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, February 19, 2012

WinterWild-Pat's Peak

Brandon Baker and I pacing each other after
finishing the first of two laps.
[Photo courtesy Gianina Lindsey]
"The higher you climb on the mountain, the harder the wind blows."  -Sam Cummings

Henniker, NEW HAMPSHIRE -- It's rare that I wake before an alarm...particularly a 3:00 AM alarm.  But on Saturday I had a mountain to climb and an age-group series lead to maintain at WinterWild-Pat's Peak.  The third race in the five race series.  Brayden and I packed the Explorer the night before.  We picked up the Lindsey's around the corner and then Rich at the Concord P&R.  Arriving at 5:30 AM we had plenty of time to leisurely change and chat with friends and teammates before the start command was given at 7:00 AM.  In some strange twist of fate I had found myself tied for the 40-49 year old series lead with Mark Hecox of Henniker.  He and I had traded age group wins in the first two races.  WW-Pat's Peak would be the largest race of the winter with over 225 starters.  At the start command a group of about 10-15 wide (including skinny plankers) took off on a flat section of mountain and within 25 meters were funnelled into a 15 meter shoot wide enough for 1 or 2 skiers and not much else.  I did my best to get off fast, stay to the left edge, and try not to get a pole in the eye.  As we made the sharp left hand turn up the mountain most of the top Nordic guys were already a few meters ahead but I had once again found myself running out amongst the front of the open category.  Mark must not have had a great start because it was a several hundred meters up the mountain before he pulled alongside.  We acknowledged each other and focused on dodging the skiers as we attempted to find a clean line up a relatively easy pitch.  The first 2/3 of the climb up Puff (green) was absolutely runnable and Mark and I stayed close to each other.  It wasn't until we made the turn onto Twister (black) for the last ascent that things got considerably more difficult and Mark made his one and only move.  I tried to quick chop the first few meters but decided very fast that it would be better to power hike this section as it was the first of two trips we'd make here.  And walking turned out to be every bit as fast as "running".  Mark, on the other hand, had made the decision to go for broke and muscled his way up this 200+ meter climb putting a 20+ meter gap on me in no time.  At this point I still felt like there was a lot of racing to do and I was confident that I was improving my descents.  I didn't want to risk the entire race to chase him down and figured I'd be able to recover and close on him during lap #2.  Mark had other ideas.  He stayed in sight up Twister but disappeared as we crested the mountain into the full splendor of a beautiful NH sunrise.  As I began the descent of Breeze (green) I could see him slowly increasing his lead as he hammered down the mountain.  Hesistant not to blow my legs up trying to close an almost insurmountable gap, I pushed hard but conservatively, working with young gun Brandon Baker to pick our way down the mountain.  Passing the START/FINISH Mark was out of sight and my goal quickly changed to staying in the Top 5 open category.  Running 5th as we started back up the mountain I felt strong and in control.  I ran all of Puff and again power hiked Twister back to the sun splashed summit.  I peaked quickly just before setting off down the mountain and didn't see any immediate open threat.  Relaxing a little more on the second descent I could feel my turnover increasing and my legs slowly going numb.  Luckily Breeze, Zepher, and Blast are all gradually sloping green trails keeping the pounding on my legs at a manageable level.  Making the turn around the chairlift at the bottom all that was left was a 100 sprint up a slight incline to the finish.  Then it happened...out of nowhere I had someone on my left shoulder.  Right away I assumed it was Brandon who had caught me but it was actually another 20-something challenger.  We ran stride for stride for five or six steps and then I felt him pulling ahead.  With 10 meters to go, in one last "old man" attempt at holding my spot I leaned forward and "accelerated" with everything I had.  For 2-3 strides I actually felt like I had pulled ahead but with less than 5 meters to go he just barely pulled ahead and beat me by a nose.  It was the first time in recent memory I had to finish with a sprint.  Guess I need to work on my explosive foot speed.  My unofficial finishing time was 37:50 and good enough for 6th overall open (3rd 40+ open).  With Mark's 90+ second win he's now back on top of the 40-49 year old series open category with two races to go.  I have fallen back to 2nd.  If this is going to go down to the wire, and there's no reason now not to think it will, I need to have a game plan in place for Sunapee.  Any move he makes will need to be immediately countered because I've learned he's a great closer.

NEXT UP:  WinterWild-Mount Sunapee

Sunday, February 5, 2012

WinterWild-Ragged Mountain

Leading the field up Exhibition at the
2012 WinterWild Ragged Mountain Race
[Photo Gianina Lindsey]
"I have climbed several higher mountains without guide or path, and have found, as might be expected, that it takes only more time and patience commonly than to travel the smoothest highway."  -Henry David Thoreau

Danbury, NEW HAMPSHIRE - Sometimes things just 'click'.  I'm not the strongest nor fleetest of foot but there's something about mountain races that I thoroughly enjoy.  Standing at the bottom and gazing up there's an incredible sense of excitement for the adventure to come.  I've never run to the top of any of these mountains so everything is new.  Everything is an exploration.  For me the lure is the challenge.  To do something that many wouldn't dare.  And so it was that I once again rose to a 3:00 AM alarm and with bleary eyes climbed into the back of the aR caravan (aka the Lindsey's mini-van) for the roughly two hour trip to Danbury, NH for WinterWild-Ragged Mountain, the 2nd race in the five race series and the brainchild of Chad Denning.  This time, however, I'd be joined by my son Brayden who would make his aR snowboard racing debut.  Check snowboarding off the list of sports that we now compete in.  We arrived in plenty of time to get registered, changed, and warm-up a little before the race.  The temperatures were much warmer than two weeks earlier at Whaleback.  Also different from two weeks prior was the presence of the other winter disciplines including Nordic, Tele, and Alpine (ski & board).  Chad gave his final race instructions including the process for the "orderly" descent down the mountain...runners to the LEFT and everyone else to the RIGHT.  From everything I'd heard the Nordic guys typically have a big advantage and usually dominate the overall results.  Although they might not be able to climb as fast as a runner they more than make up for it on the descent.  I saw a handful of familiar faces including my new WinterWild masters rival Mark Hecox (Henniker, NH) who just nipped me at the line at Whaleback.  As the race began I was surprised to find myself leading for the first 100 meters.  My visions of grandeur were short lived however as the nimble, light, and young guns began to motor by me.  I was able to hold onto 3rd/4th place as Mark and I raced neck-and-neck up the hill.  Roughly 500 meters into the race I noticed someone making a hard push on us.  At this point I was still running (slowly) but my new masters OPEN challenge was maintaining a steady pace as he walked by both Mark and myself.  I later learned it was Paul Doe of Derry, NH.  He easily pulled away from both of us as he marched up the steepest section of Exhibition toward the summit.  Not long after Paul went by us I began to separate from Mark.  He and I had been racing on opposite sides of the ski slope with me taking the inside line.  It really wasn't a purposeful tactic on my part I just chose to take the shorter of the two routes.  By not racing within the magic 3 meter range it allowed me to get a little gap on him although in the back of my mind I was reminded how strong he was on the descent at Whaleback so I knew our race was far from over.  Reaching the summit Paul had a 50 meter lead on me and because of the hairpin summit turn I couldn't determine how close Mark was.  And down we went.  As firm as the ascent was, the descent was equally soft with spots that left a 3-5 inch footstep.  Not sure if it made it harder or easier as my focus was squarely on finding a line and falling forward down the mountain.  Roughly 500 meters into the descent I could hear the first Nordic guys coming.  Three of them "WHOOSHED" by in a full tuck blur.  Because I wasn't really racing those jokers it didn't bother me.  Paul really pushed on this final section and wouldn't allow me to close.  As I spied back up the hill on a few occasions I noticed my pursuers but they didn't seem to be making up any ground.  When I could see the lodge I knew we were getting close.  I rounded the chair lift and made the final 10 meter "uphill" push to the finish without having to fight for the place.  My 22:07 (7:23's) was good enough for 7th overall, 4th OPEN, and 2nd OPEN 40+.  Mark finished just behind me.  Having traded 40-49 OPEN wins in the first two races we are now tied for the 40-49 OPEN series podium.  Can't wait to take on WinterWild-Pat's Peak in two two weeks.  It should be the biggest challenge of the winter as the race is a two loop course. 

Here's some great POV video that Brayden captured of the descent.  Gives you an idea of the spectacle that is a WW race.  [NOTE:  shot with our DRIFT HD170]

NEXT UP:  Horsehill Snowshoe Race, Merrimack, NH