Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Cranmore Hill Climb

Sunday was the Cranmore Hill Climb, my 5th time doing the race, and every year, the course has been different. This year would be two up-down loops totaling about 8 miles. 2011 Cranmore was my first mountain race, and it also happened to be the US Mountain Championship Race that year. I remember the race being so hard but being psyched to finish 16th woman! Yeah, I've just gone farther and farther back in place since then. Ha ha. The other years, I've done pretty well, usually in the top 4 for women. I had a feeling this year I would be in the top 3, or, at least, that's what I was hoping.

It was nice to sleep in a little for once. That's the beauty of a hometown race. I didn't have to get John up until it was time to leave at 7:30am, so it was much easier for both of us. I felt decent, but to be honest, I think I had already mentally checked out of the game. I've been ready for a weekend off from racing for the last 2 weeks, so I was already there on Sunday. It wasn't that I didn't want to be there; I did! I love the Cranmore Hill Climb! But I wasn't really thinking much about the actual race, and knowing it was going to be an easy field, I felt like I could just go out and finish top 3 without really trying. Not the best mindset, but it's just what it was.

We arrived just before 8am. I grabbed my bib number and chatted with some people I knew like James Downey and Gene Fahey. As I was talking to James, Nate Huppe came up behind me, grabbed me and scared the crap out of me, almost making me drop my pint glass. I wasn't happy. I can't stand that anyway, but if I had broken my pint glass, Nate would been giving me his. Standing out there, I could feel the temperature rising quickly! I knew this "tame" course I ran on Thursday was now going to be a grind. It was SO humid. Cranmore is always hot, but today was going to take the cake. I was already sweating. I got John out of the car and had him hang out in Zip's Pub during the race. It wasn't air conditioned, but there were fans going, and it was much cooler in there than outside by the time the race started. I got him settled in there with breakfast and my phone (of course) and then ventured out for a quick warm up. I don't usually do a long warm up for mountain races, which seems to be fine. I just ran half a mile up a decent hill to loosen up and then ran back down the hill. I checked in with John one last time then headed over to the start. Looking around, there were a lot of people I didn't know; it was odd. I didn't see much in the way of competition, except Kelsey Allen. I had a feeling she would be there since she usually does Cranmore. I knew I wasn't going to be the winner today since I can't beat her on anything hilly. She's a super strong uphiller AND downhiller. 2013 was the only year I beat her in mountain races, but I think she was either sick or injured that season. Other than that, when I see her, I already know how it's going to play out, and it's cool. There's always someone faster than you; you just wish they didn't always show up. :)

Paul Kirsch (the RD) gave us some last minute instructions at the start and then we were off. My plan was to start off on the quicker side for the climb on the first lap and then take the descent easy. I like starting off faster, especially when the course starts with a climb. I feel like I get a decent gain right off the bat. As predicted, Kelsey shot off ahead. I started to follow but she dropped me immediately. She probably already had a minute on me by the first mile, but it was ok. I had to focus on the woman that came flying past me just before the steep wall hit. I didn't know who she was, but she was running strong so far. I couldn't catch her. I was running most of the climb in the beginning, but once we hit another steep part, I started power hiking and easily passed her. She made me nervous, though, so I knew I needed to bust the rest of this climb out, which I did. (I don't think she ended up finishing the race, so she looked strong, but went out way too fast.) I didn't get passed by another person either. I don't think I got passed once the rest of the race past that first 2/10 of a mile. (I didn't even notice this until I thought about it post-race.) After about a mile, we were in the singletrack, and that's when I noticed how hot it was; the shade of the singletrack was so noticeable that I realized just how hot it was out in the open. The singletrack was great but didn't last long enough. Once out of it, though, the grade eased up to cut across the slopes instead of up them, so it was nice break before the last short, steep climb up to the Meister Hut. This was probably the toughest part of the whole race. The heat and dead legs, combined, just took that last little bit out of you, but knowing it was the last climb before the LONG, gradual downhill, I ran the whole thing. Chris Dunn was at the top cheering us on, so I kept looking up there at him to help pull me along. Finally, the trail cut in front of the Meister Hut, over a rock and up a few more steps to the water stop. I grabbed two waters, one to dump on my head and the other to drink.
The top! Photo by Ken Wiley

Photo by Ken Wiley
From there, it was a swift gear change into downhill mode. As planned, I took it pretty easy. I didn't want to kill my quads before the second lap. At one point, though, I caught myself daydreaming and realized I was running really slow. I had gotten caught up in the slower pace and got into non-race mode. Still, no one passed me, so that was a relief. After a long down, the course veered right for a steep climb up Lower East Slope and right back down Lower Schneider to the service road. From there, it was one super short climb and then another long stretch of downhill on Outta Luck before cutting across the slopes and heading down to the start/finish area to begin the second lap. I was told I was 23rd and that Kelsey was 3.5 minutes ahead (wow!!). I was kind of regretting my slower downhill at that point since she was SO far ahead of me, but oh well, I knew I wouldn't catch her. I just hoped she didn't double her distance in front of me; that would be embarrassing. I forgot to look at my watch for the first lap until I was into the second one by about a minute, but it was somewhere in the 41 minute range.

