Monday, July 9, 2012

Loon Mountain race

Loon Mountain Race

I was really looking forward to Loon Mountain this year after having to miss it last year with my calf injury.  Richard Bolt, Paul Kirsch and I had designed the course back in 2006 and this would be my sixth time racing it.  I have a pretty good mental picture of the course which is a definite advantage over the difficult (and varied) terrain on Loon.  There was no doubt that the women’s field would be good as Loon was hosting the U.S. team qualifier, but it was anyone’s guess how the men’s field would be.  I bumped into top master Mike Slinskey who’d driven 5 hours from New York to give Loon a try.  He was preparing for the Escarpment trail race and figured Loon would give him a good test.  Right after seeing Mike I saw Mark Mayall another top master.  Mayall can beat me by a minute in a road 5k and showed he could climb running a 1:09 last year at Mt Washington.  Along with Todd Callaghan, who is leading the master’s category in the mountain series, there was a solid master’s field on hand.

A big group of CMS guys and a couple of others headed out for a flat 3 mile warm-up.  It was already pretty warm but the humidity was reasonably low.  Jim Johnson was uncharacteristically quiet about any ailments, which probably boded well for his race.  I thought that fellow CMS runners Kevin Tilton and Ross Krause might give him a race.  Judson Cake and some fast younger runners (who were unproven on a mountain course) could also be in the mix.  We finished warming up and found out that the start was delayed by 15 minutes due to a record turnout at registration.  The women’s elite race went off on time at 9:15 so I used the extra time to jog over to catch them starting then cut across to see them go through the mile. 
Feeling good during the warm-up
It wasn’t surprising that most of the field was still in contention at that point, the first mile had very little serious climb in it.  I headed out for some more running and some strides, and just before the start I dunked my singlet in the river and soaked my head.

I lined up next to teammates Kevin Tilton and Dave Lapierre and was a bit shocked by the size of the field (over 250), but with the wide dirt parking lot we’d have plenty of room to sort things out.  We were off like a shot and Kevin and I weren’t in the top 25.  He noted something like ‘I went to a mountain race and a road race broke out’.  I wasn’t too worried; people always bust a nut in the first mile of this race and pay for it dearly later on.  Mostly I worked on staying on my feet through the first four 90 degree turns during the first half-mile before we hit the cat track and the first little climb.  I focused on cutting tangents (running the shortest possible route) and keeping some familiar faces in sight.  Even on a good day at Loon I’d give up as much as 30 seconds in that first mile.  I hit the mile mark and the first serious climb in 6:21.  Anything under 6:30 is VERY fast for me.  I was surprised that the leaders were only 10-15 seconds ahead and I was in 16th place at that point.

I latched on to Matt Veiga right after the mile.  We’d been closely matched at a couple of the mountain races earlier this year and once the climbing started we started reeling in some of the pack.  Teammate Sam Wood was one of the first guys we caught, he tried to latch on as we went by but we’d got a good rhythm going and pulled away.  By the water stop I’d pulled clear of Veiga and reeled in a couple of other guys.  The climb continued through 2 miles and I could see a line of runners ahead of me.  I hit the 2 mile mark in 15:04 (8:43), anything under 9:00 is a good time for me over that mile.  I was close to the top 10 by the 2 mile mark and worked hard on the slight downhill.  I was a bit surprised at how close I’d gotten to Kevin Tilton, but once we hit the really tough grass climb he motored.  I followed his lead and moved into the top 10 during that climb.  I was feeling pretty good and kept my eyes focused on Mayall, and further ahead Callaghan.  I was thinking if I could keep them close I might have a shot at them on the final kilometer (a 30% sustained climb on a double-black diamond ski slope).

I checked my watch as Callaghan and Cake hit the 3 mile mark 13 seconds up on me.  I ran the third mile in 8:47 which was a fast split for me.  I was still feeling good and three to four is one long grind, just my kind of running.  I reeled in Callaghan and Cake and got around Mayall.  On the longer straight parts I could see Ross Krause up ahead in 3rd place, Tilton was 5-10 seconds ahead of me and he’d just caught the fourth place runner.  I worked my way up and by the four mile mark (9:54 – 33:46) I was in 5th place closely trailing Kevin.  Now I just wanted to get down the final ½ mile of downhill without major damage then work that last climb.  I was pretty confident that no one behind me was going to catch me on that climb…but you never know.  I passed Kevin about half-way down and kept the tempo as fast as I could.  I knew Mayall wasn’t that far behind and I really wanted to hold the position I’d worked hard for.

Kevin did not fold; he worked his way back and went right by me on the Upper Walking Boss climb.  My legs were burning and I was starting to worry about my calves, the last thing I wanted was to re-injure myself…of course I also was in the heat of a race and didn’t want to give an inch.  I kept a steady (if slow) pace and didn’t walk at all (I’ve never walked on this course) and slowly gapped Kevin.  I could see Ross up ahead but knew he was not catchable.  I snuck a look back and it is amazing how close people seem when you are all “running” at over 13 minutes per mile.  I finished that kilometer in 8:43 and ended up finishing in fourth place in 46:20.  This was the first time the course finished at the top of North Peak so it is hard to compare to previous results.  My best for the 5.5 mile version of the course is 49:46, so I would have been about a minute under that had we continued to the other finish line.  I like the new version of the course with the uphill finish and wouldn’t mind if they kept it there for future races.

CMS had a good day with five in the top six, Jim Johnson won the race by a minute, Martin Tighe was top 50+ by nearly 2 minutes, and I took the top spot in the 40+.  The final race in the six race USATF NE mountain series will be the Ascutney hill climb on 07-22.

Pl   Time   Name            Age       Div        Club      Points
1    43:16  Jim Johnson    35         M2039   CMS      100.00
2    44:15  Kris Freeman   31         M2039               97.78
3    45:06  Ross Krause    32         M2039   CMS      95.93
4    46:20  Dave Dunham  48        M4059   CMS      93.38
5    46:33  Phil Kreycik     28         M2039               92.95
6    46:49  Kevin Tilton    30         M2039   CMS      92.42
7    47:13  Mark Mayall    40         M4059   NBB       91.63
8    47:32  Peter Gurney  23         M2039               91.02
9    48:06  Todd Callaghan 42      M4059   GCS       89.95
10   48:28  Judson Cake   34        M2039   Acidotic 89.27
11   49:09  Isaac St Martin 32       M2039   GCS       88.03
12   49:13  Tristan Williams26        M2039               87.91
13   49:17  Mike Slinskey  43         M4059               87.79
14   49:28  Matt Zanchi    22         M2039   Redmen             87.47
15   49:42  Matt Veiga     25         M2039               87.06
16   49:54  Tim Mahoney 32         M2039   CMS      86.71
18   51:09  Sam Wood     26         M2039   CMS      84.59
30   54:27  Martin Tighe   54         M4059   CMS      79.46
86   1:07:29 David Lapierre 48      M4059   CMS      64.11
148 1:20:00 Walt Kuklinski  63      M6099   CMS      54.08

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Someday, baby, someday! Great job, while reading I felt like I was there, I could feel the burn.