The Pack Monadnock 10 Miler, the second entry in the 2014 USATF-NE Mountain Circuit, represents a stark contrast to the first race. Sleepy Hollow was all trails and mud, and even the roads leading up to the course were essentially muddy trails. For Pack, it was all on roads and most of it was even asphalt. Make no mistake about it though, it was still a mountain race.
Eric Macknight led the charge from the starting command and held onto the lead until about 8 miles in, where Brandon Newbould took control. But even then, it wasn’t in the bag. Brandon coaches some high school runners, and leading up to the race he had been joking around with them, telling them about how much of a beast this particular race is. Brandon explained:
“I was telling them about the last time I did this and just how painful the end of that race is, and that I remember going up that (the last climb) thinking, I had the race won, all I had to do was keep moving, and I remember thinking ‘second isn’t that bad.’ A moment of weakness, but today was the same thing,” said Brandon, laughing. That sums up the last climb quite nicely. As Kevin Tilton explained afterwards, the last mile of Pack Monadnock is steeper than what you get at the Mt Washington Road Race. For his part, Kevin did quite well. In fact it was on that last climb, near the grueling end of it, that Kevin reeled in Macknight.
To push yourself to get after anybody going up that wall takes some resolve. Brandon reiterated: “Really all I had to do was hang on but I remember thinking ‘jeez it won’t be that bad if Kevin catches me or if one of those guys gets me. I tried hard,” said with a smile on his face, of course. “To be honest, everybody wrestles with some doubts and stuff, you know and I was able to fight them down but it was an argument. It was just very painful…a very painful finish.” Brandon ended up with a 64:08, with Tilton and Macknight following up in 65:40 and 65:53, respectively.
While not exactly pedestrian, it was a little slower for the lead guys. The same can’t be said for the other leaders. Kath Hardcastle made a serious run at the women’s overall record, her 74:11 falling just short of Gina Lucrezi’s 73:25. Not too bad for a woman with a little bit of Boston left in her legs. Instead she had to settle for the sub-masters record, which was a 76:25 (by Tara Cardi). If you’re not familiar with Kath, it may be because she moved to Montana a couple of years ago but is back in Boston now and taking full advantage of the opportunity to compete in the mountains again.
“I had a vague memory of the course but apparently I had forgotten just how hard it was! No shortage of hills the entire way. I’m still testing the proverbial waters being 3 weeks out from the Boston marathon so my goal with the mountain races is to have fun and love running,” said Kath. Since she didn’t know exactly what was in the marathon-weary legs, Kath pushed it out harder trying to get a bit of a cushion on the women’s field. Would there be enough left in the tank for the climb to get her through to the end though? The strategy paid off this time, with her nearest competition being three and a half minutes back. That runner was Christen Doneski.
Christen ended up second overall, and although the masters runner extraordinaire didn’t get the outright win (as she did so many times last year), she still had an outstanding race. Her final time of 1:17:39 eclipsed Kathy Maddock’s old record by three seconds. Record setting masters win? Yeah, that should take the sting out of finishing second.
“My goals for Pack were to be first masters and to beat the standing masters record. I figured if I could maintain 7 minute miles on the road that would make my goal of sub 1:17:42 attainable. So that is what I did; my first mile was just over 7 and my second was under 7. I am not a numbers person, but when I hit Miller State Park (editor’s note: just over a mile to go) I knew it was going to be close and that I needed to run smart. When I hit 1/4 mile to go I was at 1:15. As I came over that last wall and saw the clock I had to kick it in and crossed the line at 1:17:39…goal met by 3 seconds. I was happy.”
That was a plan well executed. Christen is also coming off of Boston, and she recognized the tall order that it would be to try to keep up with Hardcastle. Instead, she came up with a plan, ran her own race, and set a record in the process. For the men, the top masters runner once again was Todd Callaghan. Todd ran a 67:49 and finished 7th overall. Not only did Todd have to hold pace to keep any other masters off of him, but if he slipped too much he might’ve been taken down a senior.
Senior Dave Dunham ran a 70:02 and missed Martin Tighe’s senior record by a scant 14 seconds. That is so heartbreakingly close. He must’ve ran about 9.9 miles before realizing he was just going to miss it. Not too bad for a guy who’s had to fight through an ankle injury and a bout of walking pneumonia recently. Dave ended up placing 11th overall, showing that he’s still a force to be reckoned with in the mountains.
Where Dave fell short, Cathy Pearce nailed it. The Whirlaway senior runner ran an 88:37, breaking Lisa Doucett’s course record of 89:04. With the way these ladies are racing, it’s shaping up to be a very exciting year. How many other records will fall?
Next up in the series is Wachusett Mountain on May 24th.
For more, check out pics by SNAPacidotic, and our interviews with: