Tag: USATF New England Mountain Running Circuit

Unsponsored McLaughlin Earns National Title

Allie McLaughlin, a 23 yr old resident of Colorado Springs, earned herself a US Mountain Running National Championship with a win at the Loon Mountain Race on Sunday. Allie will also represent the US as part of the national mountain running team. McLaughlin ran the 4.5ish mile course in 47:12, good for a 9:51 clip on the challenging terrain. Morgan Arritola was more than a minute back in second place (48:15).

McLaughlin Loon Mt Viger 7.6.14

Allie breaking the tape against a tremendous backdrop, courtesy of Joe Viger Photography.

It may come as a bit of a surprise to some that it was McLaughlin breaking the tape considering how stacked this field was. Besides Arritola, the race featured former world champion Kasie Enman, recent Mt Washington winner Shannon Payne and former Olympian/US mountain running team member Magda Lewy-Boulet. Stacked. But it was McLaughlin who came out on top, and here we have an interview with the new champion:

Was this your first US Mt Championships race?

Yes it was!

How long have you been running the mountains for?

Well I mean living in Colorado a lot of my trails are a little hilly, but I first did the incline at the base of Pikes Peak with my best friends freshman year in high school. Needless to say, I kind of fell in love!

Did training at elevation out west make this lower evelation seem easy, or did this race have its own special challenges?

I’m not really sure how much the elevation played a factor. I’ve never really felt any kind of race being easier at lower elevation, my time is just faster sometimes. So maybe I did get up quicker being at a lower elevation than if I was running it at home!

What was your game plan going in?

It’s been a long time since I’ve raced consistently (fall of ’09) and so I’ve kind of had a chance to start over and not overthink it too much. That said, my plan was just to pretend I was going out for a run up Keystone at home! Obviously as the race went on I probably made adjustments or reacted to situations differently than if it was just a training run but I like how it went!

What position were you in when hit the Upper Walking Boss (the last, long climb)?

I was in the lead heading up the last climb and I wasn’t 100 percent sure how to handle it cause everyone in the race is obviously a strong climber and I didn’t want to get passed!

What did you think of Upper Walking Boss?

It was pretty legit, but I made it up without getting passed so that made it seem easier when it was over! It was pretty long, but the 500m to go sign was super encouraging. I just treated it like it was the last incline and definitely took the first half slower.

How did you celebrate making the team?

I didn’t do a ton since I had to head straight to the airport after the race, but it was fun to see all the pics pop up on social media in the car! My parents were in town Monday which was special and I’m planning to get out on my wakeboard soon now that the water is warming up here!

Who are you sponsored by and what team do you compete/train with?

I do not have a sponsor and I do not train with a team. As of right now I have found I do best staying healthy on my own. I do though often run with Zach Miller (4th at Loon) and that’s been really great. He is super enthusiastic about racing and has helped push me back into the scene and for that I am grateful!!

Where can we expect to see you racing next?

Italy.. wearing the Red, White, and Blue!!

Congrats to Allie and good luck to her in Italy. Now will someone step up and sponsor this stud runner?

Upper Walking Boss Succumbs to Joe Gray

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:

Gray 45:52
Patrick Smyth 46:39
Blake 52:37

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.

Gray Loon 7.6.14 Viger

Joe leans into the final climb (Upper Walking Boss, a 40% grade) with less than a half mile to go. Courtesy of Joe Viger Photography.

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

What’s next?

Euro season!

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.

Doneski Not Taking It Lightly

Christin Doneski ran really well at Ascutney, although she wasn’t even aware of how well she did. In checking in to how her performance stacked up, we got this back from Dave Dunham: “Christin Doneski (WRT) ran 35:10 to take the women’s title running the third fastest time ever. Her time also smashed Suzy West’s previous course record for masters by 1:42. West ran 36:52 in 2003.” The questions we sent out were typical:

What was the race plan?
Were you able to execute?
How did you feel?
Less than two weeks until Mt Washington now. Are you feeling ready?
How do you rank this race in comparison to the rest in the series?

The response that I had no choice but to roll with (in a good way):

Ascutney SNAPacidotic Doneski II

Doneski ran historically well at Ascutney on the way to a win. Pic courtesy of SNAPacidotic.

