Monday, July 23, 2012

No Race for the Weary

The is a copy and paste from the Greenfield Recorder. If there is a copyright issue here, please contact me and ill be happy to take it off. Go team SMAC Down!

Greenfield Recorder 07/19/2012, Page B01


No race for the weary


Recorder Staff

Team SMAC Down members pose for a shot Saturday morning at the Mount Greylock Vistors’ Center in Adams before embarking on a grueling, 26-hour, 200-mile, cross-state relay race that ended Sunday in Boston with a second- place showing. The team members are (standing), left to right, James Callaway, Donna Utakis, Carla Halpern, Mike Towsley, John McCarthy, Leeann Cerpovicz and daughter Allie Cerpovicz. In the front row, left to right, are Rebeka Slowzak, Garth Shaneyfelt, Marc Guillaume, Kristin Tetrault, and Luca Grisa. 

Driving from the summit of Mount Greylock to Boston would not be a short trip.

Try running it.

That’s exactly what a dozen members from the Sugarloaf Mountain Athletic Club did this past weekend, when they took part in the Mass Dash Relay to benefit the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

The Mash Dash is in its third year of existence and covers 200 miles, beginning at the Mount Greylock Visitors Center in Adams and ending on the beach just past the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.

The team, called Team SMAC Down, included captain Marc Guillaume (Greenfield), Garth Shaneyfelt (Greenfield), Mike Townsley (Bernardston), Carla Halpern (New Salem), Luca Grisa (Amherst), James Callaway (Keene, N.H.), John McCarthy, Kristin Tetrault, Donna Utakis, Leeann Cerpovicz, Allie Cerpovicz, and Rebeka Slozak. The 12 runners competed against 30 other teams and came home with the silver medal, finishing the course in second place in 25 hours, 58 minutes. The winning team finished in 23 hours, 58 minutes, 10 seconds.

But running a 200-mile relay is about more than just passing a baton and trying to finish ahead of the other teams. There’s much more to it than that.

The course was made up of 36 legs, with each team member running three. Each leg varied in distance, but Bernardston resident and SMAC Down member Townsley said the running ability of each team member also varied, so things worked out well for the team to perform at such a high level.

The team was broken up into two vans, so that when the first van was running, the second van could move ahead and give members a break. While a member of a van was running, the other members of the same van were able not only to support the runner, but also to provide water and other liquids to stay hydrated.

Staying hydrated was crucial with the temperatures soaring into the 90s with high humidity throughout the day, then dipping into the low 70s with high humidity at night. Townsley said many of the runners would inform teammates in the same van when they needed a drink and the van would move ahead to accommodate the request. Teammates would then jog alongside the runner and pass a drink to help cool the him or her down.

“It was a pretty good feeling to see all the members working hard like that,” Townsley said of the hydration efforts. “Hydration and team support was a major contributor to (our) success.”

Townsley also said that members of the team were able to stop off at the Daughters of the American Revolution State Forest in Goshen to jump into the Highland Lake and cool off. But aside from the quick swim, it was all about drinking water, drinking water and more water.

A trip from Adams to Boston as the crow flies would not total up to 200 miles, so as you can imagine, it full of turns that took the team through a number of towns.

Another issue was that, unlike a smaller, more normal-sized road race, was navigating a 200-mile course on See RACE Page B3

Race: Local heroes

From Page B1

which a runner could easily get lost on. With all the twists and turns, you might think runners might miss a turn and run off-course. But event organizers made sure this didn’t happen. All 200 miles were marked with signs at all of the turns and cones with blinking lights so that nighttime runners could see the turns.

“The people that put this race on did a phenomenal job,” Townsley said. “All corners and turns were marked with signs. It was a major concern going into the race. You’re out there and there’s no course officials. But the people who put on the race did a great job.”

Running a race at night was likely a new experience for many of the participants. Runners were required to wear flourescent vests, a blinking light and a headlamp for their safety. Townsley noticed a distinct difference running at night.
“Time tends to go a little bit faster,” he explained. “Even though some of the runners were running six to nine miles, it was like there was no difference in time from someone running less miles.”

After running during the early part of the night, Townsley said his van raced ahead to Hopkinton and arrived at the town common where the Boston Marathon begins. The team pulled out sleeping bags around 2:30 a.m. and tried to catch some quick Zs, getting about two hours before waking up and preparing for their next transition at 5:30.

