Sunday, July 12, 2009

Ascutney Mountain Challenge

Race six, the finale, of the mountain series was completed today in Mt. Ascutney State Park. The runners from last year's race spoke up and voted in a race course change to extend to the summit this year. The race previously followed the automobile access road to the parking lot about a half mile from the summit. I ran the course two years ago placing 4th with a time of 33:01.

Today, I placed 11th with a time of 43:56. The last 1.7 miles were different with the race leaving the road and onto the Futures Trail and to the summit. The footing was standard technical New England trail: mud, thick ground fern, boulders, streams, and stone steps along a single track. I am sure that this is the typical fare for the trail runners so they must have eaten it up. I on the other hand tip-toed through some sections. However, the trail was a blast and in usual fashion reduced me to a few walking sessions in the tougher portions of the trail. I gave up some time in the tough spots but just focused on staying on my feet as it would have been easy to trip up. I can't wait to see some photos of the runners. When Raina, the race director, officially solicits feedback, I will suggest the all road course back in and or see if a trail section could be worked into the course from the parking lot, previously mentioned about a half mile from the summit.

I'd like to congratulate the 100 or so runners who achieved Mountain Goat status by completing each of the six races in the Inov-8 USATF-NE Mountain Circuit 2009 Schedule. This allows the runners to bypass the 2010 Mt. Washington Road Race Lottery (they still need to register). I think it is a great program and has been a boon for each of the mountain races which have been close to or exceeded record entrants in 2009. In addition, I'd like to acknowledge the fine performances of my CMS teamates who no doubt, fared well in the individual point system.

Good times were had by several folks (too many names to remember) taking in a soak at the stream under Rt. 91 leading into the Mill Pond. Tim Van Orden advised that it was the place to go. Over twenty race folk managed to bring suds, food, and spirit as we hung out underneath a cloudless sky. Thanks to Todd and Laurie for the organic fruit salad, Tim Mahoney for the Harpoon offerings, and to Tim Van Orden for the "fresh out of the garden" greens. All I know is that for the next mountain race (next May), it will definitely be about where to hang out after the race.

Finally, I would be remiss without thanking Kristen for her company and support at each of the races in the series that came without complaint with early morning, multiple hour drives around New England. She volunteered at races, took photos, took the wheel, and brought some sanity to each turn on the road.

Lastly, as much as I need a break from the racing (I don't mind but am glad that the mountain series is over), I am signed up for the Jim Kane Sugar Bowl 5 miler on Thursday evening in South Boston. This is an out an back, flat and fast 5 miler put on by the L-Street Running club. I have been running a lot along the bay from UMass Boston to Castle Island so it will be another routine run except at goal, 5:30 per mile pace.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Loon Mountain report

I have read and heard that some runners think that Loon Mountain is the toughest race in the mountain series. It may have the steepest section (it is called upper walking boss for a reason) we'll encounter but my judge of the toughest race is how I feel Monday morning. I felt a lot better this Monday than I did last Monday following Cranmore.

I warmed up with the CMS crew and Patrick Ard from Whirlaway who was running his first mountain race. I ran past Ted Breen and Brad Kozel from GBTC as I approached the parking lot. I gave Ted advice earlier in the week on what to wear for footwear as this was his first mountain race too. Aside from that, everyone who ran at Cranmore a week earlier all shared the same sore muscle stories that lasted most of the week. Glad that I was not the only one. I still put in a heavy week of miles. The race got off to a late start but only after Paul Kirsch made sure that all folks who were seeking Mountain Goat Status were members of USATF before the race started.

Abdeltif Faker jumped out to a quick start. He had a long stride and looked like a ringer aside from cutting his running pants into uneven length shorts. I've seen or heard worse. Dennis Floyd told me he got beat by a Greater Lowell Road Runner in cut-offs (jeans cut into shorts) in a local 5K over 10 years ago. I am not fashion expert myself so I will leave it at that.

I rolled with the race in the early going. Todd Callaghan and Dave Dunham passed me early on. I noted how good Dave looked working the ascents. The word chisel came to mind during the race watching Dave motor up the hills. He took off and I just tried to stay close to Todd Callaghan. I was successful at that until the downhill toward "upper walking boss" which is as steep as it will get for us this summer.

This bit seems to go on forever. I looked up and saw the race in front of me (10 guys in total), but they were already at it for minutes. Tivo and Todd were side-stepping in some of their climb. The kid in front of me was walking and pulling away (no news there). I was not comfortable at all walking, but did some. I felt it was easier to run, if you call it that. My steps were so small but I found a rhythm. I ran by Scott Mason (check out his photos) who was taking photos about 2/3 of the way up and he gave words of encouragement. I looked back on a switch back. I saw Kasie Enman not too far. That sighting kept me honest, not to walk anymore and get to the top. In all honesty, this upper walking boss climb did not seem as long as it did two years ago. The young kid in front of m, 17 year old Adam Pachek, was too far ahead for me to catch on the downhill. My form was a mess and I still babied down it, feeling he was unreachable with only a few minutes of race left. I tore into the last uphill and into the finish to cheers from Kristen and then into the finish line where co-race director Paul Kirsch stood. 52:52 for 11th place. It felt so nice to be done with the race.

There was nothing I did during the race that I would change if I did it over again. A quick check of my prior result here in 2007 showed that I ran 52:28 or 24 seconds quicker then. However, I know I busted the downhills harder there and walked more up the walking boss section in 2007. After getting my new CMS threads on (it was windy and a bit chilly for July), drinking some Heed, I flagged Todd down and into the Gondola ride down to the base. Mats Lemberger (formerly of Dartmouth) who finished two spots in front of me joined us for the ride down. We had a nice view. I looked down a few times and could see some flagging on the course that Dave, Tivo, and company patiently set up in 2 hours and 59 minutes the day before.

I was shocked to see Joe Shairs and family at the ski lodge who were passing through. Joe looked cold in short sleeves (it was windy at the base as well) so I sent him off with a CMS jacket that I had in the Gti. The family was heading off to the Flume Gorge only a few miles away. I proceeded cool down for a couple easy miles. I bonked hard about 10 minutes from the parking lot. I walked it in and had a granola bar that must have been in my running bag for six months. It tasted so good. I just needed some nourishment and fluids. I walked into the post race gathering ready to kill for food. It could of gotten ugly but fortunately there were plenty of bagels and crunchy peanut butter for everyone. An hour later, Kristen and I broke bread with Ted and Brad in Lincoln for sandwiches before sitting in some nasty traffic on Rt. 93. Good times for sure.

Cheers to DoubleJ for his first Mountain Race win. He earned it. Dave Dunham, 1st master, ran a solid race. Tivo and Todd Callaghan held his own as well, admitting a light week of training after the race. Tim Mahoney was right behind me and is sure to race well at Ascutney Mountain in Windsor, VT this Sunday. The check is in the mail so I will be there. I am looking forward to the change in the course which will have some trail in the 2nd half and we race to the summit.
Oh and will someone please elaborate on "there is no safeword at Loon Mountain?"