Important Backstory: This was the race that really set things in motion for me. My girlfriend, Hilary McCloy, competed in 2014 and I went along to spectate. I watched the run then motored up to the base of Wildcat to start hiking up with Squall and another friend. We reached the second water station before the volunteer and ended up handing out water to the first three runners (Kris Freeman, Philip Mason, and John Spinney). I tried to run up behind Kris to get an idea of how fast he was moving and he dropped me immediately. Philip wasn't too far behind him. When John came around I ran with him for the next few pitches. He was hurting pretty bad and I tried my best to help push him to close the gap with Philip. He ended up dropping me and finished strong, only 40 seconds behind Philip. I waited at the top of the last pitch for my friend (and Hilary) and watched the rest of the competitors suffer up last of the 2.6 mile climb. Hilary came into view around the 3 hour mark - right at her goal time. She was also suffering but made it across the finish in 3:05. We took some photos, ate some refreshments, and hopped on the gondola. Hilary took home second in her age group, fourth female overall. I'm not sure what it was but that night I went home and ran with purpose. Inspired by the Wildman, I committed to run the MWV half and train on a schedule with goals. Up until that point I had been working an erratic boat schedule, rarely on land long enough to string together any respectable training. But now I decided to take a year off, raise a puppy, and do about every race in the region that seemed interesting.
The Race: Ok, back the race. I was on the fence if I was even going to do the Wildman since it was sandwiched between two races that I had already registered for (Top Notch Triathlon & Timberman 70.3). It was going to be a decision based off how I recovered from the Top Notch Tri. Well I must have felt pretty damn good after because I signed up for it the next day. Based on the backstory, the Wildman held a little extra weight and would be hard to watch from the sidelines again. I also thought it would be a nice build in effort, jumping from a 1:13 minute effort the previous weekend to a 2:2X effort for the Wildman, and then a 4:3X effort for Timberman.
My goals for the race were simple. Do the run in 38 minutes, the bike in 1:0X, and the hike in 35 minutes or whatever I had left. That would set me up to be in the wheelhouse of a 2:20 finish which is where I felt my fitness was at. I had my friend Dave come meet us in Shelburne for the start of the race and was on Squall duty. It took a little more time to set up for this race than I allowed for so I didn't get a great warm up, a couple miles on the bike to go take a crap in the woods and clear out the system. We toed the starting line and I didn't see any familiar faces. The RD took her annual group photo and we were off. I settled quickly into 3rd place and let the front two runners take it out as fast as they wanted. The course is a really flat out and back with a couple mild hllls. It's also mostly in the shade which is a bonus for a mid summer race. At the turn around I still had the two leaders in my sight and started to close the gap coming back up the last hill. I caught up with the guy currently in second, Jeffrey Brooks. I ended up catching him and hanging with him for half mile or so before pushing past him to the transition, just 15 seconds behind the leader who turned out to be Philip Mason. I must have passed him in the transition because I wouldn't see him again until the run/hike. On my bike I knew the first lap around Rt 2 / North Road was going to be relatively flat and I should be hammering as much as possible. When I came around the transition area I started to pass a few bikers - It was nice to have targets to push me through the rest of the flats. I reached the Gorham intersection in 34:20 (~21.5mph) and started the ascent up Pinkham Notch. Surprisingly, this is a fast approach - I looked at my average mph and was amazed how slow it was dropping (there are a couple plateaus where you can reach 25 to 30+mph). I did whatever I could do to keep it around 20 and held it close until the final climb past Great Glen Trails. I rolled down into the Wildcat Parking Lot to the next transition station and quickly found my numbered spot and drop bag. I slipped on my shoes and grabbed a handheld water bottle and a gel then started to exit in the wrong direction, taking the long way around the racks to the timing mats. Just a few seconds lost but still annoying. The run/hike starts with a flat section heading south then quickly turning back north across the base to the start of the climb. I took a few swigs off my water bottle and ditched it in the woods as I didn't think it was going to be worth carrying the extra weight knowing there were a few water stations. I had also kept on top of my hydration on the bike. The first mile is very runnable and I clicked off 10:25, much easier than the hike up cannon. The next mile continues like the previous until you hit the 'catnap' wall. There's a water station here so I took a moment to down a couple cups and then power hiked up the wall. It flattens out along a sidehill section before a repeat of up and overs that I had to hike/run. It's tough because the pitches all look very similar to the last pitch so it really messes with your head. I think at one point I saw Philip behind me but I'm not sure. At that point in the race you just keep moving and try your best to run whatever sections you can. This year there was another water station at the 2 mile mark. Just beyond the station I snuck up on Dave and Squall. I had Dave let Squall off the leash and he ran with me for the last half a mile. As I came to the last pitch lined with spectators I ran up and all the way to the finish just under my 'A' goal time of 2:20. I got some refreshments and waited for Dave before heading back down to watch for Hilary. She came up that last pitch well within her goal pace and finished in 2:53 for third female and 10th overall. We took summit photos and I opted to run down with Gabe, Squall, Dave, and Kat. Running down is a nice cool down and balances out the effort. Plus I needed to get my water bottle. At the base I offered to go bike and get Dave's car since he left it Shelburne to drive Squall up in the rabbit. It was a bit of a pain because I was tired and ended up missing the awards. 3:30 of racing/training on the day though and a great way to come full circle in a year.