We canvassed the Loon Mountain Race results, with the help of Paul Kirsch and Tom Hooper, to see what people really had to say about this iconic New England race. If it’s not on your list, it should be. From the grassy wall that is the Upper Walking Boss to the icy waters of the Pemi afterwards, it really is something that you need to experience to fully understand.
Trail race fields are typically smaller than that of your average road race, and although Loon is a bigger trail race it’s still smaller than your larger road race. But in that field you’ll get a strong mix of national/world class elites, competitive locals and people just looking for a new challenge.
We tossed the same questions out to a bunch of finishers, and here’s what we got back:
For the newbies: what brought you to Loon?
Katrina Parent (Six03): I actually went to the Loon race last year to support my team (SIX03) and somehow decided that even after seeing all of their misery that it would be a good idea. I really just started racing last year, and I’m always looking for ways to challenge myself. I did my first marathon in January so now I’m working more towards different types of races. This definitely fit the bill. Loon is no joke.
Jen Rapaport: The All Terrain Runner Series made me do it! I had already missed two races in the 7 race series due to two consecutive injuries (tibial hematoma and 3 broken ribs) so I could not afford to miss it or I would be out of contention in the series. [Note: This was Jen’s first mountain race!]
Marcy Schwam (acidoticRacing): I’ve wanted to do it for years and now with acidotic it was a priority.
Donna Drinkwater (Greater Lowell Road Runners): The ATR Series mainly however I have always been curious about mountain racing and wonder if it was something I could do. [Note: Donna was in the same boat as Jen, as she was also running her first mountain race.]
For the experienced LMR runners: How many times have you done it and why come back?
Melinda Corssino: This is my second year running Loon and I had to come back after experiencing it last year. There is no other race like it, at least that I have done. I have run many spartan races, tough mudders, trail races and half marathons. Loon by far is one of the most challenging races for that distance that I have run. I wanted to come back and improve my performance from last year.
Scott Alan (Six03): I love the LMR. It was the first mountain race I had ever participated in, and only my second trail race when I first ran it in 2013. I had only been running for three months at the time, and was eager to sign up when 2014 came around. It was a no brainer to sign up once registration opened for this year. I was really looking forward to the race. This is one of the only races that puts a novice local runner against some of the top trail runners and mountain runners in the country/world. Combine that with being a part of a group like SIX03 Endurance, and you have a recipe for a great summer day.
Freddi Pare (Team Gloucester): This is the 3rd year of the Mountain Goat series for me. When I joined Team Gloucester 3 years ago, their main focus is “The Mountain” meaning Mt. Washington. I wanted to join in on the “fun” so I had to guarantee a spot by doing the Mountain Goat Series. I got hooked. When it comes to the mountain races, I’m a middle-of-the-pack runner, probably because I only run about 15-20 miles a week. I race to train instead of train to race. I’m way more competitive in trail racing…the mountain races are enjoyable because it’s like a little family reunion at each race. I only see the other Mountain Goats from race to race but it’s like we’re all old friends commiserating about how ridiculously terrible and entertaining the last race was.
What did you like most about this year’s race?
Melinda: I like that both males and females were running the same distance. I also like the ending of the race much better. Last year we stopped at a summit and then had to hike down and then back up to the gondola’s. It was nice finishing at the actual ending point.
Katrina: I loved that the weather was accommodating ? I also like that Acidotic always has photographers to capture the pain.
Scott: I liked the fact that this race was an eye opener for me. I am not invincible, and sadly my third go at this race ended in a disappointing DNF. It just goes to show that you can’t sleep on LMR, there are always new tricks and turns to this race. Sometime’s your body just doesn’t want to cooperate.
Donna: I liked the people, the racers, the volunteers, the race directors, the spectators.
Brian Roderick (Winner’s Circle): Great weather and always a great day to be outside. They always put on a great event at Loon.
Jen: I am a flat-loving road runner so I really liked the first 4 miles ? The modest ups and jeep roads and some of the single track in the woods was really nice. If only it had ended at 4 miles!
Freddi: Honestly, seeing Scott Mason at each race cheering me on. No matter how terrible I feel, going up UWB, or getting lapped around the track, he always pulls a smile and a thumbs up out of me. And makes me look good in running pictures which is usually an impossible thing for any runner in any photo.
Toughest part of the race for you?
Melinda: The toughest part is trying to keep a jogging pace on the hills. For me this race is all about technique. I do not consider myself a long distance runner. My goals was to hold a pretty good pace on the flats and then do intervals on the hills. 10 seconds of jogging with small steps and then 10 seconds of hiking if needed. Those hills are no joke!
Katrina: The hills leading up to UWB. UWB was cake because I knew it was there and I knew it was the last big hurrah. I was not prepared for all the foreplay before that. The gravel hills killed me. That and the horseflies.
Jen: The downhills absolutely killed my quads. I hate downhills and purposely will not run a downhill race and was not expecting two downhills like that. The first one even had my quads in a pain zone and I had to stop twice to crunch down and stretch them. The second long and steep downhill I had to walk sideways as it hurt too much to even walk front ways. All of the great gains I made on the uphills were totally destroyed on the downhills. I would have loved it if it was all uphill.