I ran Ascutney for the first time last year. I went into the race really sore last year from having run Bretton Woods the week before. A smart person would have decided not to make the same mistake twice….but not me. I ran a 5k with my son on Saturday, the day before Ascutney. My son’s goal for this year is to beat me in the 5k and I feel obligated to give him opportunities. I do NOT feel the obligation to make it easy. I was lucky enough to have a good race Saturday and stay ahead of Simon (this time) and win the race for women. It was a fairly flat race so I felt confident I had left my hill climbing muscles in good shape for Sunday.

I expected all the powerhouse runners (Hardcastle and Nadeau for example) to be there and promised myself to run as hard as I could for as long as I could. That’s exactly what I did. Ascutney is tough, but it’s short and before you hit your breaking point you always get a rest or a break in the climbing.

I had NO IDEA where I was amongst women runners throughout the 3.7 miles. People cheered but nobody said “first woman” and I just assumed the fast YOUNG women were ahead of me. When I crossed the finish line there was no fanfare and nobody said “first woman” so I finished still unaware that I had won the race. In fact I asked someone at the top who had won and they said “didn’t you win?”. I had 5 fourteen year old boys arriving at my house at 1pm so I needed to head back down the mountain before results were available. I was not certain I had won until much later.

I couldn’t find results for over 24 hours so I sent a message to Dave Dunham. I figured if anyone would know where to find the results he would. Thank God for Dave. He sent me a link to the results and told me I  had broken the masters CR too. I can’t begin to tell you how happy I was. I’m 43, I do not take a single win lightly.

All the more impressive considering that she won two races last weekend. It can be easy to start taking them lightly when you rack them up like that. There was one question that she did answer directly:

As for Mount Washington….I NEVER feel ready. NEVER.

I’m pretty sure the results will show something different. Just over a week away until Mt Washington!

Blake Sounds Ready to Top His ’13 Rockpile Race

Ascutney SNAPacidotic Blake

Blake dominated at Ascutney, running the race solo. Courtesy of SNAPacidotic.

Eric Blake decimated the field in his record-breaking win at the Ascutney Mountain Race. It’s a 3.7 mi race, all uphill, and Eric ran a blazing 27:57. Runner up Drew Best said it, well, best, when he said “To even the best New England mountain runners, Eric is basically untouchable in an all-uphill race. It’s understood. Instead, the battle for second played out.” I think I just found the title for the Ascutney recap article. Anyway, here’s an interview we did with Eric afterward:

What was your old course record? When was it from?

28:16 from 2010

Is this your last tune up before the Rockpile?

Yes. Really my one and only race during this build up.

How do you think your conditioning compares to this point last year?

I feel stronger and fitter than last year. Looking forward to Mount Washington.

Blake bike Hypoxico Altitude generatorHave you been doing the same things (oxygen tent, etc) as you did in your prep for last summer’s races?

Yes I have a Hypoxico Altitude generator. It works great! I have one mask for sleeping and one for exercise. Normally I have it set to simulate 13,000 Feet. I usually spin on an exercise bike a total of 2 hours a week broken up into 3 to 4 days. I usually jump on the bike after a run. An example would be a 75 min run followed by a 30 min bike. When I get closer to Pikes Peak in August I will bike for much longer.

Is it a big challenge to push yourself when you’re all alone going up a steep slope?

In mountain races it doesn’t seem as important for me to have someone competing directly alongside. In a normal flat race or on the track races I usually need someone dragging me to even come close to a PB. But mountain races I don’t seem to need that. Having said that I think I could run faster at Ascutney if I needed too.

Was it your goal to break the record?

My number one goal was to come off the race feeling good. I wanted to go hard because a lot of my treadmill incline runs are a progression. Racing is not always like that so I took the race out relativity hard. Once I got past the second mile I just held the effort knowing I would break the record but also knowing I have more down the road.

Record Setting Day at Pack Monadnock

The Pack Monadnock 10 Miler, the second entry in the 2014 USATF-NE Mountain Circuit, represents a stark contrast to the first race. Sleepy Hollow was all trails and mud, and even the roads leading up to the course were essentially muddy trails. For Pack, it was all on roads and most of it was even asphalt. Make no mistake about it though, it was still a mountain race.

Pack Monadnock Elevation

Courtesy of Garmin, and EJN’s pain & suffering.

Eric Macknight led the charge from the starting command and held onto the lead until about 8 miles in, where Brandon Newbould took control. But even then, it wasn’t in the bag. Brandon coaches some high school runners, and leading up to the race he had been joking around with them, telling them about how much of a beast this particular race is. Brandon explained:

I was telling them about the last time I did this and just how painful the end of that race is, and that I remember going up that (the last climb) thinking, I had the race won, all I had to do was keep moving, and I remember thinking ‘second isn’t that bad.’ A moment of weakness, but today was the same thing,” said Brandon, laughing. That sums up the last climb quite nicely. As Kevin Tilton explained afterwards, the last mile of Pack Monadnock is steeper than what you get at the Mt Washington Road Race. For his part, Kevin did quite well. In fact it was on that last climb, near the grueling end of it, that Kevin reeled in Macknight.

