Are you a MUT runner? Are you not sure? Do you want to be?
Well, what exactly is a MUT runner, you may ask. MUT stands for mountain/ultramarathon/trail. This covers a wide range of running, but it brings together a very unique group of runners. The MUT running community is like no other. You will see people of all different socioeconomic backgrounds at these events. What we all share is a love for running trails, cheering each other on and enjoying each other's company.
This year I had the pleasure to introduce some friends and fellow runners to trail and mountain running. We ran the 1791 Trail Run at Berwick Academy, the Exeter Day 5K Trail Run, Mount Washington Road Race, the Loon Mountain Race, the Cranmore Hill Climb (which also served as the USATF Mountain Running Championship race this year), the Exeter Trail Race and the Kingman Farm Trail Race. Before the year's over, we'll run some more too. As you can see from the races listed, the variation is pretty significant from the Exeter Day 5K Trail Run which was run on double track, non-technical trails to the Exeter Trail Race which was run on single track and technical trails to a race up the auto road (paved and dirt) to the highest peak in the Northeast.
The overwhelming response has been along the lines of "That was great, I can't wait to run more trail (or mountain) races!" When asked about their impressions, they all said that it is so much different than road racing. You might think, of course it is! However, it's not just the difference of running on trails, dodging roots and rocks and being out in nature. It also has quite a bit to do with the atmosphere and our fellow runners.
The MUT running community is very supportive of each other. Yes, people still compete, but just as quickly someone will stop to help you or talk you through a difficult part of the race if you're struggling. We gather around the finish line waiting for the final runners and cheer for them as they cross the line. Typically, it doesn't end there. These races are usually followed by hanging out and talking with fellow runners. As with many races, you start to recognize more and more people, but you also become more and more a part of the community.
Next year I'm hoping to introduce some of these runners (and some new ones) to 'U' of MUT running. There are some great local ultramarathons, and I know that they (and you) would have a blast running them! And maybe we'll become "mountain goats" along the way (check out the USATF-New England MUT mountain series).
If you've thought about MUT running or this sounds interesting to you, let us know. Zosha Training can introduce you to the trails and an entirely new experience. Get in touch with us now to talk about how to get started.
We look forward to hearing from you ... happy trails!
When I told people that I was going to run the Loon Mountain Race (LMR), the immediate assumption was that it was a trail race around Loon Mountain. When I told them it was a trail race up Loon Mountain, this immediately changed the tone and nature of the conversation. The typical response was along the lines of “better you than me.”
Quite honestly, the LMR was not on my original list of races for the year. However, it did enter my radar (ever so briefly) earlier in the year when I first heard about the race. But then I set any thoughts of running it aside and went back to my original race plans.
As the date of race approached, however, LMR resurfaced. I had some friends who would be running, and I decided a couple weeks prior to the race to join in. Based on this timeline, it’s easy to see that I had not been actively training for a mountain race. Even though I have been increasing my mileage and am training for a fall marathon, a mountain race is a completely different beast. I hadn’t even been running very big hills (maybe 300-400 feet of elevation gain on an average run). And I somehow convinced my wife to join me too!
The race was held at the Loon Mountain Resort (a ski resort in northern New Hampshire) in Lincoln, NH. After getting up early and driving a little less than two hours to Lincoln, we picked up our bibs and settled in on the banks of the Pemigewaset River before the 9:00 start time.
Around 8:45, we all gathered around the start line and tried to hear the pre-race announcements (which were unintelligible for the most part from where we were standing). The race started, and we were on our way.
The course starts off with some winding trails with a small amount of incline and quickly changes into a climb, much of it runnable (if you have trained for it). Since my wife and I were in it just to have fun for the day, we had to keep reminding ourselves to look around and enjoy the views (whether it was the beautiful vistas or the wildflowers or the wild strawberries along the course).
There were a few points when we thought that the course couldn’t get steeper (even though we knew it would). But then there was just enough leveling off or downhill to take our minds off of it. That is until we finally hit the Upper Walking Boss trail which was saved for the very end of the race. Upper Walking Boss is a double black diamond ski trail with an average 40% grade over the course of approximately one kilometer (0.62 miles). Upper Walking Boss was a challenge to even walk up, but we did it!
After an hour and thirty-eight minutes on the trail, we finally crossed the finish line … approximately 5.5 miles and 2,700 feet later. There were some great runners who had already finished the race hanging out at the finish line to cheer on the rest of the finishers, and it was a great welcome!
After rehydrating and hanging out at the summit for a little while, we got into the gondola and rode down to the base. We stayed around for the awards ceremony and the raffle. I had been told that there is always a great raffle. There were quite a few prizes given away, including free pairs of Scott running shoes, supplement powders and maple syrup. And I ended up winning a pair of Scott running shoes (which I will review once I spend some time running in them)!
Overall, acidotic Racing did a great job with race. Everything went smoothly, and there was a great group of runners. If you haven’t run any trail races or spent any time with the trail running community, I highly recommend that you do so as soon as possible.
After the mental fatigue of running trails up Loon Mountain wore off, I realized how fun mountain races can be. I even signed up for the Cranmore Hill Climb (race review to follow) on July 21.
After crossing the finish line of the Loon Mountain Race, I said that I had gotten the need to run mountains out of my system. I was convinced. But it’s amazing how quickly things can change. On the ride home, as I had some time to decompress from the day’s events and my body started to recover ever so slightly from the run, I started to think about the Cranmore Hill Climb, which was scheduled for two weeks later.
After a couple days, I found myself online registering for Cranmore. I looked at some pictures of the course, and it seemed much more runnable than Loon. So why not? The added bonus is that the Cranmore Hill Climb had also been selected as the USATF MUT (Mountain/Ultra/Trail) championship race and team selection race for the world mountain running championships to be held later in the year in Poland as well as the 2013 NACAC (North America, Central America and Caribbean Athletic Association) Mountain Championships. What could be more fun and exciting than to run a mountain race with some of the best mountain runners in the world from the U.S., Canada and Mexico, right?
The race was held on July 21 at the Cranmore Mountain Resort in North Conway, New Hampshire. The course was designed to try to mimic the world championship course that would be held in Poland and was a down and up course (yes, run down the mountain and back up). Because of the championship aspect, this year’s race took place as two separate races: the women’s race and the men’s race.
The women’s race was an 8K race (two laps of the 4K course, so runners would go down and up twice) starting at 8:15, and the men’s race was a 12K race (three laps of the 4K course) starting at 9:15.
On race day, I got up early and headed up to North Conway, which is just over an hour and half drive. I arrived, picked up my bib and then hopped on the chair lift to head to the top of the mountain to watch the start of the women’s race. This was followed by the wait, since an hour remained until the men’s race started. I spent some time warming up and some time in the lodge at the top.
As 9:15 approached, I made my way to the finish line to watch the top women finish the race. The U.S. women dominated the race. While the remaining women continued on, we [the men] gathered at the start line and then it began.
The course starts with a very short uphill just before the summit and was quickly followed by some fast downhill. For the most part, the downhill was packed sand and gravel with some grass off to the side, although there were definitely some spots on the steeper descents with loose gravel and rocks.
I never considered myself a very good downhill runner (and compared to the elites who would pass me later on, I definitely am not); however, I took advantage of the downhills and run a decent pace. The uphills, on the other hand, resulted in quite a bit of walking. So my day was made up of fast, strong downhills followed by some serious hiking. Overall, the course was in really good shape with only a few spots of mud (which by the final lap had become relatively deep and mucky — I ended up going fully ankle deep in the mud on that lap).
After one lap, I questioned my sanity for signing up for the race, especially since I hadn’t been training for this type of running and was doing this just for fun. Ascending the final hill of the second lap, I was truly questioning whether or not I had one lap left in me. However, I pushed on. The fast downhill always provided just enough of a break physically and mentally to let me push on a little more.
Finally, after just over two hours on the course, I crossed the finish line. I headed over to the lodge, picked up my bag and hopped onto the chairlift to make my way to the bottom on the mountain. I hung around for a little while for a drink (there was a free beer after all) and the awards ceremony. Then I hopped into the car for the hour and a half drive home.
In retrospect, it was a great race and I’m very glad that I decided to run it. Recovery, on the other hand, was a little grueling. All the downhill definitely took a toll on my quads, but I was back on the roads again on Monday.
I can’t say enough about the great job that the race directors and organizers did. The race was incredibly well run, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in running it next year.
As I write this, I’m contemplating running the entire mountain series in 2014. Maybe I’ll see you there …