As part of my weekend doubleheader, the Beast of the East half marathon was set to take place Sunday AM in what seems like trending wet/treacherous conditions. As if running 13 miles with 4500'+ of vert on highly variable east coast terrain (read rocky/rooty/scrambling) wasn't hard enough, add water to the mix then you have several type of granite - the slip n' slide variety and the false confidence grippy when wet variety. This race was on my radar last year but also followed the Pitch Pine Tri so I didn't double dip. However, in preparation for the VT50 I thought it would be good to stack a couple efforts, pushing through tired legs.
I got to the park around 9:30 for a 10am start. After registering I didn't have much time for a warm up. I knew the first mile was flat so that would have to do. I had Squall with me and I was going to leave him in the truck for my dad to pick up but then I had this idea that he would like to race too. A big wildcard to see what he would do off leash in a pack of runners... At the starting line I took the front and held Squall by his collar. When Gabe started us off, I took the lead to ensure Squall wouldn't trip anyone up. As we settled out in the first half mile, I dropped into 4th and Tristan Williams moved into the lead with Ryan Kelly right behind him. I moved into 3rd on the climb up Cathedral as Tristan and Ryan moved out of sight. As I crested the Cathedral road crossing, my Dad had leashed Squall at the aid station. It was clear that he was all set with mountain running for the day.
I continued down the backside of Cathedral and back up White Horse Ledge. The course marking was pretty good as I was unfamiliar with many of these trails, especially in a race setting when everything is moving by quickly with no one to follow. A few times I zoned out and didn't see markers and questioned whether I was on course or not but those moments were short-lived as another flag or tape would appear out of the fog.
The descent down White Horse was fast and had relatively smooth trail. I thought there might have been an aid station down by the fire road but still drank from the stream crossing. There definitely wasn't an aid station so it's good that I got a couple handfuls of water before starting the ascent up the Red Ridge Trail. The climb is about 2.7 miles with a couple thousand feet of vertical gain. This section was mostly power hiking with a few flat sections where you could jog a little. Visibility was about 100 yards and onnce up on the exposed sections it was socked in with no chance of clearing. At the intersection of the Moat Mtn Trail, it was still another 1.1 miles to the summit of North Moat. This section was a repeat of flat runnable sections right into steep scrambles. I was on this ridge last winter heading the opposite direction but I kept wondering when I was going to hit the summit.
At 1:25 I reached the summit of North Moat. Good time given the conditions. No time to celebrate because the slippery/technical descent was about to begin. If there was any section on the course where a fall was going to happen, this was it. No more than 20 steps into the descent, I pancaked flat onto my back as I slipped on a rock face. My back took a hit but I was fine and realized I couldn't trust the rock footing. I made it down to the Attitash Trail intersection (1.9mi) in 18 minutes and was happy that North Moat was behind me. The trail along Lucy Brook is flat and fast. I took another drink from the brook right before the turn back on to the Red Ridge Trail. Turns out there was a volunteer with water just ahead so I took another cup of water. It was at this point that the volunteer said I was in 2nd place by a minute or so. 2nd? What happened to Ryan? I did my best to run the next section before turning on the backside of White Horse via the Red Ridge Link. At this point in the race I settled into a little hike/run pattern before descending down the White Horse Ledge Trail. This was sneaky hard coming across the base of the cliffs. There were a few sections of slight uphill that were tough to get the legs moving on but I kept checking my watch knowing that I was close to the finish.
I connected back with the Echo Lake Trail for the home stretch and gave whatever I had to try to close the gap with Tristan. I clocked in at 2:22:37, right in there for a competitive time, second by a few minutes. Afterward I caught up with Tristan only to find out he was fending off a cold and had ran up Washington the day before. He ran 2:14 last year so clearly this wasn't his best effort. Ryan Welts came in to round off the top three. We collected our trophies and posed for a quick photo at the lake.
There aren't many races like this one which is why Tristan keeps coming back. It's a real mix of terrain and you really have to be strong a technical ascents/descents, not just one or the other. I'll definitely be promoting this race next year to help get a bigger field because it would have been a lot more fun with a bigger turnout. Plus, this is the only legit trail race that's technically in the White Mountains. See you next year!