s Healthy Slice
and Patty @ My no-guilt life

How do I make Destination Races affordable:

  • Register early – Take advantage of cheaper race fees
  • Use frequent flyer miles when you fly (or drive, take a bus or train, if possible)
  • Stay with friends (or a cheap hotel or rent a AirBNB)
  • Travel without your spouse

Happy Running! Any races lately?  How do you afford destination races?

12 thoughts on “Mastodon Challenge 15k Race Recap & TOTR

  1. Love your pictures and your pace looked great!! But how do you love hills? I have come to the point where I don’t want to curse when I am on them but I am not sure I will ever love them.


  2. It looks like a beautiful course but man, those hills! I think running with someone else is the only way I’ve managed to keep my pace under control during a race. Otherwise, it’s so easy to get caught up in the race day excitement.


  3. Nice job on your race Darlene. That hilly course looked very challenging. It stinks that they only awarded prizes to first place. You got some nice race photos though and that’s a nice benefit from a local race.


  4. Pingback: Empowerment & Global Running Day – My First 5K and More…

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