Sunday, June 29, 2014

June 29 (Sunday) - Wildcat Mountain Race

June 29 (Sunday) - 3 mile warmup (mountain/trails) + Wildcat Mountain Race (5 miles) (results) - 1st OA - 42:08 + 3 mile cooldown (roads).  11 miles total.

Looking up from the Wildcat parking lot.

Some stubborn (late June) snow in the ravine.

Drove up to Jackson, NH for the first annual Wildcat Mountain Race.  The race was a 5 mile up and down race that basically went along the perimeter of the entire mountain (clockwise) grinding all the way to the very top and then screwing all the way back down recklessly to the bottom again...just the kind of race I fear nowadays... but I was there bright and early.

I warmed up on the first and last parts of the race + a bunch down at the bottom.  The race is a grind with over 2.5 miles of climbing, so my warmup was pretty slow and most of it was flat, as I would surely have enough climbing during the race.  There was a problem with the gondola (which needed to take water stop and medical personnel to the summit) so the race was delayed by 30 minutes.  That doesn't sound like a huge deal, but when it's June 29th and it's a 10am start and it's one of the warmest days of the year so far, it's not good.  By the time the race started, the temps had risen a few more degrees and it was getting pretty warm.  There was no shade on the course.  The entire run is on ski trail with zero single track.  While I was mingling around before the race and warming up, I was noticing a few guys warming up that looked pretty decent.  There was practically no one there that I knew, which was very strange.  The numbers looked pretty good (with two race options....a 5k and a 5M course) but it seemed like a lot of people from outside the normal mountain scene.

As the race went off, one of the guys I was worried about (from the warmups) took off like he was running a 5 mile road race.  It was impressive.  It kind of reminded me of Ferenc at Sleepy Hollow...and I remember how that ended.  I started off very easy and relaxed during the first 200-300 meters which is all flat and gentle rolling across the back of the base lodge.  He continued to pull away and by the time we got to the beginning of the climb, he was gone.  I was pretty shocked at how hard he took it out as the climb gets steep very quick.  The terrain is rugged and the grass was long.  There was mud, waterbars, and lots of slick footing.  It was a nice mixture of Loon meets Cranmore to an extent, but just all up continuously.  No cutting across or drops at all.  By about 3/4 of a mile up, I started to gain just a bit on the leader.  He wasn't really giving up much but I was determined to see if I could just go slow and steady and pass him somewhere up the long climb without gassing myself.

Right at the 1 mile mark, I was able to pull up along side him.  I commented to him to just keep it going steady. He sounded like he was breathing pretty heavy but he was still very strong.  Right after we started running somewhat together, we came to a questionable turn...I quickly pointed and he confirmed the direction... again it climbed and I really wasn't losing him too much.  I felt pretty sluggish but I was determined to see if I could get some sort of a lead before the second half, which I was very concerned about (all downhill).  Again, we came to another fork in the course and this time, it was where the 5k and 5M courses split.  The way they had the arrows setup was a little confusing but again he confirmed that we went left and we both started again up the 5M route.   During this stretch of up up up, I started to gain a little big of a lead but nothing that couldn't be made up within a minute of downhill if this guy was a better descender than me.  I had no clue if he was or not. I knew by this time he was a great uphill runner...I wasn't sure about his downhill though.

Around 2 miles (maybe a little before), I went  straight when I should have gone left and quickly corrected but lost a few seconds trying to figure out where I was.  There was a water stop there but it was unmanned and no one was there to tell you where to go.  There was no markings on that corner.  The crew that was supposed to be there wasn't there so it was a little confusing.  I had probably 15-20 second lead on the second guy at this point.  Not enough. He was hanging tough and just lingering back there (it reminded me of Kris Freeman at Loon a couple years ago...I just couldn't shake him completely).

Over the next half mile, there were a couple of the steepest sections of climb and I really pushed here to try to lose him.  I built up a pretty good lead by the time I hit the summit.  I immediately shot up and over, passing the water stop and not taking anything (as I didn't at any of the stops...I just wanted to get it over with!).  Sam and Abbey Wood were at the top cheering me on.  I started the downhill section with my fingers crossed. It ended up being more brutal that I imagined.  I looked back a couple times when I was up and over the top and on the way down, and didn't see the 2nd place guy now.  I was somewhat confident that I had built up an OK lead (or at least as much of one as I could have imagined) but had no clue about how much (if any) he'd be faster than me on the way down.