To push yourself to get after anybody going up that wall takes some resolve. Brandon reiterated: “Really all I had to do was hang on but I remember thinking ‘jeez it won’t be that bad if Kevin catches me or if one of those guys gets me. I tried hard,” said with a smile on his face, of course. “To be honest, everybody wrestles with some doubts and stuff, you know and I was able to fight them down but it was an argument. It was just very painful…a very painful finish.” Brandon ended up with a 64:08, with Tilton and Macknight following up in 65:40 and 65:53, respectively.

While not exactly pedestrian, it was a little slower for the lead guys. The same can’t be said for the other leaders. Kath Hardcastle made a serious run at the women’s overall record, her 74:11 falling just short of Gina Lucrezi’s 73:25. Not too bad for a woman with a little bit of Boston left in her legs. Instead she had to settle for the sub-masters record, which was a 76:25 (by Tara Cardi). If you’re not familiar with Kath, it may be because she moved to Montana a couple of years ago but is back in Boston now and taking full advantage of the opportunity to compete in the mountains again.

“I had a vague memory of the course but apparently I had forgotten just how hard it was! No shortage of hills the entire way.  I’m still testing the proverbial waters being 3 weeks out from the Boston marathon so my goal with the mountain races is to have fun and love running,” said Kath. Since she didn’t know exactly what was in the marathon-weary legs, Kath pushed it out harder trying to get a bit of a cushion on the women’s field. Would there be enough left in the tank for the climb to get her through to the end though? The strategy paid off this time, with her nearest competition being three and a half minutes back. That runner was Christen Doneski.

snapAcidotic Pack Monadnock Doneski

Christen climbing the last wall, courtesy of SNAPacidotic.

Christen ended up second overall, and although the masters runner extraordinaire didn’t get the outright win (as she did so many times last year), she still had an outstanding race. Her final time of 1:17:39 eclipsed Kathy Maddock’s old record by three seconds. Record setting masters win? Yeah, that should take the sting out of finishing second.

“My goals for Pack were to be first masters and to beat the standing masters record. I figured if I could maintain 7 minute miles on the road that would make my goal of sub 1:17:42 attainable. So that is what I did; my first mile was just over 7 and my second was under 7. I am not a numbers person, but when I hit Miller State Park (editor’s note: just over a mile to go) I knew it was going to be close and that I needed to run smart. When I hit 1/4 mile to go I was at 1:15. As I came over that last wall and saw the clock I had to kick it in and crossed the line at 1:17:39…goal met by 3 seconds. I was happy.”

That was a plan well executed. Christen is also coming off of Boston, and she recognized the tall order that it would be to try to keep up with Hardcastle. Instead, she came up with a plan, ran her own race, and set a record in the process. For the men, the top masters runner once again was Todd Callaghan. Todd ran a 67:49 and finished 7th overall. Not only did Todd have to hold pace to keep any other masters off of him, but if he slipped too much he might’ve been taken down a senior.

Senior Dave Dunham ran a 70:02 and missed Martin Tighe’s senior record by a scant 14 seconds. That is so heartbreakingly close. He must’ve ran about 9.9 miles before realizing he was just going to miss it. Not too bad for a guy who’s had to fight through an ankle injury and a bout of walking pneumonia recently. Dave ended up placing 11th overall, showing that he’s still a force to be reckoned with in the mountains.

Where Dave fell short, Cathy Pearce nailed it. The Whirlaway senior runner ran an 88:37, breaking Lisa Doucett’s course record of 89:04. With the way these ladies are racing, it’s shaping up to be a very exciting year. How many other records will fall?

Next up in the series is Wachusett Mountain on May 24th.

For more, check out pics by SNAPacidotic, and our interviews with:

Men’s champion Brandon Newbould
Women’s champion Kath Hardcastle
Top renners Dave Dunham and Kevin Tilton

Hardcastle Storms the Mountain

We couldn’t get Somerville Road Runner Kath Hardcastle on camera after her dominating win at the Pack Monadnock 10 Miler, but we finally caught up with her via the interweb. Kath ran a 64:11 and came pretty damn close to Gina Lucrezi’s course record of 73:25. Considering that minutes can be gained or lost on that last climb, Kath was very close to the mark. Here’s our interview with the early season favorite to take the USATF-NE Mountain Series overall championship.

