Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Ascutney Mountain Race

I've been falling behind on my blog a little, so here I am 3 races and 2 full mid-weeks behind! Eek!! Hopefully, my memory won't fail me, although I do tend to black out races like Ascutney and Mt Washington as a coping mechanism. If I didn't, I would never keep running these two races. Haha. I skipped Ascutney last year because it would have been the 4th race in 7 days, AND I had no help with John. Although I really needed to run it for the Mountain Series this year, I secretly hoped finding help with John wouldn't work out again so I could put that in my ever-expanding excuse bag. But, nope. Not this year. Way too many awesome people coming through for me because that's what this running community is. Awesome. I mentioned my issue to Todd Brown at Pack that I had no way to get John to the top of the mountain and that I had purchased a summit pass to drive him up and then run back down. But after I did this, I realized that my car can't make it to the top of Ascutney. Oops. So Todd took this information in and came out with all sorts of ideas. By Friday, John was all set with a ride to the summit with Sau-Mei Leung's husband, John. I was so relieved, yet not. I had no excuse not to race it now! It's funny how Todd has helped me out over the years with little things. Charger for my watch, stopping me from going the wrong way at Bretton Woods, and now he's already set me up with their cabin and help with a ride up to the top for John for the Mt Greylock Race. So all of my logistics issues for the rest of the Mountain Series are solved. Phew. So anyway, now that John was all set, I had to get myself all set mentally for this weakness of mine, uphill-only racing on pavement. Ugh. And since I faked a recovery week prior to this, I knew I was going to race like shit. But at least I went into it with the right expectation! :) I figured I could run it in 40-something minutes since my fastest was a 42:29 or something. Don't ask me my seconds for my race times. I rarely ever remember them. And definitely don't ask me how many marathons I've run because I have no idea. I just know it's not that many. Now, ask me how many of each mountain race I've done, and I can tell you that without hesitation. This would be my 3rd Ascutney.

Ascutney is quite the haul from my house, so I had to get up at 4am to leave by 5am. I also had to wake up TWO 10 year olds instead of one, so I had to add on 5 extra minutes. They both actually got up easily for me, and we were out of the door earlier than expected. I dropped John's friend at his house, and then we made the long drive through middle of nowhere NH to Windsor, VT. Just past Meredith, I saw this sign. It made me laugh so hard that I made a u-turn at the next opportunity and went back to snap a photo. I know it's childish, but, come on, it's funny!

The drive took me through thick fog, bright sunshine and then rain as I approached Ascutney. I got all excited thinking it wouldn't be hot for once, but, no. As soon as I parked in the field, out popped the sun. I will say it wasn't as hot as the last two times I've run it, though. Got my bib number, then came back to the car to take John over to the auto road to meet Mei and John. We waited awhile, but then the car pulled up. John climbed in and off they went. Relief knowing John was all set and in good hands, so I was able to turn my focus on myself to prepare for the beat down. I had decided to wear my Nike Free shoes that I hadn't worn in 6 years. Most of my shoes have a low heel, so after finding the Nike Frees in the bottom of my shoe bin the night before, I decided to test them out. They have a decent heel on them which is nice in a steep mountain race. They would end up working out well, and I wore them for Mt Washington the following weekend, too. I didn't have a lot of time left for a warm up, but I got in a mile down the main road. Warming up really doesn't do me much good in a race like this anyway. I'm warmed up by 20 yards past the start line. I headed back to the start and talked with a lot people that I knew. I realized then that people have way too high of expectations for me sometimes. Haha. No, I will not win Ascutney. No, I will not do well. No, I am not ready. Haha.

The start came quickly, and off I went... slowly. Even though it had been 2 years since I last ran this race, I still remembered the course well. I have a really good memory when it comes to that sort of thing, so obviously, I didn't black out Ascutney well enough. I started out pretty conservatively and was probably 4th or 5th woman for at least the first half mile. Suzy West usually smokes me at this race and passed me quickly. Jamie Woolsey always starts right on the line and was out in front right off the bat, never to be caught. A few younger girls were pretty gung-ho and passed me, as well. I tried to keep a steady pace and not fall off and surprised myself when I passed Suzy and two of the other young girls. One girl hung on, though, and we would end up running side-by-side for about 2.5 miles. She was strong, and I had a tough time hanging with her. I thought for sure she was just holding back for the big push in the last mile. That's how strong she looked, and I was struggling to keep up with her, but then all of a sudden, she just fell back somewhere around mile 2.5. I was surprised. She had been running so well. I would find out after the race that she was just trying to hang on to me. That's a first in an uphill mountain race! Haha. This girl was strong and young, so if she keeps at it, she'll be blowing me away in no time. So even though, she fell back, she was still keeping me going those first few miles. I pulled away into second place for the women and stayed there through the finish. I thought for sure I looked like death, but Dave Dunham took a couple of shots, and I don't look too awful. I felt it, though. My legs were trash by the time I crossed the finish line. That fucking hurt. And my time prediction was pretty spot on, but only by a second! 40:59. A definite improvement over my last 2 Ascutney's, but still kind of weak. I am MUCH faster than I was then, but just not in this type of race. See everyone, I suck at some things!
Full Results
Almost finished. Felt like death but masked it well.

