Congratulations to everybody who competed in Sunday’s USA Mountain Running Championships and NACAC (North American, Caribbean, Central American) Mountain Running Championships race at Cranmore! The event attracted the continent’s best mountain runners. Why the field was even open to the likes of me, I have no idea.
Because we were running on a lap course, I had a chance to see North America’s elite mountain runners up close as they lapped me. Joseph Gray, on his way to the finish line and about to repeat as North America’s mountain-running champion, passed me as we were going up a steep and uneven section of trail. His level of exertion appeared to equal that which I display while taking a nap.
As amazing as his performance was, I was even more impressed by my friend Darrin, of the Hartford-based Beat City Milers, who rebounded from a tough start to the season and came out of nowhere to win second place in his age group. He went from disappointing finishes in May to now possessing a silver medal from USA Track and Field declaring him North America’s runner-up mountain-running champion for his age group. The award reflects how hard he has worked this spring and summer.
Personally, I had a disappointing race. My legs were unexpectedly tired during warm-ups and I felt winded after a couple minutes of jogging, both of which were red flags that something was wrong. In an effort to stay positive, I tried telling myself that I would be okay once the race started. Nope. I could not get anything going on the steep uphills, nor on the steep downhills, nor on the flat . . . well, there weren’t really any flat parts, but you get the idea.
Oftentimes, we can forecast a bad performance. Maybe we did not sleep enough, eat right, or fully recover from a previous race/workout. Maybe we have been chronically overtraining or undertraining, or doing the wrong kind of training. Maybe we are returning from a layoff or dealing with an illness or injury. When one or more of these factors are in play, we can expect a subpar performance.
Other times though, bad days come out of the blue without a clear cause. It goes both ways though – I have had great runs come out of nowhere when I least expected it too – and either way we have to play the hand we are dealt. We all have off days sometimes and races do not get postponed because a competitor is having one of them. The event continues and we just have to give it our best effort, no matter how much or how little that might be. That’s life, right?
Cranmore was the last race in the USA Track and Field New England Mountain Circuit. Despite my disappointing performance, I did manage to finish the circuit ranked 21st out of 164 male runners. In the process, I earned “Mountain Goat” status, meaning that I get direct entry into next year’s Mount Washington road race.
Darrin and Mic, both of the Beat City Milers, and Jonah displaying their Mountain Goat shirts
I got started with mountain racing four years ago after seeing a documentary in which one of the subjects ran the race up Mount Washington. Joanne and I watched it together. If I remember correctly, her reaction was “That looks terrible!” while mine was “That looks awesome!” Six months later, I found myself in that very race for the first time. If you are similarly curious about trying it, put your name in the lottery and hopefully we will see each other there.