“It was a little bit different, laying on a town common in a place you don’t know,” Townsley joked.

After starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday morning, the team finally crossed the finish line around noon on Sunday. Many of the participants then headed into the ocean to cool down and celebrate the second-place finish.

A fitting way to wrap up a 200-mile journey.

Monday, July 2, 2012

2012 Charlemont Downriver Race

The Charlemont downriver race is a class 1-2 canoe and kayak race on the Deerfield River from the Zoar Picnic area to the Charlemont high school know as the Shunepike section. I have been told since Hurricane Irene the shunepike rapids have increased in number and size, but they are all still easy to read and very managable. With that in mind i choose my weapon, the 19ft West Side Exceed.

The magic of duct tape
I got to the race pretty early to patch up my boat. I had to replace a bungee on the rudder and patch up some screw holes and rig up a webbing brace. Nothing a little duct tape cant fix.

Modern wildwater boat vs. vintage boat

We had a great outing of canoes and kayaks. Included in the long kayak division, 14 ft kayaks and greater, were US Wildwater Team member Mark Wendolowski, Pro Female kayaker Elaine Campbell, class 5 kayaker and volunteer firefighter Jeff Berienger (off to fight fires in Colorado...good luck Jeff), local racers and former winners Tim Nutt and Lou Carrier,  Dryway racer Carl L, and myself.

After hanging around waiting for the water to make it down from the Dam release, we sat around talking shop. Lou, Tim, and I each had a 19 ft West Side Boat, the fastest boats in the group if you can handle the length and tippiness. Jeff was trying out his first 'pure' wildwater boat, a very tippy rounded hull, he was to spend as much  time controlling his stability than moving forward. Carl L had a vintage wildwater boat from the 70s (pictured on left)

The Charlemont race presents some additional challenges in that the river is not excluded from the local public and on a warm day as it was this Saturday, hundreds of tubers (maybe even
thousands) will come to float down the cool Deerfield rapids.

Mark in his Wildwater

The race started in 5 min groupings, with small kayaks first followed by long kayaks and then the canoe divisions.  The race started and immediately Mark shot out like a cannon. Tim and I quickly went after him. After the first rapid i was able to move ahead of Tim and move within 20 feet of Mark. I wanted to turn my head to see who was behind but did not risk flipping my boat.  Better to keep my eyes on Mark anyway.


Me, weaving through kayaks
 I weaved through the tubers, rafters, and eventually the short kayak class trying to get best lines of current without taken off anyone's hand. At one point the rapid hugged close to a rock and  myself and 3 short kayaks fought for the rapid. As a result, we got hung up and i lost the ability to accelerate from the rapid. My apologizes to the kayakers if i gave them a bit of a yell.  I was matching Mark stroke for stroke and keeping the distance between the two of us constant. Yet every time i gained some momentum from a rapid he would move ahead just as quick  Even though i was definitely in a faster boat then mark, i finished about 30 seconds behind.  I have to say though i am very happy with my paddle, after all he is a member of the US wildwater team


Race Organization
Downriver canoe and kayak races can be a real challenge to organize. With several divisions in kayaks and canoes, a point to point course, insurance, and having to work with local electric company to time the dam releases, i give anyone that is willing to organize this type of race a great deal of respect. Charlie Brackett has been running this race for years and does a fantastic job. Much like a trail race, this is a grass roots race with no bells or whistles (except the ones on you PFD). The cost is low at $15.00, which considering insurance and liability is really cheap.  

Be aware that changes to the schedule can happen at a days notice and this year was no different. The schedule release of 10:00 was pushed ahead an hour to 11:00, which changed our starting time from 1:30 to 2:30. My suggestion to future racers is to have a backup plan in case there is a delay. Bring a second kayak, some running shoes and /or bathing suit. Many racers took a few practice runs down the Gap while others including myself, socialized with other kayakers and canoeists and enjoyed the cool shade. If there is a delay, the Zoar picnic area is a great place to kill some time.

 This year the award ceremony coincided with the Deerfield River Festival which brings whitewater enthusiasts together and provides music, food, vendors, information, etc. 
My only complaint/suggestion for the NECKRA Charlemont downriver race would be to hold the award ceremony in the pavilion during the River Fest.  The festival would be provide a great opportunity to encourage more participation from other would-be racers, give out information about NECKRA and Birch Hill Canoe club, and would keep more charlemont racers at the awards ceremonies as many chose ( or had to go due to sponsors and support)  to attend  the festival rather than the Award ceremony held at the Warfield house.

