Catamount Ultra – 25k version – Stowe Vermont, June 25, 2016

http://www.catamountultra.com/

Introduction
2016 was a really busy running and travelling year for me, and I’m finally getting around to writing up race reports for all of them.

The Catamount Ultra is held annually in Stowe Vermont, towards the end of June. The interesting part of was that it was held at the Trapp Family Lodge. My Grandparents used to go there for weekend getaways (going back a ways), and they had seen some of the original Von Trapp family members walking around the estate.

I picked the 25k version (one loop) of the race as it fit in with my race/distance schedule. Additionally, the 25k loop has a similar elevation profile to the first section of Laugavegur. So while 5000 feet of elevation change may not seem like fun, it was certainly a good training run.

elevation_profile

Evening Prep
Like usual, it was an uneventful drive down. I stayed at one of the cheaper B&B’s in town. It wasn’t much of a place, although it had a cute Bernese Mountain dog.

After checking in, I went to Piecasso’s for a pizza. The couple next to me at the restaurant were in town for the race too. And as they were from Maine, we also talked about the Maine Coast marathon that I’d just run. Funny thing with running so much in Vermont and Maine, that I can almost pass myself off as a local. But then I eventually give myself away with talking in Celsius and kilometers, or border crossings. Or not driving a Subaru (what is it with Vermont and Subarus?)

After dinner, I drove up to the Lodge to collect my race kit and attend a pre-race meeting.

Race Morning
It was a warm and sunny day, even early in the morning. It didn’t concern me too much, as I was hoping for tree covered trails. In hindsight, I’d say it was a good 2/3 tree covered, but still quite hot out on the course. The 50k group had started 90 minutes prior to ours, which meant a small corral of 165 for our start.

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It was a cloudless sky, and 17C (~64F) at the start.

And we’re off!
The race started promptly at 8:30, and it promptly went straight up hill. Except for a couple of dips, it was pretty much uphill for the first 7km.

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For the most part, the paths were quite wide and smooth.

Aid Stations
My plan was to be self-sufficient in terms of food, and then only rely on aid stations for hydration. The first one was at about 7k. As I didn’t need water, I just grabbed a few snacks (pretzels maybe?) and went on my way.

The second one was around 15k, and it was pretty hot, and at the clearing of a big field. This time I stopped for maybe a minute, filled my water bottles, and drank some Coke. It tasted so good and sweet.

The final one was I think a somewhat impromptu water station, and it was definitely a welcome relief.

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Far: a long, long way to run.

The Course and General Notes

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It’s hard to give an in-depth step by step account of a run that took place so many months ago. Especially as I wasn’t emotionally invested in the race. It was more of a fun training course, which is why I brought my camera with me.

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My arms are too short. Definitely need a selfie stick.

The course description on the website is pretty accurate. It was well maintained, and although hilly, not terribly “technical”.  Technical is what trail runners refer to as “ankle breaking rockiness with vindictive tree roots”. In case there’s any doubt, I don’t like “technical” courses.

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This sign cracked me up. (visions of runners “in the road”) oh, look there’s a piece of one sticking out.

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It was fairly tree covered, and the uphills on the whole were less steep than the downhills (that’s more of a feeling than a fact).

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Fake it ’til you make it.

There was one part where we ran across a grassy hill: it was a new challenge for me as I never seem to get a good footing.

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I stand corrected: there was a cloud.

We also came across fenced in swimming pool, with curious sunbathers wondering what we were doing. It was so frustrating to see that pool!!! So tempting to hop the fence and dive in.

There was one section that I referred to as “The Enchanted Forest”. There were a bunch of birds, crows maybe, making the loudest, most heinous sounds I’d ever heard.

Because the 50k group had a 90 minute head start, I started to get overtaken in the later stage of the loop.

(The facts: I finished at 11:40am, which meant 12 of runners of the 50k group passed me at some point and  finished ahead of me).

And across the line, in a time of 3 hours, ten minutes.
My average pace was 7:43 per km which was not bad for me on  a hilly course like this. I’m sure I could have kept going, but maybe not another 25k.

Post Race
I remember there was beer, as finishers were given a commemorative glass to take home. Nothing hits the spot quite like beer while dehydrated 🙂

I hung out under a shady tree with a bunch of runners (including my Maine friends) and did a group review of the run. I somehow dropped word that I was running Laugavegur (again) and someone decided to show me pictures of Iceland. How sweet 🙂

After recovering somewhat, I changed my clothes (in between two cars..that’s how running road trips work don’t you know) and headed for home.

Again, I can’t remember where I stopped for a late afternoon burger. It was probably in Quebec somewhere. I must have driven the 40/30 highways at least 10 times in 2016 so it’s all a bit of blur now.

Final Impressions
It was a great and challenging course that wasn’t too far from home. (400 km/250 miles). I’ll definitely consider this race again, schedule permitting.

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