Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Kismet Cliff Run 2015

Even though the Kismet Cliff Run is a local race that starts at 10am, I still had to wake up fairly early Sunday morning to get my things together and then drive John up to my friend, Jen's, house in Bartlett. She was originally going to take John to Storyland, along with her daughter, while I raced. John and I have season passes, so it wouldn't have cost her anything, and it seemed like a good way for him to pass the time while I ran. Plus, it was a HUGE help for me not having to worry about John during such a long race.The rain thwarted the Storyland plans, but he still had a great time with her. Help is very limited, so I was extremely thankful for it. And Jen is someone who understands the need for help; she's been in my shoes for years. John really enjoys hanging with Jen, and she enjoys hanging out with him because he's so easy and laid back (usually! haha!).

After dropping John off, I drove back down to Echo Lake in North Conway. The rainy weather was definitely NOT ideal for this race, but I've raced it in similar conditions before, so I was prepared. In fact, I've run this race and do regular runs on these trails enough, that I know it almost like the back of my hand. I hardly have think about where I'm stepping... except the descent on North Moat. That is brutal no matter how many times you've done it, and, today, would be some of the worst conditions for it. My legs were VERY tired; my quad muscles were literally twitching from fatigue and sore. To be honest, I was actually surprised by this. I've been doing enough of these fast, short road races lately that I didn't think I would be sore, but, man, my legs were in rough shape. I couldn't believe I was about to put them through a 13-mile mountain race, but I was, so I tried to stop thinking about it. What I was focusing on was that I didn't need to go out and kill myself on the course this year. I wasn't expecting to break my course record (2:42:09) with the conditions and my fatigued legs, so that helped ease my mind. I was really out there because I love this race, and it's something I enjoy doing every year. This would be my 6th year! (I missed the inaugural year; I was still living in California.) I ran the 5-mile race in 2010 and 2011 and still hold the women's record on that course, too, in 51:42. Race director, Gabriel Flanders, was able to land a permit for the Beast of the East (long course) for the 2012 race, which is a feat in and of itself. Most of the race is in the White Mountain National Forest, and Gabe is probably the only one to ever receive the golden permit for a race through it. So this year would mark my 4th year doing the long course. I've finished first woman 3 out of the 4 times (Kelsey Allen beat me in 2013). So, anyway, this race has become a tradition for me, and so my place/time didn't really matter to me as much as just being out there doing it. BUT there was one little thing that made me REALLY want to win the race. The award. NEW SHOES. I have won La Sportiva shoes at this race 4 times prior (no shoe award at all in 2014). La Sportiva's are my go-to trail running shoe, but all three pairs I was currently using were down to minimal tread. Even the ones I had on for today's race were nearly treadless. Ha ha. I really needed a new pair of La Sportiva's, and eBay had been giving me nothing for months. I almost paid full-price for a new pair, but I decided to wait until after Kismet before I went that route. So, yeah, even though I really wasn't concerned about my time or place too much, I will admit to totally wanting to win for the shoes. :)

As soon as I arrived, I checked in, said hi to Gabe and some of the volunteers I know. I saw a lot of racers I didn't recognize, but then some of the usuals showed up. Tristan Williams was there. I think Tristan has won the race the last 3 years. This is his thing, so I knew he had the win before the race even started. Andy Drummond was also there with Squall; I knew he would do really well since he's been killing it this year. He is just as crazy as me, maybe even crazier. He had raced a triathlon the day before; that's a hell of a lot more than a measly 5-mile race. Squall would end up with a DNF. Don't worry, Squall, we've all been there. :) Ryan Welts and Kristina Folcik showed up. Ryan was the only one of the two racing today. My friend, Kim Proulx, was out there, too, for her first time doing this race. She was nervous, but I knew she would finish it ok. (At least, I hoped so, since I was the one who encouraged her to do it!!) I was shocked to see Ryan Kelly and Amber Ferreira there. It didn't seem like their kind of terrain, but Amber is good at EVERYTHING, and I have never beaten her once. I figured right off the bat that she had the race in the bag and resigned myself to second place before the race even started. (Pout, no new shoes. ha ha.)