At the award ceremony, Charlie Brackett announced this will be his last year organizing this race. I hope we can convince him otherwise, or we can find another member to give it a go. This is a fantastic race and should continue for many years to come.
Charlie given directions prior to the race

Monday, June 25, 2012

2012 Mount Greylock Trail Race

This was my first go on this trail race. I heard 2 reports prior to the race, a very tough and not so bad. My version goes with the first, Mt Greylock is a tough bastard of a race and the other guy who thought it was 'not so bad' was obviously messing with me.

The race starts with a 3 mile scramble up thunderbolt trail climbing over 2000 ft. A tough climb, i fared well holding a position in the top 15. As the climb got steeper, my run transitioned into a fast hike. I noticed how the more experienced trail runners hiked more efficiently and faster than i could. I was greeted at the summit with a couple of teenagers in traditional Mexican dress ringing cowbells and hollering ye-haaaas. Their cheers were very welcomed. At the first rest stop I grabbed a handful of trail mix, drank some powerade and began the 11 mile descent (more or less).

My goal for the race was completion, I had no intention to compete, so as I began the downhill portion, my plan was to take it easy and not break an ankle. Regardless the downhill portion was to be proven quite technically. Fast, steep, single track covered in rocks and roots, there was a certain amount of  'fear factor' as i ran down those trails. As i focused one step ahead of the other, I was being passed by runner after runner in blazing speed. Even though I practice on trails once a week, my experience does not compare to these seasoned trail runners. There is a certain level of skill that I need to develop in running these rocky paths. 

At around mile 8 or so, the trail opened up to a beautiful field with the Appalachian Mountains in the background. Over the next grassy hill the teenagers from earlier were ringing their cowbells. I love these kids. I gave them a few high fives, stopped at the rest stop, drank some water, and enjoyed the view.

I finished the race in 2:09 minutes, 28th place out of 178 runners. Given my average road half marathon, this race took almost an hour longer. 

WMAC puts on a fantastic race. Like their other races, Monore and Savoy, the Greylock Trail Race is a classic grass roots race. No fancy arches to run through, hi tech computerized timers, massage tables, or finisher medals, just a great course with great food, potluck style from the race organizers.

Left:  On the menu: hot dogs with all the toppings, 2 types of pasta salad, various cookies, all sorts of potato chips, bananas and other fruit, double fudge brownies, pastries, bananas, chocolate milk, soda, and beer.

Training Week 6/18-6/24

First week on vacation by the beach. You would figure being next to the ocean i would be able to get in more kayaking. Yet vacationing is hard work and after all the fishing, Portugeses Festival, wine tours, and a heat wave of several  95 deg days, i was exhausted. I need a vacation from my vacation. Overall though a productive week.

Monday: NADA
Tuesday: BRICK run 4.5, 10k Kayak race at the
              rows (see post)
Wednesday: NADA travel day
Thursday: Cycle: 41 total: 19mph total
Friday:    Cycle: 38 total 19 mph avg with Charlie
Saturday: Long Run relay training. 7.5 miles in the
               AM,  7.5 miles in the afternoon. 15 total.
Sunday:   20min barefoot beach run followed with
                 20 mins stretch.

Total: Run: 21.5 miles, Cycle: 79 miles Kayak: 6.1
Time in Training: 8 hours

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

June 19 Holyoke Rows Kayak Race

What a great showing at this weeks kayak race with Mark Wendolowski, Joe Shaw, Ed, Dvorchick, John McCarthy,  Christopher Kielb, Jack Morse, and Mike Craft. Conditions were choppy with 15 mph southerly wind producing some 1-1.5 foot waves. Great conditions for the surf skis.

As Mark let out the command 'go' Joe, Jack, and myself in surf skis moved ahead in a pack. Mark was there too but taking in water in his ICF boat. Two words Mark, spray skirt. After a short while Mark's boat filled with water and had to head to the river bank to empty out the boat. I did my best to hang on to Joe and Jack's draft, staying on their wave. After the first turnaround, Joe and Jack. begin to move ahead and i lost their draft.

