Saturday, November 8, 2014

November 8 (Saturday) - Roaring Falls Trail Race

November 8 (Saturday) - Headed over to Moultonborough and Castle in the Clouds for the first annual Roaring Falls Trail Race (results).  This was a 12+ mile trail race on and around the castle grounds and up Mt. Roberts (2582 ft). This is increasingly becoming my favorite place to run.  Kevin and I hit this area up for a 'ridge run' (approx 18+ miles) back at the end of the summer.  The trails are amazing and most of the run is up and down some pretty sweet carriage roads and snowmobile trails that are super fast and amazingly scenic.  The views of the lake are amazing on the way up and down the course.  I hadn't planned on doing this race until this week (started really thinking about giving it a go on Thursday/Friday of this past week).   Towards the end of the week, I was recovered from the marathon (it typically only takes me a couple days and I'm ready to go again) and figured I'd not pass up the chance to run here one more time before winter sets in.

The morning was pretty chilly and I ended up running the warmup with Kevin Tilton and Mike Narcisi.  We did the last 1 mile of the course (out a mile and back) and noticed that it was a lot of pavement and a lot of uphill out of the lower trails and back up to the start/finish area.  The small section of trail we hit was also pretty technical and rugged.  I wasn't sure what to expect, but I knew the climb up to Roberts pretty well and knew that from the summit, down to the 8 mile aid station was pretty much mostly all downhill on wide grassy carriage roads.  I quickly changed into my racing clothes and was down to the line for the start.

The race was actually made up of two distances (the 12+ mile long course and the 4+ mile short course which started in the opposite direction).  The long course had some pretty good names toeing the line.  With KT, Mike, and myself, there was also our CMS teammate Sam Wood, top NH road racer Nate Huppe (in his first foray into 'longer trail/mountain running'), ultra super star Ryan Welts of Pearl Izumi, and acidotic's own Charlie Therriault.  I knew it was going to be a pretty good pack early and I made my decision as I was warming up at the start area, that I was going to immediately push and not screw around. I wanted to thin the pack out as much as I could, right away.  If KT came with me, that was fine. I was actually expecting that.  Or if I made a move early and then he caught me later, that was OK too...just as long as we thinned it out before the summit.  I didn't want to have a lot of company once the downhill started.

When Chris Dunn gave the command, we were off and I immediately pushed up to the trail.  KT was back a few steps and the rest of the pack was in line by the time we got to the actual trail, only 200-300 yards in.  The climb starts almost immediately but is gradual at first.  KT was pretty close behind but never close enough to talk to. I figured once the really steep grind started, he'd roll up on me and I could tell him why I was pushing it so early, but he never made it up.  I looked back a few times on the way up and he was there, but falling back a bit.

By the time I got out to the first couple of open ledges on the way up, I started to lose sight of Kevin and just set my sights on the summit.  You have to go over a few 'faux' summits before dipping back into the woods again to push up to the real summit.  I remember this vividly from our run a couple months ago.  Some rocks had some icy spots but they were easily avoidable.  By the time I reached the summit and went past the sign, I was now out of sight, no matter how far back the stretch was. I couldn't see anyone back there.  I knew how much downhill there was now and was pretty confident that I could run hard and it would take quite a bit of effort for anyone to catch me on the next bunch of miles.  My hamstring and calf were acting up slightly once I started running down.  My right calf would tighten up and hurt for a few seconds and then release.  It kept happening over the course of the next few miles but I kept plugging along.  I knew it was probably still a bit sore from the marathon but I was hopeful that it would not be a real problem until possibly much later.

The next few miles of downhill were awesome running. I passed by Kristina Welts, running the course with her dog.  I didn't see anyone else for miles. I just kept dropping down, weaving all over the carriage roads trying to find the most solid and trouble-free routes.  There was some snow (just a dusting) in the leaves on the trail, which made it kind of cool.  Most of that was up at the summit area of Roberts.  There were some semi-frozen spots on the way down and some mud that you had to push through just a little on the way down, but the course was amazingly dry.  I was able to keep up a solid pace with a couple miles down below 5:30s on the way down. I knew that it would really take a great run from someone behind, to catch me by the bottom.  I did continue to peek back, but never saw anyone.

