Well, I officially kicked off my mountain racing career this morning at the Cranmore Hill Run in North Conway, New Hampshire. It was TWO trips up and down Mount Cranmore for a total of 10K and it was brutal!
To start off, Mother Nature decided that the race wasn't difficult enough already and opened the skies up just before the race started. It was the kind of downpour where your clothes are plastered onto you within one minute of standing outside. She also threw in some thunder and lightning (yes, lightning) for good measure. I thought for sure they would delay the race because of the lightning, but I guess mountain race directors have a different policy (or different insurance carriers) and the gun went off at 9am sharp!
I was expecting an absolutely grueling and torturous race from start to finish. It was worse. My quads felt like lead within the first several minutes and thanks to the deluge of rain, the course contained a great deal of mud which made the steep uphills especially difficult, especially on the second loop after the course was pounded up during the first loop.
There was one part of the course that was a bit deceiving because when I looked up I couldn't see any tree line, which gave me the impression that the uphill section was over and hey, it wasn't so bad really. That impression was false because the really steep part of the climb occurred soon after, which reduced me to walking. I was only partly relieved to look up and see that everyone ahead of me, including the race leaders, were walking as well. Much of the last third of the uphill section was just so steep that walking and running produced the same speed but walking required half the effort. So despite the relatively short 10K distance a decent percentage of it was spent walking.
On the downhill section I discovered two things. First, downhill running during a trail race is a skill. Second, I do not posses that skill. There were many a runner who I vanquished on the uphill only to watch them zoom past me on the downhill. I think a lot of one's overall personality shines through on downhill trail racing and my conservative personality proved to be a liability.
My family and part of the extended family informed me that I finished 20th overall and no clue as to my age group finish...I'll have to wait for the online results. I'm used to finishing a bit higher in the standings, but I managed to survive my first mountain race and I'm perfectly happy with that fact. And since the race offered cash to the top finishers I think the quality of the field was a little higher than usual for local races.
Well, now that I've gotten all of the Indiana Jones stuff out of my system (Nipmuck Marathon and Cranmore) I can now focus my training on launching an all-out assault on the 2:40 barrier for the marathon in mid-September. And that will be a flat course on asphalt, thank you very much!