Dare Mighty Things

"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those timid spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat." -Teddy Roosevelt

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Sunday River, MAINE--Today's 2nd Annual MNT EPIC had it all: thirty degree temps, hellish climbs, wicked descents, wind, rain, sun, and even snow on the summits! My last race of 2009 was my first attempt at this really new race and it definitely lived up to the billing. A very strong aR showing included Tim Cox, Justin Snair, Ryan Welts, Brent & Amy Tkaczyk, Steve Sprague, and yours truly. This Trail Monsters designed course (see video below) was pretty straightforward with two climbs (3361') and two descents (3346') over 12 rugged miles summiting 8 peaks. My "strategy" (if you could call it that in a race where I had zero idea how long such an adventure would take) was to run as much of the first 1300' climb as possible placing myself as far up in the field as I could figuring eventually everyone would be walking. I carried a small hydration bottle pack with a Hammer Gel and some Endurolytes but left the bottle empty for the first climb to aid station #1 where I would fill up with their fluids. My early tactics worked well as I was running in 6th place behind teammates Tim, Justin, and Ryan. My first descent to the base of Jordan Bowl was a harbinger of things to come as I lost a spot to the overall female winner who FLEW by me down the hill. I caught her briefly on the ensuing climb but she slowly pulled away from me and never looked back. Near the summit of Spruce Peak it actually started spitting snow...and it's freakin' October! It's a darn good thing I had my new Moeben arm sleeves on as I was sporting the new aR sleeveless racing shirt. I basically ran alone for the next 30 minutes to the turnaround at Oz where I saw a group of six runners, racing together, as I doubled back against them. We exchanged words of encouragement and I implored them to catch me so I'd have someone to run with at the end (RETROSPECT: that probably wasn't a wise idea). From the high point at Oz there were roughly 4 miles to the finish and they were all downhill. Easy right? Apparently descending mountains is my Kryponite. In less than a mile the entire group of six had passed me and were quickly out of sight. In the blink of an eye I went from a very solid top 10 finish to a slightly disappointing 13th overall. Perhaps the hardest thing to swallow was racing so strong for 3300' of climbing and 8 miles only to give it all away running downhill. With under 2 miles to go we hit a section of singletrack that ordinarily would have been the most fun part of the course for me but my woeful hydration (including Gatorade..ughhh) resulted in both sets of adductors cramping as I made a quick 90 degree cut on a muddy switchback. Slowing to a walk I took another 2 Endurolytes (my 5th & 6th of the day) and finished the little bit of Gatorade/water I had left. Once again the Endurolytes saved me and I was running again in less than 2 minutes. The last 50 meters of the race was run on the wife carry course with the log hurdle and water pit as "optional" obstacles. With a healthy dose of 'crowd pressure' I managed to negotiate them both and finished unofficially in 2:09. Although my effort wasn't an '09 highlight, the efforts of Tim (2nd), Justin (5th), Ryan (6th), and Amy (2nd female) absolutely were! The Pumpkinhead Ale, BBQ, and live band seemed to sooth my wounds and before long the bitter disappointment of that final 4 miles was just a memory. The combination of fall foliage, beautifully cool weather, epic course, and great friends made this race a "must do" for 2010. I just need to work on getting better running downhill. Can you believe that, downhill?!

NEXT UP: 6 weeks of rest before I start preparing for the 2010 snowshoe racing season!

[Photo cred: me, Brent, Amy, Tim; 8-peak elevation profile; the start; a view from North Peak]

From the folks at Trail Monster:

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Pinnacle Challenge V

Newport, NEW HAMPSHIRE--I must admit I really enjoy the handful of "team" events I get to do each year. The Pinnacle Challenge is one of those and today 16 teammates and I travelled to the Lake Sunapee area for the only double-duathon that I'm aware of in all of New England. This year was by far the biggest turnout of aR athletes with four teams of 4 plus Steve Sprague again racing as a solo. As the teams were developed it looked as if our three all-male teams (aR, aR-2, and aR-3) would be fairly evenly matched while our lone co-ed entry (aR-4) looked to be very competitive in their class. Friday I received notice that aR-2's road runner, Justin Snair, was a scratch for health reasons. A frantic scramble ensued and resulted in a last minute replacement...a very fast last minute replacement, former CBNA runner Derek Hamel. The race began under cloudy skies but surprisingly the temps were very mild compared with yesterday's bone chilling rain. Steve Wolfe (aR), Derek (aR-2), Kurt Hansbury (aR-3), and Karen (aR-4) led the race off. Derek was the first road runner finisher of the entire event entering the transition area in a blistering 26:20. Steve McCusker (aR-2), who had by his own admission never led a race, left the transition area first and began the 5.3 mile mountain bike course. My road runner, Steve Wolfe, was exactly 2:00 minutes behind Derek and with a quick switch of the timing chip I headed out after the 2007 King of the Glen. No more than 300 meters into the course riders are faced with a 100+ step climb UP a set of wooden stairs. As I threw my bike onto my shoulder the handlebar end swung around and hit me directly in the eyeball. Not too seriously injured, I kept climbing taking two steps at a time until I could feel the pH level in my quads begin to bottom out. Nearing a flat section toward the top of one of the first climbs I saw Steve, slumped over his handlebars. I quickly surmised that his troubles were of the physical, not mechanical, variety and I asked if he needed help. Not hearing him answer either way but thinking I saw him shake his head "no" I rode past him and continued the 20 minute climb. I felt strong and rode many of the technical sections of the course that had dogged me in the previous two years despite the wet & slippery conditions. One minor chain suck in the last mile had me off the bike briefly while I pulled it free. I entered the TA in 42:34 setting a PR on this course at this race. I handed the timing chip to Geoff Cunningham who took off for the road bike section. Steve finished about 13 minutes behind me and when he had caught his breath explained why he was slumped at the top of the first climb. He had apparently gulped a mouthful of water just moments before heading out. When he got to the top of the stairs he felt like he was going to vomit. Holding it back he attempted the first rideable climb. Reaching a level place he couldn't hold back any longer and vomited that gulp of water...and the DD croissant he had eaten before the race. While that alone would have halted nearly anyone else, he also aspirated the vomit when he took a deep breath. With lungs burning he managed to continue to ride. That's why they call him the King. Geoff ripped a 37:59 and handed off for the final time to our trail runner anchor Brent Tkaczyk. Making up considerable time on the road bike, aR-2 road cyclist Jay Myers hit the TA less than 12 minutes behind Geoff and sent road & trail star Tim Cox off to try to run Brent down. With just 3.5 miles to cover the gap was too much to overcome as Brent crossed the finish line in 26:20 for an overall finish time for us of 2:16:40. Tim, running the fastest trail split of the entire field, taped in 23:58 (2:26:17). Despite heroic efforts from our road runner, road cyclist, and trail runner we finished :56 off the All-Male podium in 4th place. Our overall finish time was also the 4th fastest of all 23 teams. aR-2 finished 8th overall with aR-3 & aR-4 placing 15th & 16th. Of note, our co-ed team (aR-4) finished on the podium in their class. Congratulations to Karen, Sarah Silverberg, Scott Graham, and Rich Lavers as well as the other aR athletes Brayden Dunn and Austin Stonebraker. And a special thank you to Jay Curry who joined us and had a very solid road bike split of 41:30. The Pinnacle Challenge never fails to disappoint and thanks to our friends at Redhook we had plenty of cold beer waiting for us and Rich Lavers won the aR drawing for FREE BEER FOR A YEAR. Does it get any better I ask you?

NEXT UP: MNT EPIC, Sunday River, Maine