I settled right into the second lap, but I took the climb much slower, doing more power hiking than running. I still ran over half of it, but my power hiking has gotten significantly better to the point of being faster than my run sometimes, so it just makes more sense. Even though the heat/humidity had really drained me, I was feeling pretty good. I passed about 4 people before we hit the singletrack and then caught one more on that steep climb to the Meister Hut. As much as I wanted to walk this part, I didn't and ran up the whole thing, grabbing water at the water stop and then hitting the downhill hard. There was no holding back this time around. I flew down the hill passing two more guys before the climb up Lower East Slope. I put in a much stronger effort on that one this time around and then continued to go all out on the rest of the downhill. It was too easy. Holding back would have just been weak. It's hard to tell on the splits since the mile markers don't match up evenly to the halfway mark, but it appears I was running much faster on the second downhill. I could only catch glimpses of one person about a minute ahead of me and could no longer see anyone behind me. I still pushed it in strong to the finish. 1:21:40. 2nd woman, 16th overall. 8.4 miles on my watch. Kelsey finished about 4 minutes ahead of me. I could deal with that. It was still a lot, but I was happy that our distance didn't increase by too much on the second lap. I was also happy to have gained 7 places on the second lap. And I *think* I actually ran the second loop slightly faster than the first. I've noticed a trend in that I tend to hold strong or even get stronger at times later in races. I'm good with endurance, I guess.

As soon as I finished, I cooled off in a sprinkler for a few minutes then went to check on John. He was perfectly happy to stay there while I did a cool down. I headed back toward the finish area for my cool down, but only made it about 30 seconds before coming across my North Conway Ambulance coworkers taking care of injured runners. And more just started coming over, so I decided to halt my cool down and help out. It was mostly minor injuries with one transport to Memorial, but I was still shocked to see so many people hurt. We did a lot of irrigating of wounds and bandaging. When the ambulance left with a patient, they transferred patient care over to me, which I thought was funny. Here I am in my stinky, sweaty sports bra taking over care. Ha ha. My hands were so sweaty that I couldn't even get the gloves on all the way. Pretty comical. I asked my boss if I could get approval to wear this outfit as my new work uniform; he said he would have to think about it, but he still hasn't gotten back to me. Donna Cormier snuck over and snapped a photo of us working. I didn't see it until hours later posted on Facebook calling me "superwoman". :) While I'm flattered, there was nothing super about it. I just saw my coworkers could use a hand and jumped in.
Helping out my coworkers with runner injuries.
I was actually really surprised to see so many injuries. I thought the course was very non-technical, easy footing, but I guess I'm just used to worse. Plus, the heat probably made people a little more clumsy and less clear-headed. I could see that. I was actually surprised NOT to see any heat-related illnesses. I thought someone would go down, for sure. I told the ambulance crew prior to the race to be prepared for this one, but I didn't think it would be for so many traumatic injuries.

Members of North Conway Fire came to cover while the ambulance was gone, so I let them take over from me. I was cooled down at this point, so I just went back to Zip's Pub to get John and bring him over to the finish area. The awards weren't long after that. Finally. After all of the raffles and awards giving them away, I won a pair of Julbo sunglasses. I was so exited... until I opened them. WTF.
Of course. Just my luck.
Ha ha. I wasn't really that mad. It was actually funny because I keep saying how I NEVER win the Julbo's, and when I finally do, it's these. I just had to laugh because OF COURSE, it would be these. I'm floored that these actually cost $70!! Anybody want to pay me $70 for them? :) Heck, I'll take $10 for them. I have enough trouble finding sunglasses that look right on my face; these will never cut it. LOL.

John and I were originally going to stay and do the Adventure Park (I snagged a sweet Groupon for $44 for BOTH of us), but it was just too hot. John said he wanted to go to the lake, so that's what we did. The water felt great on such a hot day and was surprisingly chilly. The usual families were there, so John had 4 boys to play with. Illegal bridge jumping ensued. :) "Jumping illegally since 2011." It's a super safe jumping spot, but the Rec dept still tries to stop people from doing it. Sometimes, you just have to break the rules.

From there, we hit the 302 in Fryeburg for the Sebago Brewing Co beer promo. John's ninja class coach told us about it, so I thought it would be fun to go to. I had no idea the band was going to be playing. I know a couple of guys in the band (Wreckless), so it was cool to see them perform. The music was awesome, and there were quite a few people there I knew. I just sat with John, though. The lady next to me kept giving me fist pumps because she thought John was awesome and that I was a cool mom. Ha ha. If taking your kid to the bar in the afternoon for 2 hours is cool, then I am AWESOME. :) It was a really good time, and I was glad we went. It topped off a really good weekend for us.
John's selfie with a root beer.

At the 302. Photo by John 

The rest of the evening was just spent at the house. Around 7:30ish, I decided to mow the lawn for some crazy reason. A coworker gave me a lawnmower on Thursday, so I started it up. Made it about halfway before the thing kept cutting out on me, so I gave up at that point. I'll probably try again on Friday.

Level Renner just posted a little blurb on Cranmore. I'm dying laughing at my team affiliation. "CMS/Six03/WMM/LL/OPP".
Cranmore Hill Climb on the LEVEL

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