Although I have completed this race four times, the course had the upper hand today. The start was typical with a mass start followed by a single file climb. At that point temperatures were in the 50s and I found myself at the top of the first mountain a minute ahead of my typical pace.
I then had plenty of energy to begin the run to course’s flat section aka the low place. The increased number of runners was evident at the more technical sections where I found myself waiting in line; which gave me a chance to slow my heart rate down and take in water. The descent to the low place went smoothly and I found myself feeling fresh and on pace for a record time.
This was when I started to notice the temperature rapidly rising but I hit the water and pressed on. I even began to pass other runners as I ascended out of the low place and towards Mt. Holyoke. I conversed with fellow runners and took in an energy gel while descending to Taylor’s Notch. I then saw the race leader on his way back while I was halfway of the climb to Mt Holyoke; this was earlier than usual but I didn’t think anything of it.
I was very thankful to have a large contingent of supporters cheering for me on top of Mt Holyoke. This gave me the drive to make it to the midpoint aid station in just over 1.5 hours. At this point my feet were feeling downright clammy thanks to my shoe’s Gore Tex liner but I changed my socks and pressed on. By now temperatures had climbed into the mid 80s and my usual combination of water and electrolytes was not exactly doing the trick.
I slowed to a fast walk but kept moving. My supporters were still waiting for me at the summit house which gave me a final boost. However, I could feel the heat robbing my energy and my pace slowing rapidly. All of a sudden, as I climbed out of Taylor’s Notch, my legs froze up. I took a few seconds, some water and pushed forward. Then it happened again. I had gone nine miles at this point but the most significant climbs were still in front of me. The remaining hills were huge challenges on the best of days and they may have been downright dangerous in today’s heat. Therefore, I unpinned my race bib, turned around and walked out on the road; living to run another day.
Despite my defeat, it was still a good day for the race and most of the 285 runners who joined me. This year saw an increase of almost 40 runners, over previous years, which suggests that the race is growing in popularity and becoming the legendary event that it deserves to be.
So I didn’t set a personal record this year; I didn’t even finish. However I gave it what I had and learned a few lessons for next time. The Seven Sisters may have won the battle but the war is not over and I look forward to returning to the course next year.
Gear Lesson Learned: Don’t put anything with Gore Tex on your feet if conditions are hot and dry. My Montrail AT Plus shoes are great when it is cold and wet. However they breathed as well as plastic and felt as heavy as cinder blocks after 9 miles in the heat.