Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Ascutney Mountain Race

Photo by Gianina Lindsey

This weekend I wrapped up my 2012 USATF-New England Mountain Series with a nice win at the Ascutney Mountain Race (results) in Windsor, VT.  This was the last race in the series (as it has been each year I've done the series) and is one of the more underrated races in my opinion.  Underrated as in many people tend to overlook the difficulty of this 'short' mountain race.  Each year it tends to take me by surprise and I remember just how hard the race is.  This year it was probably not as bad as I have thought in the past, as it is my 5th time running it (4x on the road and 1x was the hybrid road/trail version).

I camped out at the campground (which is right at the base of the mountain) the night before with DD, Paul Kirsch, and Frank Holmes.  Tim Mahoney and Ross Krause (and Ashley) were right next to us, as was Martin Tighe and his lady.  It was fun to have all the folks around, camping out before the race....but it was HOT and I slept in the back of my Xterra (which I prefer over a tent on the ground, but it was just too bloody warm for me).  I didn't get to sleep for a while and when I woke up I was a bit sore and tired with a slight headache.  I felt dehydrated and almost hungover for some reason.  I quickly shook that off in the morning and got mentally and physically prepared as best I could.

Leading up to the race I was VERY nervous for some reason. I think it is because I'm racing a bit less this year and not as used to toeing the line as I normally am, but still I was really nervous...more so than usual.  I had already wrapped up the series win, so there was nothing on the line in that respect, but I couldn't shake the nerves.  Maybe it was because I had won this the previous year or maybe it was because I felt a bit unprepared...not sure.

The race started a couple minutes late (which I don't really mind but some people absolutely hate that) but once it did, I quickly realized yet again how much of a grind this race is. It immediately goes straight up.  Phil Kreycik (no relation to Alex) bolted out at sub 5 minute mile pace for about 50 yards and then pushed up for about 200 meters, in the lead until I rolled up beside him as it started to really climb.  I went by in the first quarter mile and that was it.  I was nervous and my heart was pounding more so than usual, for almost a mile.  When I clicked through the mile (in 7:39, 9 seconds ahead of last year's pace) I finally calmed down and settled in.

The race is a real grind and is very reminiscent of the first half of Mount Washington.  I tried not to look back as I made each turn and climb up to the next transition.  There are a few places it flattens out before the next climb, and with some of the near hairpin turns, I could look back and scope out the field behind me (not that far behind).  I noticed Ross and a couple others (didn't look too long to figure it out) behind me and knew it could be anyone's game here.  I continued to just keep up my pace now, as I knew I had built up a decent lead in 1 mile and if I could just roll up a the same pace/effort, I would maybe hang on.

It was getting a bit warm and I had thoughts of taking off my singlet (I had pinned the number to my shorts instead of my singlet, just in case).  I bunch of people went with no shirt, but I decided to go with the singlet and just sucked it up as it got higher up and more exposed in the sun in spots.  I clicked through 2 miles with an 8:31 split (2 seconds faster than last year for the split) and felt confident that I could hang on if I could just keep up the intensity. Easier said than done however...

I slowed over the 3rd mile and clicked through in 8:22 (6 seconds slower than last year). I felt like I was rigging up a bit but still had a lead enough so that when I looked back, I couldn't see anyone back on the longer straights.  Over the last .7 miles, I really dogged it and had no clue about time. I didn't write down or figure out splits ahead of time (I wish I did now) so I wasn't sure what my time would be. I tried to figure it out (appox.) as I hit the 3rd mile marker but really couldn't tell. I actually thought I might barely break 31 at one point.  I tried to work the last 'flat' section before the last climb, just in case I was actually running a good time.  The last climb was a brute and as I came around the corner and saw the clock for the first time, it read 29:55 and I was just too far away from it to try to push to get under 30.  It's funny, as it is so close (you could have actually sprinted and gotten it if it was a flat, normal road race) but because of the climb, it takes much much longer to get there.  I pushed but it wasn't to be. I came across the line and salvaged a 30:04.  My best time by a mere 4 seconds over last year's winning time. I'll take it.  It was my first run all year where I actually ran FASTER than last year's time at the same race. For whatever that is worth.  Considering my year so far, I'll gladly take it.

