Tuesday, July 23, 2013

U.S. Mountain running championships - Mt Cranmore

U.S. Mountain running championships

The two hour drive to North Conway went by quickly thanks to Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and four “Alarm” discs.  I got to the site with only a few minutes to spare before the number pick-up.  I had plenty of time after that to get ready as it was 1.5 hours before the start.  I gathered my gear and took the lift to the top of the mountain.  This version of the Cranmore Mountain race would be unusual with us doing three laps of down then up.  This was done to closely match the way the World Championships will be run later this year.  The top runners were out there trying to earn a spot on the U.S. team; I was hoping to make it through without too much damage to my somewhat beaten-up body.

At 8:15 the women took off on their two loop race and I joined a bunch of other guys in doing a lot of very short loops on top of the mountain in order to get in a warm-up.  I felt okay but my head just wasn’t in it.  I’ve been in a funk since Mt Washington and just can’t get that normal adrenaline rush prior to a race.  Maybe that was a good thing with the first 2k being downhill and most people heading out at full speed.  About 200 of us lined up, Paul gave the countdown and zoom we were off!

My plan was to run the first lap conservatively and then hopefully start reeling in the fast starters.  I took a quick count (out of curiosity) in the first half-mile and counted at least 50 people ahead of me.  I felt pretty good on the first down, running in control.  I could see Todd Callaghan up ahead and teammate Tim Van Orden was also within site.  I didn’t see anyone else with age-group numbers on their backs so I was pretty sure I was third master in the early going.  At the end of the initial descent Patrick Rich went by, he was running very smart.  He was also the only guy to pass me and stay ahead of me for the remainder of the race.  The climb was pretty tough but I felt like I ran within myself, knowing it would be progressively more difficult each lap.  I closed the gap on TiVO on the climb and got a good indication on how much I could give up on him during the drop and get it back during the climb.  Todd was just within site on the long final stretch of steep grass climb.

I came through the top in 21:55 which was about what I’d hoped for.  I had thought about 20 minutes per loop until I saw the women’s times.  My guess was that I could run about what the top women averaged (over two loops) and they were in the mid 21’s.  The second downhill was a bit easier mentally as I had a clearer picture in my mind of what lay ahead.  I had picked off some people during the first climb and passed a few guys during the second downhill.  That was something of a surprise as I’m not a very good downhill runner.  My heel got a bad blister during the second lap and the ankle tendonitis was seriously making its presence known.  TiVO was holding his ground but once we started climbing he began to come back, along with another half-dozen guys.  I felt like I was getting a good rhythm on the climb, there were a lot of guys walking and my slow but steady running was reeling them in.  I passed Tim just before the glade section (a particularly steep part) and he mentioned that Todd wasn’t too far ahead.  That is a relative term, I could see Todd but he had 1:35 on me as we neared the end of loop two.  My split for the second loop was 21:52 and I was still feeling “okay”.

The final descent was tough; the blister was killing me and trying to get up on my toes made my tendonitis worse.  I tried to focus on a couple of guys ahead of me and just get down, knowing it was only 7+ minutes to the bottom made it a little easier.  I was shocked when I saw Todd as I approached the lower water-stop.  I had made up ground on him on the descent!  I checked my watch and he was now “only” 45 seconds ahead.  I focused on catching some of the people walking and went by one of the Mexican runners, then a Canadian, then Christopher Zablocki (ran 2:18 to win the Vermont Marathon earlier this year).  Each one got me a little closer to catching Todd, which in my mind was the only one who counted because he is a master.

I ran as hard as I could and the gap closed but I just couldn’t quite get to him, he sprinted the final 200 meters and was gone.  My final lap split was 22:34, so I’d only slowed 42 seconds and it was evenly split between the down and the up.  I was 21 seconds slower on each for that final lap.  I staggered around after the race with everything just seizing up.  I gave all I had on this day and that’d have to do.  I picked up 2nd in the masters and got the gold medal in the 45-49 age group.  I picked up another gold medal as CMS took the masters team title (TiVO was 3rd master, 2nd in the 45 and Paul Bazanchuk was the gold medal winner in the 55-59).  We also mined silver in the open category losing to Gate City by a mere 3 seconds!

The warm-down at the base of the mountain was more of a shuffle than an actual run, I can’t remember the last time I was this sore (well, maybe I was this sore after Bretton Woods!).  Now I have to hope that I can bounce back and be able to race by this Saturday when the New England road racing Grand Prix returns.  Ugh!

Top 5
Pl          Time     Name                Age       City, State
1          56:23    Joseph Gray        29         Renton, WA
2          56:28    Zachary Ornelas   22         Ann Arbor, MI
3          56:45    Max King            33         Bend, OR
4          57:58    Glenn Randall      26         Mesa, CO
5          58:11    Ryan Hafer         27         Colorado Springs, CO

CMS finishers
15         1:02:58 Patrick Rich         36         South Hamilton, MA
25         1:06:21 Dave Dunham     49         Bradford, MA
36         1:11:06 Tim Van Orden   45         Bennington, VT
62         1:22:45 Paul Bazanchuk   58         Center Conway, NH
109       1:35:34 David Lapierre     49         Chelmsford, MA
155       1:51:56 Ray Desautels     47         Oxford, MA
180       2:18:59 Walter Kuklinski   64         Princeton, MA

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