This was Jacks first race in a surf ski and he was matching Joe's paddle stroke for stroke. Jack is famous for his racing and training on the CT in C-1s and C-2s (solo racing canoe and tandem racing canoe). The transition from canoes to kayaks for Jack seemed to be seamless. As much as I tried to close the gap to catch up, they would move just a little more ahead of me.

As we approached the second bridge i was still holding on to third place. Then i heard a little splash of water and realized Mark Wendolowski, after having his boat filled up with water, paddle to the bank, dump the water, paddle back in the race, has caught up to me. I know there was a good chance he would catch up, after all he is one of the best at this sport. Yet I was amazed at how little noise he made with his stroke, i never heard him catch up. Signs of a really good paddle stroke!

I stayed with Mark for 200 or so yds after the turnaround and then he took off. At that point i was really feeling cramped in the V10l, a surf ski about 2 sizes too small. (i could not stretch out my legs more than a 30deg knee bend). A few times paddling up-wind  i felt the instability of  being a boat too small  and my hamstrings where cramping.  I am looking forward to racing in a boat that actually fits me. Someday i suppose.  Yet, for now, the seat in the V10 is more comfortable than any racing kayak i have used so far!

Great weather, great turnout, great race. Lets do it again next week,

The final results follows

1. Joe Shaw
2. Jack Morse
3. Mark Wendolowski
4. John McCarthy
5. Mike Craft
6. Ed Dvorchick
7. Chris Kielb (late start)

The CT river from Holyoke Rows

Monday, June 11, 2012

Lake Wyola Road Race

One thing about racing is that athletes tend to be so  focused on racing, they miss whats happening around them. Thankfully i pre-ran the Lake Wyola course and really got to experience the beautiful scenic roads and neighborhoods. This course is a gem. Yet, like most races, once the race begin, the view point changes.

The Lake Wyola trail race is a challenging 4.8 mile course that ascends for 2 miles, decends rapidly down a shady dirt road followed with rolling hills before the straight away to the finish.  I moved up that first hill at a moderate pace without falling too far behind my competition. By the time i reached the top of the hill though, i was already feeling exhausted. My recovery is not as quick as it used to be. I was still holding on to 6th place, behind some of the faster runners in the area. On the downhill, i let my legs fly and made some progress, but it was the rollers on the last 2 miles that really made me feel like i hit a wall. This was a tough race for me. I finished in 7th overall.

The race included a team competition and as a member of the Sugarloaf Athletic Mountain Club we had a great turnout with 3 racers in the top 10 and a second place finish. I got to take home a massive danish that Crytal, her sister Ann Marie, and myself ate for the rest of the week.

After the race, several of us  went for a 3 mile cool down through some of the prettiest shady meandering dirt roads. I definitely want to head back to Shutesbury for more long runs..they are fantastic.  My knee felt good and after all was done I tallied just about 14 miles. This is about the time the brain starts putting crazy ideas in my + distance=racing longer i dare start to think of the 'M' word again.

Monday, May 14, 2012

HEF Smartrun

2012 Hatfield HEF SmartRun

The first weekend in May brings out some of the best races in the pioneer valley and western MA. The Holyoke marathon, the infamous Seven-Sisters trail race, and the whitewater championships at Otter Brook to name a few. In any other weekend I would be running towards these races, but for this weekend I was staying around to support a great local Hatfield race, the Smart Run 5k.

 The Smart Run supports the Hatfield Education Foundation, a program that supports the schools that I so proudly work in. The course is flat, fast, and very picturesque, tracing through old neighborhoods of large colonial houses, lush gardens and huge flowering trees.

 If you are looking for a fun fast 5k, this is it. Expect a small town, very friendly run, BBQ with foot-long hot dogs, cheeseburgers and veggie burgers, homemade brownies, and a great raffle where runners have a good chance of leaving with a prize worth more than their entry fee.

For me, i left with a $50 gift certificate to the Mountain Goat and a $15 to Northampton Running! Time to go shopping!

