Ascent of Pack Monadnock Mountain on 2011-06-05

Climber: Jim Johnson

Date:Sunday, June 5, 2011
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Pack Monadnock Mountain
    Location:USA-New Hampshire
    Elevation:2280 ft / 694 m

Ascent Trip Report

Last weekend was race #3 in the USATF-New England Mountain Series for 2011 and it took place out west in Wilton, NH. The Pack Monadnock 10 Miler (results) runs through a very hilly section Wilton, Temple, and Peterborough NH and ends up on the summit of Pack Monadnock.

I was 3rd here last year and 4th in 2009. This year, I wasn't sure who was going to be running, but I knew that none of the guys that have been in front of me in the past would be there. It was also the same day as Rhody 5k down in Rhode Island (serving as the USATF-NE Grand Prix 5K Championships), so I knew that most of the regions 'top' fast guys would be down there...but typically the guys who are crazy enough to do Pack Monadnock, would most likely pass on a flat 5k around a parking lot. This race is a bruiser. 8.5 very hilly miles and then the last 1.5 miles up a ridiculously steep auto road that is just a pure grind. The last couple years, my last mile here has been mid-9s and the popular story is that of Eric Morse being the only person to ever break 8 minutes for the last mile (which I cannot even fathom is remotely possible). Even Eric Blake didn't run under 8 minutes last year. Morse ran a ridiculous 58:35 in 1999, 1 minute and 20 seconds faster than Eric Blake ran last year. That's impressive. This is the slowest 10 mile 'road race' you'll probably ever come across. There is a good deal of it on very packed, smooth dirt roads, but it is a 'road race' that is so hilly that it has been part of the mountain series in New England since the beginning in 1996.

We warmed up over the first part of the course, which is pretty much immediately uphill and it was clear that the humidity was already a factor, even early in the morning. I ditched the singlet at the last minute and decided it was best to go as light as possible. It would end up being a good decision.

As the race got underway, we immediately hit the first climb which doesn't let up until the mile mark. Last year I was 5:59 through the first mile (which is because it is all uphill...a hill that is worse than just about any hill in any road race you'll find anywhere)...and that's just the beginning. Through the first mile, I was out front by quite a bit and nobody was coming with me. I clicked through in 6:00 (one second slower than last year) and was pleased because I wanted to go out conservatively and felt like I was doing just that. To be just about even with last year was a good start. I wasn't chasing Kevin and Eric this year, so I was hoping I'd still be able to continue and run a good time. Just as you pass the mile mark, the course levels out for a bit, then starts to drop as it turns onto a dirt road. There was an official sign on the tree at the beginning of the road that read 'This road is not maintained in the winter'. Someone had put a homemade sign just below that one that read 'or summer'. I found that pretty amusing.

The second mile has a bunch of down and then a nice climb again. I continued to open up my lead a bit but continued to keep any eye on what was going on behind. I wasn't sure who was going to come up to challenge me and who was going to be running a smarter race potentially, behind me. I knew Tivo was in good shape for the longer stuff because he's running a trail half soon. I also knew that Ryan Aschbrenner was back there, as were a few of my teammates who could be in contention.

Miles 2-7 could all be run in low 6s to mid 5s and I clicked off a few good miles as I continued to run my pace. Right before 4 miles, I ran off course when I came to an intersection that looked like it was coned out to to right. There was also a volunteer next to a Jeep, which was parked down the road and he was standing there looking like he was directing you that way. I took a turn onto the road and ran at him for a few seconds before I yelled to him 'this way?' and he just shook his head and pointed back the way I came. Needless to say I was pretty p*ssed. He was in the worst possible spot to be directing people and it was very confusing. I ran across an overgrown island in the street to get back onto the course. I'm sure he came back down onto the right street after that and made sure no one else made that mistake (the fallbacks of being out front!)... Miles 2 and 3 were fast as they had some nice downhills, but then mile 4 was mostly a climb and pretty slow. Mile 5 was pretty quick, with some flats and downs. During this time, I could see Tivo in my rearview, but he was back a ways as I just kept trying to plug away and keep clicking the miles. I started to notice during this time that my hips were getting very tight and sore. No doubt it was from the constant ups and downs, but I pressed on. Mile 6 had a steep climb in the middle, splitting 2 flatter sections, and then mile 7 was the last 'fast' mile before the hurt starts happening. From that point on, the entire race is uphill just about. It just starts getting progressively harder and slower. Mile 7 is mostly if not all dirt (it might actually start before mile 7).

Just before the 8 mile mark, you dump out onto the highway and you have to stay to the right, behind the cones as you just look up and see a mile in front of you. This part is deceivingly hard, as the grade is about 8% or so the whole time and it just seems like you are not getting anywhere. I felt for the first time during this section like I wanted to stop. But I knew that I had the last 1.5 miles ahead of me, which was the breaking point for most people. I wasn't thrilled with the fact that during the 8th mile, even before hitting the state park where the auto road begins, I started to get that pounding pulse in my neck from my soaring heart rate. I was burning up from the warmth of the sun and the exposed highway, and was looking back to finally see on one of the longest straights, Tivo still in 2nd place.

As I made my way up into the state park and began the auto road slog up to the summit, I had zero confidence that even with that very large lead I knew I had at the beginning, that I could hold off a charging Tivo up one of, if not the hardest mile on the circuit. I immediately went from 7:00 or so minute pace, to 9+ minute pace as soon as I stepped onto the auto road. My form went from really bad (the usual) to downright awful. I was all hunched over, arms up high, mouth wide open trying to suck in as much air as possible, feet barely lifting off the ground, and sweat just pouring into my eyes. As I kept glancing up, then occasionally turning around to see if anyone was in sight, I passed by the occasional hiker or spectator climbing up the side of the road, offering me encouragement. I knew I'd be 9-10 minutes for the last mile as I passed the 9 mile mark and thought to myself 'ok, another 9 minutes of this...that's it'... I kept waiting and looking out for the last ridiculously steep grind straight up to the top and finally began the last climb up. I could see the towers and the people up at the last turn. I started to hear the cheers and glanced at my watch. I knew it was going to be close. I ran 1:03:53 last year and thought a sub 1:03 would be surely impossible when running alone, but I was on pace. I pushed up and through to the end and ended up breaking 1:03 by coming in in 1:02:47 for my first Pack win.
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike

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