Monday, May 23, 2016

2016 Sleepy Hollow Mountain Race

It felt like just yesterday we were at Sleepy Hollow. So hard to believe it had been a year already! I had had an awesome race in 2015, so it was kind of hard knowing I wasn't going into this year's race in the same shape, but I was still looking forward to it. It's one of my favorite races of the year. I love the noon start time which means we don't have to go up there the night before, and it's not too early of a wake-up time. Makes for a late day, but I don't mind it. Unfortunately, none of that helped me. When my alarm went off at 6am, I felt like I had been drugged. I could barely open my eyes and I felt like immediately passing right back out. I was almost dizzy. I decided that I needed to stay in bed a little longer, so I pushed our leave time to a little later and dozed off for another 30 minutes. This did actually help a lot. I was able to get right up and start getting ready. I still felt really groggy and tired, but not so much that I couldn't get myself together and get John and me out of the door.

The weather was on the cool, rainy side for the drive up. I much prefer to have this type of weather than hot and humid any day. I wasn't feeling too tired for the drive, but when I stepped out of my car at the race, my whole body was stiff, and the legs felt tired. I shouldn't have been surprised. I pushed myself a little too much during the week, and now, I was feeling the repercussions of that. My own fault, but I actually thought I might be able to rally after taking Saturday easy. No such luck. Oops.

Anyway, as soon as I stepped out of my car, I was surrounded by so many familiar faces. It was so good to see everyone again! I love these people in the mountain running community. Felt like I was back home among friends. I said a lot of "hi's" and caught up with people just walking to and from my car to the bib pick up. It was so nice to be back here. Once I got back to my car, I got ready for a warm up, and John decided he wanted to come up the round house porch to hang out for the race. I left him at a table there, and started to warm up. I started uphill, and within 50 yards, I was unusually out of breath, and my legs hurt. Not good. Stopped to talk to Scott Mason for a few minutes about the Darth Vader section addition, then went on my way to run the first climb. There was a course change for this section, as well, and I wanted to know what it was. I had misunderstood the change from the description and realized that about 3/4 of the first climb was still the same. That was good since I knew the climb well. The new part was a left onto single track before making your way to the top. This was good insight so that I would know to attempt to get myself in a good place before the single track. I ran up to the top and then ran the opposite direction of the course until meeting back up with the downhill section on miles 3 & 4 and then back to John for 2 miles total. I ran all of this super slow, but not because I wanted to, but because I had to. I was already hurting. I was pretty convinced that the race was not going to go well. The fatigue in my legs was really noticeable, and I still felt a little tired. Oh well. I was still going to give 100% effort no matter what, even if it wasn't my best.

I got ready to race. Opted for my short-sleeve CMS shirt instead of the singlet due to the cool weather. I would end up dressed perfectly for the weather. I thought I would be the only CMS woman there, but it turned out two other women showed up giving us enough to score as a team. Awesome. Over 200 people lined up at the start. I lined up near the front, but a good 5 rows back. This race always attracts a fast group of men, so I typically line up near the front but not so much that I'll get in their way. Paul Kirsch and Kasie Enman gave the pre-race announcements and finally started us off! I'm always really nervous before this one at the start for some reason, so it was a relief to get going. Everyone started off fast, including me. I felt the burn in my legs immediately. As soon as we hit the woods, I decided to cut my speed back a bit. My heart rate was through the roof, and my legs felt like junk. This is typical for this start, but I just didn't feel right. I dropped back to 4th woman pretty quickly, as I was getting passed right off the bat. About 3/4 of the way up, I was passed by Emily Hannah, the eventual women's winner. I had no idea who she was, but I noticed she looked super young and was wearing some sort of college team singlet. She looked super strong and made her way into 1st very quickly. Once the trail hit the single track, people ahead started to really slow, so I was able to pass two more women and a few of the men getting myself into 3rd for women. Emily was already passed the Queen of the Mountain point by the time it even came into my view. I was gaining on the 2nd woman pretty quickly, but she still made it to the top ahead of me. I knew the downhill coming up was going to be my strength on getting a gain, so I just waited to see how the second woman's downhill, technical skills were. Emily was GONE, so I knew right then that she was also good on the downhill and that I would never catch her. The second woman was very tentative, so I decided to go ahead and blow past her. The trail was a bit muddy and technical, but I just flew down this section passing a lot of people. It's where I've made the most gain every year, so I know not to hold back here. It's a LONG downhill, but it's also a lot of fun. Changing gears at the bottom to head back uphill is the hardest part. And we were about to head into the new part of the course.

I had no idea what to expect except that the climb back up to the top (the same point as KOM and QOM) was a LONG one. The downhill had helped me out of my funk a bit. I was started to feel more like myself after we passed mile 2. Even though we were climbing, my legs weren't hurting as much. We finally passed a sign for Darth Vader and thus began a long set of switchbacks going up, up, up. I loved this part, though. The grade on the switchbacks is definitely less so the running was a bit easier, and it was cool to look up and down and see the other racers ahead and behind.
Scott Mason got a shot from the Darth Vader section. Trail here was very narrow.

