Written by Alex Jospe
The Greylock mountain trail race has a little bit of everything – sustained climbs, short and steep climbs, technical descents, runnable descents, mud, bridges, views, and winding root-infested singletrack along ridgelines. Spread over 13 miles, what more could you ask for? We woke to perfect running weather, cool and crisp with a bright sun; I was really excited to try my hand at this mountain race!
I’ve never raced here before, though I’ve done a little hiking in these environs, and the course map showed that most of the climbing came in the first three miles, and the rest was a gradual descent. Quizzing some of my sources beforehand, it sounded like this course probably didn’t suit my strengths, given the sustained climb and runnable descents, but if you don’t put yourself outside of your comfort zone every once in a while, you can’t expect to get any faster! Luckily, lacing up my X-Talon212s put me right back into my comfort zone; I knew these shoes would get me through any terrain challenges of the day.
The race director shouted “go” and everybody sprinted for the hole shot. Then things angled uphill for the next 45 minutes, at varying degrees of steepness. The footing was never difficult, though there were a few muddy sections where I saw that lesser shoes had slipped backwards. Muahaha. But it was pretty relentless, and the fact that I live in Boston and train by jogging to work on asphalt was not working in my favor. Combined with the fact that I had led a particularly tough strength workout on Friday night for my junior skiers, I was feeling a bit more burn than I would have liked in my quads and glutes. Uselessly, my memory wandered back to when I actually was 20, and a hard strength workout would be forgotten by the next day, when I could push through pretty much anything with full belief that I was indeed a superwoman. Unfortunately, the belief that I’m superwoman has remained with me, while my body steadily deteriorates. Blah.
Thankfully I noticed this downward spiral of despair before things got too desperate, and I changed my attitude to something more along the lines of “I love hills! I love hills! I love hills!” Who says brainwashing doesn’t work? By the time I’d reached the top, I was oodles behind where I had hoped to be, but I was in a good mood and enjoying the suffering of a long climb, rather than dreading it. The fact that the next bit of trail was a slick technical piece along the Appalachian Trail added to my good mood, and I whipped back past more cautious descenders. Wahooooo!
By the bottom of our nine miles of descending (with a few ups in there for good measure), I had moved into 4th place, which was not what I’d wanted, but I was very pleased with my race on a few levels. I had pushed hard up the first climb, despite my sore legs, and I managed to turn my grumpy attitude around successfully while still climbing. Then I hadn’t let myself despair about how far back I was, and managed to catch quite a few ladies on the descent, keeping the competitive juices going even as I got tired, pushing all the way to the end. These realizations turned what could have been a disappointing finish into a really successful day! Now to retain those lessons, and leave the hard strength workouts to the actual 20-year-olds, at least when it’s two days before a race.