It was just a couple of short weeks ago when Joe Gray came out east and won the Mt Washington Road Race. After a few runner up finishes Joe finally broke through and won a close one (relatively speaking) where both he and Eric Blake nearly went under an hour. Joe ran a 59:09 and Eric was at 60:01. Both are world class mountain runners and both ran very well. That is some helpful perspective to take under consideration when you see just what Joe did in earning the title at the US Mountain Running Championships at the Loon Mountain Race yesterday.
The course was roughly 6.7 mi of tough, technical terrain with an average grade of 12% and Joe covered it at an average clip of 6:34 per mile. Here are the top three results:
Patrick Smyth 46:39
Blake is still in great shape and ran very well. Smyth ran so well that just about any other day this piece would be about him and how he’s on another planet right now. But Joe Gray is in another universe with the way he obliterated the course and the field.
Joe was moving so fast still even hours after the race that it was hard for cameras to focus on him so we opted to do a Q&A via email instead:
You destroyed that course. Hurricane Gray. Okay, that’s not a question. Did you have any idea that you had that type of dominant performance queued up for today?
I definitely have felt good with training so no matter how I finished I knew 100 percent I was going to be competitive.
How much did your course preview after Mt Washington help you out mentally?
Honestly the course was harder than I thought previously so not sure how much it helped because I took some sections for granted. After the preview I guessed we would run 42 to 44 mins and obviously I was a little off
Were you out on your own right from the start?
Not really, Pat and I were up front together then he passed me pretty quick and opened it up
The course can basically be broken down into two parts: the nordic trail section early and the steep climbs later. What was your approach to each?
I wanted to run hard from bottom to top. I had to play it safe due to an earlier in the week ankle roll so taking risks during the Nordic section was not an option today
How does this compare to the mountain races out west?
I’m from the northwest, so this course had terrain very similar to what I have spent most of career training on. It was like coming home!
What did you think of the Upper Walking Boss? Did it live up to the hype?
It’s a beast. Nobody can say it was easy unless they ran pretty easy the entire race. If you pushed yourself then no doubt that climb exposed your true work ethic
Finally, a couple of hypotheticals that we can have fun with…
If you lost one shoe in the mud early on, what would you do?
Take both of ‘em off and go commando.
If you took a wrong turn before the finish and found yourself at the base of UWB again, what would you do?
Start walking or head to the gondola and call it a day, lol.
The hypotheticals were inspired by a couple of gutsy local runners. Kenny Rayner lost one shoe in some deep mud early on and still forged on through the tricky, rocky terrain. E-j Hrynowski found himself in the exact Upper Walking Boss predicament mentioned above and not only did he suck it up and do it, but he also kept the tradition alive and (purposely) did it again this year. Badass.