Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Loon Mountain Race (and catching up)...

Swag (above) from this past week's Loon Mountain Race.... thanks to acidoticRacing!

So it's been a while since my last post...truthfully I have just fell out of love with blogging because it seems to be more of a hassle than anything, especially after a few days of not posting, having tons of photos and video and other things I'd like to share, etc.  I get a little behind and then it just snowballs into A LOT behind.  So I figure I'll just start here with a writeup of this past weekend's race and then I'll backfill with some stuff from the previous 4-5 weeks or so.   Since I am now back to work (I have been on sabbatical since July 11) I am now back around the computer for extended periods of time throughout the day, so I can now work on bringing my site back to date.

This past weekend was the Loon Mountain Race up in Lincoln, NH.  Results are posted on Coolrunning.

This year, despite the fall, winter, and spring I had, has finally started to come around.  I am finally feeling better and running stronger.  Despite a slight derailing around Pack Monadnock, I have rebounded nicely over the last month and have run a couple of strong mountain races to help wrap up the USATF New England Mountain Series before the last race even begins.  I'll post a Cranmore writeup after this as part of my backfilling of some blog posts from this past few weeks +.  I headed into this year's Loon Mountain race, which has NOT been nice to me over the past couple years, with a lot of skepticism.  I do NOT run well on this course because of the legendary Upper Walking Boss section of the race, which makes up about 1K of ridiculous uphill that reduces most to a walk or a 'run' that is even slower than a walk.  This year, the course was modified slightly to eliminate the last .7 miles (which is mostly all a very steep downhill).  That means that the race ENDS now at the top of the Boss.  I won the race in 2009 because of that last .7.  Back then, I got passed by a couple of folks up the Boss and was able to pass them back on the last downhill to win the race.   In 2010 and 2011, I hit the boss either in first or near first and lost all sorts of times and places as I was reduced to a horrible walk for close to a K of racing.  This year, I was sure the same would happen and was not looking forward to not having that last bit of downhill to help my cause.

The course was modified because this year it was also the single selection race for the US Women's Mountain Running Team (top 4 make the team).  Because the World Championships this year are all up (uphill year vs. last year's up and down), Loon was the site of the Women's selction race.  The women's elite race (consisting of 25 women) went off 30 minutes before the men's race and women's open race.

The morning was warm and sunny and I was heading into this race with a couple of relatively easy, low mileage weeks.  I was feeling good however and was nursing a minimal 5 point lead over Kevin Tilton for the Mountain Series overall standings lead.  I knew that Kevin is much stronger on these types of courses and my plan was just to try to stay close to him on this course, if not try to outdual him by just a little, to help keep that lead going into Ascutney.  Judson Cake and Cole Crosby from acidoticRacing were also in the field, as well as Ross Krause, Todd Callaghan, Dave Dunham, and Kris Freeman (US Ski Team and 3x Olympian).  There were also some other younger guys in the field that were untested in the mountains and I wasn't sure how they were going to do, but it was concerning that there could be a very competitive top 10.  In all, 291 men and women toed the line in the largest turnout so far for the race.

I warmed up w/ some CMS guys over the normal side roads at the base of the mountain and felt OK. Not much was bothering me except the specter of the Upper Walking Boss kicking a lot of asses as it normally does.  After the warm up, we ran up to the 1 mile mark to see the elite women pass by and then I headed back down to get ready.  I was very nervous and was thinking about just trying to stay w/ Kevin and ahead of Ross and Todd if possible.  They both beat me last year and Todd has gotten me 2 years in a row in this race because he is a much better climber on the very steep sections than I am.

The gun went off and a very large group of hopefuls took off like it was a 10K road race (the exact thing Paul Kirsch warns against).  I took it relatively easy at first and settled in behind a few lads as the course went up to the mountain access road.  The first mile is pretty easy (relatively speaking).  I was behind Cole Crosby and Judson Cake at the mile and a bunch of footsteps in my rearview, but I didn't want to look.  Kris Freeman was also right next to me and jockeying early.

After the mile (in around 6:10, which is pretty fast but it felt very easy) I started to hit the steeper climbs of the access road and I settled into what I thought was a decent pace but nothing overpowering.  I felt great on the road sections, which are loose gravel, rocks, and dirt.  By near 2 miles and a water stop, I was out front by a bit with no more footfalls heard behind me and only Kris Freeman in my rearview.  I was very surprised and was wondering where everyone was.  At first I got a little nervous, thinking my pace was too quick perhaps, but I felt good so I kept on moving. I thought that if people were going to catch me, they would catch me. I might as well keep moving as long as I felt like I could go.

