For the second weekend in a row I found myself in the Lake Sunapee area for a race. This time I headed just east of RT89 and arrived in New London, NH for the 2nd annual A Pleasant Climb trail race (results). The 12.5km trail race was part of the Western New Hampshire Trail Running Series and the Eastern New England Trail Race Series. In reality, neither series brought me here, the chance to run something new had more to do with it.
As usual I got there early, registered, chatted briefly about the course with the RD (Chad Denning), changed and headed out for a warm up run. Last week I ran a road race with the first 2 miles actually off road. This week, believe it or not, I ran a trail race with the first 2 miles all on pavement. What are the chances?? It's almost too bad because the trail part of the race was excellent.
I could have done without the first 2 mile section. Not only was it pavement, it was ALL downhill and VERY steep. No kidding, it was like running down Mt Washington (almost). Quad hammering, foot slapping, 2 miles of killer downhill. Talk about getting your quads warmed up. Geesh. I finally hit the woods in 11:30 (5:45 pace), and I was already in 11th place. I would stay in that position for the entire race. The next 3ish miles was the namesake of the race, a Pleasant Climb. We started at Lake Pleasant (the low point in New London) and then gradually climbed up to Morgan Hill (the high point in New London). According to the RD, it was indeed a pleasant climb. After destroying my quads in the first 2 miles, the 3 mile climb wasn't so pleasant, but I did manage to run the entire climb. It was a beautiful trail, following a brook for a good portion of it. It was also what I'd call discretely well marked. Plenty of signs to mark the way but you had to look for them.
Ah, but there's more! Once at the top, the trail jumped back on a road for probably 1 1/2 miles, and the first 1/2 mile or so was pavement...again. This time, it really was Mt Washington steep. More punishment for my already aching quads...great. I think we lost most of the elevation gained climbing in this short 1/2 mile pavement section. After that the road turned to dirt and generally flattened out for the next mile, giving my legs a bit of relief. The last mile or so put us back in woods (more like a swamp). At least it was flat. It was a very strange trail. The first half really was like running through a swamp because it was so wet. The second half was almost totally dry BUT had dozens and dozens of bog bridges. It didn't make any sense at all. Whatever.
57:48 later I was finished. 11th overall, 2nd masters. I actually finished 4 seconds behind the 1st place master. Sounds close (and it was), but in reality he probably had a 2 minute lead over me in the last mile and somehow missed a turn. By the time he got back on course I was right with him but couldn't get by him in the last 1/2 mile or so.
Overall it was a good race and I had a good time. They had a nice raffle after the race, including a couple of pairs of Inov-8's, which unfortunately I did not win :-(
All age group winners also walked away with a choice of 4 different freshly made breads.