Saturday, March 3, 2012

Ragged Mountain Run

"Dear God, what have I signed myself up for?"

I believe those were the first words uttered out of my mouth when I saw Ragged Mountain in Danbury NH.  As I'm driving up I can see the ski lift disappear over a ridge, so from the base of the mountain you can not see the summit.

Why was I doing this?

One of my co-workers, we'll call him Jim V., volunteers at Ragged Mountain on the weekends.  He had heard about this race or rather a series of races called Winter Wild.  In this series they have runs at many of the major ski slopes in the New England region.  Next year I will probably try to complete them all, this year....just one will suffice.  Jim V. encouraged me to sign-up for the race, which I did (he did not).

In looking at the pictures online and the course map, it looked like it would be fun.  My training runs have been closer to 5 miles as of late with a bit of hill work, so how hard could 1.5 miles up a mountain be?

The Plan

It was easy.  I was going to get some Kahtoola Micro Spikes, put them on my sneakers and run up a mountain.  Certainly I wasn't crazy enough to think I could run the WHOLE way, so I'd use my heart rate monitor.  I would run until it started pegging out, then I would walk, get my breath back and run again.

How hard could it be?  (see what I'm doing here?)

The Drive

Because this race was starting at 7AM (before they open up the trails for skiing) that meant I had to leave my house at 4:30AM to ensure I had enough time to pick up a friend of mine in Concord NH, and get there with time enough to pick up my bib and survey the situation.  So all told it was about a two hour jaunt. I have to say, traffic at 4:30AM heading West is pretty much non-existent.

The Race

This is where things get interesting.  So we get there and I have a slight panic attack.  You see, I've never been to a ski slope.  I've only seen mountains with snow off in the distance.  So seeing Ragged (which is not a very big mountain in the grand scheme of things) scared the Red Bull out of me!

I got my bib and wandered around out on the snow trying to get a feel for things.  I had brought both my Vibram TrekSports and my sneakers with the Micro Spikes.  I didn't think I was really crazy enough to try to scale a snowy mountain in my barefoot shoes...but that's what I did.

I ran around a bit in the packed snow and my happy little toe shoes actually had remarkable grip.  My feet were a little cold, but not unbearable.  I was thinking then that I'd put my sneakers in my bag and run up with them on my back just in case.

Two minutes before the start, I ditched the bag.  If I was going to do it, I was going to do it all the way.

The turnout wasn't too big, but it was a committed group.  The loop was fairly simple.  Up the slope following the chair lift, across the top, down the slope right next to the lift.  Runners stay on the left, skiers and boarders stay on the right.

I started running up with the pack and pretty much universally we all stopped and started walking around the same time.  There were not going to be any records broken that day by this guy....I knew it and as such brought my camera so I could take some pictures while running/walking/crawling.

There were spots on the way up that were so steep all I had to do was reach forward and I was touching the ground.  Amazingly I never slipped on the way up and stopping to take a few pictures was all I needed to catch my breath.  My plan for doing a combined run/walk following my heart rate?  Didn't happen.  My HR never went back down enough for me to feel comfortable to start running up the slope.

At the top it felt SO good to break into a run though.  I took off, grateful for the change in gradient.  Then it started to get steep.  This is pretty much how it went:

Way up: "Okay, this is cool."  "Wow, this is really kind of steep."  "Oh, so you can't really see the top."  "Okay I'll just slow down for a bit, catch my breath."  "This was really, really stupid."  "Why, why do I put myself through this stuff!"  "Oh thank God there's the top!  Wait, what, that isn't it??? NO!  There's still more?"

Way down: "That feels SO much better."  "Hey look at me, I'm running pretty fast."  "Hey...I can't stop running...not....okay.....kind of scary."  "I'm going to die."  "I'M REALLY GOING TO DIE."  "Dying any second now, sure of it.....don't think my legs are supposed to feel like this."  "Hey, that wasn't so bad."

So enjoy the pictures!  If you are a running type and have never done one of these I highly suggest it.  Just take it easy.  My final time was a sluggish 38:08 (Coolrunning Results but it's less if you watch the video).  Next year my goal will be for something less than 30:00.

Big thanks to my friend Werner who came along with me.  He took a few of the pictures I'm posting as well as the video.  I also must say that if it weren't for a comment of his, I would have been in great pain the following day.  He had pointed out that some of the skiers who went UP on skis are probably going to have some seriously sore groins.  This had reminded me that I too went up a good portion of that mountain duck footed and immediately stretched accordingly.  So Werner, you have now been named Savior of the Groin!