Mr. McCarthy takes first place!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Training Week of 5/7-5/13

Earl's Trails

 Training Week of 5/7-5/13

Monday:       Tempo Ride. 23 miles at 150-160 HR. 20.6 mph
Tuesday:       8 mile run at Ashley Reservoir
Wednesday: 30 mins kayak, 30 mins core work/stretch
Thursday:     Track Workout with Sugarloaf Mountain Athletic
Friday:         Rest:  Work
Saturday:     Long Ride: 60 miles to Palmer, Warren, Belchertown,
                   Granby, and Ludlow
Sunday:       Long Run: 10 mile trail run on Earl's Trails

Run: 23 miles Cycle: 83miles Kayak: 4 miles : Strength 30mins

Time training: 9-10 hours

Thursday, May 10, 2012

2012 Tuckerman's Inferno

Team Tucksanity Wins Duo Division! Third place overall

I think there must be a weather God up there having a blast messing with us adventure racers. The 2012 Tuckerman's Inferno went off in spite of a very low river, virtually no snow on the Tuckerman's trail up to the ravine and a prediction of rain, snow, and pure misery. Well, we had the last laugh, the day turned out to be glorious, in weather and in victory!

 My division this year was the Tuckerman's Duo with top notch runner Alex W of the Summerville running club. Our top competition was 3 time defending champs Waters Equity. In the duo race, teams must complete the pentathlon with 2 people anyway they like. Waters Equity and Tucksanity where matching each other leg for leg.  Dave M and Alex W headed off the run, hike, and ski. and Mike T and myself tackled the kayak and bike portions of the race.

Dave M on the left and Mark T on the right. Mark has got some funky cycling styling happening.

The rivalry is a great one, comparable to Magic and Bird and the Redsox vs.Yankees. Dave M is the most experience racer with a very accomplished resume. A good runner and faster hiker, Mr. M is downright tough. On the other hand Mark T, is downright crazy. A 2nd place finisher at last years Lozer Cup kayak race, a class 4 downriver race on the Dryway section of the Deerfield, he paddles like a bull and reads river lines like an artist. In addition his cycling strength absolutely befuddles me. With minimal training and a heavy bike, he puts down times faster then most his competitors. I would love/hate to see him in a fast bike.

Tucksanity at the start
On our side though we had Alex, part human part machine. He has run 2:30 marathons and skis with the best. On a good day Dave would not have a chance to keep up. Yet, Alex is coming into the race after just running a 2:50 Boston marathon in 90 degree weather less than a week earlier. Could he really recover that fast to stay ahead of Dave???

Friday night 6 condos were filled with bikes, skis, poles, kayak gear, water bottles, and nutrition in the powder and gel form. Just after dinner Crystal and I realized that in the duo race, the hiker does not have to hike the skis up to the bowl. That makes for a huge advantage for Dave and Mark as they planned (smartly) to have someone else bring up Dave's gear. Crystal and I raced around all night trying to find a person who could help us out. In addition, Alex did not have a backpack set up for hiking skis. Logistics and poor planning equals less sleep. In the end we combined support teams with tuckerwomen Daniela. We now had former Ironman Charlie H helping us out...we certainly owed him some beer!

This was the first time i competed in a team format.When it comes to racing, I am pretty selfish...i like to race all the sharing!. Yet this time around i really enjoyed having the team format. For one, packing was a cinch! Having only 2 sports to organize felt like a vacation.  Yet what i really like about racing on a team is the feeling of being a spectator and cheering for your team one minute, then racing for your team the next. Giving a high-five to yourself at the end of a race is not the same as a high five to a teammate!

As i said Alex is a machine. The race went off, and Alex hammered the 9 mile run finishing several minutes ahead the second place runner. Apparently marathon recover for Alex was a cold shower and a few beers. I was given a huge head start on the kayak. The lead got so big, I did not see another kayaker on the river, even as i bent around the corners to look far back. The low river was more technical this year. Rocks poked out of the river like a pimpled teenager..they were everywhere! Skill was involved in reading the river's most fluid lines.  I managed ok finishing with the third fastest kayak time.On the other hand Mark finished with the second fastest time. They where catching up, game on!

Still having a large lead i pushed ahead on the bike as best as I could. Yet with no one in front or behind I hard a tough time knowing if i was pushing hard enough. At 8 miles in i still held a lead and for a minute i thought i might be able to give Alex a chance to win the whole race. That would be something, a duo beats the best 5 person teams.

 That thought quickly faded as a super sleek aero carbon TT bike with all the fixings and a rider pushing some serious wattage passed me cruising at18-19mph on a climb.  Then another cyclist, also in top aero form with calves of steel, passed by me.I felt slow and weak and envious of their high end gear. I pushed on as best as i could, meeting Alex at Pinkham notch for the tag, We were  hanging on to third place overall. I finished with a bike time of  1:01, 13th out of the 75 teams which included transition time.

