By Jean DePlacido
August 10, 2009 12:45 am
Jim Pawlicki is officially a Mountain Goat, and that is a hard-earned title 100 New England runners achieved over a six-week period this summer.
Pawlicki, a Beverly resident, successfully completed all six races in the 2009 USA Track and Field New England Mountain Circuit to achieve his Mountain Goat status, and he finished fifth in the point standings.
The courses are extremely demanding, full of all types of challenges and very different from what the average runner encounters on road courses. Some are part road racing courses and rugged trails close to ski resorts, while others are primarily run on narrow dirt paths that require a great deal of agility. The race distances range from just under four miles to 10 miles.
At Ascutney Mountain in Vermont, the last stop on the circuit, runners from last year's race voted to change the course to make it even more challenging by extending all the way to the summit instead of following the auto access road to the parking lot roughly a half mile from the top of the mountain. The new path added a mile and a half of treacherous conditions.
Two years ago Pawlicki was fourth on the old course with a time of 33:01. This summer he finished 11th in 43:56 on the longer, rougher course. Runners had to deal with slippery footing, thick fern undergrowth, boulders and streams, as well as narrow, hilly paths that made the going slow. There were a few sections where Pawlicki, who works for Boston Scientific in Quincy as an e-commerce specialist, had to pick his steps by walking cautiously in the roughest patches where falling was a distinct possibility. His main focus there had nothing to do with making good time; it was staying on his feet.
"After leaving the parking lot you were on really technical trails, and there was at least a minute of walking," Pawlicki said. "I had a sense of relief after doing all six; I can now look back with a feeling of accomplishment. Two years ago I didn't finish all of them; I did five but had to drop out of the Cranmore race."
Pawlicki is a full-time runner, who is a member of the Central Mass Striders men's racing team which is sponsored by Polar Racing. He figures he has been running 335 days each year since graduating from Salem State in 1998, varying his events according to the calendar. He has run six or seven marathons, the last in 2003 in Chicago where he finished in 2:37.59 for his second fastest time.
"During the winter I do indoor track events and jump on snow shoes to race," said Pawlicki. "I do 15-20 road races throughout the year, but during the early summer concentrate on the mountain races. In the fall I like to do four or five cross country races; it brings a little diversity and each season is different. I don't do any special training for the mountain, just do what I would do for a 10-mile road race and then apply it with some concessions for the conditions.
"The mountain racing circuit goes all over New England, and each course is so different. The first one was Memorial Day weekend at Wachussett Mountain in Princeton, and then we did Pack Monadnock in New Hampshire for a 10-mile race that was nine miles on road and one on dirt. We also were at Northfield (MA.) for the New England Trail Championship. The Cranmore Mountain Hill Climb was also the USA National Mountain Championship, which was fun.
"The most demanding was the Loon Mountain Race in Lincoln, New Hampshire where there was a half-mile stretch of a pretty steep 30 degree climb. There you had to walk for the majority of the race."
Before the final Ascutney Mountain Challenge, a big group picture was taken of all the mountain goats, and after finishing they received tee-shirts with the words "Mountain Goat" on them.
"After completing the first two races I had to commit to the rest," said Pawlicki. "I felt the pressure, and wanted to gain that notoriety among my peers. It was really a lot of fun. After the last race one of the guys knew of a great spot to cool off in a mountain stream. The river was icy cold even though it was mid-July, but we had a great time. People brought food, and we all hung out together for a couple of hours."
Through all his ventures across New England Pawlicki's girlfriend Kirsten Kozlosky of Beverly has been at his side offering support, sharing the driving, and taking photos.
"She's my copilot," said Pawlicki. "I put quite a few miles on my Volkswagen Rabbit, and Kristen has been great about helping with the driving. She volunteered for a couple of races, and gave me so much support.
"One of the big perks of mountain goat status is being able to bypass the 2010 Mount Washington Road Race Lottery; we just have to register to guarantee a place in the field. I ran Mount Washington a couple of years ago, and I might look into that again. I went into the lottery then and didn't have a problem, but I guess it is a big deal because they limit the number of entries to 2,000 and it has become such a popular event.
"Finishing all six and receiving this status is a very rewarding feeling," said Pawlicki. "Now I've put the demons to rest, and I plan to be back again next year to try to do it all over again."
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