Friday, December 9, 2016

Racing 2016, part 2

A final missive on running and racing 2016.
Summer mountain racing is my favorite season.  In fact, these are the only races that really motivate me now.  But I did't perform to quite the standard I'd hoped for this summer.  In the interest of keeping my trade secrets*, it suffices to say that by August I had made some adjustments to my training and I was PR'ing in key workouts (which again are trade secrets, unless you ask in which case I'll probably tell you).  A jump in fitness makes the daily escape to the woods even more enjoyable- you're more locked in to the trail and to your primal nature-- and it makes a guy like me excited to test himself in competition.  Especially at 34...being in PR shape in your mid-30's is something to grab hold of.  Rage against the dying of the light, etc. 

*In addition to what's on Strava, I'll happily divulge this much about the training adjustments I've made: Slightly less running (achieved through cutting out some fluff) and more mountain biking. 

Mansfield Double Up
For my late summer race I chose the adventurous Mt. Mansfield Double Up, an epic and technical 3-hour adventure over Vermont's highest peak (twice), a race for me to experience more than really compete in.  I don't have the skills to run trails like this-- I hiked probably 80% of this course.  But it was too tempting to pass up, a rare, first-of-its-kind event.

My recollections of this day have already become shrouded in nostalgia and misty fog, as the summit itself was during the race, and I don't think I have the words to describe what it felt like to move hard on this terrain: Epic? Free? Intimidating? All of these.  Also, humbling: I was strong on the later climbs but the technical hiking/running/scrambling wasn't my bag and I got my ass kicked by 14 people.  Two men put on a clinic--Ferenc and some Elf who skipped by me on the terrifying Subway trail, pictured below; it was impressive.  (This trail is where I caught myself from falling off the mountain and decided there and then to "just finish.")  The weekend was fantastic, spent with Stoneman and Ferenc, and I finally got to try Heady Topper.

The subway trail on the side of Mansfield's western ridge;
several thousand foot drop to the right. (
Unfortunately the nervous, downhill rock-slab shuffling that I had to employ to get down the mountain (twice) wrecked my quads and I missed what likely would have been my best race of the summer: the Race to the Top of Vermont, held the weekend after the Double Up on the same mountain but up the toll road.  I know from a few workouts in August that I could have competed for the win but my pathetic technical downhilling at the Double Up left me too wrecked to try.  (I even planned The Double-- the running race, then a screaming descent back down, then racing back up in the bike race.)  Through September, workouts continued to progress and I worked myself up into the best shape I've seen in many years, but due to various factors I didn't get to race at all.  Even now, in December, this stings.

Mt. Monadnock

I refuse to carry my phone when I run so
I pilfered this picture from 
Yeah, this isn't a race, but a quasi- FKT (fastest known time) attempt.  This 3100' peak is 75 minutes from my house, I've never climbed it, it's the most-climbed mountain in North America (#3 in the world), and it has a very legit and well-tested FKT from 2001.  Stoneman and I rolled up there on a Monday in early October in hopes of getting a day without crowds (mostly successfully, except for the Mom that I shoved aside when her 8-strong brood wouldn't move).  

With some minimal research and a short warmup I hammered the trail as best I could.  The first third of this ~1.8-mile trail was runnable; the second third became steeper and had lots of rock step-ups, partially runnable; and the last third was steep, unrunnable exposed slab, as nasty as any of the other alpine summits in New England, with a few flatter sections of boulder-hopping.  All of it was rather wet, making traction a problem, and I was predictably ill-equipped for the techy rock hopping near the top.  The record of 24:44 was safe-- I summited in 27:30 and Aaron hit 33:04.  With dry rock (it was wet enough that we had to hike 75% of the route down) and more familiarity with the best lines (I had lost some time looking up for blazes and routes through the rock) I could probably get under 26 minutes.  But that last minute-plus to beat the record will require more skills and less fear on those rock-hopping sections.  The views up top were awesome and this was a fantastic way to spend a Monday but I was thinking ahead to a future attempt.

North Face Race to the Summit

This well-kept secret is a 2.1-mile blast up southern Vermont's Stratton Mountain via ski slopes and service roads.  Ferenc was not thrilled to see me in the parking lot (this was his well kept secret and solid payday, for several years running) but we warmed up together and it's always good to see this guy.  The short and direct course took us into the clouds, which by partway up served to mask the lead I was developing as well as the shrill anaerobic hell that comes with 22 minutes of flat-out mountain running.  This was my most confident race of the year-- short, all uphill, immediate suffering with no time for doubt or slow fatigue.  It's not often I can beat national class dudes so this was alot of fun.  We ran back down and enjoyed peak-foliage Vermont views, like tourists.  No, not like tourists, not at all, actually.

Mt. Toby Trail Race
My local trail race.  In 2013 I put up a good time and I mistakenly thought I could chase the course record this year.  However, despite several hard climbs, this trail race is fast, with mostly good footing.  It benefits someone who has maintained a long fast stride, which I haven't done these past few years, and despite hard interval training this fall I wasn't comfortable running near 6 minute pace for almost 90 minutes.  I won but put up a time 5 minutes slower than last time.  If I really want to run fast trail races, I'll have to build long tempo running back into my training, and I really really hate that stuff.

After a 6 week off-season consisting of 50% training volume I am now working back towards full-tilt.  Unfortunately this coincides with the onset of winter, which tends to push me back onto the roads more than I'd like, so motivation is harder to come by.  But the running goals I have these days will be more elusive as I push into mid and then late 30's, so I will continue getting out the door even if I'd rather just get fat.

No comments:

Post a Comment