Not too long after Mark came in. Waters was holding on to fourth place.  As a duo team, both Mark and Dave and Alex and I were outperforming all but 2 5-person teams. Both of our teams were kicking some ass! Alex and Dave raced up Tuckermans Trail to the Ravine to complete the ski leg. Mark and I stuck around to cheer our friends as they came in.

Next in our group to arrive at the bike-hike transition was Josh F. He was in second place in the tuckerman division with the 3rd place tuckerman not too far behind. I met up with Josh F the day before to run the dry Sacco river. Josh F is a great racer, winner of the Berkshire Pentathlon, 2nd place in last years Tuckerman's Ravine, and various other triathlon accomplishments, Josh knows endurance. We were rooting for him. We knew he had a great chance in this years solo category.

Justin came in next. Also competing in the Boston marathon just a week before, he was cruising in this competition. I do believe Justin is part gorilla, he is an animal at these events. Many, including myself, owe Justin the credit for making this event what it is. He is the master organizer that brought so many like minded individuals to New Hampshire for many weekends of training, racing and fun.

Left: Justin using my purple valley Avocet. This is a great boat for this race. Fast and nimble, it can run class 2 rivers very well!

Daniela arrived not too long after. Where as many of us come from various racing backgrounds, with the exception of some road races, Daniela comes from a limited race background. Yet last year she won the individual Tuckerwomen's division. This year she would hold on to second place for another great performance.

Attaching skis to Daniella's backpack

The funny part of the Tuckermans inferno for a team or spectator is that the finish is in the bowl of the Ravine. So if you would like to see the finish, you have to hike 3.5 miles with 2000ft elevation gain up Tuckermans Ravine Trail into the Bowl...and that's what we were to do.

As we got to HoJos (the caretakers cabin) we where greeted by many of the other teams, support crew, and fans. Word came down from the mountain the Alex and Dave had an amazing hike with Tucksanity winning the Duo division and Waters Equity finishing second. More surprising is that we both held our duo spots to third and fourth overall.

   Left: Alex and Daniella coming down from Tucks. The ski
  course, right gully, is in the background. Daniella finished 2nd in the solo women's division

 Pictured right: Josh after finishing 3rd in the solo division

Me and Crystal
Like every year, good times and some celebration were had at the awards ceremony and back at the condos. We had a great crew this year. And to think many people left before we snapped this shot. What a team! Next year we may even put together a 5 person team and really turn some heads!

C-ya Next year!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Up Down and Around Challenge

The Up Down and Around


In its second year, the Wachusett Ski team hosted the Up, Down, and Around challenge adventure race. The proposed course takes athletes on a 5 mile run with about 50% trail, 8 mile hilly bike over some pack dirt, a climb to the summit and ski down. Yet in adventure racing proposed courses don't always stick.  Like many of the other end of the ski-season races this year, snow was lacking. In response, the pentathlon was changes to a quadrathlon, run, bike, hike to the summit, and a downhill run.

There was a good turnout for the race with 50 solo competitors otherwise known as" mountain men and women" and 11 teams. The solo division brought out some tough competition that included triathletes, trail runners, rando-racers, and other multi-sport adventure racers.

The run took us on a beautiful loop through non technical fire-roads, quaint neighborhoods, and a challenging hill at the finish. Still feeling tired from last weekends Berkshire Pentathlon, I focused on keeping to an easier pace and save some juice for the climb. I finished the run leg in 8th place right along  Dave Mangori. Dave and I had an epic battle a month earlier at the Jones 10 mile road race and it looked like this could be a rematch.

I brought my tri bike for the ride and kept with the skinny tires. The website told cyclists to ride with a bigger tire but for this day, i found the dirt roads manageable with a racing set-up. The dirt road only lasted about 1.5 miles towards the end of the course. I would though recommend a road bike as the roads are  rolling with one steep hill, a couple fast descents, and quite bumpy. As a result, I did not ride as aggressive as i would have in my road bike. I was though able to move up a couple of positions on the bike, but Mangori was no where to be seen.. Mangori was able to increase his lead by 2 minutes over me on the bike....nice ride Dave!