I clicked through 2 with a 7:53 split, which is good for the all uphill split.  3rd mile was 8:16 after a normally brutal grass hill climb that is a precursor to the Walking Boss.  I normally have to walk/power hike this section but this year, I ran the entire thing and kept just ahead of Kris Freeman.  Kris was doing a lot of power hiking when I'd glance back, but he wasn't falling any further behind. In fact, it looked like (at times) he was gaining on my slightly.  When I got to the top of that grass climb, not having had to walk at all, I knew I was in good shape.  My thought process though, is the same it usually is on this course, which is to just make it to the Boss with a good lead and TRY to hang on while everyone and their mothers catch up to me and out-climb me.

Two Photos (above) by Gianina Lindsey

My fourth mile split was 9:09 with a LONG grind up the upper sections of the access road.  More loose dirt and rocks and washed out sections here made the footing sloppy in spots, but I kept plugging away.  By the top of the normal finish area (by the gondolas), I came across numerous folks cheering me on and Kris was lingering close....too close for my comfort.  I crested the hill and hit the longest downhill section that would cut over to the start of North Peak and the Upper Walking Boss.  I ran this section hard, but not all out (like a Cranmore descent).  I wanted to at least work it enough to keep my lead over Kris but not enough to be spent for the last climb, which normally RUINS my entire race and all the work I put in before it.

Photo (above) by Joe Viger.

I hit the start of the Upper Walking Boss and did my normal sign of the cross before hitting the slope and having the wheels and gears literally seize up to a near halt.  I started easing my way up the Boss, trying not to overdue it, trying to keep a running pace, and trying not to panic.  I occasionally glanced and didn't see Kris for a while, which made me think I actually put some distance on him on the downs without really trying to do that.  I was also VERY nervous about a lingering Ross Krause, who I think I had seen once back in 3rd place on one of the longer stretches of climbing, where you can see a lot of the field.  I knew at that point that Kevin was probably out of the picture and not having the best day.

Photo above courtesy of Scott Mason.

I tackled the Boss better than I normally do and I could feel it.  When I would run into some trouble on the steeper sections, I started to side-step and cross over.  This technique (shown to me by Todd a couple years ago) really helped. I was able to do that a lot on the way up and it saved me from having to power hike or walk some of the normal sections which I just cannot run normal on.  The more I made my way up the Boss (by any means necessary) the more I felt like I wasn't losing too much, although Kris seemed to out climb me by a little as the climb went on.  I could now see the field starting to fill in behind me, as I made my way up the slowest 1000 meters by far anywhere in New England if not the country.  By the time I was 3/4 of the way up I ran by a few familiar folks including Roger Marcoux, who was filming near the switchback area.  I had to walk a bit here, as I was starting to burn pretty bad.  I asked him how much was left because I still couldn't see the finish.  He said only a couple minutes or so, so I pushed on with Kris in my rearview.  I walk/ran the rest of the way up and was able to hold off Kris' charge for the win.  My second win here in 5 tries.  My last mile split was 11:47!!  I think that is actually GOOD on this course.

In talking with Kris after the race, he actually thought that when he saw me crossing over and side stepping, he thought my race was over and he would catch me, but it actually helped me move faster up the hill.  He figured it out once he still wasn't really picking up much ground on me.  He ran awesome for not doing too many running races. His focus has been on XC skiing, where he and his brother Justin (who is a very successful road, trail, mountain racer) are members of the US Ski Team and have represented the US in numerous winter Olympic Games as a couple of the best US cross country skiers in history.  Kris is also a type-1 diabetic, which makes his accomplishments even more amazing, as if they weren't already.

Me congratulating Kris just after the finish.  Photo (above) by Joe Viger.

