|"Hammering" the final descent |
(sort of) at Cranmore
[Photo courtesy Gianina Lindsey]
North Conway, NH - Of all the things I race, I enjoy mountain racing the most. I am by no means the swiftest nor the strongest yet mountain racing touches a part of my soul that no other form of racing does. Perhaps it's the duality of feeling so incredibly small when you're standing at the bottom yet so incredibly large when you crest the summit. And the only way to get to the top is with effort and perserverance. A summit is never handed to you. With my crazy busy schedule the Cranmore Hill Climb, hosted by my very good friend Paul Kirsch, is the only "summer" mountain race I can fit in. But if I'm only going to do one mountain race a year...the Cranmore Hill Climb is the one to do! There a lot of things to love about this race. First, it's in North Conway and an easy and beautiful drive north from Strafford. Secondly, a stop to the Moat Mountain Smokehouse & Brewery for lunch is a fantastic way to apres after the race. And lastly, Paul changes the course each year making the race almost entirely new every time you do it! The 2012 version of the course was two different ascents with a 50% shared descent. Wanting to get a little intel on the course I found and spoke to photographer extraordinaire Scott Mason, who had previewed the course the previous day, and of course Paul. In separate conversations they both told me to hold a little back for the second loop as the 1.3 mile ascent (with sections of 30% grade) was a bear. Always a competitive field I seeded myself in the 2nd or 3rd row and got off rather easy at the start command. In fact I felt 1/3 of the field surge by me in the first 50 meters of flat before the climbing began. Wanting to stay patient and stick to my plan I let folks go knowing that the longer 2nd climb was my strong suit. As we picked our way up a combination of access roads, singletrack, and grassy ski slopes I began to gather folks back in as the elevation began to cause people to walk. Maintaining a very controlled climbing pace I ran the entire first ascent and then began to head back down to the start/finish. This section of course was the same as 2011 and I immediately recognized where I was. Knowing I'm not a strong downhill runner I purposely focused on staying relaxed and trying to hold as many positions as I'd gained on the climb. By Karen's account, who had made the trip to cheer me on, I was in 24th place after the first loop. As we began the second, longer and steeper climb, I was feeling great. Once again I began to reel in other runners who had started to powerhike this unrelenting section. And by this time the sun was high in the sky and the rain from the previous day made the mountain feel like a tropical rain forest. Within a few minutes of climbing I spotted fellow masters runner Peter Keeney from Crow Athletics. Peter and I have raced many times and it's rare that I'm ever close to him. Setting my sights on him I started to feel the pull and before long I was on his right shoulder. He acknowledged I was there as we ran together for a while. I was cautious not to jump out in front too quickly instead settling on letting him do the pulling. At a aid station he must have stopped or significantly slowed to get a drink because all of a sudden I was out in front of him. Assuming I was getting close to the summit I inexplicably began to powerhike the last 100 meters. I don't remember being gassed and the grade wasn't anything that I couldn't run butu for some reason I decided to walk. Quite honestly, at that point my walking pace equalled my running pace. Rounding the barrel at the summit I noticed that Peter was right behind me and within 10 seconds of descending he was already by me. Running downhill hard takes a combination of technique, fitness, and courage. Three things I obviously don't posses enought of at this point. Hard as I tried he effortly moved away from me. The objective then turned to not getting passed again. Not wanting to risk a fall I didn't look back instead using teamamate Steve Wolfe's approach of "running scared". I managed to hold off my closest competitor and aside from Peter didn't get passed again on the way down. Feeling really great I ever kicked a little in the field to the finish and crossed the tape in 52:30 good enough for 18th overall and 8th 40+. Amazingly I had picked up 6 spots on the 2nd loop. What an amazing course and an incredibly well run event once again by Paul and the White Mountain Miles. Can't wait to see what he has in store for us in 2013.
NEXT UP: Stonewall Farm Mountain Bike Race