The Hills & Hops 5k is a beast. I clearly remember looking up results for this event when I heard about it in 2014 and thinking that I could smoke it. Turns out getting a decent 5k time isn't really possible. The course has nearly 700' of climbing that rolls over a lot of loose dirt and water bars. The last two years that I've raced the weather has been perfect and this year was no different.
Leading into the race I was feeling really good. Recovery from the VT50 had gone exceptionally well and I was back into my normal training resuming workouts. Although I had a cold, my fitness felt peppier than normal.
For this year's race I had free entry from winning the previous year. I also was an event sponsor contributing ski poles, sunglasses, and a water bottle from sponsors. It benefits the Attitash race program so it feels good to start supporting this event.
I warmed up this year like I did in 2015, with a lap on the course. Squall joined and there was only one minor course alteration - over at Bear Peak they had put up the Oktoberfest fencing so the course didn't descend down to the base lodge but side hilled across to ski lift. Probably shaved off 5-10 seconds. Other than that, it was the exact same course.
At the starting line, Dave Burnett introduced himself to me and said he was training for the Bay State marathon. Not present was Ken Lubin who usually puts in a good effort at this race. And of course, who knows what hot shot kid was going to show up. Regardless, I knew the course and how tough the hills were so there's not much to stress out about.
We started relatively slow this year. Only one kid took it out fast and managed to hold the lead for the first half mile. Dave was right with me in third but once the course turned for the first descent I broke away and started to create a gap. I had no reference on how I was doing compared to previous years because this was the first year I remembered to charge my gps watch. I kept push and tried to work the long straight away to Bear Peak. On the third climb which is near the halfway point, I had a good lead and worked hard to keep pushing and try and best my course record from '15. On the return to Attitash you face two more climbs which spike your breathing to the point where I was wheezing. With a half mile to go I started to look at my watch to see if a sub 20 was possible. The course ends with a steep descent and I tried to open it up but couldn't break 20 minutes.
It was a great race and I love getting this effort in to start October training. Hoping to keep up with more hill & track work to keep improving my running through the rest of the fall.