Monday, June 20, 2016

2016 Pack Monadnock

Race #3 for the USATF-NE Mountain Running Series was up. Pack Monadnock. Probably one of the hardest road races I've ever done (besides Mt Washington), since it's a 10 mile road race that gradually climbs the first 8 miles and then ends at the top of Pack Monadock with a total of over 2200 ft in elevation gain. I was only a week out from the Vermont City Marathon, and I was so, so beat, but I had to get this race in. I could only skip one race in the Series, and that was Wachusett. I knew there wouldn't be a strong field there, but I wasn't sure how I would compete with Jamie Woolsey on this type of course. Her uphill skills seemed to be stronger than mine at Sleepy Hollow, and her result at Wachusett was excellent. My legs were dead, but I thought that if I could run the first 8 miles strong, I'd have enough of a lead to pull off a win. I really wasn't sure, though. There was no way I could run the time I ran last year at Pack (1:17:39). I was two weeks off VCM last year and still felt fatigued then, so it kind of scared me knowing I was only one week off this time around. I predicted I would run a 1:20:something based on how I felt. I didn't know whether I could pull it off, though. We were really fortunate to have very cool temps and rain predicted for the race. I've run this race twice in the heat, and it sucked, so I was excited for a break from it. 

Pack is one of the most logistically difficult races with John, and I was fortunate to have his friend's mom offer to take him for the day. This was such a relief for me and John; he even told me not to hurry back! haha. I felt so fortunate to have help. I love the Mountain Series, but they are not friendly to a mom without help. Haha. So I've had to seek it out, and I am amazed how people have come through for me. I have more support from the running community than I have from the friends here. John's dad's parents have also continued to help out which I really appreciate, considering I'm no longer family, but they've always been kind to me. So as much as I like to be independent and pretend I can do it all alone, I really can't. 

I dropped John off super early and made drive over to Wilton, NH. It was beautiful and sunny when I left, but a look at the radar showed a huge wall of green moving East. Like I said, though, I was happy to run in it and even said so when I picked up my bib. The woman said she was glad somebody thought this weather was great, since so far I was the only one. Haha.
I drove up to the old Temple Ski Area to park, then bummed a ride back to the start with some people I didn't know. One of them, it would turn out, reads my blog. Hi, Steve! 

I chatted with some people, said hi to familiar faces and then went out for a warm up. I felt ok, but the legs were definitely a bit tired. I ran through the disc golf course in the woods, then down to the road and up almost to the top of the 1st climb of the course. I wanted to remind myself of what it was like just so I didn't go out all crazy. 2.5 miles. Easy pace. Got back to the school, handed off my drop bag and then made my way to the start. I saw a lot of young girls who looked decently fast, but I figured that Jamie would be my only real competition today. We lined up, the rain started and the race quickly got under way. Jamie always lines up right on the start line, so I can see her from the get-go. She started off at a wicked fast pace, and I followed suit. I didn't want her to be more than a few yards ahead by the time we crested the hill, so I quickly caught her. But as soon as I did, she started running faster. Having experience with this race, I knew that wasn't a smart move, so I immediately backed off and fell behind her. I wasn't getting sucked into that faster pace. We were already going too fast for what I wanted. That was confirmed when we hit the first mile at almost 30 seconds faster than last year. Whoa. I knew I couldn't hang at that pace, and I was hoping that Jamie would slow down or else I was waving the white flag right then. Fortunately, she did slow, by a lot, and I moved on past her. Unfortunately, though, I knew she would try to hang, so I made the decision to kill myself through the first 8 miles in order to get a good lead. Due to the windy nature of the course, I never could see that far behind me to know how close she was, so I had to keep pushing myself for as long as I could. It hurt. It hurt A LOT. I had permanent pain face on. Running in the rain and fog, the miles all just blended in together. I don't remember much of the race other than a foggy road and the pain. The course continued its steady climb up in elevation with rolling hills along the way. My legs were so not ready for this at all, but I had it in my mind that I HAD to keep the lead because I HAD to win. I put so much effort that I didn't even have into this race. I wasn't running it faster than last year, but I felt like I was running it 3x harder. And it worked. Looking at the split comparison on Strava with Jamie, I definitely pulled away fast right after the first mile and had about a 2-2.5 minute lead through mile 8. I was done by mile 7, though. I blew up. But I anticipated this. The wheels came off from mile 7 to the end. Jamie made up nearly 30 seconds on me in the last two miles, most of it on the climb up the mountain. I walked a lot of it this year. My legs were toast going up it. I even walked near the finish, but only because the rain cloud we were in obstructed the view of the tower and fence near the top. I didn't realize the finish was right there. I came through the finish in 1:20:48, over 3 minutes slower than 2015, but exactly what I expected, so I was happy with it! Plus, a win is a win, and it gave me 100 points for the Series. I needed that going into Ascutney and then Loon since I knew I probably wouldn't do well at either of those. Jamie came in only about 1.5 minutes behind me. After seeing her pace up the mountain, I knew beating her at Ascutney would be iffy. The win felt good, especially after my race directing disaster the day before. I needed that moral boost.

Due to the wind and rain, the race brought our drop bags up to the top this year. And thank goodness. I was soaking wet from the rain and getting cold fast. Plus, I was SO sore. My calves were immediately tight, and just walking was a struggle. Needless to say, I didn't run down. I walked very slowly, mostly with Erik Wight just talking about racing as you age and European snowshoe racing. The walk seemed to take forever, so I was happy I had some warm clothes. I got down to the bottom and ran into Michael Narcisi and Brandon Newbould. Michael needed a ride back to the start so I offered to give him. Ended up talking to Brandon for awhile; he'd had a tough race. I felt his pain since I had, too. Really tough day. 

When Michael was ready, we walked across the road. I grabbed MORE syrup for my award, changed clothes, then we left. I dropped Michael at his car then messaged John that I was headed back. He told me again not to hurry, so I did what he said and stopped at Milly's Tavern in Manchester for a beer and lunch. I only had one beer, since I didn't want to drive with more than that in my system. 

I got home, grabbed the dogs and was going to pick up John until his friend's mom texted me asking if he could stay a little longer. That worked great for me since I needed to walk the dogs, and it was pouring rain. I knew John would be complaining, so it was nice to take care of them before picking him up. I even found a new trail that brought me out to one I used to walk often. I made a quick stop at Starbucks to drop off the containers they gave me for my race and had a Kevin's car sighting.

I spent over an hour hanging out with John's friend's mom, Laura, and her mom, Donna, and sister, Sara. I've known Donna and Laura for awhile now since they are both runners and in the White Mountain Milers. John and I went home after. I was toast by then. I was happy with the race, but I started to wonder what sort of downward spiral I had started. Recovery would now be even harder, especially the Ascutney and Mt Washington the following two weeks. I had a feeling I had set myself up for some mediocre races with this Pack Monadnock move. I would just do my best to recover during the week and see how it all would play out.

Another song that I like that I've been listening to this week:

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