Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Kismet Cliff Run Half Marathon (Beast of the East) Race Report - 9/21/14

I have been thinking about running the Beast of the East Half Marathon for the past two years and this year I finally pulled the trigger and signed up. One of the main reasons that I wanted to run it was because I love the trails that it takes place on - the Moat Mountains in North Conway, NH. The Moats provide the backdrop for the town and loom over it with their open ridges and winding singletrack trails that offer great views of the White Mountains. I have been up there a few times running in the winter and the summer and it is a great place.

I have been on a couple previous runs up on the ridge, one in the fall and one in the winter. Since I took no photos during the run, here are some of the views from other times I've been up:
Mt. Chocorua

Right around where the packed out snow stopped

View West towards Passaconaway and Whiteface

Looking towards North Moat from somewhere near Middle Moat

Great view of Mt. Washington

The course consists of 4,000 feet of climbing over the 13 or so miles, which makes it relatively hilly and the majority of the terrain is single track/hiking trails with a short (500') section of access road mixed in around mile 1.5. The types of trails and climbing definitely made it a good goal race leading up to some of my fall plans.

I stayed up in Conway with my wife's relatives for the weekend, had a relaxing Saturday and went for hike with my wife, two kids, and Amanda's uncle Dick up Black Cap Mtn. near Intervale. With the luxurious start time of 10am on Sunday, we were able to take it easy in the morning and head over to the race at a more decent hour than other races.

With a short description of the course from Gabe Flanders, the RD, we lined up at the start line and got ready for an adventure on the trails of the Moats. The first mile of the course was flat as it headed around the pond on some soft pine needles. I passed a couple people when we arrived at the short paved access road before heading up the first steep climb to the top of Cathedral Ledge (about 500' in 0.4 miles). I've found lately that I'm better off hiking some of the steeper trails and I tend to use slightly less exertion than if I were to run. After reaching the top, runners descend a short trail to the saddle between Cathedral Ledge and White Horse Ledge before climbing up to the summit. Another descent to get to the Red Ridge Trail, and the longest climb of the day up Middle Moat Mountain (about 1,800' in 2 miles) began. This section consists of large rock slabs on an open ridge, ascending into the clouds while the slabs became wetter and wetter. Unfortunately there were no views on Sunday, because this section is very picturesque.

Leslie Beckwith caught up to me around the base of the climb and helped to make me push all the way to the top. She and I traded places back and forth and then she took the lead about halfway up the climb. As we arrived at the top we took a right along the ridge trail to run across the saddle to North Moat's summit. There was a little hand-over-hand climbing through here and I was glad Leslie gave me some advice about not bringing a handheld bottle for the race. I ended up deciding on using the Ultimate Direction Scott Jurek pack for the run and it turned out to be a good choice.  It allowed me to easily carry some of my gels and plenty of water for the whole run.

After reaching the summit of North Moat there is a two mile descent dropping about 2,000 feet on some rocky slabs. My shoe choice turned out to be great, I used the Inov8 Roclite 295s and they handled the slabs very well on the way down. These shoes have become my go-to shoe for races and anytime I am running on wet rocks, as the sticky rubber grip works well and the lightweight sole gives me the right amount of support for technical trails. I also chose some great socks, the Darn Tough Ultralights that kept my feet breathing and cool during the race in the humid weather. Thankfully I had no blisters or hot spots to deal with afterwards. Leslie and I picked our way down the mountain carefully and stayed together discussing our kids and upcoming events we were thinking about running. Somewhere in the middle, I ended up taking a misstep on a angled slab and my foot went out from under me, causing me to fall on my back. I got up and brushed off with no major problems and continued to head down the descent.

I reached the bottom a few seconds before her and started to pick up the pace on the gradual (less technical) downhill run for the next mile or so. She stayed behind me until we got to the last climb and then I ended up taking a gel and slowing my pace. I slowly passed a runner around here as he was making his way up the climb. From this last climb there was only about two miles left in the race and I tried to run as much as I could. Heading down some boulder fields, I ran downhill to close out the race. I am not used to the "shorter" distance races and struggled with some of the steep climbs on this course. Typically at 2.5 hours I would have another hour and a half to go on the races I have been running lately, so this half marathon distance was a great choice and allowed me to not spend the whole day out there. Finishing out the last short section, I ran around the pond to the finish to see my family. My time of 2:44:37 was good enough for fifth place, results here.

Congratulations to all the runners, Leslie lowered the course record by quite a bit with a 2:42 (Old CR was 2:56 and Tristan Williams took four or five minutes off his own course record with a smoking fast 2:14.It was a great race, well marked, with well-placed aid stations and the trails proved to be awesome to run on. The volunteers and race director did a great job and made everything go smoothly, this will be a race that I plan to return to and try to a better job. I think I could take some time off if I work on my climbing a bit over the next year. My downhill running is okay, but I think I could have capitalized on some of the flatter sections with some better leg speed. Hopefully with some training I think I could run 2:30 next year, but you never know until you try.

Glad to be done

Map of the course, note the slow descent around mile 8 down the wet slabs

Elevation profile, altitude figures are off - I need to calibrate my watch
Coming up, I'll be attempting to run a bit faster than last year at the TARC Fall Classic 50km race in Carlisle, MA and I will be trying to decide whether I will run the Midstate Trail through run (95 miles) in November. That one is up in the air at this point and I may skip it due to inconsistent training and go for it at a later time in my life. I might be leaning towards the TARC Fells Ultra 40 miler in December, trying to get some redemption from my only DNF at that race last year. I still beat myself up over it because there was no logical reason why I stopped and didn't finish. It was purely mental. I'm hoping to get in a few more good weeks of training leading up to the 50k race and hopefully I'll do a better job at pacing it.

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