So are you a newcomer to the mountains? I didn’t see your name in the series standings from last year. If you are new, what brought you out?

Noop, not a newcomer. I ran this series in 2011 I think. I moved to Montana in 2012 and then back to New England (Boston) earlier this year. I have been eagerly anticipating the beginning of the mountain circuit. I thoroughly enjoy all of the courses and the people they attract. It’s a superb group; welcoming, encouraging and every so slightly potty.

Pack Monadnock is a notoriously difficult course. Were you familiar with it? What was the plan?

I had a vague memory of the course but apparently I had forgotten just how hard it was! No shortage of hills the entire way. I’m still testing the proverbial waters being 3 weeks out from the Boston marathon so my goal with the mountain races is to have fun and love running. As we all know the first few months of the year were not terribly forgiving, like many people I found marathon training more mentally demanding than ever. I may have fallen out of love with running a few times. The mountain races are correcting this sad state of affairs.

I suppose my plan was to start conservatively and ease into a rhythm, that sort of happened until about mile 7 when I wanted to stop for ice cream and dip in the river.

What did you hit your first mile in?

SNAPacidotic Pack Monadnock Hardcastle

Kath takes on the last bit of the climb at Pack Monadnock, courtesy of SNAPacidotic.

I don’t know, I didn’t look at my watch until the final climb and that was just to count down the mile tenths. I did download the file but I only looked at my last mile time… it wasn’t pretty.

You had quite a gap on the rest of the women. Was that intentional, or were you just focusing on your own race?

You never know who’s going to rock up at these races and a couple of the seasoned girls will sometimes come out of nowhere. These races are for tough women who never give up. So yes I suppose I did intend to get some time cushion in the first 7 or 8 miles since I know my speed is pretty good and wasn’t sure how much strength I had for the big climb. But at the same time I did want to enjoy the run and listen to my body because I know that a hard marathon can take a few weeks to express itself.

Were you making an effort to conserve for that last, hard climb?

I thought I was until mile 7 or 8 ish when I didn’t want to run anymore! Gosh those hills were relentless. Bizarrely the sip of water at the last station before we turned on to the main road revived me a little and although it was a long drag, I started to feel a bit more in control and I was conscious of preparing for the climb. Earlier on, yes, I tried to keep a comfortable just-trying-a-little-bit rhythm.

Are you doing any special climbing training?

Well… it depends which way you look at it. For the last two races, a group of fellow SRR racers and I have hiked up to a nearby shelter and camped out the night before, hiking down in the morning to get to the race. You could call this poor preparation or warming up!

What did you hit the last mile in?

Oh gosh. Eleven something…. I was a bit naughty and had seen there were no women close and so I was really just surviving. It was so hard!

Full recap to follow shortly…

Dunham’s Near Miss at Pack Monadnock

Dave Dunham nearly broke the seniors record at the Pack Monadnock 10 Miler on Sunday. The legendary mountain goat ran a 70:02 and was only about 15 seconds or so off Martin Tighe’s mark, and that’s even with him dealing with an ankle injury and a bout of walking pneumonia recently. Kevin Tilton, still with more than a few good years in him before he hits the senior circuit, battled Brandon Newbould and Eric Macknight and came away with a silver medal finish (65:40).

Newbould Wins Pack Monadnock With Late Break

Brandon Newbould caught early leader Eric Macknight just after 8 miles, and right before the fun of the epic last climb started. Brandon built up an insurmountable lead, winning with his 64:08. If you’re familiar at all with this course, then you’ll know just how impressive it is to go from trailing 8 miles into the race to building up a 1:32 lead over the last two miles.

Feature image courtesy of SNAPacidotic & Gianina Lindsey.

Sleepy Hollow Kicks Off Mountain, ATR Series

Mason Sleepy Hollow Enman

Kasie Enman orchestrated a heck of a race, including her own outstanding win. Courtesy of Scott Mason Photo.

The first one is in the books, and boy was it a doozy. The Sleepy Hollow Mountain Race served a couple of different purposes this year and it had more than enough mud to go around for each of them. Traditionally this race has been on the USATF-NE mountain circuit and is once again for 2014. This race is a bit of a hybrid in that it’s also a trail race, and in that role it served as the USATF-NE trail championship race and was also the trail segment of the new All Terrain Runner series. That’s a lot to process right there.

