Sunday, July 31, 2016

Loon Mountain Race 2016

I can't think of a race that I've had more ups and downs year after year than Loon. The 2016 version would be my 6th Loon! All consecutive. It's hard to remember what it felt like in my naivete in 2011 when I decided last minute to drive over to Lincoln to run this race for the first time. I remember thinking it was awesome but also the hardest race I've ever run. Although, it's definitely not the hardest race I've ever run anymore, it still manages to kick me in the ass year after year. My 2015 race was awesome. I felt so good! I ran well! And just like everything that was 2015, it's gone by the wayside. I knew there would be no awesome today. There could only be just ok. I really wasn't feeling the race anyway since it's a National Championship year. I'll be honest that I don't really like it much when it's a championship year. There's just too much hype, and it's too crowded. Plus, we always have to run it separate from the men. And this year, we would be running it AFTER the men. One of the things I love about the Mountain Series is the small NE mountain crowd, and with the championship, it takes away from that for me. One more thing that I absolutely can't stand about the championship year... they take away the last part of the regular course. The steep-ass downhill that I can totally fly down passing anyone who runs with any hesitation. I love this section after Upper Walking Boss, so I was disappointed not to be doing it this year. These are just my personal feelings, and it doesn't mean that the National Champion years are bad; they just take away a little of the experience for me. Personal preference. That's all. Paul Kirsch and Chris Dunn put SO much into this race this year, and it was definitely a stellar event, no doubt, so I don't mean to put down any of their race. I appreciate their hard work, effort and time.

John and I got there a little after 7:15am. The men were starting at 8, so I wanted to watch that. Plus, I had taken up Steve Brightman's offer for John to hang out with his family during the race. I ended up meeting Jennifer, his wife, his kids and their friends on the way out of One Love the night before, so I was glad I knew who I was looking for in the crowd near the start. I found them standing right in front me after looking all around for 5 minutes. Haha. I found my teammates Jenn Brooks and Regina Loiacano (who wasn't even supposed to be there! Big surprise! And she ended up as the Master National Champion!) We snapped a quick photo since we didn't know if we'd get one after the race.
Central Mass Striders women. Regina, Jenn and me.
We watched the men's start, then John and I walked with Jennifer and her friends to my car to get John's backpack. Then I left John with them to head up the gondola. Now that I was on my own, it was time for a warm up. I didn't plan a long one, only about a mile. The weather was on the cooler side for once, but it still felt warm during the warm up. I was glad I had decided on my CMS sports bra for the race, even if it is white and, um, shows more than I'd like. :) The warm up wasn't bad. The calves weren't bothering me at all, but there was some definite heaviness to the legs that made me nervous. Oh well. Really nothing I could do about it at this point. I also felt empty, like I needed food, so I quickly stopped at the car for a chia pod, one of the only things I can eat, besides a gel, that close to race time.

Start time was almost there. I found Regina and Jenn to line up with them. We noticed the girls dressed in matching track outfits. I had read they were coming out for the race, so that wasn't a surprise. It was just odd seeing people dressed like that at a mountain race, since literally no one dresses like that. Haha. After the races they all ran, we might be seeing more track outfits! They all did really well.

