Sunday, May 11, 2014

Race Report: Pack Monadnock 10-miler

Here's my first race report since October.  And therein lies the problem, I first race in 6+ racing prowess is quite rusty. Since I guess I do race reports now, I'll blog about this race, even though I'd really rather forget it happened.  Spoiler: I was 14th overall, 1:10:22.

I worked my little TDI hard up to Greenfield to pick up Aaron Stone ("Stoneman", "Stoney", etc.) at 6:45 sharp.  (Tangent-- the little blue bugger still managed 53 miles per gallon for the day!) On the drive to southern New Hampshire I continued to push the boundaries of safety and decency by eating oatmeal while driving (it's a 6-speed), and winding up the little diesel to make a few passes.  I'm all business, and probably a bit of an indecent human being, on the morning of a race.  But Stoneman is nothing if not accommodating and he just grabbed onto the Oh-Jesus Handle a bunch of times. We parked near the finish, 1.3 miles down from the summit of Pack Monadnock (the finish is at the top), a pretty respectable little mountain at 2290', and took a "shuttle" (a volunteer's Audi) to the start, 10 miles away and about 2000' lower.  The overall net uphill, and mountaintop finish, justify this race's inclusion into the New England Mountain Series. Indeed, it's been a fixture on the series for years.

Some background: Something odd slowly began to happen over the last 4 years: I can't run road races.  I just can't compete.  My feet burn (weird), I get psyched out, and I can't find a rhythm. It's not that I'm old and slow- I still have gears for 5k cross-country, and the mountain/trail races I did last year went very well, with no specific training. But I simply cannot run road races competitively. All of which became unexpectedly relevant today.  It turns out, this was a road race.  As I overheard someone (Dave Dunham?) say-- "This is a very hard road race with a mountain at the end."  I don't just mean that it's paved; part was dirt anyway, and I think a paved-but pure mountain race (Washington, Ascutney) would suit me fine.  By "road race", I mean that there were lots of flat sections; even a few downhills; and the first 8 miles did end up feeling like a very, very hard road race.  And all of my aforementioned "road race problems" manifested.  I ended up alone for most of the race, at first hoping to reel-in the chase pack in front of me, but by mile 6 just hoping to avoid being caught by the (very strong-looking) pack behind me.  I was running like prey, not like a hunter.  I had it all wrong and I knew it for most of the race.

I had hoped to really hammer the last 2 miles, which ascend the mountain directly on a switchbacking auto road.  This is what I've been training for.  But as a pack of guys caught me, several of them punished me on the mountain, including local (W. Mass) mountain runners Ross Krause and Tim Mahoney, and my buddy Stoneman, who doesn't even really like hills.  He has never beaten me-- and he caught me near the end, on a mountain!  I'm supposed to be the budding mountain runner.  But regardless of my sandbagging, he ran a great race, a minute faster than his previous run here in 2012. And today the winners were 4 minutes slower than they often are, probably thanks to a fierce headwind.

So what happened to me? Some thoughts:
1) I hit the final climbing, at mile 7, mentally and physically spent from 7 miles of road racing.  I no longer care to analyze why I am horrible at road racing; I've accepted it.  But this was more of a road race than I had anticipated, and I was not ready for that, at all. By the time I was doing a real mountain run, I was in no position to really run like a mountain runner.
2) Other random excuses: A few weeks ago, I had the flu and missed a week of training, and lost a few pounds. The antibiotics are still messing with my intestines.  Could this matter?
3, 4 and 5) First race since October.  Had a bad day.  This is my once-yearly mulligan (I always have at least one race that is a deviant, deviant outlier).
6) Am not fit enough.  Today, that would seem to be the case, but my workouts suggest otherwise.  Hmm.

I've made no secret that I hope to be a top mountain runner this summer.  I was six minutes from the winner today, so any of those guys could laugh at my aspirations based on today's performance.  It may just be true that my range now, as a competitive runner, is constrained to races entirely off-road, or races entirely up a mountain. Maybe I should just own this.

I should say that Pack Monadnock is a very cool race, and in a sense, it is a mountain race, depending on what you mean by "mountain".  It's almost all uphill, with many hard climbs over the first 7 miles, a 2000' gain over 10 miles, and a legit-enough mountain climb the last 3 miles.  It's well-organized.  And the best mountain runners in New England (most of them) turn up for it, and run it well. As for me....Onward.  A mountain bike race is next up (Domnarski Farm), followed by the Ascutney Mountain Run (3.7 miles up a mountain, paved, also on the mountain circuit), and a final push towards Loon Mountain (also on the mountain circuit, and the mountain running national championships).


I'm happy to report that the day improved when Michaela and I finished her latest project.  Last August, I ran past an old bench up in Leverett, with crumbling wood and rusty metal, with a sign indicating it was free for the taking.  Upon returning home I was insistent that we claim this gem.  Michaela let it sit over the winter and I wondered whether this thing was going to live in our basement.... but recently she cut and shaped all new wood slats (cedar) and refinished the iron.  Today I helped with final assembly.  Finished product below (note the fantastic hammock in close proximity):


  1. So you took antibiotics to kill a virus....hummmmm. You may be missing the shadow on those track workouts.

  2. No can expect more of me than that! The antibiotics were for the alleged pneumonia.