Current Training Status: not blogging... running.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Pemigewasset Valley Reports

The USATF Mountain Series is a point series of six races ranging in distance from 3.8 - 10 miles, on trail and on road, up grades that can reduce most to a power-hike. As an incentive to complete the series, the Mt. Washington RD, Bob Teschek, offers a lottery bypass to anyone completing all 6 races. Last year I ran them all for the first time and got hooked. This year I've almost done it again, with the addition of Mt. Washington. The Mt. Washington course is 7.6 miles and 4,650' of unrelenting climb, with the last couple miles above treeline. This challenge was a big focus of my training this season, also on the slate was entering Escarpment by qualifying with the MorFun Wapack 21 miler. I knew I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I committed to running all of these races, but that was part of the excitement. The Mt. Washington race is behind me now by a couple weeks, Escarpment is 3 weeks away, and I'm slowly beginning to appreciate what I actually did 'get myself into'.
I began logging my vertical climb each week and set realistic goals to avoid going bananas and getting hurt. With snow on the trails, in January I logged 8,050'. During May, a month before Mt. Washington, I logged 26,300' or almost 5 vertical miles. Another strategy to prepare for Mt. Washington was to run each Mountain race twice. At Mt. Wachusett there is a short trail back down to the start to loosen up on before the repeat. This inspired a more agressive, direct route back up and down Northfield Mtn. for my repeat there. At those races I made it back for the award ceremony, not so at Pack Monadnock. This race finished right on the Wapack Trail, where I'd run a race the month before. A perfect opportunity to hit the trails after a grueling road race brought me back at the very end of the awards and the end of the food. Stinking, struggling vehicles and probably some state law put any repeat of Mt. Washington itself out of the question, (though the award ceremony was long enough to allow it). Mt. Washington had inspired this habit, the need for it seemed to have passed. The next race of course, Mt. Cranmore Hill Climb, was itself a hill repeat. With these approaches and several trail runs of 4+ hours and 20+ miles, I've gained a fair idea how to manage dehydration and calories over tough terrain. Knowing I know enough to be dangerous, I simply prepare for the worst (even if it's only 'One Hill').
This brings the summer recap to last weekend and Loon Mtn., the steepest of the Mountain races, an ascent only race with a gondola ride back down. I never had to consider repeating the 5.7 miles and 2,700' of climbing, though the Gondola would make it a cinch. Right next door, at Lincoln Woods, there was a Fat Ass 50k going on. Fat Ass events are unofficial, mostly unsupported, ultra distance races. There is no special reason to use foul language for them, the crazy ultra people simply do. So, at 6:30 am some number of people met to run the 31.5 miles of the Pemi-loop, trails following the White Mountain ridgeline around the Pemigewasset river valley. I could not ignore this coincidence and ready for a long run, the plan was to extend my day with up to 20 more miles there on that course. Since there may be encounters with withered ultra runners, at 4:30 am I piled into the car with all the fluid carrying capacity I owned and headed north for a 3 1/2 hour drive.
Free stuff was in abundance before the race. Picking up my number I was able to grab about 6 Hammer Gels, free fuel for the afternoon. After a thorough warm up, skies were clear and everyone was fleeing the sun at the starting line, crowding into the rare shady spots. For some reason, Smart Water had a tent set up right there. Odd choice, as the crowd typically gathers at a starting line for 15 minutes and is not going to take much away with them. Their bottles of water were popular though, I would see several in racer's hands going up the hill. I myself snagged a case, as that was the mode of distrubution, and stashed it in the cool waters of the Pemi for later.
I situated myself about three rows back of the crowd, which led to an ideal start. An agressive little lady in fireblades and colorful shorts hopped right in front of me at the start, she had finished just ahead of me in a different fancy pair of shorts at Cranmore. I tried to keep up, but she led me by about 50 yards after the first hill. On that hill began a game with a guy in red shorts that had an agressive run/walk pattern where I was content to run it all. Slowly he'd gap me a few times but I'd catch up. After mile 2 I was only passed by a handful of people. There was a tall older guy, a younger guy with curly hair and heavy beard, and a non descript middle aged dude that formed a pack I stuck within 10 paces of for the second half of the race. On the brief downhill at mile 5 I caught the whole group, except for curly guy. I used a visual run/walk strategy for all the vertical stuff. Several stretches are basically straight up, steepest slopes I've ever run. If there was a visible short relief in the grade, I ran it. Cruising by wilpower alone my powerhiking form was much improved. I was the only one who wanted to run the last switchbacks to the top, which allowed me to catch curly dude right at the crest. He seemed wiped out but I ran my tail off down the hill towards the finish to stay ahead anyway. After the vertical 50 yard dash to the finish I crossed the line over 90 seconds faster than the 2007 edition into cool rain clouds.
The exposed ski trails and access roads were brutal. Even drinking as much as possible at the 2 aid stations I was a little bonky and dehydrated. I chalk this one up as a success, and my favorite race of the bunch. The views at the top were breathtaking, and there was a lookout tower with a map of the peaks you could see. I slurped two gels and took stock of the trails I planned to run. Immediately after the gondola ride down, I went and grabbed 3 bagels to add to my growing pile of race schwag. I retrieved my case of Smart Water and was on the road. The Water was awesome, fortified with non -sodium electrolytes. It filled 2 - 24 oz. handhelds, and also my Nathan waist pack's 22 oz bottle. Each bottle was paired with 2 gels. In the waist pack and clipped onto it were 2 - 5 oz. bottles with perpetuem. I had 9 or ten endurolytes and also 6 of these cheap-o-glucosamine chondroitin supplements from Walmart that have 120 mg sodium per pair. I threaded my new Loon Mtn. shirt over the strap at my waist and the load was quite bearable. My route would head in along the Pemi, then up the Osseo trail to Mt. Flume. I would continue on as many summits as possible with Mt. Lincoln as a goal.
to be continued ...

Loon Mtn. Race RD's blog at
Pemi - Challenge RD's blog at

No comments: