Sunday, July 5, 2009

Loon Mountain Race 2009- Race Director's Report

"I'm drunk on hills" - Trail Pixie after finishing the 2009 Loon Mt. Race

The Loon Mountain Race for me has become the closure after a hectic few weeks of getting ready for the Cranmore Hill Climb. Cranmore was more hectic this year with it being National Champs, but, for whatever reason, Loon pretty much falls in to place. It may be that I'm already in Race Directing mode and everything is still out in boxes in my garage from Cranmore. In theory it should be harder for me- Loon is 45 miles from my house and I don't actually ever go to the venue until the day before. I also have a lot of trouble getting volunteers from my running club because at this point they are pretty volunteered out between Loon and Cranmore. Luckily I am always able to get plenty of Race Husbands and Race Wives who are generous of their time to help out, getting a free Gondola ride to the top of the mountain.

This year's realy race prep started the friday before. I started going through stuff in my garage from Cranmore, and realized as I opened boxes and discovered stuff that I had forgotten about, it was kind of like cleaning up after a really big frat party the weekend before-- I had little memory of it at this point but it sure seemed like it was fun. On Saturday, I went and picked up bananas and bagels for the race, stuffed my truck with everything I could possibly fit into it and headed out across the Kancamagus Highway to meet Dave Dunham and Paul Bazanchuk at Lincoln Woods for our pre-course setup run. This has now become a tradition with me and Dave (this is year three for the tradition). I always enjoy the run because it's one of the few times I actually get to run with Dave. Most of the other times I'm seeing him are at races during either warm downs or the race itself. Paul B was a great addition and nicely put up with mine and dave's stupid comments.

After I did my brain dump to those two about Cranmore we finished up the run and headed over to Loon Mountain to set up the course. Much to our surprise, we were met by Tivo which meant for an additional level of stupid comments and jokes as we marked the course. It also meant that we could get a good video documentary of the day, although for the sake of the decency laws most of it ends up on the editing room floor.

We loaded up the gondolas with stuff for the water stop at the 4 mile/finish area, and headed up to the top of the mountain. As we were up there, we noticed some storm clouds coming, so we hustled up, took the Gondola back down and headed over to the start area to start setting up the course flags. As luck would have it, the thunder and rain started. Since this wasn't the Cranmore race, we figured it wasn't safe to be out in Thunder & Lightning so we waited it out in Dave's car. Dave and I took turns trying to do one of the raps from Eminem's new CD (all of which would not pass the decency laws) and then, after excessive fogging of the windows we all got out and headed up the mountain.

The course marking went well, plenty of wild strawberries to eat, and a fair amount of Horse Poop (aka Lincoln Logs) on the service road, courtesy of the new riding stables at Loon. I didn't hear of anyone who ended up running through any of it during the race, which is a good thing. As is always the case, we all remarked how the course just gets so much steeper as you keep going higher, with the final insult at the Upper Walking Boss Trail.

When we were all done, Paul B headed to his campsite and Tivo, Dave and headed back across the Kanc to my house for the night.

Race day morning came early for me and I headed back over the Kanc to Lincoln. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, especially considering the drenchfest that this summer has been so far. It was around 50 degrees with some sun. I will never tire of the drive to Lincoln on the Kanc. It's one of the most scenic drives around here, and at that time of the morning you have little worries of getting a slow train of cars heading over the pass. Race registration started slow and then really picked up about 8 AM. By the time the dust settled we had about 80 day of registrants (a total of 204 people finished the race).

We headed down to the start area after I chatted briefly with Tad Thomas about setting up the water stop at the top of the mountain. Tad is the most wonderful volunteer you could ever ask for. He's always super helpful, has a good sense of humor about the whole thing, and gladly comes out to help at all of the races his son Max runs in.

The start went off as the Loon start usually does- you yell start and then climb in a moving pickup to get ahead of the runners behind you. After it was done, we headed back to the Gondola and made our way to the top.

On the way up the mountain, I rode with a woman and her grandson who were there to cheer on the kids' dad in the race. As we headed up the mountain, I could see what I thought was Jim Johnson with a slight lead at the 2.5 mile mark over Abdeltif Faker. After we got out at the top and we set up the finish area, Jim Johnson came through, looking strong as he headed down the other side down the Haulback Trail to start the final 40% grade climb up Upper Walking Boss. Jim knew he didn't have a sizable lead as he went through but he looked focused and strong.
The next time I saw Jim, he was flying down Sunset trail before the short steep section back to the finish line. After he crossed, I found out that he had been passed on the uphill by three runners but he was able to get ahead of them on the downhill.

On the women's side, Kasie Enman came through the water stop with that same look on her face I see on her in every race- one that's a combination of focus and strength and you know she means business. Kasie, like Jim, was on a recovery week after Cranmore but you would never know it as she motored on by. kasie set the women's course record in 2007, the last time she ran at Loon.

Although as a race director I know I'm not supposed to play favorites in a race, I do have to admit it was great to see Jim Johnson get his first win at Loon. Jim is in his second year on the mountain circuit and, much like his unending energy on the road racing and snowshoe circuits, Jim is a great ambassador for the sport of mountain running. So it was really great for me as a race director to see him cross the line first today. Kudos to him.

Kasie, in her "recovery week" set a new course record of 53:17, finishing 13th overall, beating her old course record by 19 seconds. Kudos to Kasie too. She is relatively new to mountain running as well (although no stranger to trails) and it's exciting to see her back out in the mountains, with her 4th place overall finish at Cranmore and her today's new record at Loon. She continues to just get stronger and stronger. I look forward to see what she will do next year at Mt. Washington.

I also was really psyched to see Dave Dunham finish 5th overall. Loon is Dave's kind of course. he's not a huge fan of downhills but the steeper the hill is, the better for Dave. 5th overall is incredible enough, but when you have someone generous enough with their time that they will come out and help you mark the course the day before it makes you appreciate what Dave gives back to the sport.

For me that ends my race directing for the summer, which I say with a mixture of relief and sadness, as it's really hard to beat that hectic feeling on race day when everything is a little crazy but it all somehow falls in to place. I am looking forward to getting out to Ascutney next weekend to race the new course there. That will close out the Inov-8 USATF-NE Mountain Circuit for the season. As of right now I think we still have about 100 Mountain Goats who have completed all of the races. Almost double what we had last year. My hat is off to every one of you.

A special thanks to all of the volunteers, especially DD, Paul, Tivo, Laurie, Kristy, Chrissie, Tad, Joanne Fedion, Nancy Drach and Smitty, who all helped everything go so smoothly.

Results can be found here
Scott Mason pics here
Kristin Wainwright's photos here
Race reports I'm sure will be posted by all of the above bloggers very soon.

See you next week in Vermont!


No comments: