My thoughts are on next Sunday.
Mountain running wasn’t something that I set out to do. In fact, I was an avid road runner. However, last year, I entered the Mt. Washington Road Race lottery and got in. So, never having run a race like that, I knew that I needed some mountain simulations.
A friend of mine told me that local track club members would run the access road to the Great Blue Hill. So, I started doing that once and then twice a week. May rolled around, and I saw a race. Mt. Wachusett. I thought that would be good training. It is about half the distance of Mt. Washington. So, I entered and didn’t do too bad. It was an eye opener though. Signing up for “King of the Moutain” all I needed to do for that race was make it up to the summit, and the race for me was over. On the way down, I ran into a couple of “old” guys. They explained to me that there was an actual Mountain Circuit that they do every year. In fact, both were 17-year veterans. They told me that if one runs a certain number of races, you become a “Mountain Goat,” and you bypass the Mt. Washington lottery.
This is the only series of mountain races in the country.
So, I began to run the circuit. It was not easy, in fact, it was one of the most difficult things that I have ever done. I have never pushed myself to such a real physical extreme before. Literally, at times, I worried about my little “ticker” as I tried my darndest to make it up what are sometimes Black Diamond ski trails, and 20% or more grades (some even close to 40%).
Next Sunday it all begins again. I am in search of that elusive “Mountain Goat” status and the ticket to bypass the Mt. Washington lottery for next year.
I have found an excellent Bed and Breakfast in Waterbury, VT. I tend not to stay with everyone else, needing to mentally prepare myself for the endeavor. Waterbury is about 30 minutes from the race, and it is in a lovely Vermont town.
It has been a difficult weekend of running. I did 30 miles this week with yesterday spent doing hill repeats up the Great Blue Hill access road and then a 45-minute trail run. Today, I completed a 2-hour endurance run. Since, January 1, I have run close to 500 miles on these legs of mine.
Usually, before a race, my coach has me taper. That doesn’t mean that I stop running completely, it means that I mostly do recovery runs. So, from Wednesday on, I have 45-minute recovery runs planned with a series of 5 x 20-second hill sprints. I will already be up in Vermont so the hill sprints will simulate running conditions on Sunday.
I have been getting my diet in check and have lost a few pounds. The lighter I am, the easier it will get. Smaller bodies circulate oxygen easier over less volume of space. These races will take some of that off, with attention to diet.
Saturday before the race is a complete rest day. No running. I look forward to that. I hope to sleep in. That should be about 7:00 a.m. for me. Let’s pray they have comfy pillows and a big down comforter.
I will be meeting my friend Don there. Don is 73 from Sturbridge, MA. Can you imagine? He says that he plans on doing the Mountain Circuit with me this year to get the bypass ticket so he can run Mt. Washington one last time. And, then his 45-year running career will be over. He says he is ending it. Who knows. I will try to convince him otherwise, but for this year at least, Don and I will be glued together. I am going to see him through until the end.
Next Sunday, I have a date with Sleepy Hollow. I anticipate that it is going to be muddy, given that it is mud season in Vermont. So, my goal is to not get hurt, finish the race respectable (being safe about it), and just score those Mountain Circuit points. It is a trail race up to the summit of the mountain with an elevation of 1,500 – a tame ascent for the series, but a nice warm-up for the rest of the season.
Here is what the trails look like at Sleepy Hollow. Surely, a bit on the technical single-track side. And, of course hilly. I am not a fan of leaves…slippery when wet.
Then my eyes are set on Pack Monadnock the following Sunday. Now, that is not so tame. 8 miles of rolling hills with some grades at about 8-10%, and then a 2 mile straight up to the top of Monadnock. That is not a pretty race. The course was designed to give runners a hill-climb challenge and to test strength and endurance. The last 1.3 miles are as steep or steeper than Mt Washington with grades more than 20% up to 2,000 feet.
This is the hill profile from last year’s Monadnock race. A visual to say the least…
But, like all of them, I will get her done. If by nothing else than pure persistence.
I take one mountain at a time, one mile at a time, and literally one step at a time and next week it all begins with Sleepy Hollow.
And, no ice cream cones for me….