Last week I raced up a mountain in Vermont. It took me somewhere in the vicinity of 40 minutes to trek two vertical miles, which means that my pace wavered between that of a newborn baby and the trickle of molasses. (Or maple syrup?)
When Stratton Mountain decided to name the Columbus Day Weekend flagship event the “Race to the Summit,” I’d like to think that they didn’t intentionally set out to deceive those of us who aren’t native Vermonsters. The name “Crawl to the Summit” would have been more appropriate, but this was a race in every other sense of the word: challenging and rewarding, with the bonus of beautiful mountain vistas and peak fall foliage.
And I have to say that it is one of the coolest things that I’ve ever done. I wasn’t really considering running for time—my prerace participation in a beer and chili cook-off pretty much negated that—and it’s always nice to switch up the inevitable monotony of a daily fitness routine with an adventure run.
Here’s how it went: I left Long Island concerned not with the steep grade but instead with the steep drop in temperature as we trekked deeper into New England. I checked the weather before I left, but after a summer in the high 80s, who actually remembers what 40 degrees feels like?
I sat topside on the Orient Point ferry to bask in the sunshine and left my jacket carside. By the time we arrived in southern Vermont, I only needed to snap a few photos with my naked hands before I was running into the ski shop, searching for gloves.
Then, there was the issue of conquering the large, looming hill. I’m not sure what it is about working at Dan’s that makes employees want to conquer mountains (i.e. David Rattiner’s more impressive hike—up Mt. Kilimanjaro), but let’s not forget that we all come from Flatsville, New York.
I knew that running up a mountain would be a completely foreign experience. When I was home from college during winter break one year, my track coach gave me a hill workout to complete. I distinctly remember driving around Southampton Town for at least an hour until I found one that would suffice. It was on Deerfield Road, and let’s just say that the girl sprinting along the side of the road near an abandoned green minivan got a lot of quizzical stares.
So, instead, my goal at Stratton was to always be running.
The first eighth of a mile of the race was through the cute little ski village, and it had the hallmark bottleneck at the start. Like always, I tried to get out of the crowd as soon as possible. Then we hit the mountain. Up a black diamond trail. Naturally I was feeling good—I had been in the race for about 47 seconds at that point—and I stuck true to my goal of running.
But two miles and a 2,000-foot elevation change? That’s a 20% incline. Running is about setting goals, doing everything in your power to stick to them, and if needed, modifying them. So I went as hard as I could, and sometimes that meant walking briskly. But I never stopped. Not even to admire the beautiful views, the yellow and red leaves dotting the dirt paths in a quintessential autumn kind-of-way.
That view was for the end. Because like any race, sprinting through the finish line is always the best part.
Note: As we go to press, I’ve found out that I placed first in my age group with a time of 38:28. Stratton will be sending me a pair of mittens. Awesome!
Check out a list of area races and walks on page 84 and on www.danshamptons.com.