The hill climb went straight up Conifer, one of the ski slopes at Wachusett. The trail was muddy with some pockets of snow to maneuver around. I was running when i could and walked when the slope got too steep or I felt my heart rate pumping out of control. I felt good while passing a few more athletes, then at about 3/4 of the way up i saw Dave. I caught up but I knew i had to build a lead. Dave is an excellent runner and i did not want to compete with him head to head on the downhill. I finished the hill climb with the 3rd fastest time of the day. I felt redemption after last weekends struggle up the very short climb of Berkshire East.

The Downhill route went half-way down the Summit Road and turned off onto a really nice single track. Athletes finished with a half lap around the lodge and under the banner. I ran by myself most of the way down not seeing anyone in front or behind. That was until we came out of the woods when i turned around and saw Mangori closing in. We sprinted around the building and though Mangori pullled off the 2nd fastest downhill time of the day, i was able to hold on to my lead and finish 11 seconds ahead of Dave, and 6th overall.  

The Up, Down, and Around went off great in spite of the changes of the course. This is another example of how adventure racing is all about racing in the conditions that are present on that day. I would suggest if the downhill run/trail run happen again, to utilize the trails on the east side of the mountain to the summit. There is beautiful single track there! 

A great day by all and thanks to Wachusett for putting on the race. I hope to see it back every year and hopefully next year with some snow!

Tough Competition!! Four of the top seven place finishers, Dave M (7th place), Jeremy A(5th place), Josh F(3rd place),and Russ J(Overall Winner). Where is that growler Russ?

Check out the nice video put together by Rt2 photography


Friday, April 6, 2012

Berkshire Highlands Pentathlon

I bumped into Bruce Lessels last year at the Wildcat Pentathlon, a race consisting of a run, downriver paddle, bike, hike, and ski. Bruce and his cohorts of the West County Old Stars had the great idea of creating a race just like that of the Wildcat Wildfire, but here in beautiful Western MA. Why not, we may have possibly one of the best venues in Charlemont, Monroe, and Rowe, MA.
Top of the run! Looking below at the Warfield House
In its inaugural running, the Berkshire Highlands Pentathlon features some of the best of what is offered in Western MA. The race consists of a 5 mile trail run,  23 mile road bike ride, 5 mile class 1 and 2 downriver kayak, a hike/run/scramble up Berkshire East, and ski run to the finish. Sounds like a challenge heh? Well there is more! The run includes 1100ft of climbing through mud, rocks, roots, jeep roads and single track (and amazing views with bag pipes!) The bike includes over 2400 feet elevation gain, 2000 ft in the first 12 miles straight up to the wonderful little town of Monroe with the townspeople out cheering you on.. The paddle is down the chilly 40 degree waters of the Deerfield (don't dump!) and the ski has variable spring conditions and gates with a finish at the lodge of Berkshire East and a BBC in a pint glass waiting for you!

Run route
Bike Route

The view from the Warfield House
Charlie, Katherine, Crystal and I took residence at the Warfield House for the weekend.  What a cool place!  When we weren't hurting ourselves during the race or pondering over what to wear, we chased chickens around the barn, talked with the goats, and 'hang' with the horses. (Yup, there is a private joke there for my comrades!) Friends, I cant talk up this place enough. What a great B and B.

Crystal trying to get breakfast

The challenge with these in-between season races are logistics. There was a forecast for 1-2 inches of snow for the race and we had to decide between slow and safe or fast and risky for the bike. I decide to set up my bike with the slower 28mm tire the night before figuring I would have time in the morning to change them back.  In the morning, the roads were dry, but after a lengthy mandatory meeting, time ran out and there would be no time for a tire change. Bad time management on my part...i was riding the big wheels.
Charlie and I setting up skis and snowboard prior to the race.

We started the race at the bottom of one of the ski slopes. The trail in front of us was covered in mud. I was loving it already! We ran through the mud and into Charlemont as we were greeted by locals, volunteers, and neighbors sitting out on their lawns in the chilly, damp 40 degree air. I cant speak highly enough of the support that the town of Charlemont gave. THANK YOU!! The run quickly turned onto Riddel Road which  became a dirt road and then a muddy dirt road. As we climbed Josh and I pulled ahead of the other competitors.  As we approached the top of the hill, the sound of bagpipes filled the air as we overlooked a beautiful view! Josh and I hammered down the Sound of Music field and headed back into the woods. I really enjoyed running the trails with Josh. We competed but also helped each other as we searched for the pink ribbons. The run ended with a super fast descent. My new Inov-8 x-Talon 190s gripped the trail beautifully!

