The answer is when it is Prospect Mountain Uphill Road Race. There is always a comfortable crowd, not too big but not too small either, as well as a loyal contingent of regulars and New England Mountain aficionados. And while there is a road, there is no traffic congestion, with the only cars being race-related vehicles. The scenery, when it chooses to emerge from the fog, is more spectacular than that of many a trail race. Once I saw a mountain lion perched on a rocky crag; once an audience of us watched a porcupine climbing a tree in search of tender new leaves. Both encounters reminded me that I was far from the mall.
Most telling, this year the date was bumped forward a bit to allow Dan Olden, holder of one of the few 27 year-old streaks, to participate, since the customary day before Mother’s Day was either his daughter’s graduation or wedding. (Sorry Dan—I forget which). But then this is an account, not a news report. The point being, this is something that might likely occur for a laid-back trail race but not for a die-hard road event. Kind of nice that family values and consideration still matter.
And the powers above tend to agree. ATRA, American Trail Running Association, also includes road mountain running in its trail community since, according to its founder, Nancy Hobbs, running uphill hill is a big component of trail running. It is the “trail experience” that is the defining criteria. So while all of us knowingly participated in a road race, some of us were just as certain we were tracing an upwards trail. And we were both correct.
It was nice to be based again at the newly refurbished Forum, a much easier walk to the base of the mountain. There were a lot less cars parked along the road, as it seemed most folks felt the same way. Plus, I didn’t have to get lost again trying to find that darn hotel! That is one of the things that attracts me to uphill road races: there are no intersections, no opportunities for failure. Just head straight up the road, with only one hill to conquer. Remembering past years, this time I started farther back and gradually gained momentum, which is quite a feat going uphill! I achieved my goal of not dying before the finish line and charging the final miles. As a nice bonus I took roughly a minute off last year’s time.
I attribute this to our stair running club at work. At lunchtime, a group of us hit the stairs for a half hour workout about twice a week. It really has made a difference. I mostly stick with Trevor Oakley, who is a biker but had never run before. But now he is considering it! Anyway, over the last half, I envisioned him in his usual position one or two flights ahead of me and I guess it helped.
I consider the downhill jaunt part of the total experience and usually round up a group of like-minded individuals. This year it somehow didn’t occur to me and since it was such a once-in-a-lifetime bluebird sky day, many paused longer at the top. Initially, I ran down with Gary Rockwell from MA, whom I had known from the Mt. Greylock races, but then he peeled off at the first parking lot. For a while I ran alone. Usually I enjoy pounding the descent, but it was such a beautiful day, I took the tourist option, enjoying all the viewing stands. Eventually I was joined by Matt Miczek, who had just summited his first Prospect. We made it back in time to wash up and scrape the chili pot.
I followed up with a Sunday shake-out run that should have been an hour, but stretched out to 2:40 as I got lost on the same miserable white trail behind my house that had defeated me the previous two Sundays. By cutting across someone’s lawn and back to GO! I finally figured out where I had gone wrong. It took a lot of nerve to do this as there is a reason this person plucked down his Better Homes & Gardens house in the middle of the woods, carving out a swimming pool and golf course complete with sprinklers. Fortunately, he wasn’t home. The following day, after chasing toddlers for five hours, I sucked it up and joined Trevor on the stairs. Surprisingly, my legs felt OK, but my turnover was really forced. And end of the mission a Fitbit check revealed we had unknowingly tied our all-time record of 88 flights in 30 minutes. I am so ready for another Prospect! Or maybe a nice hot soak in the tub…
by Laura Clark