Saturday, June 28, 2014
Result: 4th overall, 2:07:36 (93.1%)
A week before the Loon Mountain Race, I saw a Facebook post about the Catamount Ultra. It was the inaugural race, held in Stowe, VT at the Trapp Family Outdoor Center.
Given my ties to Vermont – and growing interest in trail running – I registered. After several days on the wait list and an email to the RD – I received entry to the race.
I arrived in Stowe the night before for the pre-race meeting – right around sunset. I was hit immediately with the beauty of the Trapp Family Lodge. Having lived in Vermont for six years, I had hiked, ran and enjoyed the Stowe area countless times – but it was my first time back in a couple years. Enough time away to make you realize how beautiful it really is.
Coming off a new wave of hard hill training and form work, I was feeling great about my ability to dial up speed - very confident of my ability for this race.
While I was correct in understanding that this would give me the base of speed needed to win this race, there were things I ended up doing very wrong. Pacing, nutrition, managing climbs – all of those were missing.
I did do enough research to figure out there was a large climb roughly two miles into the race. This is more research than I had done in my only previous trail race – a 5K in Bolton, VT back in 2012. In that 2012 race, I literally burned myself out before the race “warming up”, and in the first 1.5 miles. There was a huge climb at the end that 5K – and that was it for me. I vaguely recall stopping (not even power hiking) for some moments. I dropped maybe ten spots by finish simply by doing a string of things wrong.
For the start of the Catamount Ultra I was a combination of relaxed and excited. I had stayed in a Waterbury hotel the night before – this comes a couple months prior to sleeping in my truck before races (much more on that later). Prohibition Pig’s incredible Mac and Cheese was dinner.
After the starting horn went off – the first couple miles I ran hard with the eventual winner, Patrick Hamel. We averaged in the low 6s before the initial climb. Before the race, Patrick mentioned that I looked like I was going really light. I had a gel and one small water bottle with Tailwind. It was a hot day. He was right – but more on that later.
The big climb was drawn out – over the course of 2-3 miles. At this point in my very short running career, I had approached everything the same – and attacked and attacked. Instead of managing the climbs, and perhaps power-hiking, I red-lined a few times. I came within a few feet of the leader but stopped completely at one point. Not much race management right there.I recovered and felt quite good on the decent – and by mile 7-8 I was still not too far behind the leader – perhaps 30 seconds.
The course went from forest trails to pastures – which brought with it more heat. As I mentioned earlier I had very light – and was running out fuel. My lone gel was eaten before mile 10.
The biggest mistake of all occurred at the final aid station. I still felt rather “good”, and as soon as the volunteers mentioned the leader was about a minute ahead, I felt I could catch him. So, instead of grabbing food and refilling my water bottle – I took off within 30 seconds, half-drinking a small cup of water and chia seeds. Oops.
Mile 12 and 13 were hard – but the final full mile I was kaput. Every small climb felt like an impasse. I stopped completely for about a minute – even though I knew I was close to the finish.
I was passed by two runners with only a few hundred meters to go. That was tough. But there was nothing I could do about it – I was spent. But I did recover enough to get over a small hill and run out the decent towards the finish – even making back a bit to close in on the 3rd place finisher. 4th place.
My feelings after the race were an odd mixture of success and failure. Overall, the result was quite good – and I was grateful to be taking with me important lessons as well. With better nutrition, hydration, and race management I could have comfortably taken 2nd – if not, competed longer for the win.
After the Catamount Ultra, I was a bit worn out – more so mentally. I ended up passing on the Loon Mountain Race. What I did learn is I liked trail racing, and had some knack for it. I decided I would re-focus my effort – and run my first trail ultra.