I went back to my car to get ready for a warm up and had a racer approach me to tell me he reads my blog and that he had only recently gotten into trail running. He seemed super excited about the race, so that was cool. (Nice to meet you, if you're reading this. I hope you had a good race!) I was curious as to how my legs would feel running since they felt heavy and sore just walking, so I ran a very short 3/4 of a mile around Echo Lake to confirm that, yes, they were very sore and heavy. Fuck. haha. I was starting to think I should have signed up for the 5-mile, but that would have just been weak.

I quickly went back to the car to grab my race pack and headed to the start. Someone else (Ewa Johnson) approached me down there to say that she had stumbled across my blog the day before and enjoyed reading it. I honestly didn't think that many people read my blog besides my new nudist/porn following, so it was kind of cool to have two people approach me about it at such a small race. Gone are the days when I was incognito and could just blend in with the crowd, race, then disappear. I guess it's been a good thing, and I've enjoyed it, but I am definitely still getting used to it.

Gabe gave his usual pre-race speech, we lined up and he gave the starting words. Off we went. I was immediately running with Ryan Welts at a nice easy pace. We were chatting when John Lamneck, another local that I've known for a few years, caught up and joined in the conversation. Then Marcelo Maiorano, another local who's been following me on Strava, also caught up and introduced himself. It was kind of nice taking it slow and chatting with these guys for the first mile. It kept us all from going out too fast while the course was easy.

We finally hit the only paved portion of the course (Cathedral Ledge Rd) and started to spread out. Ryan went on ahead, and Marcelo and John fell behind me. It's only about 200 yards on the road before it takes a sharp turn to go up the climber's trail. It's steep as hell, but I ran the first quarter of it. I was then passed by Amber like I was standing still. She flew up the trail ahead of me, nearly catching Ryan. That climb up Cathedral is steep, but it's also fairly short. We passed through the water stop and then hit the first downhill of the day. I could tell this was definitely not Amber's forte because I was able to catch her and pass her within seconds. We were both laughing. I told her I would see her again in a few minutes on the next climb. I was able to get a little bit of a lead, but she still caught me about halfway up the climb on Whitehorse Ledge. She disappeared so fast that I couldn't even see her up ahead. That's when I thought, "Dammit. I need those new shoes!" Haha.

The climb up Whitehorse is a little more gradual, but longer, so it actually seems to hurt more. I got to the top and started down the back side. Amber was nowhere in sight, but I quickly caught up to her at the top of the Red Ridge Link and passed her. I could tell the technical trail was giving her trouble, but she was still laughing and seemed in good spirits. Technical downs are something I'm really good at, so I knew I could make a huge gain on her here so I went ALL OUT. It's a lengthy descent, so I wanted to get as much of a lead as possible before the LONG climb up Red Ridge and North Moat Mt. I started to think about the course at this point and her skill level on the downhill and realized that if I could hold her off long enough on the climb, that even if she passed me, I would be able to pass her again on the run down North Moat and gain enough of a lead to stay ahead for the final climb, bust out the downhill back to Echo Lake and win. So much for not caring how I placed. :) I was all over my strategy to take the win. I started to feel like the paperboy in Better Off Dead who was obsessed with the two dollars. I wanted those damn shoes, and unlike the paperboy, I was going to succeed! :) Yeah, um, so, I guess I got a little competitive after all.

