Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Mt Greylock Road Race

Last weekend was the second to last race in the 2015 USATF-NE Mountain Running Series. Since I'd already missed 2 out of the 8, I had to do the Mt Greylock Road Race. When it first appeared on the schedule, I was super excited since I had never done that one. I started to get less excited when I realized how far away it was. 4 hours one-way! And a race start time of 8:30am. So I knew right away that John and I would have to go down the night before or else I'd be leaving at 3am. I could have done that, but I really, really, really didn't want to.

Saturday morning, John and I both slept in and then I ran the dogs up Heavenly Hill for some exercise. It was hot out, but the humidity wasn't as bad as it has been (and would be again). I decided to push it on this run since it was all I was doing for the day. The week before, I had practically crawled up it in 10:10. This time I ran up it in my fastest time ever in 8:48. I had run it last November in 8:49 when it was cool and dry out, so I was super happy about that. I should be able to cut more time off of that when this atrocity called humidity goes away. Ha ha.

John and I left for North Adams, Ma around 1pm. We stopped at the Sandwich Spring along the way to fill up some jugs and ended up going a little bit out of the way that had us on the road for 4.5 hours instead of 4. We got to the Historic Valley Campground around 5:30pm. Michael Narcisi met us there since we decided to share a campsite for the night. Nice to split the cost since this place charged us $35 for a site that was only big enough for one small backpacking tent! Mike ended up sleeping in the back of his truck. Plus, we had to put down a $10 deposit for a key card so we could get back in the campground once we left. This was one of those private campgrounds which I rarely ever use since they're usually loud and overpriced, which this one was. It wasn't bad, though; we were just there for a night. Looked like a really fun place for families to spend a vacation. All of the kids around were having a blast.

John played on the playground for a little while and then the 3 of us hit town for dinner. We decided on Public Eat+Drink which had a huge wait time, so we walked around town. It's kind of a run down downtown with a ton of art galleries and a few nice restaurants. Really odd, but it looks like they are working on building it up.
Some of the interesting art we came across in downtown North Adams.
Our table was ready after about 45 minutes. It ended up being worth the wait because the food, beer, service and atmosphere were all great. John even liked chicken fingers for the first time ever since these were made well. Mike was super sweet and, unexpectedly, ended up buying our dinner.

By the time we had dinner and got back to the campsite it was after 10pm. John and I walked Phoenix, brushed our teeth and then attempted to go to bed. The campground was really loud, so it took us awhile to fall asleep.

I was up at 6am to take Phoenix out and get coffee going on my stove. I let John sleep until it was almost time to head over to the race. I packed up the tent and off we went. The start is at a reservoir near the start of the auto road up Mt Greylock. The weather was actually beautiful and cool due to the early start. I got my bib # then met up with George Boudreau who was kind enough in offering to accompany John while I raced by driving him up to the top of Greylock and then giving us a ride back down. Gene Fahey and Mike Narcisi were also going to ride down with George so once he had all of our drop bags, he, John and Phoenix drove on towards the top. I didn't have much time left for a warm up at this point, so Mike and I just ran a half mile up the auto rd and back for a mile total. Once back at the start line, I talked to a few of the regular mountain series people. It's always good to see them all. I think we had quadrupled the race's usual numbers due to it being part of the mountain series. The race directors didn't seem a bit fazed by the extra numbers, and I thought they did a wonderful job. Very clear directions from the start and a very smooth race through the finish. I liked how they kept it very low key, but very organized at the same time.

I wasn't nervous for this race, but I didn't know what to expect of it either. I knew that it started off steep and then became more gradual, and that's about it. So I figured, I would go out a little easy for the steep part. We lined up at the start line,and I noticed immediately that Throat-Clearing Guy was right next to me!!! Oh no!! The same guy I end up with for miles at Mt Washington and Ascutney  (and Cranmore this year) EVERY.SINGLE.TIME!! It took me 2.5 miles to FINALLY lose him today. I'd think I was finally free of him when he would catch back up. I think this happened 3 times before I lost him!! So distracting!!

Starting commands were given and we were off. The usual fast guys shot off ahead, as well as two very strong looking women. Both were from the November Project. I didn't know who they were, though. One in particular immediately pulled away, and I did nothing but continue to fall behind her the entire race with her smoking me by 3.5 minutes. I could tell right off the bat that she was a strong runner. The second woman was also very strong, but I was able to hold the same distance behind her for the first 2 miles. By mile 2.5, I knew I was going to catch her since I had all of a sudden caught up with her and could tell she was slowing. The gradient was also starting to ease up, so I was able to run faster. Once I passed her, I never saw her again. She would end up finishing 3rd woman and only about 2 minutes back from me. I ended up running the next 5.5 miles with Garrison Parker of aR and a guy I see at a lot of mountain races from the NMC. Garrison and I would end up losing the NMC guy around mile 5.5. I was starting to realize that this course was getting easier and easier, and then we got to a view point where I could see the summit of Greylock and the path we were taking to get there. It looked FLAT!!! And sure enough, it was nearly flat. So flat that I started hauling ass. That mile split was 7:17! Once we got closer to the summit, I expected a steep climb, but it never came. The last mile was steeper, but it wasn't anything difficult. Then all of a sudden, I turned the corner and saw Bascom Lodge! I didn't realize I was at the finish already. I was barely even out of breath when I came through the finish line.
Finish line photo by George Boudreau

Race finish line photo
I finished 2nd woman in a decent time of 1:07:42. 16th overall. I was happy with it, but had I realized how easy this course was going to be, I would have given a lot more effort in the first half of the race. I don't think I would have come close to the first woman, but I do think I could have shaved 1-2 minutes off of my time. A lot of us started discussing this after the race; same issue. Just not knowing the course. I'm actually hoping it's in the Series again next year. I would love to see how much I can improve now that I do know the course. All in all, though, it was a good race. I loved how fast it was. And what a great mountain to finish on. I hadn't been up there since my last AT thru-hike in 2003. We stayed in some shed/garage overnight there. During my AT 1998 thru-hike, I did a work-for-stay and got room and board in the lodge. I even got my picture in the Boston Herald from that day. Of course, I hadn't showered in like 5 days, and my hair looks all greasy. I had just slung my pack over my shoulder to move it inside Bascom Lodge when this guy from Cheshire stepped in front of me to chat and the photographer got this shot.
Boston Herald photo from August 1998
So, anyway, back to the present day. Ha ha. Once I finished, I found John and George. John was lying half into the bushes with Phoenix. Phoenix was super excited to see me so I took her and talked with George. There was no awards ceremony, but I heard one of the race directors call my name to get my award for 2nd woman. It was another "Buff", which wasn't a Buff! It's a Pandana. I'd never heard of it, but it's basically the same thing as Buff. I obviously love these things, as you can see from my many, many pictures of me wearing one. I think this makes #15. My mom HATES it when I wear them. Ha ha. But I don't wear it for looks. I know I look like a goofball. I also got a $20 gift certificate to Bascom Lodge that had to be used by the end of this season. Hmm.

After chatting with people, John, Mike Narcisi and I took a walk up to the top of Greylock. It was very hazy out there, but the weather was absolutely perfect on the summit.
John on Greylock

The usual. Pretending to shoot something.

Phoenix on the wall with that rope-type thing some people put on a dog's collar for an unknown reason to me. :)

John, Phoenix and me
We walked over to the lodge after that so I could buy something just for the sake of buying something to use up the $20 gift cert. Everything kept adding up to just over $20 with that damn sales tax we don't have in New Hampshire. :) I finally settled on a cheesy Mt Greylock coffee mug, an ice cream for John and an orange juice for Mike. Ha ha.

After that we found Gene Fahey and went down to George's truck to wait for George. He had been trying to find us, but we were all going in a circle. I really, really wanted to run down the AT with some of the guys who were doing it, but I couldn't take that time with John there and also make George wait with him at the bottom. So we just rode down. Once at the bottom, we bid George, Mike and Gene goodbye. I did a quick scan of the million Tweets that Level Renner had put out from the Seasons 20K Grand Prix race so see how that played out. A very teeny, tiny bit of me wished I had been able to run it, but I was VERY content to have been at Greylock instead. I was even happier after I heard how hot and hilly the race was. I'll take one long hill and cool weather over that any day. I'll be at Lone Gull in a few weeks anyway for the last GP race.

John and I made the LONG drive home. Our 2 big dogs were excited to see us (John's dad took care of them while we were gone). All 5 of us needed exercise, so John, the dogs and I walked up and down Heavenly Hill. It felt good to stretch the legs out, and I didn't even feel like I had raced that morning. That's another sign that I most definitely could have gone harder in that race. Oh well. Next time!!

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