Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Loon Mountain race (USATF NE Mountain champs)

I came off of the Mt Washington road race with a slightly strained calf muscle which had me seriously considering not going to the Loon Mountain race over the July 4th weekend.  Fortunately the calf seemed pretty good in the week leading up to the race and I stayed on top of doing stretches, heating, icing and rolling.  On race morning I also taped it up and wore compression socks.  I really wanted to do Loon as it is one of my favorite races.  It is the closest to European-style Mountain racing that we have.  I’m not as good at this style of racing (I’m better at long steady grinds) but I’ve had good luck at Loon and only missed it once in the 10 years it has been held.
Last year Loon was not only the New England championships, it was also the National championships.  I had captured the 50+ title last year and hoped to repeat (as NE champ) this year.  The competition would be tougher this year as teammate Erik Vandendries was now 50 and he was running very well this year.  The course was slightly modified from last year due to construction.  They cut out the first ½ mile of flat running on dirt and pavement and instead we’d climb 50’ up a grass hill in the first 1/10th of a mile and catch onto the course on the access road.  They also added back the ½ mile drop from the top of the Upper Walking Boss (UWB) back down to the Gondola.  As such I broke the course down into what I hoped would be manageable pieces.  The first mile to the XC loop, the two miles of XC loop, the 2 mile (mostly climb) to the Gondola, half-mile down to UWB, half-mile up UWB, and finally the drop back to the finish.
Dan Verrington and I met up with teammate (and top 60+ runner) Paul Baz and went out for a flat and easy 3 mile warm-up.  I changed into Inov-8 trail shoes and did another ½ mile to see how they felt.  Then it was off to the start with nearly 400 others.  I had seen Kim Nedeau and Kasie Enman warming up.  They’d be the top two women and I figured they’d be tough competition for me on this day.  Kasie buried me at Sleepy Hollow last year and Kim finished a scant couple of seconds behind me at Wachusett.  Both are excellent cross-country runners and have good speed so I thought keeping them in sight would be a good early goal.
Off we went up the grass slope and onto the cat track.  I found myself in about 50th place in the first ½ mile.  Either I always go out too conservatively or others go out way too fast but this was no time to panic.  I could see Erik V a little ahead and felt I was putting in the proper effort.  Right before the XC loop both Kasie and Kim went by.  I had moved up to about 30th place by the mile and felt the 2 miles of XC were just a place to maintain pace and hopefully not break an ankle in the mud and rocks.  I caught 1 or 2 people and also got passed by 1 or 2 so overall not much of a change. 
Checking Strava data after the race I found that I’d run that 2 mile loop 17 seconds faster than I did in 2014.  I didn’t know that at the time and didn’t really care about that or about time.  The only thing that mattered was place in the 50+ age group.
I came out of the loop 30+ seconds behind Erik V and 15 behind teammate Jim Pawlicki (who was running with Kasie).  We climbed 200’ in ¼ mile which helped me close the gap a bit, then the traverse across the face of the mountain strung everyone out again.  At 3.7 miles we hit the first punishing climb of the race.  This is where things usually start to come together for me.  I could see 10 guys in a line in front of me and as is usually the case many were walking (450’ of climb in .3 will do that to you!).  I started reeling people in which always feels good, even when you are hurting.  From 4 miles to 4.2 we had a quick downhill on dirt then a mile with over 700’ of climb. 
I didn’t know it at the time but I was actually in 3rd place at the time (in the 50+).  Jeff Hunt form GCS was between me and Erik at this point.  I caught him along with Alex Hall (WRT) and closed the gap on Erik.  I was hoping to get him before the top as I didn’t want to be in a battle with anyone on the UWB.  It would be very easy to run too hard with someone pushing you and once you get in trouble it is impossible to recover.  A better plan is to just listen to your body and use whatever it gives you.  I grabbed a water at the Gondola and on the first steep pitch heading down to UWB I passed Erik.  My hamstring was bothering me, probably from braking on the downhill, but I tried to open up my stride.  I could see teammate Matt Veiga up ahead and set my sights on him.