Despite the easier grade, it was still a long climb, and once we were off the switchbacks, we hit a really short, but steep incline that I powehiked up. I actually passed two people, and it was only about 10 yards. Sometimes my powerhike is way faster than running. We crested the top, and then it was down, down, down on the familiar course from the years past. I know this section pretty well, and I was all of a sudden feeling awesome. I caught up with Maxim Lamoth, a usual from the mountain circuit. He was hurting, but he did not want me to pass him, so he kept surging ahead of me on the ups. I would just catch him on the downs. We would run like this the rest of the race, and it was kind of funny how adamant he was about not letting me pass him.

We came down to the finish area and proceeded onto the final climb of the race. The first section was slightly different as it was moved off of the single track and onto a double track, but the distance was comparable, and it wasn't long before we joined the single track/old course again for the climb up to the ledge. I love this section, and I remember how hard it was for me the first time I raced it in 2013. I think I walked a good portion of it then too. I haven't walked any of it since. I don't even consider it a difficult section now except just for the fact that it's so late in the race and the legs are fatigued. But knowing the course, I knew we had a LONG downhill coming up before the finish, and I always go ALL out here. The trail was muddy and a bit rough, reminiscent of 2014, so I had to watch the footing a bit. My ankle gave out on me once and sent me lurching forward just about to fall on my face when I was able to catch myself and stay upright. It was definitely a close one. By the time we reached the bottom of the hill right before the finish, I was right on Maxim's heels. He turned around with a look of panic that made me bust out laughing. I told him that he had it and to just go that I have no kick into the finish. He sprinted ahead of me so hard like his life depended on it. I couldn't help but laugh as I came through the finish. 2nd woman, 43rd overall in 54:27.
Unflattering finish line photo. Haha.
Due to the course change and the distance being .2 miles longer (6.1 miles on my watch, compared to 5.9 for previous years), the time is hard to compare to previous years. I do feel like I would have been faster if I were the shape I was in last year, but that just wasn't in the cards for me today. I was happy to find out that I had slightly closed the gap on Emily to under 2 minutes by the finish, and 3/4 of my race ended up being good for me, so I can't say I was disappointed at all. In fact, I was very happy with my race in the end. Full Results

I chatted with a few people at the finish and met the third place woman, Jamie Woolsey. I guess this really isn't her normal type of race, so it was pretty impressive that she did so well. I ran back down to the round house to see John and then quickly ran to the car to grab some clothes. There was a cold wind, and I was freezing. I brought Phoenix along for a short 1-mile cool down on a new-to-me trail that wound up a mountain. I had no idea where it went but just followed it until it seemed to top out and then ran back down. Phoenix was having a blast. No one else was on this trail so I let her off leash.

As soon as I got back down to the lot, I noticed a bunch of CMS guys with beer in the parking lot not far behind my car. When I learned they were drinking Foolproof Revery, I made my way over. Haha.

It was me, Todd Callahan, Matt Veiga, Erik Vandendries, and Bill Jackson (who provided the beers). Jeff Walker saw us over there and brought his own beer. Fun times drinking in the parking lot and catching up...until I almost missed the awards. I heard clapping and ran up the hill through the woods just making it into the pavilion a second before my name was called. Matt Veiga had just missed his, but he was right behind me. Jeff Walker also ran up, but fell down in the woods along the way. Haha.
I won $50 and another bottle of syrup. I still have nearly a full bottle left from my last year's winnings. I won't be buying syrup again anytime soon.
2015 award on the left. 2016 on the right.
 After the race, John and I joined Scott Mason at Prohibition Pig in Waterbury. There were a few other racers there we talked to while waiting for our table. This is a great little place. After a year, I was finally able to have Hill Farmstead again which is such good beer. It was around 4pm by the time the food came, so I was starving by this point.

Hill Farmstead Edward

Prohibition Pig's Vanilla Bean Porter

Dirty Burger. SO good.
I promised John a trip to the Ben & Jerry's Factory Store for ice cream after that. Last year, we had to wait in line for 45 minutes, but since it was cold and raining this year, we walked right up to the window. I was surprisingly not full and decided to get myself a Brrr-ito. I didn't eat another thing the rest of the day. Haha.

The ride home was a mix of sun and pouring rain. Even got a nice rainbow coming over Rt 2 near St Johnsbury, VT. I got to see a moose for the first time in 2 years in Crawford Notch; John missed it since he was asleep, and I only just saw it as we passed it by. Got home with plenty of time to get my things together for work the next day. I felt good and happy with the day. I had been so worried about the race when I woke not feeling good, but it all came together. Race 1 of the 2016 Mountain Running Series is in the books. I'm missing Wachussett as usual, but then I'll be back for the rest of the circuit (I hope).

Barely visible rainbow
John and Phoenix slept the whole way home.

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