Brian: I went into the race with a bad right ankle and then early on I twisted my good ankle. So I was having trouble with some of the downhill portions as I couldn’t flex my foot.
Donna: The hills, having done literally no hill work or prep this was tough for me.
Marcy: UWB was a surprise because I thought it was the first incline. [Note: Badass comment right there!]
Freddi: The downhill after UWB. Every step was pretty miserable. And although I’m not so competitive in these races, it was a little demoralizing seeing the top finishers at the Gondola when I still had a long way to go because of the set up of the race. (I knew they would be there). It was nice to have a lot of fans there though.
What were you thinking when you first started up UWB? How about near the end?
Melinda: I knew what I was in for from last year. I just don’t stop, just keep moving one step at a time and eventually you reach the end.
Scott: I know from previous years, my first thought is normally, “Why did I sign up for this?” and then I see Scott Mason and Joe Viger taking some epic photos of me, and everything is right with the world.
Jen: UWB was OK for me. I was hiking and not running using comedic form but it was mostly just a mental game of “keep going” and to power on as fast as possible. I had already seen the photos so I knew what to expect.
Brian: First thought…It doesn’t seem all that bad when you are skiing down it! At the top, there were a few people cheering and drinking adult beverages and I thought to myself “That looks like a lot more fun” haha
Katrina: I was expecting it to be awful so I was fine once I met it. I just took a few steps at a time, sometimes backwards and sometimes bear crawling. I actually stumbled backwards once and cursed at myself because I had to repeat those three steps. Once I approached the top, some of my team members were cheering me on and gave me the strength I needed to sprint to the peak. I came out smiling and I owe it to them.
Marcy: I tried not to look up because it kept on going. I wanted to try and run near the end, but the pitch was too tough.
Freddi: I knew what I was in for. I had to remind myself to turn around to check out the views a couple of times. It was a lot better than looking at the death march going up the hill.
Donna: Don’t laugh but when we started I was thinking maybe I should turn around and not do this. At the end though I was exhausted, but I was like I can do this. I felt confident at finishing my first mountain race, even if I was DLF.
What would you do if you lost a shoe in the mud mid-race (it’s happened before!)?
Melinda: I would stop and look for it, if I didn’t find it though I would finish the race without out. No quitting! [Note: Melinda’s husband Scott Spencer lost his shoe last year 3 miles into the race. It cost him about 10 minutes to find it, but find it he did. Scott ended up finishing in 1:58:21.]
Katrina: I would retrieve it. I’m not fast enough for barefoot shenanigans!
Jen: I would stop and put it back on. I am not a lunatic! [Note: We see what she did there.]
Scott: It has happened in some OCR races to me, I’d rather run with mud in my shoe than to run barefoot, so I normally pull it out… it’s the best method for everything. [Note: Well played.]
Brian: Had it happen at another race….lost my shoe 3 times in the first mile. You just have to stop and hope no one runs you over while trying to dig it out of the mud!
Donna: Just keep going, its just a shoe.
Freddi: Curse, pull it out, put it back on, curse some more. It’s happened during training runs in the mud so I’ve learned to tie my laces a different way to secure them.
NOTE: we ask because it’s happened. Kenny Rayner lost his shoe not even 2 miles into it in 2014 and somehow finished the race without it. Still don’t know how he was able to do that. That course gets VERY rocky!
How did you celebrate your hard fought triumph?
Melinda: A long nap when I got home!
Donna: Ice cream of course.
Scott: This year was more celebrating the triumph of my fellow SIX03 Members and rededicating myself to completing the race next year. But there was no shortage of Smuttynose, Twisted Tea, and other delicious adult beverages. Also, swimming in the river near the dirt parking lot where the race has started in previous years to really ice the legs.
Brian: A cold refreshing adult beverage!
Freddi: Nap, shower, and a ridiculous amount of food.
Katrina: With some cold Smuttynose brews under our tent in the parking lot, then more during a lake floatie party. SIX03 knows how to celebrate properly. And replenish hard spent carbs.
Jen: I left a pretty decent dirt ring in the shower at our hotel and cracked open some beverages when I got home. [Note: What, no shower beers?!]
And for those of you doing the All Terrain Runner Series…
What’s been your favorite event so far?
Donna: This is my favorite so far! I will come back and do this again.
Freddi: Most of these races have totally taken me out of my comfort zone. A mile on a track…no way. A 5K on the track…unheard of (although even though I got lapped twice in the slow heat at the Boston Twilight meet, I ran a PR and was only 16 seconds off of my college PR from 20 years ago). Everyone seemed so upset about their “slow times” but even though I was almost last, I had the best race of anyone. But my favorite…the snow shoe race…it was only my second time on running snow shoes. It also was pretty awesome to win a pair of Dion Snow shoes in a raffle which I will hopefully use at least a couple of times next year. I’ve never run a cross country race, and a 20K road race will be a challenge for me as well but I’m in it for the long haul.
Jen: I am really looking forward to the last two events…XC and road…my favorites. But so far, of the races I have run I would say the indoor mile. I never would have run a big track meet like that and it was scary and fun and required top effort. With all of the other ATR women there it was a lot less intimidating.
All images courtesy of SNAPacidotic. Check out their galleries and support your race photographers! Special shoutout to Tom Hooper (Six03). This was basically his idea. What a guy!