Monday, June 15, 2015

Ascutney Mountain Race, 2015

Maybe if/when I run super long races in remote mountains and experience a vision quest or something, my race reports will be interesting. Until then, here's a nuts 'n bolts race report!

Ascutney Mountain Race:
Sunday June 14th. Stop # 4 (#3 for me) on the USATF-New England mountain series. A 3.7 mile charge up Vermont's 3,130' Mt. Ascutney via an autoroad.  Average grade is just under 12%, the same grade and half the distance of next weekend's Mt. Washington Road Race, the big daddy.  Many folks at Ascutney plan to run Washington, though 6 days out is too late to get a training benefit and too late if you learn you're not fit.  So really you should only run Ascutney for it's own merit, or to score for the series. I digress.
the course. Image: Brian Crounse. 

Ascutney's not a huge race but it always, every year, draws a deep field of committed mountain runners.  (Like mountain biking.  If you race you're pretty serious.) Eric Blake returned to defend his 2014 victory and course record. However, a few names were notably absent, so I wasn't surprised when I found myself alone in 2nd place after just a few minutes. The first mile is the steepest by just a bit and I crossed the mile in 8:02 (vs. last year's 7:49, which was too aggressive; much smarter this year).  I could still see Blake in front of me with perhaps a 20 second gap at this point. Mile 2 passed with an 8:23 split -- a bit of a fade. My quads felt limiting and the pace was near my redline (both of which surprised me), not so much aerobically but muscularly. My treadmill hillclimb workouts have prepared me to suffer through continued climbing at 8:30-9:00 pace for 12%, but I haven't done much interval-paced uphill work. Third mile- 8:33- still locked into this pace.  I knew my goal of sub-30 was out the window but I'd at least improve on last year's 30:59 (which was, at the time, a great race for me). Just after mile 3 Blake was walking.  He'd later tell me he was injured and will sit out the rest of the season, a total bummer. The course has some flatter sections around this point so I hit it hard to make up some time and finished in 1st at 30:36. Todd Callaghan (looking badass with his beard, new this season) came through in 2nd and superfast roadie and mountain newbie Alex McGrath was 3rd.

Running alone I had run hard but didn't tap the well. Maybe with someone nearby pushing me (like last year's battle with Brandon Newbould) I could have dipped under 30 minutes, which would have put me in the company of some illustrious past winners.  Where I want to be. Anyway, a win is great. I'm psyched to get  another 100 points towards my goal of winning the series... but I'd have liked to face a deeper field and I certainly don't want to win because others are injured.  I suppose you can only race who shows up, right? Postrace, I mined for Mt. Washington advice, and got lots. Everyone speaks of the race like they're talking about a Chupacabra.  In 5 days I'll understand what they mean.

Thanks/congrats/etc: Chris Dunn for continued advice, team-leading, and post-race beer; Kim Nedeau for helping aR sweep again (2 in a row now!); Eric Wight for carpool company; the race directors for a quality event; and all the rad folks happily sharing advice and stories.
view from the tower, a short and worthwhile run up the trail from the finish. Image:

thanks as always to SnapAcidotic!


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