Monday, June 30, 2008
Cranmore Hill Climb - Mudfest 2008
(Photo courtesy Kristin Wainwright, Copyright 2008)
The course for the 2007 Cranmore Hill Climb it seems has become legendary among runners who had the strength and stamina to finish it. I still get people telling me about their memories of that ridiculously steep downhill.
When it came time to make up a course for the 2008 race, I wanted to go exact opposite, making a steeper uphill, longer flatter downhill, but also add in some new trails and singletrack that people hadn't been on. I hoped the course would still be memorable and hopefully a fun change to the 2007 sufferfest. Little did I know that mother nature would add yet another twist into the 2008 edition, by adding in some torrential downpours and a little thunder and lightning.
Race morning for me started out a little different than last year. Since I was blessed with so many great volunteers and no Mountain Team qualifying race responsibilities, I was able to run in the race myself. That meant the morning of I had to remember to pack clothes to race in and not be stupid about what I ate. When I got to Cranmore with volunteer Mike Davis at about 6:30, we finished setting up race registration and gave out assignments to volunteers to help set up the finish line etc. The sky was pretty foggy and a light drizzle started around 8 am. Around 8:30 the drizzle became a pretty heavy rain with thunder. Fellow White Mountain Miler, Tim Livingston, had mentioned to me on Friday "wouldn't it be crazy if it rained race day?" Well, yes, it was.
By the time 9 AM got there, we all ran out to the starting area, I gave some quick pre-race instructions and off we went up the mountain. As soon as we got out on the grass slope past the first single track, the course was already drenched. That continued all the way up, with a little thunder in the distance, and we were running in and out of fog. Once we got up to the upper section on the Hurricane Trail (which the racers came down last year), I noticed the stream of water just running down the course. It was at that point that I heard a yell from behind me from Todd Brown saying "Nice Course, Paul!". Todd is probably the most talkative runner in mid-race I have ever run with. No matter how steep the course is or how much he's hurting, he always has enough time to make a comment. It helps to keep things light in the middle of a tough uphill. And anymore in these mountain races, I seem to measure my placement by where Todd and Abby Woods are. At Wachusett we were all together, At Washington, Todd left us both in his wake, and here I hoped to finish ahead of him, since I had the home course advantage and knew what was coming next. On the last push up Hurricane, fellow Miler Max Thomas said "look strawberries!" and picked a wild strawberry from the course and popped it in his mouth. You tend to notice a lot of things in the grass as you are power walking up a steep incline.
As we crested the top of the mountain at the Meister Hut, I took a swig of water and started the descent. I used to hate downhill running until about 3 years ago, when I began to fall in love with that uncontrollable feeling as you motor down a mountain trail. I had to remind myself to not go all out on the first lap as one thing that really kills me is the transition from down back to up. I kept the push down, and, just as I thought, slowed to a crawl as soon as we hit the uphill. I kept doing a combination of running and power walking on the way up, knowing if I could just gut it out until I got to the top I could push it more on the downhill. The second downhill finally came and I was able to go pretty well. I found I can catch people better on the steepest sections of the downhill so I did well on the initial descent down the Easy Street trail but then when we opened up more on the flatter sections of Gibson, I gained no more ground. The rest of the way down was a blast. I did a nice face plant in the Beechwood Glades when the mud just gave out under me as I turned but that made for a good war story as I then came down Beginner's Luck to the finish line with mud all over my shirt and legs. On my way down Gibson, 14 year old White Mountain Miler Peter Haine passed me like I was standing still. I was a little confused by this as he had also passed me on the uphill until I found out that he and Max Thomas got off course a bit on their 2nd uphill lap. I can only imagine what Peter's time might have been if had stayed on the course. Pretty impressive for a 14 year old.
In the front of the race, Justin Fyffe had a tremendous day, flying down the second down hill to beat Kevin Tilton in a time of 52:51. Just on Kevin's heels was Jim Johnson, who really gutted it out to the finish with a badly rolled ankle he took on the second downhill. The men's Master's race was a battle between Tim Van Orden and Dave Dunham. Dave got ahead of Tim on the second uphill but not by enough before Tim was able to overtake him on the last downhill. If you haven't had a chance to see Tim's video from last year's Cranmore race, go here. It's pretty entertaining and gives you an idea of how steep it was.
On the women's side, current LaSportiva USATF-NE Mountain Circuit Leader Abby Woods, took home the win, followed by local White Mountain Miler, Lynne Zummo. The Master's race was won by Kat Fiske who just turned 40 a few days before the race.
Thanks so much to all of the volunteers who made this race possible. It's somewhat of a logistics challenge to get the water stop manned at the top, the food all prepared, results in and finish line and water stops covered. A lot of people made that seem really easy and it's a sign of great volunteers when you can run in the race yourself. I'm sure I will forget a few names (my apologies) but a special thanks to Bernie and Eileen Livingston, Tim Livingston, Peter Haine, Dave and Nancy Drach, Donna Cormier, Candy Armstrong, Richard and Joanne Fedion, Lesbia Haine, Tad & Sheri Thomas, Dave McDermott, Anne Mellor, Brendan Dagan, Jen Campbell, Mike Davis and everyone else who helped out. The day could not have happened without you.
Another special thanks to all of the race sponsors, especially Inov8, who provided shoe prizes and great tshirts, Julbo, FuelBelt, EMS, and Hammer Nutrition for the rest of the prizes and product donations. As I was going up and down the mountain I kept thinking to myself how you couldn't make a race better suited to show off Inov8 shoes. I saw lots of people out in their 280s and 285s and 310s, all navigating the mud, roots and rocks pretty well.
And if the weather and mud wasn't enough, three people got off course on their second lap. As they mad their way back over to the course, they encountered 2 bears mating. Nothing like that site to make you want to pass the bears cautiously.
Thanks to all of the runners who came out and did the race. To see some great race photos, check out Kristin Wainwright's or Scott Mason's. A great race report by Jim Johnson here. If you have any other photos to share or a race story I can post please let me know.
See Tim Van Orden's Race Video report.
Next year, the course will change (like it does every year) to match whatever the WMRT Trophy course will be as it will serve as the 2009 USA Mountain Champs again. I don't know what it will be like yet but I'm sure it will have interesting twists of its own, just like every year.
On to Loon Mountain! That is, after I am walking normally again after Cranmore.