It was finally time, so Chris Dunn sent us on our way. I've really learned this course and made it a point to stop going out too fast. With the new Nordic trail section, I know to hold back the first mile and then really push it through the nordic trail. I did just as planned for the first mile. I ignored everyone else's pace and just ran mine. My legs didn't feel that bad, but I was still nervous about later on in the race. As soon as I hit the trail section, I picked it up. I was able to pass a few women and stay ahead of some others. This isn't quite what I'd call "technical" trail running, but I could tell some of these women never run stuff even like this, so it kept in the game for sure. I was surprised that it felt much harder than last year, though, so I was a little discouraged to feel that on the climbing sections, but I pushed hard. I passed a good number of people, all of whom I would end up either in front of or behind at the base of Upper Walking Boss. There was a lot of back and forth from the trail on. I excelled on the downs, while the rest of them kicked my ass on the ups. I think I was with Sarah Keyes, Ginger Reiner and two women from the PA Rosemont team almost the entire race. As with every year, I ran, then I power hiked. Pretty much the exact same places as last year. I was surprised to find my legs holding up on the ups and started to feel optimistic about UWB. Even though some of them got a good lead on me on the long climb up to the top of the gondola, I was able to catch them or pass them on the last downhill before UWB. I knew I was running slower than last year, but I was pretty happy with me effort and pace...until I hit UWB.
Running well at this point. Photo by Dave Dunham
I smoked that downhill and was literally just seconds behind Ginger and another woman and ahead of Sarah and another woman at the base of UWB. And this is where I was done. My legs were absolutely done. One slow speed was it. I didn't even feel that tired. I was able to smile and laugh the whole time. I didn't feel bad. My legs just wouldn't move any faster. I got passed by Sarah and the other girl and then 2 more women. Ginger and the other woman would disappear above me on the climb. It was awful, but I'll be honest. I really didn't give a shit. They would all finish nearly a minute before me. In 2012, this would have sent me into tears, but, now, it is what it is. My finish time was pretty much what I expected in 1:10:36. Finished my typical place in a Championship year, too. 27th USATF female. Two years ago, I was 31st, so I'll take that as an improvement. Haha. It does hurt knowing I would have caught some of those women on the downhill after UWB if it was the regular course, but like I said, it is what it is. I couldn't be disappointed.

Sarah Keyes and I ran over to the gondola together, and then I went in search of John. He ended up running right by me to grab something from the concession stand. I followed him in expecting to ride down the gondola with me, but he rushed out saying he wanted to ride down with the Brightman's. Hahaha. He bolted to the line and jumped right in the with them. I was standing there kind of baffled and laughing and realized I needed to make sure it was ok with them. They were fine with it, so I was like, um, ok. My kid likes them better! It was really funny. So I realized that I could run down, which I prefer to do anyway. Todd Brown and Sarah Canney were headed down at the same time, so I joined them. They're both great people, so I really enjoyed their company. Todd ended up being my sherpa since I had my ridiculously heavy drop bag with me and was struggling with it. I wasn't intending to run down, or I would have picked a better backpack. Haha.
Running down Loon
When we were just about at the bottom, I got a message from Steve Brightman that John was at the river with them, so as soon as I got down to the bottom, I changed clothes, grabbed a bagel from the lodge, then headed down there. Steve immediately placed a beer in my hand. Awesome. We ended up staying down there for awhile. John was rockhopping for a long time on the river and even met some girls who thought he was impressive. He told me they clapped for him, so I said, "Impressing the ladies." His response, "You know it." Hahaha. Too funny.

Jennifer tagged me in this on FB. John photobombed their family pic! Haha!
I was able to get John up to the lodge in time for the awards and raffle. He had had such a great time up to this point, but oh no, when he opened his backpack and saw that his chocolate chip cookie was broken, the world ended. It was so silly that I couldn't help but laugh, but oh my god. The attitude. He proceeded to lie on the ground with his backpack over his face for awhile. That was fine with me because it kept him from complaining. EJ Hrynowski gave me a Nightshift beer that I had once we got home. I was super psyched to learn that Regina, Jenn and I led our CMS women's team to the Open National Championship!!! I was a very weak 3rd, but we still pulled it off. Regina, another teammate and I earned 2nd team in the Masters. Unfortunately, someone took our medals, so we never got them. I don't care much about medals, but that one is kind of cool to have, so I was a little bummed about that. They never surfaced.
Cookie breakage turned a great day into the worst day ever.

1st team!

I was really beat the rest of the day and just sat out on my deck. I was happy to see Loon in the rearview because my favorite mountain race was only a week away!! The Cranmore Hill Climb! I had my sights set on a win. And not a close win. I wanted to be FAR ahead. Just had to get through the week first and not do anything stupid.

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