With all that in mind, there was more than just pride on the line. Series points, titles, and of course, bragging rights. Enter Josh Ferenc (aka the Last Hero and Only Hope): ”I was just going to attack the whole time. I knew that it would be really really tough for someone to hang with me.” And attack he did, right from the gun. There’s a brick walk on the far right side of the start area, and while everyone else at the front opted to dive right into the soft, sloppy slope, Josh shot up the launching pad that was the walk way. In fact, in the video below you can see the point at the start where EJN looks over and is thinking “that Ferenc is a clever SOB…”. Josh had a singular goal in mind: to run his race, pushing the needle as close to that redline as he could go, no matter what the competition had in mind for a plan.

There’s a preme for this race, where the first man and woman to hit the high point (just over a mile in) are awarded the coveted King of the Mountain status (and get some sweet syrup). On his way to putting a hurting on everyone (including himself), Josh picked up that preme as well. Said Josh of his effort: “I gave everything I had today. I was really hurting.” It showed in the results too (well, not the hurting part at least) as he ended up with a 2:05 lead over second place Jim Johnson.  Johnson and Kevin Tilton are no slouches (and also no strangers to less than favorable trail conditions), but couldn’t quite keep up with Josh. Jim edged Kevin by seven seconds, which is much closer than it sounds on a trail like that.

The wildcard in it all was Nate Jenkins, the elite road runner who was lured back onto the trails by the new All Terrain Runner series. Would Nate be able to hang with the trail animals? Or would Nate tame said animals? Jenkins held his own in the deep field and ended up finishing 4th in 43:13. Johnson, Tilton and Jenkins are all CMS teammates too, so it was a good day for the Striders.

For Kasie Enman, the race might’ve been the easier part. Kasie is not only some elite, globe-trotting Salomon runner, but she’s also the race director for Sleepy Hollow. “I was nice and tapered, felt good. I also didn’t get to warm up because I was race directing, so I used the first lap as a warm up.” Kasie gave a nice little pre-race speech, then quickly hopped onto the line, and during her ‘warm up’ she picked up the King of the Mountain preme as the first woman to mount the summit.

Kasie impressively finished 16th overall with a 46:44 and must’ve been pretty comfortable with the home course advantage. Kasie was able to put some distance between herself and her nearest competitors, which happened to be a couple of Somerville Road Runners: Kath Hardcastle (49:02) and Kate Hails (52:40).

Top masters runner and defending mountain series champion (overall) Christin Doneski was in unfamiliar territory: 4th place. Although her 53:43 was good for top masters runner on the day and 46th overall, Christin was faced with stiff competition for the overall win. The fact that she was even that close despite having recently run the Boston Marathon was a feat in and of itself. Between the marathon fatigue and the deeper field, it made for a challenging day. On her race, the conditions and her fitness, Christin said:

First, I have NEVER run in conditions like that. I was actually in a very good mood going in to this race. I was worried about my fatigue (from Boston and my post-marathon cold) but I was happy to be there and thought the sloppy conditions would be fun. They were fun and exciting initially but by the end my legs were pretty tired. Having to really pick my feet up for every step took it’s toll. What do you call it “post-holing” when you stride and one leg sinks in to mid calf….well whatever it is called I did that a number of times and it really brings your momentum to a stand still. The conditions were certainly part of the fun, but also an area in which I was entirely inexperienced. That said, I know coming off Boston definitely impacted my climbing. I am usually much stronger on the uphills than downhills and I was not as strong on the uphills as I would have liked.

Post-holing really is the perfect way to describe that energy sucking phenomenon that plagued runners throughout the race (and just added to the fun of it all).

Speaking of the masters, Todd Callaghan got exactly what he wanted: mud. Todd knew those conditions would play to his strengths and he capitalized on the opportunity by running a 44:20. That was fast enough to place him 9th overall and make him the fastest masters runner on the day.

Next up is the mountain series is the Pack Monadnock 10 Miler, while the window is now open for All Terrain Runners to get their track 5k in.


King of the (Muddy) Mountain

Josh Ferenc didn’t care who he was up against, and he didn’t hold back. Nothing was going to interfere with him running his race – not the elements, the competition, nor the terrain. In sloppy conditions, Josh ran a 40:44 for 10k at the Sleepy Hollow Mountain Race. Ferenc didn’t disappoint in the race, nor in the interview. It’s a little bold, a little brash, but makes for a refreshingly honest and entertaining couple of minutes.

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