Friday, July 16, 2010

Ascutney Mountain Challenge

Last Sunday was the 6th and final race in the 2010 USATF-New England Mountain Running Series and it took me up to Windsor, VT for the Ascutney Mountain Challenge (results).

I headed up solo on a beautiful summer morning and arrived in just shy of 2 hours.  I headed over to registration where I met up with many of the usual suspects from CMS, Inov-8, the White Mountain Milers, Goon Squad, and many other local New England clubs, who were all going for either Mountain Goat status (running all 6 races in the series), a series score (best 5), or just looking for a nice tough challenging course to tackle.  This race is definitely a grind, as it is an ascent-only course consisting (this year) of all paved auto road (it was a half road/half trail course last year).  The course is just shy of half the distance of Mt. Wash (3.7 miles), just about half the elevation (2300 feet of climb up to 3143 feet), and averages the same grade as Mt. Washington.  Last year I won this race, over the alternate half road/half trail course.  This year, with the likes of Kevin Tilton (CMS/Inov-8) and Eric Blake (BAA) in the house, I knew it was going to be
nearly possible for me to repeat, but was just  looking for a podium finish and to finish out the series as a Mountain Goat.

The race started and immediately, I was side by side with Kevin as we turned left onto the auto road and instantly into the climb.  We had maybe a 5 second taste of the lead before Eric went by us and on his way to a course record (old record held by Eric Morse from 2002).  I figured it would play out like this and just planned on staying as close to Kevin as I could and try to get 3rd (which is where I envisioned finishing in the series).

Kevin and I clicked through the first mile in a fleet 7:47 and it was beginning to get more and more difficult to maintain rhythm as the course continues to climb straight up (as did the temperature)...Kevin would start to pull away a bit and put a couple seconds on me here and there, and I would find myself settling, but then catching back up.  This happened a few times, and one of them I was sure Kevin had broken away, but it was probably near the water stop or so that I caught back up.  I can't remember if it was before the water stop or after, but somewhere just shy of 2 miles or so, I got passed by a tall dude I had never seen before.  He looked really strong and just kept chugging up the hill and past Kevin who actually took a double take, thinking it had to have been me going by him initially.  Just after 2 miles, and near where the course connected to the trail last year, I asked Kevin if he knew who that guy was, as he was very quickly pulling away from us.  Kevin didn't know and I suspected it may have been Jon Severy (VT) but I wasn't sure.

Not too long after that, I actually pulled up and past Kevin and started to take command of the 3rd place spot.  I tried to convince Kevin to come along and go after the 2nd place guy, but I think the heat was getting to him and he let me go.  I pushed on up past 3 miles and had my sights set on 2nd place, as I was almost sure I was actually gaining on him at that point... but it didn't take long for the grind of the race to get to me and I started thinking about just holding the 3rd spot.  As I neared the end of the twisting and turning  course, I was now only 30 or so seconds behind the 2nd place guy (in this type of mountain race, 30 seconds is like 100 feet)...I came up and across in 3rd place, surprisingly ahead of Kevin who had another tough day in the heat on an ascent-only climb.  I immediately went over and congratulated the 2nd place guy, who told me he was in town from Colorado, visting.  His name is Karl Remsen (3x All American Steeplechaser at Williams).  I found out later that he now lives in Leadville, CO (at 10,152 feet above sea level, it's the highest incorporated city in the United States).  Considering I live at 131 feet above sea level (Salem, NH), and he lives in the 'Two Mile High City", I was pretty psyched to be 'only' 32 seconds behind him!

As my previous post indicated, I somehow squeaked out 2nd place overall in the Mountain Series, just edging out Kevin by less than a point.  Kevin needed to run 5 seconds faster at Ascutney and he would have been $50 richer and finished 2nd in the series....but the class of the field, as he had been 5 of 6 times, was Eric Blake, who will be competing once again for the US at the World Mountain Running Trophy in Slovenia in September.  Read about Eric's win here (and his new coaching position at CCSU).  Oh yeah, Eric also smashed Eric Morse's course record with a 28:16 solo effort in pretty hot conditions.  Impressive to say the least.  Morse has one this race 4 of the 10 times, with all 4 efforts faster than mine!!  One other fun factoid...this race has been won 9 times (in 10 years) by a CMS man, making this year the first year it was NOT won by a CMS runner...See the history of the race and race info here.

For my efforts, I got a nice medal and a pick from a bunch of swag on the table, which once again included Julbo Sunglasses.  This time (like I did at Cranmore), I snagged another pair of $150 shades (this time the Tracks....last time I picked up Trail).

For the race, I went with the new test-model Inov-8 road flats...but that will be for a different day (when I can officially talk about and show the kicks outside of the couple of small photos above)...


Mile 1) 7:47
Mile 2) 8:46 (16:33)
Mile 3) 8:30 (25:04)
last .7) 5:32 (30:37)

Top 10 (CMS in blue)

1Eric Blake          31New Britain CT   28:167:39
2Karl Remsen         29Leadville CO     30:058:08
3Jim Johnson         33Salem NH         30:378:17
4Kevin Tilton        28North Conway NH  31:368:33
5Mike Barton         37VT               31:548:38
6Dave Dunham         46Ward Hill MA     32:058:41
7John Spinney        34Waterbury VT     32:138:43
8Todd Callaghan      40Somerville MA    32:298:47
9Tim Van Orden       42Bennington VT    32:488:52
10 Ryan Kerrigan      25 Moretown VT     33:519:09
11 Joe Donnelly       42 Dracut MA       34:109:14
12 Tim Mahoney        30 Holyoke MA      34:469:24
13 Ernest Brake       48 North Sutton NH 35:469:40
14 Ross Saxton        22 Burlington VT   36:109:47
15 Rich Marion        48 Templeton MA    36:219:50
16 Michael Robinson   17 Derry NH        37:0010:00
17 Marshall Ambros    25 Hartland VT     37:1510:04
18 David Cahill       31 Norwich VT      37:2310:07
19 Stanislav Trufanov 31 Arlington MA    37:2910:08
20 Matthew Zanchi     20 Natick MA       37:3310:09

191 Total Finishers.

105 Mountain Goats in all!!!  Photo above of all the die-hards who did all 6 races this summer..

After the race, we all went up to the actual summit (or near it) to the observation tower to once again peer out across eastern VT from the top of southern Vermont's only monadnock.

Tip Top Crew once again up on top of southern VT...

After the race, hike to the top, and then the awards ceremony, I ran down to the bottom with Kevin, helped Paul K. pack up the registration area, and then it was off to the river down the street, to soak the legs and soak up some rays.  A large group including CMS, WMM, GSR, MVS, Inov-8 runners and more, went down to the river for a picnic and some brew-ha-has. It was a really great afternoon and made the trip worthwhile..It is times like these that make me really thankful for being able to get back into it...

Here is a small HD video project I created in iMovie and filmed entirely w/ the iPhone 4.  I spent about 30 minutes on it so give me a freakin' break ;).... I grabbed my iPhone from my bag after I finished and chatted for a brief moment, so I only got a few people finishing, starting with 15th place and beyond...I clipped a few highlights together...hope you enjoy!!


  1. Great job Double J! On the race, on the series - and on the iPhone vid! Fun stuff. You somehow make running up a freaking mountain in the heat look fun. If I'm not careful I might end up joining you all next year.

  2. Great picture from the obs tower!

  3. Cool Video!! I really liked a couple of parts.

    1. Running up to the observation deck
    2. Cooling off in the river
    3. Scott M getting the Goon Squad jersey
    4. The finger in front of the lens at multiple times.