Saturday, June 28, 2014
Trapp Family Outdoor Center, Stowe, VT
Result: 4th overall, 2:07:36 (93.1%)
The Catamount Ultra is a new trail race to Northern Vermont, a place that, during the summer season, could afford to host more races.
I found out about Catamount Ultra 25K/50K 3 or 4 days prior to the event. Being held at the Trapp Family Outdoor Center (Yes, that Trapp Family) – in Stowe, VT (think delicious food and beer). Given my ties to Vermont and swelling interest in trail running – this was a great excuse to visit beautiful Vermont during a beautiful season.
I arrived in Stowe the night before for the pre-race meeting – right around sunset.
In an instant, the beauty of the Trapp Family Lodge hit. Having lived in Vermont for over five years – I had hiked, ran and enjoyed the Stowe area countless times. But this night in this location was something special. Evidence is below.
Coming off a new wave of hard hill training and form work, I was feeling great about my ability to dial up speed – and 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 – important aspects of race management – were lacking. They say you don’t know what you don’t know. And I didn’t know.
I did, however, do enough research to figure out there was a large climb roughly two miles into the race. Overall, the 25K is roughly 2500 feet (5000 for 50K) of elevation climb – making it fairly gnarly for elevation as far as New England trail runs go.
This course is a lot of “typical” New England trail, in general – rolling and technical.
There are breaks from forest that go through pastures as well, adding to the Vermont vibe. There is also a nice service road downhill after the big climbing section which makes a strong downhiller feel good about all that climbing.
The Catamount Ultra is your typical start/finish loop race – 25K is one loop, 50K is two. Overall, I feel the course was very well done – and the Trapp Family Outdoor Center is an excellent general choice for race location.
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 (more on that later). Prohibition Pig’s incredible Mac and Cheese was dinner. Perhaps not the right thing to eat the night before a race? I am not sure.
After the starting horn went off – the first couple miles I ran hard with the eventual winner, Patrick Hamel.
We averaged in the mid 6s before the initial climb.
Before the race, Patrick mentioned before the race 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 even though I was kind of peeved he was throwing me off – 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 descent. – 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.
Post-Race and Final Thoughts
My first entry into a longer distance trail race was educational – and a bit thrilling.
While I enjoyed running hard – there was a lot to be learned in the way of managing a longer, more technical race.
That being said, Stowe is beautiful – the inaugural Catamount Ultra was well-organized – and I had a great time.
Post-race, they handed out nifty pint glasses that you could fill up with beer. Very good beer, Trapp Family, brewed right at the accompanying lodge!
Summer in Stowe – life could be worse!