I’ve learned a lot about running, racing, and life in the process
I have toed the line 337 times since 2007. I have put up PRs in every distance from 5k up to 50k and learned a lot about running, racing, and life in the process. In 2014, I have finally gotten over the hump of nagging injuries and have been putting up some good training and results, thanks again to my opportunity to run and race in the best off-road shoes and gear on the planet, and the continuing support of my family and teammates including my local training partner Kevin Tilton, a fellow team inov-8 athlete.
2014 (so far) has been my best year in the last 3 and I have finally gotten back to where I wanted to be with training and competitions, but I still have a ways to go. I have big plans for 2015 and newfound motivation and excitement, thanks in large part to the turnaround I have had this year.
After a long winter, the trail race season begins
After quite a few snowshoe races in the winter, I followed up with a couple of trail races including a win at the Muddy Moose 14 Mile Trail Race in NH. I PR’d on the course by an entire second from the previous year J thanks to my trusty Mudclaw 265s. I also tried (unsuccessfully) to defend my title at the Merrimack River Trail 10 Miler in MA. I placed 3rd OA (after winning it in 2012) to Inov-8 teammate Kevin Tilton and local top marathoner Brandon Newbould.
Surprisingly I hung tough at the Sleepy Hollow Mountain (10k) trail race and placed 2nd overall in a very deep field that included 2:14 marathoner Nate Jenkins. I ran very strong over the up and down XC ski course in less than ideal conditions (but nothing my X-Talon 212s couldn’t handle). It was very muddy and slow, which played a bit into my favor, as I was able to outduel some quicker road guys who were out to take a shot at the mountains for the first time. Sleepy Hollow served not only as the opening race for the mountain series, but it was also serving as the 2014 USATF-New England Trail Championship as well. I gladly accepted the runner-up position to Josh Ferenc who was on Team Inov-8 back a few years ago and has been on various US Mountain and Trail teams over the years. He was also my partner in crime back at the 2011 World 50k Trophy in the Netherlands. Any time I can share a podium with him, I am honored. Kevin Tilton was right behind me in 3rd place for a very strong showing for Team Inov-8 to kick off the mountain series.
Next up was the Wachusett Mountain in MA a couple weeks later and I placed 3rd OA behind another solid field (including a 2 time Olympian) in the up and down mountain 10k. I wore the Trailroc 245s even though 2/3 of the race was on paved mountain access roads. The last 1/3 of the race was down a rocky, dirt access road and ski slop so the Trailroc seemed to be the right shoe for the job, over varying terrain. I was able to climb strong and descend much better than I was anticipating. I had won this race in the past as well and finished in the top 3 a few times, so this was another solid performance for me down in Massachusetts.
Taking the racing to the road
After Wachusett was the Ascutney Mountain Race in Windsor, VT. I have won this race 3 times previously but this year was a bit off of my best, placing 5th in a very deep field. Multi-time US Mountain Team member (and course record holder) Eric Blake was the class of the field but I hung tough, only 27 seconds out of 2nd place in a tight finish. My finish again was good enough to keep me in the lead in the overall series standings.
The Mount Washington Road Race is always a staple of my running schedule. This year it was not serving as the US National Mountain Championship but it was still loaded as usual. This was my 7th time running the event in the last 7 years. I hung tough in this year’s edition and ran a lot quicker than I thought I was going to (and more importantly, faster than last year). I was also just able to squeak by my running partner, Kevin Tilton for the first time ever at this race. It is usually automatic that he would beat me here. He has run some of the fastest and most consistent times here out of anyone over the years. Team Inov-8 looked pretty good again this year here, with Peter Maksimow really running well as he usually does up the ‘rockpile’.
Taking on the US National Mountain Running Championships
Next up on the schedule was the Loon Mountain Race in Lincoln, NH, which served as the US National Mountain Running Championships. Needless to say by the results, I did not have the greatest race here as I was struggling a bit with seasonal allergies and had a rough time getting going in this one. I had my worst finish ‘place-wise’ in a US Mountain Championship, finishing 31st OA. The field was definitely deep, but I should have been 10+ places higher if I had my typical race on this course. The silver lining in this was that my USATF team (CMS) won the Gold Medal once again and were crowned National Champions. I’ll take a team win any day.
Wrapping up my summer mountain racing was a big win for me at the Cranmore Hillclimb. Cranmore is my hometown race and has served as the US National Mountain Running Championship 4 times (2007, 2009, 2011, 2013). Needless to say, with it being the US Championship 4 of the last 7 years, I have never won this race. On the ‘off years’ I have been 2nd and 3rd a couple times, but never won. This year was my time. I ended up winning the up and down race by just over 2 minutes and finally got the Cranmore monkey off my back .
That win solidified my overall USATF-New England Mountain Series individual series title for the 3rd time in the last 4 years. I won the overall series in 2011 and 2012 as well. There is one more event left in the series and that is in a couple weeks at Bretton Woods but since I am getting ready to run the Vermont 50** (my first 50 miler), I’m not sure I’ll make the starting line for that one. I don’t need it for the overall series title but it may be fun to give it a go IF I survive Vermont J.
The training has been going great and the goal now focuses on a half marathon in October (road) and a marathon (road) in November to help my team try to win the USATF-New England Road Grand Prix title. I’m sure I’ll find time for another race or two sprinkled in there.
Happy racing to all and keep on climbing.
**edited: Jim Johnson came 4th in the Vermont 50