Finally I hit the Upper Walking Boss, which is the defining feature of the course.  It is a 1km (.6 mile) stretch with 40% grades.  Typically I can make up a lot of time on this section.  I caught Matt pretty quickly and he said something like “they are all catchable”.  I kept looking up and seeing the guys walking above me.  My goal has always been to run the entire stretch but calling it “running” may not be correct.  There was one dirt wall that I power-walked on for four or five strides and then it was back to running.  As I neared the top I caught teammate Chris Mahoney and very nearly caught Scott Leslie who was battling with Ethan Nedeau.
Then we hit the downhill, dropping 350’ in ½ mile, and those guys in front were out of sight.  About halfway down the slope Chris apologized as he went by, I should have apologized for slowing him down!  I hit the bottom and pushed for the line hoping that no one was closing on me.  The last little pitch to the line really kicked the snot out of me and I had to stand at the finish for a minute as my legs were shaking.  I was happy to find out later that I’d taken the win in the 50+ with Erik taking 2nd 52 seconds behind me.
The CMS club had a great day winning the championship in the Open, masters, and seniors, and also taking the women’s open title.  Since my ankle does not like downhill this will most likely be my last mountain race of the year.  I’m glad to end on a high note.
Mile splits: 8:22/8:21/7:17/9:52/11:27/12:38 (includes ½ mile in 8:44)
Thanks for the photo - Scott Mason
1 Josh Ferenc     33         Athens VT          M          0:56:48 Wild Endurance
2 Ryan Kelly       33         Concord NH        M          0:57:08 Acidotic Racing
3 Justin Freeman            38         New Hampton NH           M          0:58:10
4 Drew Best       33         Amherst MA        M          0:58:27 Acidotic Racing
5 Kris Freeman   34         Thornton NH       M          0:58:38
6 Alex McGrath   24         Marlborough NH  M          0:59:51 Whirlaway Racing Team
7 Todd Callaghan            45         Beverly MA         M          1:00:06 Central Mass Striders
8 Matt Lipsey      25         Kersey PA          M          1:00:45 Salomon / Rosemont
9 Erik Hinrichsen 26         Cambridge MA    M          1:01:40
10 Ethan Nedeau            42         Leverett MA        M          1:02:05 Acidotic Racing
11 Scott Leslie    34         Rutland MA         M          1:02:23 Central Mass Striders
12 Chris Mahoney           37         Westford MA       M          1:02:57 Central Mass Striders
13 Dave Dunham            51         Ward Hill MA       M          1:03:20 Central Mass Striders
14 Samuel Gray  19         N Hampton NH   M          1:03:29
15 Kasie Enman 35         Huntington VT    F           1:03:55 Green Mountain Athletic Association
16 Erik Vandendries 50    Chestnut Hill MA  M          1:04:12 Central Mass Striders
17 Matthew Veiga           28         Lynn MA             M          1:04:19 Central Mass Striders
13         Dave Dunham    51         Ward Hill MA       1:03:20 Central Mass Striders
16         Erik Vandendries 50         Chestnut Hill MA  1:04:12 Central Mass Striders
19         Jeff Hunt            51         Concord MA        1:04:37 Gate City Striders
45         Dan Verrington   53         Bradford MA       1:11:52 Central Mass Striders
50         EJ Hrynowski      52         Arlington MA       1:14:03 Shamrock Running Club
CMS men swept the team titles.  Put 5 in the top 16.  Also individual winners in the 40+ and 50+ age groups.
Men      Open 26Teams   40+ 18Teams                50+ 13Teams
CMS      454.02              CMS      272.71              CMS      257.24
aR         437.53              aR         229.22              GCS       228.95
GCS       383.53              GCS       228.95              WMM     208.05
Women took 4th, 5th, and 6th place overall and had top 40+ finisher along with taking the open team title.
Women Open
CMS      401.03
aR         375.82
Shamrock 162.54

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