The descent was absolutely brutal.  The grass was long, the rocks were wet, the mud was...muddy, and the slope was STEEP.  I was out of control a lot on the way down.  I am talking completely out of control and unable to slow down, stop, or accurately turn at all.  A couple times I thought I was going to wipe out and it was like slow motion...just me knowing I was going to eat sh*t at any moment and waiting for it to happen.  Luckily my decision to go with the Mudclaw 300s (a heavier shoe but crazy big lugs for good traction) was a good one and it kept me on my feet.   There were big white mile markers at every mile and they were incredibly accurate (my Garmin beeped within 20 feet of each one).  By the 3 mile mark (now only just shy of .5 miles down) my back started spasming on me.  This happened to me at Winter Wild last year and at Bretton Woods.  When I go very steep downhill (I'm talking straight down ski slopes for anyone reading this who 'think' they have run downhill before...if you have not run down a 3-4000'er ski slope, you do not understand) my back starts to spasm on me.  The muscles get super tight and just lock up.  I was grabbing my back and really trying to tip toe at this point.  By 3.5 I wasn't sure I'd be able to make it.  My back was killing me and my heels were now on fire, a-la Wachusett.  I knew I'd have no heels left AGAIN and I was really starting to get nervous.  I kept looking back (UP) and never saw anyone as far as the eye could see. I started to think that if I could just survive the drop down to the base, I'd be able to hold off and win.   I started to see 5k people come back onto the course where the two races meet.  I started weaving by people who were cheering me on.  Close to the bottom, as I was thinking that I had just sunk my chances of doing well at Loon, the course flattened out a little (but was still going down) and I started to feel better.  My feet were killing me but my back wasn't as bad.  There was one small little up section that cut across to another slope right near the bottom.  It's there, on the cutover section that was basically flat, where I ate it for the only time. I stepped in a 3 foot deep mudhole and just went right down on my face.  I threw my fists into the mud at the last minute to stop my face from taking the hit.  I quickly got up, pulled myself out, and started down to the finish.

In the end, I was able to somehow put a few minutes on the guys on the downhill.  The guy who was trailing me right up to the top, got passed on the way down (right near the finish area) by a 20 year old dude who worked at Wildcat!  Unreal.  I ran 42:08 and my Garmin read 4.99 miles.  That's pretty much spot on.  2nd and 3rd were only separated by 7 seconds.  After talking about the race with the guy who was with me on the way up, I found out that not only does he now live in Wakefield NH (Union is a village of Wakefield) where my parents live and where I was before I moved to Madison, but him and I ran against each other in High School.  We know a lot of the same people from that time.  He was '96 and I was '95.  We cooled down 3 miles out on Route 16 towards the Auto Road and then headed back.

Top 10 Overall (CMS in blue)

1JIM JOHNSON    37MADISON NH       42:08 8:26
2Jordan Cargill 20North Conway NH  45:13 9:03
3Ryan Vigil     35Union NH         45:20 9:04
4Kurt Schuler   26Plymouth NH      49:36 9:56
5Shaun Flynn    25meredith NH      49:43 9:57
6Dave Burnett   51wenham MA        50:4110:09
7Richard Fargo  55Plainville CT    51:3810:20
8Jeffrey Hixon  40Boxford MA       51:3910:20
9Nick Citriglia 35Farmington ME    52:1610:28
10Paul Bazanchuk59Center Conway NH 52:3410:31

92 Total Finishers.

Leslie Crusher got the win on the women's side, exactly 11 minutes behind me (which is too close for comfort).  I watched her come down to the finish and she was flying!  She was moving way faster than I was at the end, that's for sure.  We both got a sweet EMS bag for the effort.  She paid 6 dollars for a beer (Fenway prices) and I hit the road, only hoping that I will be able to recover for Loon in a week.

Leslie (1st Woman) and I after the awards...

Later that afternoon, Kristin and I and Tabby headed over to my brother's place in Shapleigh, ME for a birthday party for my nephew.  Good times.... let the vacation begin....

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