Last weekend’s Cranmore Hill Climb was the next-to-last race in the USATF-NE Mountain Running Series, and the last mountain race of the summer. I was coming off of my highest mileage week of the year so I knew that it was going to be a tough race for me.
The race started at the bottom of the Cranmore Ski Resort and immediately started working its way up the lower ski slopes. The trails weren’t overly steep to begin with so I just focused on keeping my heart rate low as long as possible. There was some great not-too-steep doubletrack interspersed throughout the first 0.8 miles of the climb and I was able to make some passes on these sections. Before I knew it we hit the steepest part of the day: half a mile of trudging up some grassy ski slopes. I felt great as I hit the highest point of the first lap and then started the blast back down to the lodge.
The descent had some crazy steep drops that would have been much more fun on skis, and it worked its way through some technical slickrock as well. The constant switch from open ski trails to tight woods played some tricks on my eyes, so my biggest goal was to keep both my ankles intact.
Once I hit the bottom and started my way back up I felt energized. Now that I knew what was coming on the course I was able to decide where to run hard and where to conserve. Knowing that I could make good time on the flatter double track section, I decided to spend some extra energy on running the steep ski slopes. This worked until I hit the aid station about halfway up the climb and realized I was in the red zone and working way too hard. I struggled to run up the rest of the climb and crossed the peak the second time completely gassed.
The second descent was a true test of focus. The sweat blurred my eyes, my back was sore from the downhill pounding, and my quads felt like they were made of concrete. I managed to get through the last half mile while only rolling one of my ankles once and finished in 1:13:01.
The Cranmore Hill Climb had a great variety of terrain, which made for a challenging, but fun race. This race really drove home the point that I need to spend more time in the gym to improve as a mountain runner. Up next is the Bretton Woods Fell Race on October 4. That’s a long time to get some good training runs in the mountains.