The summit in the background that I still have yet to go up.
I could see Jamie Woolsey the entire race, and up until the last .3 or .4, she stayed the exact same distance in front of me. I could not gain on her, and her final push was enough to give her the win by over a minute. I have to say watching her run that uphill was a combination of frustration and awe. She walked/hiked probably 80% of it! But it was so damn impressive how effortless she made it look. Just so smooth and quick. But super frustrating since I ran the entire thing. haha. But that's how it goes. Some people are really, really good at the power hike and are able to move faster than running and with less energy expenditure. She definitely has that strength and will be very hard to beat at Loon and Greylock. And even though Cranmore and Bretton Woods have a significant amount of downhill, if she gets a huge lead on me with the climbs, I may not be able to catch up on them. So our races will be close. I really don't expect to beat her at Loon. There just isn't enough downhill to make up for my uphill weakness, but I will hopefully be dropping Loon for the final score of the Series so that it won't matter.

The summit parking lot of Ascutney was really windy, and I got cold fast. I found John still hiding in Mei's car and made him come outside. I broke the news to him that he didn't have a ride down the mountain and that we would have to walk down. Haha. I put on some warm clothes and waited for the awards. And, of course, syrup! And not just any syrup, but a half gallon glass bottle of it that I was going to have to carry down from the summit. Now, I felt like John. I wanted a ride down, too! Haha. But no such luck. I put the syrup in my backpack, and we started walking the 3.7 miles down. It ended up not being that bad until the last 1.5 miles. We were both SO done. My neck and shoulders were in agony from carrying the syrup. I already have neck and shoulder issues from all of my long distance backpacking. Over 7500 miles of it! And this backpack was not designed to carry weight. I was hurting. John lied down in the road and started rolling down it. Like, literally. And he would have kept going if I hadn't stopped him. It was pretty funny. I knew we had really lost our shit when we both started belting out Hello by Adele. I tried to get it on video, but John wouldn't sing for the video. It's only me singing, so I'll spare everyone the shrieking. Haha. We finally made it to the bottom, and back to the car. I couldn't get that backpack off fast enough. My neck hurt so badly, even to the slightest touch. I pulled out the syrup, set it on the roof of the car and snapped a photo. And with that statement, you can probably guess what happened next. Yes, I forgot the syrup on was on the roof. I started driving out of the field and made it almost to the end when I heard a THUD. I knew immediately what it was. The syrup!!! I tried to stop slowly, but it was to no avail. The next thing I saw was the half gallon glass bottle flying in the air over my hood and landing just out of view in front of my car. OMG!!! I thought for sure I was going to walk up onto shattered glass and syrup everywhere, so I couldn't believe it when I saw the bottle completely intact lying on the ground. I busted out laughing! I couldn't believe it didn't break. Wow. And if I had broken that after carrying it down the mountain, I would have been pissed. All of that pain that lasted for 3 days would have been for nothing. But, nope, the syrup is sitting on the shelf in the kitchen with all of the rest of them. Haha.

He ran the first 1/4 mile and then wised up. Haha

I took this mid-roll.

Shortly before attempting to meet its demise
If you thought we went right home after the race, then you don't read my blog enough because it was straight to the Harpoon Brewery from there! I love their Vermont brewery. It was the same place I went to night before my ill-fated Vermont 50 attempt last year. (You can read that here.) That was the best part of the whole weekend. So I definitely wanted to go back, and I was starving. I couldn't really eat right after the race, and the walk down took over an hour and a half. I was ready to order before we even sat down. They had two really good pilot beers I had to try. Smokey Chipotle Amber Ale and the Vanilla Coffee UFO. I don't typically like amber ales, but it was really good. I wasn't surprised to see Jeff Walker there with Ricardo Chalmers for some post-race brews. I talked to them for awhile then waited FOREVER to order our drinks and food. This ended up being the worst service I've ever had which is funny because the last time I was here, I had some of the best service I've ever had. It was just this one girl, and I'm hoping she was just new. I still left her an ok tip that she didn't deserve, but I'm a softie when it comes to waiting tables. I know it's hard at times. But it's so weird that this is the second time I've had really horrible service in two months when I'm such an easy patron. Ugh. Oh well. I still love this place and will definitely be back any time I'm in the area.

Smokey Chipotle Amber Ale

Vanilla Coffee UFO
I thought I drove through the middle of nowhere on the way there, but I really drove through the middle of nowhere on the way home. I wanted to avoid Bike Week traffic in the Meredith area, so we went way north. I hardly had a cell signal the whole way home. Haha. John slept almost the entire drive since that walk wore him out. When we got home, I took the dogs on a walk up Heavenly Hill. I needed to move around after sitting in the car for so long. And that was pretty much it for the night.

Heavenly Hill view

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