Once I finally made it down to the aid station (which was at '7-ish' miles according to Chris before the race), I blew right past it and was met with a harsh reality of more climbing.  My Garmin had about 7.6 miles on it by the time I got to the aid station.  But once I went through it, I immediately started climbing again and it was a bruiser. I felt like I was close to walking.  It was very difficult to adjust after running 5:30 pace downhill for miles, and then having to almost come to a complete stop and grind up another killer climb.  I started to panic a bit and look back as I was leaning into the hill.  Fortunately, it didn't go up too too far before turning back onto a carriage road again.  But now over the next few miles, it seemed like it was mostly either up or flat, with some decent climbs and switchbacks.  I kept an honest pace here but was slowing pretty good.  I was just hoping that the early lead I had built up was enough.

Finally, I got back onto a trail system I remember from the end of our run a couple months ago.  I knew the last longer single track section was a little slow and dicey in spots. I took it pretty easy in there, knowing you can only run so fast in that section.  But I also remember that out of that section, came another decent climb up to a lookout point and then down a very slow-going decent on the side of a slope that dropped down to the main carriage road.  I took it pretty easy down that as well, as there were a few times I almost wiped out.  Once I got down to the carriage road, I was starting to pass a decent amount of short course runners.

I winded my way across a bridge, and down and up some single track near the falls before dumping out onto the paved road I had warmed up on.  I was glad to see that road although I knew it was a little bit of a climb up it.  I passed a couple of short course people here and when I took the switchback up to the upper part of the road, I could see a long way back and down the other side and was constantly looking for Kevin's red singlet. I peered down the entire trip up and never saw anyone else come out.  By the time I could no longer see the lower portion of the road, it was at least a couple minutes back, so I knew I had enough of a lead to finish.  There was still a decent amount of climb on the road before it ducked back into the last single track section.  I passed another few short course runners in there before dumping out to the start/finish area near the pond. I THOUGHT the race ended there.  My watch had near 12 miles but I saw no finish area setup and no one lingering around.  It was my fault for not paying attention that morning and finding out that the race ended up the road.  I started following the flags up the road and just continued to push up to where I thought the end might be.  I figured it was at the carriage house, where the after party was. I got up to that area and heard my dad yell my name from up at the castle.  I figured he was up there just sightseeing and didn't make it down to the finish area in time to see me come in.  When I got to the carriage house, there were two volunteers telling me to go 'up the stairs to the castle' and they were waving flags to the left. I almost croaked.  I had to still climb up 3 or 4 flights of steep stairs to the castle.  Yikes.  I pushed by a few more short course people who all moved over except for one guy who mustered up some last minute courage and held me off on the last flight of stairs.  He didn't want to get passed by a 12 mile guy I guess :).

The last bit of stairs before the finish...

I came up to the castle lawn and through the end in 12.45 miles on my Garmin.  It was an awesome way to end the race and I immediately told Chris that if he can, they should have the race finish there every year.   I stood up there with my parents who were braving the cold and wind, and waited for the others to come in.  After seeing the first 10+ people finish, I headed back down the castle road with my parents.  A nice walk downhill was a good enough cooldown for me.  I was pretty beat.  My cardio was completely fine during the effort but my muscles were a little achey in spots.  Overall though I held up nicely and was really pleased at how I wrapped up the season.

Video below of the finish.  The couple runners in front of me were short course runners.

Top 10 overall (CMS in blue):

1Jim Johnson         37Madison       NHCMS/INOV8                    1:28:29
2Kevin Tilton        32ConwayNHCMS/Inov8                    1:35:08
3Sam Wood            28LACONIA       NHCMS                          1:41:04
4Jeffrey Whittingham 39Waitsfield    VT                             1:41:23
5Charles Therriault  29Bristol       NH                             1:42:35
6Ryan Welts          34Northwood     NHacidotic/Pearl Izumi  1:42:51
7Kehr Davis          37Gt barrington MA                             1:43:42
8Leslie Beckwith     38Albany        NHacidotic              1:44:06
9Brandon Baker       27LEBANON       NH                             1:44:16
10Nathan Huppe        34Dover         NHRochester Runners       1:44:24

119 total finishers (long course).

Strava data / splits:

Looking down from the finish

With my mom at the finish...

With my dad at the finish...


  1. Nice job! Sounds like a fun race with some brutal climbs.

  2. Looks like a way better time than USATF XC...kinda wish I'd come up there instead! Nice job JJ.