At the Forest Service Rd, the descent ended, and the real climbing began. As much as my legs felt like junk before the race, I actually felt really strong and ran at a decent pace up the Red Ridge Trail. I had to walk only very small portions of the climb up to Middle Moat. The trail was super slippery, and the rain started to pick up as we ascended into the cloud. The cool temperature definitely helped. I caught up immediately with another racer. I never actually passed him, but stayed with him until the descent down North Moat. He was the last racer I would see on the course. I didn't think this would be the case since I knew Amber must be gaining on me on the climb, but every time I looked back, nothing. She never appeared. I thought that maybe this technical uphill might have been challenging for her, but I still kept expecting her to catch me. But, no. I got to the ridge and the Moat Mountain Trail, and still no Amber. I wasn't letting my guard down yet, so I continued to push it to the top of North Moat. By the time I got up there, it was raining, cold and windy. I didn't even look up as I made my way past the summit. Water was pouring in my eyes. At this point, I knew I was going to win. If she hadn't caught me at this point, she wasn't going to. I was extremely relieved by this because it meant I wasn't racing anyone down North Moat and could take it carefully. With the fatigued legs, I knew I was more likely to make a mistake and fall, so I just slowed down and paid attention to every step. I even sat on my butt and slid down many of the rock slabs. It was a LONG descent at this slow pace, but I didn't care, and soon enough, I could see the bottom of the trail at the brook.

The course takes a sharp right onto the Attitash Trail and gradually descends for close to two miles. I was able to fly on this all the way to the brook crossing to get back on the Red Ridge Trail. Two volunteers were there with water, so I decided to stop and drink a full cup. I had just been thinking of taking my own water out, but this saved me the hassle. We exchanged a few words on La Sportiva shoes (which I knew I was now winning a new pair of !!). I handed him my empty cup, thanked him and moved on up the trail. This climb up is also long but gradual, and I was able to move up it quickly back to the Red Ridge Link. It turns left for a much steeper half mile climb back up to the Bryce Path on Whitehorse Ledge. Two years ago, I walked almost this entire half mile. I ran the whole thing last year and again this year. This stuff seems to get easier and easier for me (excluding Mt Washington, of course). Back on the Bryce Path, the trail is almost all downhill, with the exception of two very short climbs, back to the finish, so, once again, I busted it out. I always have here, no matter how tired I have felt. Funny enough, I didn't feel tired at all. I made it back to Echo Lake to finish 1st woman in 2:50:40. It was 8 minutes slower than last year, but I was actually really surprised to only be 8 minutes off. Not bad at all, and better than I expected.

I hung out for awhile after I changed clothes to talk to Gabe, Tristan, Andy, Ryan and Kristina. I learned that Amber had twisted her ankle somewhere along the way and that Ryan Kelly had gotten lost early on. He had found Amber and they were both walking out to Diana's Bath to get picked up. Now, I know why Amber never caught me. I haven't heard the outcome on the ankle, but, hopefully, it's only minor and won't hurt her training at all. This race is hard and can beat you up. This is the first time that I haven't fallen during it at some point. Scrapes, bruises and blood are the norm. I'm impressed she came out to try it, and who knows, maybe she would have caught me or at least finished pretty close if she hadn't gotten hurt.

I didn't stay long enough to watch everyone finish, but my friend, Kim, finished third woman after a very tough race. She ended up bonking hard around mile 10 and had to sit down for awhile. She said it was one of the hardest things she's ever done, and I believe it because I think I said the same thing after my first Beast of the East. It seems "easy" to me now, but it has taken years of training to get to this point.
Kismet Cliff Run Awards
I left Echo Lake very happy to be holding my La Sportiva shoe gift certificate. Haha. It was the highlight of my day. :) I met John and Jen at Hannaford, then we went right over to Starbucks. I needed a venti coffee yesterday. John got a frappacino. As soon as we pulled in the driveway, the fatigue really hit me. I even paid John to take all three dogs on a walk so I didn't have to. The rain really started coming down and never let up the rest of the day which gave me a good excuse to be lazy. John was happy finally getting to play his video games, so we both acted like slugs until bed time. I was spent. I could feel it more  than I had felt in awhile. I needed to slow it down this coming week. With Lone Gull and the VT50 coming up, it might time to cut some of the mileage back for the next two weeks. That's the plan, at least.

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