Monday, June 30, 2008

2008 Cranmore Hill Climb

The Good: A solid third place finish behind 2 really good mountain runners. The Bad: Severe thunder and lightning storm during the start of the race + a prior full day of down pours = interesting course conditions to say the least. The Ugly: Rolling my ankle worse than ever before, with 2K or so of intense and out of control downhill still ahead of me.

Sunday was wet and wild for sure. I decided to pass on racing Saturday and just do the Cranmore Hill Climb (results) on Sunday in North Conway, NH at Mt. Cranmore Ski Area. This was the site of last year's U.S. Mountain Running Championships (15K version). This year the course was back to being the usual 10K (2 5K loops) distance. Thank god for that. I am not sure how all those guys did the 3rd loop last year.

I came out of this with a badly bruised/sprained ankle, banged up quads, hammies, and calves, and new found respect for running up ski mountains in a thunderstorm. Here's how it went down... Move over cross country... There's a bigger and badder type of racing to be done on grass and mud...

Vermont's Justin Fyffe (GCS Triad), who is currently leading the USATF-NE Mountain Circuit with a 5th place finish at Wachusett, a 2nd place at Pack Monadnock, and a 3rd place finish at Northfield Mtn., won the race with a 52:51. Local North Conway resident and CMS/Inov8 team member Kevin Tilton (15th at the U.S. Mountain Running Championships last week) was 2nd at 54:32. Yours truly was 3rd, 4 seconds behind Kevin with a 54:36. I have no idea about splits in this one because 1) there was obviously no mile markers...and why would there be? 2) By the time I came by the finish line to begin lap 2, the last thing I was worried about was looking at my watch...

The first loop I hung on to Fyffe and Tilton for about half the climb and then kept them in sight until the summit. When I began my descent, they had already been on the downhill for a minute or so, so I never saw either one of those guys, who must have been absolutely flying on the downhill. On a majority of the first downhill, I was completely and absolutely out of control... You are basically all out and then some.... and relying on getting very lucky when it comes to avoiding rocks, sticks, stumps, roots, small trees and bushes, tall grass, MUD, other runners going in the opposite direction. A couple of times I slid a good foot or two after planting a step at full downhill sprinting speed, only to catch my balance at the last second. I managed not to fall at all on the way down (which is apparently out of the ordinary when it comes to this race). The course conditions only added to the madness. Even some die hard mountain runners who were all huddled under the overhang of the main lodge, dodging the down pour before the race, were shocked when the announcement came that the race would go on as planned....Anyways, back to the race... As I came down and past the finish area (halfway) after the first 5k, I was delighted to see my parents who surprised me by making the trek over from their palatial lake house in East Wakefield, NH. I heard my mom yell out 'lookin' good hunny' which I replied 'yeah, we'll see how I look after this next one...' (meaning the next 5k loop)...I also heard one of the course volunteers proclaim "you got about a minute on the next guy"...Shortly after that, I hit the first incline of the 2nd loop and immediately felt like hell again. I'm talking IMMEDIATELY. I think I blacked out a couple times on the way back up but only saw Tilton and Fyffe once on one of the longer uphill views right before they disappeared into the woods. I looked back repeatedly on the 2nd 5k and never did see a runner(s) behind me but I knew they were there. As I hit the top of the 2nd loop, I was pretty sure I had 3rd in the bag, after knowing all I had ahead of me now was the downhill....but no sooner did I think of that, then I stepped on a baseball-sized rock and rolled my ankle BAD. I knew after about 5 steps that it was serious. I proceeded to run the last 2k or so downhill while trying not to think about the pain in my foot. Every step was brutal and the downhill seemed twice as long the second time down. At the bottom, I noticed Kevin Tilton was right ahead of me by about 50 meters or so. I hadn't noticed him coming down. I tried over the the last 200 meters or so of flat grassy straightaway to the finish, to catch him but he held me off at the very end. I was just happy to finish and be able to get off of my foot. I had it iced and wrapped by the medical staff after the race and was able to hobble up to the post race festivities to pick up my age group award (which was a pick of something off of a table of swag...I grabbed a new headlamp because I lost mine).

I had the pleasure of officially meeting and chatting with Tim VanOrden from before and after the race. I've been following Tim's racing and blogging for quite some time now and have enjoyed his video clips of racing in New England and nutritional information he posts on his website. I've even adopted some of his dietary habits in recent weeks (although I haven't yet decided to take the full plunge into the raw lifestyle just yet :) )... Tim battled back and forth for the Masters win, with CMS' Dave Dunham, who is coming off of a 1:09:08 Washington performance last week. Both ran very well with Tim out dueling Dave down the last downhill stretch.

Unfortunately now, the outlook for my week is bleak. I may have to back out of Sully's 2M on Friday to maybe salvage Loon on Sunday, but even that may be a lost cause. I'll post an update later in the week on the status of the foot and my plans for the long weekend...

The brave and beautiful Kristin waited out the rain at the start and got some nice pictures of the halfway point and end of the race. See them in the usual place here: Photo Set and Slideshow. There are also some very cool shots of the race at Scott Mason Photography.

Video - Trimmed down photoset included in this video... for more images check out the Flickr photoset... With all the images, it would have been over 10 minutes of video...

Photos: The lovely and talented Kristin
Music: - Faith No More - "Falling to Pieces" (1989)
Video Production: Me.

'....From the bottom, it looks like a steep incline.....From the top, another downhill slope of mine....But I know, the equilibriums there...'

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