Part 3 of Jim Johnson’s recap of the first half of 2013
A week later I found myself tackling a double (which used to be common place for me) as I had the annual Market Square Day 10K to run on Saturday, and another Mountain Series race on Sunday back up in VT. Kevin Tilton and I drove down to Market Square in Portsmouth, NH where I have finished in just about every spot in the top 10 over the years except for 1st. Last year I was 2nd OA and the year before that I ran my second fastest road 10K ever at this race. This year, was not going to be quite the same because of my foot and my sub-par training, but I couldn’t miss this race, which has come to be one of my favorites over the years. I ended up having an OK race, finishing 5th in a very competitive field. The times were all slow as I was actually with the leaders through 4+ miles and it wasn’t until about 4.5 miles in that the ‘younger’ runners made a big move that I just didn’t have the wheels to counter. It was more tactical than anything. I ended up minute and a half or so behind my PR for the course but was pleased with my effort.
The same could not be said for the very next day as I drove all the way over to VT for the Mt. Ascutney Hillclimb, which I’ve done every year since 2008 and which I’ve won 3 times including the last 2 years. The combination of my foot injury on the steep climbing plus the fact that I raced a 10K the day before, really sunk any chances of doing well at this race. Needless to say at not even a mile into the climb I pulled over to the side and called it a day. It was heartbreaking but I was just not going to get through it. That meant 2 DNF’s in the mountain series and no chance of me defending my title or even finishing in the top 3. I had to drive the 3+ hours home with my head sunk low, just wanting this year to be over with. To make matters worse, had I run what I did the previous 2 years, I would have been in contention to win again or at the very least finish in 2nd by mere seconds. If If If…. not the way to think about things though.
Unfortunately for me, my big race of the year (and even more so, now that I am ‘local’ to the race after moving to northern NH) was just the next weekend. The Mount Washington Road Race was not going to be my best race for sure, but I wasn’t about to let the weeks prior, affect my mental preparation for this race. Yes, I knew that physically I wasn’t anywhere near my normal self, but mentally I knew one thing…I was NOT going to drop out of this race. I ended up wearing some new test shoes that Inov-8 had sent me literally the day before. Not to elaborate too much on shoes that aren’t out yet (so I will refrain from mentioning the type/model, etc.) but these shoes are terrific. I like the weight, I like the feel and comfort of the shoes, and I like the outsole which is a little stiffer and sturdier than some of the other road shoes I have been wearing. Would they help me get up the mountain in record time, despite my lack of preparation and my nagging injuries? Not directly. But what they did do is feel great on the way up and I had zero problems with my foot or calves, etc. on the climb. I did however struggle with the sheer effort it takes to drag yourself up 7.6 miles of continuous 11-12% average grade. I ended up having my last second heroics I usually have over the last mile and was able to not only hold off a good, surging Canadian athlete but I was able to catch a runner at the very end that usually beats me. However my time was the worst time I’ve ever run on ‘the hill’. It wasn’t the worst by too too much, but the worst nonetheless. It was 3 minutes behind what I ran last year and 3:30 or so behind my fastest time. What really stung was the fact that had I duplicated even what I did last year (time wise) I would have been in the top 10. It was again, tough to swallow, but I was happy I was able to get through it and actually finish. Again, ‘only if’ is not the way I should be thinking about it, but it keeps entering into my mind… after reflection, it only motivates me more to correct what is wrong and get back into the spots I need to be in.
Since Mount Washington I have been trying to get in some solid training runs, longer trail runs, and simply trying to get healthy again. It has been (no pun intended) an uphill battle this year for me. I have had to get used to the fact that I am probably no longer a 60+ race-per-year guy and I have to be more selective with my racing schedule. I have had to get used to the fact that I may have to change up a lot of my normal routine to try to make sure I avoid what seems to be nagging, continuous injuries (the older I get). But through this first half of the year, I have gained some wisdom for sure. Some additional insight into my health and body. Some needed reflection and soul searching. And I have set my sights and goals now for the second half of the year and my running going forward.
I came to some conclusions about what I wanted to do with my racing and the direction I want to take my running while doing a solo Pemi Loop (a 34 mile, 12 peak excursion around the wilderness here in northern NH) this past weekend (in lieu of defending my title at the Loon Mountain race). I did the 8+ hour solo run with just me, my trusty Inov-8 race pack, and my trusty pair of Trailroc 255s. I thought about getting more into some ultras, longer trail races, etc. Stuff that wasn’t particularly focused primarily around just climbing. I will still do the mountain series and mountain races, yes, but I want to expand out and substitute in some different types of races in lieu of shorter road races that have usually been a staple on my Summer and Fall racing schedule. I may plan on doing a couple of ultras coming up, as well as a couple of marathons (including one at the end of this month on the trails). I’d like to push towards potentially a fall road marathon and a couple of longer ultra efforts before I make up my mind about where I want to focus my attention next year in 2014. For now, I continue to press on and enjoy life, enjoy my new family, and try to continue to enjoy the running that I am fortunate enough to still be able to do…Everyone should be so lucky as to just be able to get out and enjoy the beautiful scenery our trails and mountains have to offer… Hopefully when I revisit with my 2nd half of the year writeup on here, my voice will be a more positive one. Until then, keep on climbing and push forward!