Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Loon Mountain Race

My 5th time running the Loon Mountain Race was on Sunday. I used to refer to Loon as my arch nemesis since it seemed to beat me down every time I ran it. 2011, I went into it blindly, and wrote that it was "the hardest race I'd ever done". I had such an awful race in 2012 that I cried in my car the whole way home. Ha ha. 2013 and 2014, I came in with a different attitude, the I-don't-give-a-shit attitude (pretty much my attitude for every race after 2012 Loon to August 2014). So I was surprised in 2014 to have a good race. This year was a little different. I've given up the above attitude in the last year, finally, but I still thought that Whiteface might have done me in for a decent race at Loon. In fact, what I had was the opposite. Loon was minuscule in comparison to Whiteface, and, for the first time ever, seemed "easy". It wasn't actually easy, per se, but it wasn't the kick in the ass it usually is. I actually felt good the entire race.

I ended up a little rushed after we got there. I got my bib, then proceeded to lose it, so I had to make two trips to the lodge. I found it in the bathroom on a shelf. I forgot to buy John's gondola ticket the first go-round, so I also had to go back to buy that. John was going to ride the gondola up with Dave and Kerry Oedel's daughter (pronounced exactly like my last name), Sophie, and the two were going to hang out at the finish waiting for us to finish. So I met up with them, got John out of the car and then we walked them to the gondola. By the time that was situated, I only had 15 minutes before the start. No time for any real warm up, so I just ran up a hill and back for 1/2 mile, then ran to the new start behind the Governor's Lodge. I always liked the river start, but this one was just as good. Loon is almost always a scorcher, so I opted for a sports bra only. When I lined up at the start, I found my CMS teammates all wearing their singlets. Heather Rich looked at me and said, "You've just convinced me." She took off her singlet to run in her sports bra. Jenn Brooks looked at the two of us then took off her singlet. It was funny. We couldn't convince Regina, but I guess the 3 out of 4 would do. Way too hot to be wearing even a lightweight singlet. We lined up and then were off. Remembering that the first mile always starts off fast, I decided to hold back a little. The new nordic section (brand new to the women; it was on the men's course last year) was just after the 1-mile mark, and I knew it would be very runnable and fast for me, so I felt no need to kill myself before then. It was a smart move, and I was still 7th woman for the first half mile. I ended up passing one woman early and then Jenn just as we got onto the nordic trail. Regina, the next woman ahead of me (and my teammate) was strong through these next two miles, and I couldn't even see her for a lot of it. It was fast, though, so I pushed it. I knew this was my strength, so if I put in extra effort here, it would give me a good lead once we got back on the steeper climbs.

Those two miles went by quickly. It was shady and cool, so as soon as we got out on the service road again, the steep climb and blast of heat took a bit out of me. Not much, though. I gained some on Regina at this point, so I had her pulling me along. I was amazed at her strength. When she ran, she looked like she was running on a flat road and not up a steep climb. Pretty impressive to watch. I decided to follow her lead, knowing how well she ran here in 2014, so when she ran, I ran. When she walked, I walked. Seemed to work well, and I know I ran a lot more than the previous years. My legs felt super strong. It was as if Whiteface put me into immediate shape for this. No soreness, no fatigue, just strong legs the whole way up to the gondola.
Photo by Gianina Lindsey
Photo by Joe Viger
As we got up there, I started looking around for John and didn't see him. I started to panic until I saw Terry Ballou to ask if she'd seen him. She said she had and that he was fine. Huge sigh of relief.
Top of the gondola, just before I started to panic looking for John. Photo by Richie Blake.
Once I knew John was good, I started to focus back on the race again. As we started the long downhill, I caught up next to Regina. She is so cool and started telling me to go! Kept encouraging me to move ahead of her. The funny part was that I couldn't. I was going all out! Ha ha. I was laughing as I told her this. She thought I was holding out, but no, she was moving just as fast as I was for the first half of the downhill, when I finally pulled ahead. Not by much, though. By the time we hit Upper Walking Boss, we were only steps apart. I immediately started power hiking and alternating to side stepping, which I tried for the first time at Whiteface. I found the side stepping really gave the calves a break even if just for a few steps on each side. It was how I pulled away from my competition at Whiteface and how I think I was able to pull away from Regina up UWB. I have to admit for the first time (even 2011!), I didn't run one step of UWB. I kept thinking that I would run once I hit the switchbacks, but they just never seemed to come into view. As I came up to Scott Mason, he told me the switchbacks were gone! Ha ha. Here I was thinking UWB was a lot longer than I remembered, but we were actually almost to the top already.
 UWB Photo by Scott Mason
To be honest, I actually liked it better just going straight up. Screw the switchbacks. As we crested the top, I got excited since we were about to hit my favorite downhill of the race. Most people hate it, but I love it. It's steep. It's loose footing, but it's what I'm good at. So I just blasted down it. I still noticed how beautiful it was with all of the wildflowers, though. As I reached the bottom, I had decent momentum to get me halfway up the last steep hill to the finish. The other half was almost a walking pace, but I ran it, finishing 4th woman in 1:12:13. Regina came in about a minute back, and Jenn was next behind her about 4 minutes back. CMS 4th, 5th and 6th. Got us the open women's team win!!

I was so happy with my race. FINALLY, Loon had not beaten me down, and I felt great the whole way. Last year, the race was only 4.8 miles which I ran in a 12:35/mi pace. This year, it was 6.6 miles at 10:53/mi pace. HUGE difference. The nordic section definitely had a lot to do with that faster pace, for sure, but in general, I think I was a lot faster than last year on most sections. Now, I can't wait to see what Cranmore will bring this weekend.

I found John at the top, and we hung out for awhile talking to people then headed down the gondola together. I went to the lodge for the post-race raffle and awards. And once again, I won 603 beer!! It's all I ever win. ha ha. As we left the lodge, a guy in the parking lot asked me where everyone was getting the beer. I told him I won it in the raffle. He said he was in the Pemi and missed it, so I offered him my 6-pack. I still have 603 beer in my fridge from the Roaring Falls Trail Race last November. He happily took it, and then John and I went to join the Six03 crowd. I was a little late, but got a beer just before everyone bolted. As is often the case, I ended up drinking my beer alone. What a loser. :) It was funny, though. Thought about pulling a John and finishing it on top of my car, but I just chugged it instead.
Six03 crowd. Just before I got ditched. LOL.
I took John over to the adventure park at Loon to have some fun. He loves the bungee jumping, and we usually only do it once or twice a year at Cranmore. He played for about two hours.
John on the bungee jump
He had seen a cookie at the summit hut earlier in the day, but since I didn't have money on me, I couldn't get it for him so he asked if we could ride the gondola back up to get it. I thought it was a ridiculous idea at first, but then thought, "Why the hell not?" So up we went for a second gondola ride just to get a cookie. :) After that we went home to take care of our dogs, and then John ditched me to play with his friend. Ha ha.
John on the gondola again
I decided to a yearly photo series of Loon like I did for Mt Washington. 2011-2014.
2011. No idea what I had gotten myself into.

2012. Smiling but had a horrible race.
2013. Not a good race, but I didn't care at the time.

2014. Good race, but nothing special. I was 31st woman. Pretty bad. Didn't care.

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