Top 20 Plus CMS in Bold

1JIM JOHNSON       35MADISON         NH  43:16 7:44CMS
2KRIS FREEMAN      31THORNTON        NH  44:15 7:54                        
3ROSS KRAUSE       32EASTHAMPTON     MA  45:06 8:04CMS
4MORGAN ARRITOLA   26KETCHUM         ID  46:16 8:16                        
5DAVE DUNHAM       48HAVERHILL       MA  46:20 8:17CMS
6PHILLIP KREYCIK   28CAMBRIDGE       MA  46:33 8:19                        
7KEVIN TILTON      30N. CONWAY    NH  46:49 8:22CMS
8MELODY FAIRCHILD  38DENVER          CO  47:06 8:25                        
9MARK MAYALL       40MAYNARD         MA  47:13 8:26NBB    
10PETER GURNEY      23GREENVILLE      ME  47:32 8:30                        
11BRANDY ERHOLTZ    34EVERGREEN       CO  48:06 8:36                        
13STEVIE KREMER     28CRESTED BUTTE   CO  48:21 8:38                        
14JUDSON CAKE       34BAR HARBOR      ME  48:28 8:40ACIDOTIC RACING         
15KASIE ENMAN       32HUNTINGTON      VT  48:49 8:43                        
16KIM DOBSON        28AURORA          CO  49:01 8:46                        
18TRISTAN WILLIAMS  26JACKSON         NH  49:13 8:48                        
19MICHAEL SLINSKEY  43HOPEWELL JNCT   NY  49:17 8:48                        
20MATTHEW ZANCHI    22NATICK          MA  49:28 8:50REDMEN RUNNING          
22TIM MAHONEY       32HOLYOKE         MA  49:54 8:55CMS
25SAM WOOD          26LACONIA         NH  51:09 9:08CMS
43MARTIN TIGHE      54PROVIDENCE      RI  54:27 9:44CMS 
51ABBEY GOSLING     26LACONIA         NH  56:1510:03CMS 
117MELISSA DONAIS    28N. ANDOVER   MA1:06:4611:56CMS
124DAVID LAPIERRE    48CHELMSFORD      MA1:07:2912:03CMS

291 Total Finishers.

CMS also won the team title as well.  As if that was any surprise....

Video Below (which shows just how many asses the Upper Walking Boss kicked) courtesy of Roger Marcoux.

Gianina Lindsey's Photos
Scott Mason's Photos
Steve Wolfe's Photos

I ran down the mountain (the long way) for a cooldown, then hopped in the Pemi for a little bit to cool off before getting changed and heading into the lodge for the awards ceremony.  Side note, I read a troubling blog post by an unnamed runner who called the prizes at this race 'sh*tty'.  In my opinion (as if I hadn't already thought that this guy is somewhat living in his own world of perpetual sour grapes at all times), that's a pretty 'sh*tty' thing to say about a mountain race, put on by some of the nicest and coolest people around... a lot of them who put in gads of time and effort in hand making awards, providing a lot of cool swag and vendors, and hosting a top notch mountain race production.  I had no problem with my 'prizes' because I won.  The guy in question is entitled to his opinion (and he's usually full of them), but he was barely in the top 10, so what on Earth was he expecting?  Cash for a non-podium spot?  Wise up.   I got 2 gift cards (one from an AWESOME raffle that they ALWAYS have after their races).  I also got a nice hand made UWB sign, a bottle of syrup, and two wooden plaques (not to mention BEER from Redhook).  I also left there with a couple of water bottles, free gels, stickers, and a feeling of accomplishment and gratitude (which I seldom think he gets).  Opinions are obviously welcome on personal blogs (and this rant is MY opinion), but what people have to realize is that what you write on there is seen by everyone and when you say negative things like that about a race, it gets noticed.  It was a beautiful day on a nice challenging course.  If you are still not happy with what you DID get and think the world owes you something, I am thinking you are even more crazy that I already think you are.  OK, rant done :).


  1. Just from looking over the results I can tell you who it was. Some people just don't get it.... Sounds like the race was a great time! I myself got to experience an AcidoticRacing event a few weeks back and it was awesome!

  2. Congratulations again on your LMR Championship! I really, really appreciate your support of our races. And I guess you can't please all of the people all of the time. Oh well. I just hope my mother doesn't read his blog. She'd probably feel a little hurt that the UWB sign she hand painted was sh*tty. Or those nice folks at Meadow View Sugar House who donated their NH maple syrup. Geez...what about the dozen organic eggs from Pete & Gerry's from Monroe, NH? And I for one would have loved a voucher for a 6er of Redhook as a prize. But that's just me. Thanks again for everything you do for aR.

  3. Thanks Chris. And thanks Chris! I've had some private feedback and there will be some folks no longer reading that blog. Too much negativity (even more than mine! :) )... Thanks for a great event and I look forward to the next one! When can we expect the 2013 GSSS schedule to be released? ;)

  4. I typically work on snowshoe stuff during my August vacation. Let's hope for snow this time around. Thanks again for your kind words. It means a lot to me.