The weather turned out better for the Stark Mountain Hill Climb than had been forecast. Temps were in the mid-40s, winds were light, and there was a bit of drizzle. The mountain was soaked from rains overnight, but otherwise, conditions were mostly pleasant.
I had talked by e-mail on Friday with a friend who has a much better PR in this race than I do. He suggested an alternate course up the mountain. There is no defined course; you simply start at the bottom of a ski lift and finish near the top of the lift.
My friend suggested a route that included more service roads and less open ski trails. Every ski area has service roads that are used during the off-season to get equipment up the mountain to do work on lifts, buildings, etc. So, I started out to the left of the ski lift this time, instead of going right like I normally do. I left a service road briefly and then hit it again. I noticed that while I was off the road, the short cut had put me in front of a local ultra-running buddy. Despite the success of that shortcut, I decided to stay on the service roads. I put my head down and focused on my effort and my altimeter. I wanted to be climbing as close to 50 vertical feet per minute as possible. That number is my "red-line" when I'm in good shape.
While I had my head down and I focused on moving, I managed to miss a turn my buddy had suggested. I suddenly noticed that I'd crossed under the chairlift and I was at the base of a gladed ski trail that I have used in the race in the past. But, I decided to skip that trail and stay on the road. However, a few minutes later, I realized that the service road was going way, way to the right. So, I opted to head up the left edge of a ski trail named Canyon. This was a tough stretch, but I eventually hit the service road again and headed left and up.
The ski-lift has a mid-station, where skiers who don't want to ski the entire 2000 vertical feet can exit and ski the lower (easier) part of the mountain. I noticed that the mid-station was actually about 1200 feet up the hill - more than half-way.
At this point, I allowed myself to start thinking about my finishing time. My minimal goal was sub-50. My primary goal was sub-48, and my "I had a really great day" goal was sub-45. At the mid-station, it looked like sub-50 was a done deal, and I'd probably get sub-48. But, could I get the whole way to sub 45? That would take a lot of effort on the last 800 vertical feet.
Luckily, I was now back on the route my friend had suggested, and that route was a service road. I stayed on that road until I had about 250 vertical feet remaining, and at that point, the recommendation had been to go straight up the steep Catamount Bowl. Catamount Bowl is one of my least favorite trails at the mountain when I'm skiing, and it was even less fun when I found myself hiking up steep, lichen-covered rocks. Twice, I had to stop briefly just to catch my breath.
By now, faster runners were coming past me on their way back down the mountain. That was a bit demoralizing, but I knew I couldn't compete with some of those skinny mountain goat types. As I finally reached the top of the bowl, I saw that I still had a chance to break 45 minutes. I pushed hard for the last little stretch and hit my stopwatch at 44:21.
I can't find my results from my prior attempts at this race, but I think I was in the 48 range both other times. So, I think this was a race PR. Because the weather wasn't too bad, I decided I'd hike and run down. I started hiking with a group of runners but they eventually pulled ahead. A bit later, my ultra buddy caught me and we jogged down and talked about skiing the whole way.
The route that I had chosen to the top was 1.75 miles according to my Forerunner and the vertical ascent is just over 2000 feet. So, my climbing pace had been about 2800 vertical feet per hour, which is very good for me. On the descent, we took a slightly longer route, so I did a total of four miles for the day in about 80 minutes.
Yesterday, my wife ran the Leaf Peeper's Half Marathon, so my kids and I turned into her support crew for the day. I was very happy yesterday that my hamstring wasn't complaining about anything and I wasn't sore. I was tired, but not sore.
My wife struggled a bit in her race - not enough total training miles, and ran 2:15, about 10 minutes slower than I'd thought she would run.
I'm off to the doc in a few minutes to talk about how my hamstring is doing. I'm wondering if I should mention to him that I did a race on Saturday.