Monday, October 5, 2015

I'm officially a mountain goat

And I have decided based on my experience doing the USATF Mountain Goat Series that I HATE trail running and they should not call it trail "running" because it is impossible to "run" up a mountain. They should call it "Extreme Hiking". You basically do your best to move quickly up a hill on loose gravel, squishy uneven grass, muddy wash out ruts, and big rocks. Then sometimes, if the race really sucks, you have to try and navigate your way back down the hill without taking a wicked bad digger and destroying your hopes and dreams of ever running again. Oh and all of this takes twice as long as the same distance would take you to complete in a regular road race on pavement.

You might ask, if it was so awful and I hated it so much WHY would I do it? This is the really crazy stupid part. The reward for running up and sometimes back down 6 really horrible not fun mountains is......wait for it......wait for it....... I get to run up ANOTHER really really big mountain (Mount Washington) next year. On the bright side, Mount Washington is a road race and it is run on pavement and you only have to run up, not down. It IS however 7.6 miles up the highest mountain on the East Coast with the most ridiculous weather in the world possible at the top. I've done it before in 2013 and I had a blast, but back then I just entered through the lottery. This year I thought it would be "fun" to try earning a bypass and completing the Mountain Goat series. It was NOT fun.

The first race I did was in Vermont in May. It was my birthday weekend and I figured it's only a 10K it should be easy. I was wrong. I mean out of the 6 races I did, this one wasn't the worst one, but it wasn't my favorite either. It was really difficult and the 3rd mile took my almost a half an hour to "run" up.
The second race I did was the following weekend. No rest or recovery for me. At least this one was closer to home in Massachusetts AND part of the course was on paved roads. I felt great and loved it. It was another 10K up and back down Wachusett Mountain. It was difficult and there was a HUGE elevation gain, but there was more down than up and that made me happy (until the next day when I had to run a half marathon and my quads didn't want to).
I had two weeks to recover before my next race, Pack Monadnock 10 miler. This one was my favorite. It was the longest of all the races, but the entire thing was on paved roads (well, a little section was dirt roads, but they were well maintained dirt roads and not trails). I might have been one of the slowest finishers in the race but I felt really good and ran strong by my standards. It was a really warm day and I didn't realize until after the race that they had offered an early start for slower runners. The last mile or so of the course was ridiculously steep, but I was smiling and dancing the whole way up the hill.
Race #4 was Loon Mountain and I had heard many of the runners talk about it in the weeks leading up to it and I looked at the elevation profile and knew it would be awful, but I did a really stupid thing that made it even more awful for myself. Two days before the race I decided it would be fun to go on a 9 mile hike over the Franconia Ridge basically up one 4000+ft mountain over another one and then down a third 4000+ft mountain. I could barely walk the morning of the Loon Mountain race, never mind 'run' up a 40% grade hill. It hurt A LOT. 

Race #5 looked like it would be easy in comparison to Loon Mountain, but NO, it was NOT. Cranmore Hill Climb Challenge was indeed a challenge. Unlike Loon where you run up a really steep section of the mountain towards the end of the race, Cranmore was a two loop course up a very steep hill TWICE. And to make things worse, I ran a half marathon the day before in 90 degree heat AND there was a swarm of bees attacking me the entire time I tried to "run" up the damn hill. I wasted so much energy trying to swat the bees away and I was so tired and sore to begin with I wanted to cry or punch someone.
There was a huge break between that race and my 6th and final race, but only because I had other non-goat races already planned for the days they had other options available. This past weekend was the last race, the Bretton Woods Fell race. And I learned that "fell racing" is a thing and it basically means choose your own adventure. They do not mark the course, they only define certain checkpoints that you have to go through and the order in which you must reach those checkpoints. They had a long and short course, I had signed up for the long course before I realized I hate trail running, then switched to the short course the week before the race. Thank GOD I did. The short course was 4 miles and it took me over an hour to complete it. BUT I DID IT! I am now considered a "mountain goat" and I have earned entry into next year's Mount Washington Road Race. 

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