Saturday, I convinced Brandon that running up Wachusett would be just the thing to get in shape, so we headed west to the Wachusett Hill Climb, which is part of the USATF Northeast mountain running circuit. Luckily (for both of us) the finish was at about the same elevation as the start, which meant there was plenty of downhill. Road runners, apparently, cannot run down hills worth beans, so we took our skier skillz to hand and finished better than we would have in a pure uphill race.
I started pretty conservatively, since it starts up a pretty long sustained climb, and I didn't feel the need to blow to pieces two miles into a five mile race. There were a lot of people up the road, and a couple girls went by. I figured I'd get the ipod-wearer back, but some of these gals were lean mean running machines, so I figured that'd be the last I'd see of them. We finally got to the top of the paved climb, about 1.5 miles later, and turned downhill in the park to head down 3/4 of that distance on a singletrack trail. It was sweet, I was constantly passing people, most of whom were jogging or leaping from rock to rock. I made it up beyond some of the girls who I hadn't even been able to see while on the road, and I was definitely feeling smug about passing those skinny chicks back.
Then we traversed for a while, and my amazing passing streak was over. It turns out that running downhill, even if you let gravity do most of the work, still makes your legs tired. I held it together on the flat, with Donna Smyth (mountain runner and master skier extraordinnaire) in my near sights. The race then turned left, onto a steep hiking trail. I let my speed carry me up a little ways and then settled into a fast hike, which was much faster than the people trying to run. I started passing some groups of guys, and again was feeling pretty smug, until the trail got less rocky and less steep. Crap, I had to run again, and some of those guys who had been hiking slowly passed me back. I was starting to feel pretty redlined, but luckily, once we hit the top of this climb, it was all downhill.
None of the girls I'd passed on the first downhill got me back on this uphill, probably because it had rocks and roots on it, and as we started into the last two miles, which were all down hill, I could see a couple more girls ahead of me. I let loose, cartiledge be damned, and tried to float down the hill. There was one other girl in a red shirt that I couldn't reel in, but then I caught a glimpse of a guy in a bright yellow teeshirt - could it be Rob? I kept bombing down the hill, and just before it flattened out into the traverse I caught up to him. It was Rob, and he was hurting, but the point is that I caught him. He then heckled me as we hit a short rise, and I slowed waaaaay down. Yup, downhill running is still hard, especially when you hit the uphills! I cruised in to the finish 6th in my age class, but I can't find results anywhere online to see where I finished overall. I'll take 8:15 miles over an all up-or-down course... but boy were my legs sore the next day after all that pounding.
Too bad the next day was the Coyote Hill mountain bike XC...