Josh and I racing over the field

The bike course was part beautiful, part suffrage, and another part suffrage.  The climb up to Monroe was long and steep and I rode the granny gear most of the way. From the top, the descent was steep, fast, and somewhat dangerous. For this reason the race organizers "neutralized" the descent. Riders where not suppose to go more than 15 mph. Volunteers let cyclists know when they entered the neutralized zone, but then i was not sure where it ended. Next year, I think having signs informing cyclists where the zone ends would be helpful. Also volunteers told me that  the front riders where riding quite a bit faster than I was. I would have only saved 10 or so seconds but then again I lost 3rd place by 3 or 4 seconds. Fifteen mph on a steep descent is really difficult to maintain without burning out your breaks. I think 20 mph would be a better limit and keep riders at a closer speed. Regardless, I'm happy that no accidents happened.

With the lack of snow and rain, the river was quite a bit lower than it usually is at this time of the year. Usually the river would be running at 2000cfs. On this day, it was only about 800 cfs of dam release water. Low, but still plenty enough water to race in if you can follow the lines. Reminders of the floods brought on by hurricane Irene where evident on all the banks of the river. Huge trees, branches, and limbs where piled up 20 feet high, maybe more.   I felt sluggish in the low water as i tried to find the best lines. I definitely missed a few lines of current and the low water got me stuck on a few rocks.

Nice move Katherine!!

This was Charlie's first multi-sport with a kayak leg. Charlie rented a kayak from Zoar Outfitters and with very little kayak experience, and almost no down-river kayak experience he was able to get down the river with no problem. He said he loved it! Time to get him into a faster boat!

This was also Katherine's first roll as support crew. Look at her go!...she had no idea what she got herself into! One of the reasons I love this type of race is working with a support becomes a team event even racing as an individual. Though at first Katherine may have been a bit hesitant to the role of support, I think she ended up having a really good time!

I pulled up to the river bank to see my support ace Crystal wildly ringing the cow bell...yup..i got the best support crew! I slipped on my running shoes and went running off to the hike. After sitting in the boat for 44 minutes, I was feeling the excess lactic acid built up in my hamstring and the muscles were not liking it.

I got to my back pack and headed up the slope...The hike was a bit slow but as I reached the top i was still holding 3rd place. As i got the skis off my back pack, which took much longer than I planned, I noticed my boots where on the wrong skis. Duh! I did not want to waste time switching them, so I left them as is. Then as I was getting my feet into the boots, I couldn't loosen my buckle to get into the boot..argh...utter, pure frustration, intensified by fatigue. (I'm sure if i wasn't tired, i would have no problem with any of these chores). The hike to ski transition took me 5 minutes, just enough time for the 4th place guy to catch up. I skied down the slope, dealing with the mismatched skis and taking a fall where the snow turned to mud. Then at the end of the snow covered slope, I got the skis off, ran towards the end, and lost by just a couple seconds just as Jonathan Swan passed me at the finish.
Whats left after the snow-less summer like winter. I m in the mud after loosing balance. Jonathan is on my tail...

I was certainly disappointed mainly because its was a frustrating finish. Regardless Jonathan Swan had a great race and deserve the spot on the podium. Next year I will be back with a better ski set-up and will be sure to double check my gear before the race!

This race was a huge success mainly because of the volunteers and folks that came out to make this race fun and safe.  Pictured right is Coach, 83 years old. He first directed runners down the streets of Charelmont and then was at the finish 3 hours later to shake hands and offer praise to the participants. Thanks for the support coach!

Josh Wins!!!  Good job Josh

Josh had a great race winning the BraveHeart solo division and placing ahead all but 2 teams. He is a machine! Watch out for him at Tuckerman's Inferno this year!

Mike McCusker and Bruce Lessels did a fantastic job putting this race together. Pictured right is Mike with our dedicated bagpiper. Mike led the award ceremonies and recognition in an enthusiastic Scottish accent, adding a great finishing touch to the whole event ( left).

This is my type of event and i hope it continues to grow. When i think of adventure racing, this is it! To top it off, the race benefits local land preservation and local education. I'm already looking forward to next year!

The Team!

Beers after the we look tired?