Sunday, June 27, 2010

Cranmore Hillclimb

Sunday was the 4th race in the USATF-New England Mountain Running Series up in North Conway, NH.  The Mt. Cranmore Hillclimb (results) was the scene of last year's US Mountain Running National Championship (as it also was in 2007 and it will be again in 2011) and it served this year as the USATF-NE Championship.  The photo above - L-R: JJ, Kevin Tilton, Tommy Manning.

The course this year was again 2 loops (about 11.4 K total) of up and then back down.  The climb is
steep, rocky, covered with tall grass, and never a dull moment.  The downhill is steep, fast, and dangerous.  Two years ago I ran this for the first time (2008) and rolled my ankle badly at the top of the 2nd loop and it blew up on the way down.  Last year I had a good race against the top mountain runners in the country.  This year, I was anticipating a couple of good local guys, but it ended up being a lot deeper than I expected.

I rolled up to the valley once again (solo this time) on what ended up being a slightly humid but otherwise nice day to run.  I arrived up at Cranmore where Dave Dunham and the Mahoni (Tim and Abby) were already there.  Not too soon after, Mike Quintal rolled in and I spotted Andy McCarron and Kevin Tilton and knew it would be a pretty competitive race.  I figured Kevin and Andy were probably 1-2 material and thought 3rd would be up for grabs between a few of the rest of us... All of the above + Paul Bazanchuk (WMM) and Gina Lucrezi (Inov-8) joined me for
the warmup over the trails around the base of Cranmore.  On the return, and after a quick change and bathroom stop, I noticed Tommy Manning (CO) running over to the start.  Tommy was 6th at Mt. Washington last week and was also in the top 10 last year there.  That above mentioned 6th place earned him a spot on the 2010 US Mountain Team that will race in the World Championships in September.  I now figured Tommy was going to give Kevin a run for his money and a top 5 would be a focus for me as the race was about to get underway.  I was feeling relatively good before the race.  I had an OK week, and took the day off yesterday, as I was super busy with a family get-together and figured it would do me good to take one rest day after a couple of harder runs on Wed/Thurs and one week removed from 'the hill'.

As the race went off, Kevin immediately went out to the front and Tommy was right along for the ride along with Matt O'Connor from Durham, NH.  I stuck as close as I could as we hit the first steep, sloppy climb up the ski slope and cut across the mountain.  Andy was not too far behind, and a few others that I think included Mike, Tim, and Todd Callaghan (GCS).  I pressed on and kept Kevin and Tommy in sight, but was a little removed from them early and was in a sort of 'no-man's-land' for the majority of the first climb. Matt had moved up and right next to those two and I thought I was going to completely lose them.  About 12 minutes into the race (like last year), I was reduced to a 'speed-hike' up the steepest part of the climb.  I started to notice that not only was I catching Matt on this part (he was walking a lot at this point) but I was also being rundown by a pack of guys (3 or 4 of them) or so it seemed.  As I hit the top of the first loop and across the summit house, I passed Matt and hit the descent in 3rd place.  I knew I'd put some distance on the field here and maybe even catch up to Kevin and/or Tommy on the way down, as the downhill section plays into my strength quite well.  It was only a minute or so before I saw Kevin Tilton again and I didn't see Tommy at first, so I figured Kevin was settling into second and Tommy was on his way to the win.  On the way up it had been back and forth with those two and I watched most of it unfold from below... but now it was Tommy out front and not in sight (initially).  As I moved closer and closer to Kevin on the way down, Tommy appeared on one of the straightaway sections and I noticed that Kevin and I were gaining on him fast.  Kevin was able to overtake Tommy about halfway down and move out to a commanding lead.  I moved up and pushed to try and catch Tommy before the bottom of the hill.  The second half of the downhill section is STEEP and dangerous.  Tommy seemed to be taking his time on the way down and being very cautious.  I took the reckless approach and hammered down as hard as I could, without thinking about the possibility of injury.  I moved up and past Tommy on the final section of the downhill and knew that I needed to put as much distance on him before the next loop's climb, as he is a much better uphill runner than I am.  When I hit the bottom of the first loop and made my way past the start/finish area, I was about 20 seconds or so behind Kevin and about the same in front of Tommy.

Once I hit the start of the 2nd climb, I moved up ever so slightly on Kevin over the first half of the ascent.  Tommy slowly gained on me and there wasn't anyone else in sight.  I felt OK about halfway up the 2nd climb and actually thought I was having a better climb on this loop, but Tommy was eating me up the further I went.  By 3/4 of the way up, Tommy blew by me on one of the steeper sections and went right up and past Kevin.  I kept the two of them within sight, but they put 25 seconds on me by the time we hit the top of the 2nd climb.  One of the volunteers at the top had told me I was about 25 seconds back. I was hoping to be within 30 seconds of Tommy at the top, thinking that I could catch him by the bottom of the second descent.  That is exactly what I did.  By a couple minutes into the last downhill push to the finish, I caught up to and passed Tommy who gave me some motivation as I went by.  I had my eyes focused ahead on Kevin, whom I was slowly catching up to.  The downhill section here was even more treacherous because we were running past lapped runners.  By the time we hit the last hill before the base, where you could see the ski lodge, Kevin was a baseball's throw away, but I didn't have enough time to catch him.  I moved up  a bit more and finished in a strong 2nd place, 15 seconds back of Kevin, who rebounded from last week's tough day at Mt. Washington, and a minute and a half ahead of Tommy Manning, who is one of the best mountain runners in the US.  I was also about a minute and a half ahead of my best time on this course...not a bad day afterall!

Cranmore Hill Climb Personal Results:

2008 - 3rd place - 54:36 (behind Fyffe and Tilton)
2009 - 12th place - 53:33 (US National Championship - Deep field - Joe Gray 1st)
2010 - 2nd place - 52:07 (behind Tilton)

The rest of the CMS crew ran very well and we all went out for a nice cooldown over the same Cranmore trails, joined by Tommy and his dog.

Top 20 + CMS in blue/pink

30:53:26M34TommyManningColorado SpgCO
60:55:28M32MikeQuintalN AndoverMACMS
100:58:50M46DaveDunhamWard HillMACMS
120:59:47M42AllanSerranoHigh FallsNY

181 Finishers.

Photos used in this entry courtesy of Scott Mason and Michael St. Hillaire.

Check out Scott Mason's photos here.

The following video below was shot by my Dad w/ my new iPhone 4...the video quality is fantastic.  If you go to the actual Youtube page, you can switch it to 720p HD...

The Start

Halfway (1 Loop in)

The Finish

Next up is the Loon Mountain Race up in Lincoln, NH on Sunday (July 4th).  Eric Blake, Tilton, McCarron, etc. will all be there.  It will be a great field for sure!

1 comment:

  1. There ain't enough meat to make chicken soup between the three of ya in that top shot.