I raced with the 'slightly modified' Bare-X Lite 155 's that I ran up Mt. Washington in this year. I figured I could use all the help I can get.  Next year, I'll have to craft up something a bit better but for now, it was a last minute decision to give these one more run up the 3.7 miles of straight uphill auto road to the summit of Ascutney.

I hung out a bit too long on the summit and missed the awards unfortunately, but got back down in time to get my stuff and head back down the hill w/ Ross and a few others.  We rocked to the bottom in what had to be a record time for me as we passed by others who had left way before us.

We hung out in the river afterwards, as we do each year.  Despite the damage from last year's hurricane Irene and a very low water level because of the lack of rain recently, we still had enough water to hang out in and keep cool.  I got to chat with a lot of cool folks and enjoy the last day of the mountain series for another year.  It's sad to see it come to yet another end but it was another fun summer of running in the mountains with great folks, great races, and good times.  Around 3 hours home on mostly back roads was actually almost kind of enjoyable.  I love cutting up over the Lake Winni in the summertime.

Top 10 (Plus CMS racing teams in blue)

130:04:008:08Jim Johnson       35Madison NH       
231:04:008:24Dave Dunham       48Bradford MA      
331:13:008:27Ross Krause       32Easthampton MA   
431:43:008:35Todd Callaghan    42Beverly MA       
532:33:008:48Tim Mahoney       32Holyoke MA       
632:55:008:54Robert Hult       42Harvard MA       
733:16:009:00Philip Kreycik    28Cambridge MA     
833:34:009:05Erik Vandendries  47Chestnut Hill MA 
934:10:009:14Matthew Zanchi    22Natick MA        
1034:52:009:26Quincy Schmidt    21Vienna VA    
1235:23:009:34Tim Van Orden    44Bennington VT    
1335:26:009:35Martin Tighe      54Providence RI    

174 Total Finishers

Below is the 2012 Mountain Goat class.  It was a small group this year (comparatively).

Some Mount Ascutney Race Statistics (compiled by Dave Dunham and JJ):

My history at Ascutney Hillclimb:

2009137:26 *

* half road / half trail course - longer 4 mile course

In 2010, Eric Blake broke Eric Morse's course record.

Winners in the 12 years of the race

Morse - 4 wins
Johnson - 3 wins
Low - 2 wins
Blake - 1 win
Dunham - 1 win
Tilton - 1 win

All Times Under 33:00 - Through 2012

Time rankInd rank# by ind.TimeFirstLastPlAgeCityStClubYear
11128:16EricBlake131New BritainCTBAA2010
43129:02KevinTilton124Conway NHCMS2004
86129:40JoshuaFerenc222Keene NH2004
127130:04Jim Johnson135MadisonNHCMS2012
138130:05RichardBolt333Manchester NHCMS2004
19430:32RichardBolt332Manchester NHCMS2003
2111130:47BenNephew428Foxboro MACMS2004
23230:55KevinTilton228N ConwayNHCMS2008
2513131:05MikeCasner339Keene NHCMS2001
2814131:13Ross Krause332EasthamptonMACMS2012
33231:32RossKrause231Easthampton MACMS2011
3416131:33JustinFyffe628E DummerstonVTGCS2008
3517131:33TimVan Orden343BenningtonVTCMS2011
37431:36KevinTilton428N ConwayNHCMS2010
3818131:39MarkPitts439N WoodstockNH2002
4220131:49AndyMcCaron428Keene NHNHCMS2011
4321131:50GregWard532Holden MA2004
46232:01MarkPitts438North WoodstockNH2001
47632:05DaveDunham646Ward HillMACMS2010
6032132:46RyanAschbrenner934Nashua NHNH2011
62332:47MarkPitts641North WoodstockNH2004
63232:48TimVan Orden942BenningtonVTCMS2010

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