Somehow 2009 has managed to zoom to the halfway point in the calendar and I find myself firmly entrenched in my 41st year. The race that I’ve been training for since January is now finally staring me square in the face. The USA Mountain Running Championships and North American-Central American-Caribbean (NACAC) Mountain Running Championships are to take place tomorrow, June 28th at 9:00am at Mt. Cranmore in North Conway, NH. The best mountain runners in the Western Hemisphere will compete for top honors and national team status in this brutally relentless race.
Two years ago, while still living in Los Angeles, I flew back east to compete in this race for the first time. My training had been going very well in California and I thought I had a decent shot at the national team. Midway through the second lap of this three lap race I realized that I was in way over my head… WAY over my head! The grueling, steep uphills and the horrific downhills, took my quads on a one way trip to a land of pain and exhaustion that I had never before experienced. The final descent found me falling continuously as my legs would no longer support my weight. Beaten and bloody, I stumbled across the finish line in 29th place. I was humbled and defeated.
My goal of making the US Mountain Running Team has faded. The past eighteen months in Vermont have been very hard on me. It has been difficult to train and even more difficult to keep this project alive. Something, somewhere inside of me keeps it all moving somehow… albeit at a snail’s pace on many occasions. This past Winter and Spring would rate as the most difficult time I’ve experienced in my adult life… But a mountain in northern New Hampshire has been beckoning. The possibility of performing well and redeeming myself at Cranmore has kept me going.
The past six months have been a steady progression towards this race. Although my mileage has been the lowest that I’ve run since I began this project in 2006, the intensity has never been higher. Three times a week I’ve been pushing myself to the limit and beyond in hopes that I could do well in this race… Of course ‘doing well’ is a concept that has changed in recent years. I have never been more prepared for a mountain race and I’m hoping that this preparation will be enough to land me in the top 20 overall and top 5 masters. Considering what I have been through this past year, I would be very proud of either of those accomplishments.
Here is what one lap of the course looks like (we are doing two laps)