09 August 2011

2011 Mt. Ashland Hill Climb Run

In August 2010, I ran in the Mt. Ashland Hill Climb Run from the plaza in downtown Ashland, Ore. up to the top of Mt. Ashland, 13.3 miles and 5600’ (1707 m) later.  Last year my finish was 3:02:20.  Being so close to three hours then, inspired me to give it another go this year with the goal of coming in under that.

I’m happy to report that I made my goal with a time of 2:57:32, not quite five minutes faster.

View of Mt. Ashland from the city
Rather than give the entire blow-by-blow account of the race, I’ll confine this to some observations and include a few new pictures I snapped this year.  For those interested in running the race or anyone who wants to know more about the event, please read last year’s post.

My running of the race was not much different from last 2010.

I ran – no walking - from the start at Lithia Plaza until the third aid station at Bull Gap, about 9 miles into the race.  This is entirely uphill and in some places very steep until approximately 8 miles, but from there to Bull Gap is the only level or at times slight downhill part of the course.  This year I really poured on the speed here to put some money in the bank, knowing I’d need to withdraw it later.

From Bull Gap to the Ski Lodge the road becomes single track and more difficult to negotiate.  I powerwalked twice – once early on and again nearer the end when I felt that fatigue made me clumsy on the steep rutted surface, and powerwalking would be smoother, more comfortable, and nearly as fast as slow-motion running.

Looking back to whence we came:
viewing the valley where Ashland is from the Ski Lodge
I downed some liquids and a few orange slices at the Ski Lodge aid station, then set off on the last, shortest and toughest leg of the run, the ascent of the summit.  I think I may have done this more slowly than last year. 

After the first few semi-level steps one takes upon leaving the aid station. I reverted to walking the steep single track trail to the start of the even steeper scree.  From there it seemed like two steps forward, one step back, rest, and then repeat until I finally made the finish line at the summit.

I can’t say this was any easier for me than last year because it wasn’t.

Looking back toward the Ski Lodge and to where
runners emerge from the forest.
Clearly if I ever want to improve my time further, I’ll need to do better in the last two segments of the run after Bull Gap. But I was happy with this year’s result. After some time resting at the summit, I hopped a ride in a pick-up back to the lodge where the refreshments were, including Standing Stone Brewing’s keg!

Two anecdotes about other runners

From soon after the start as far as the Bull Gap aid station I ran at times with, ahead of, or behind Kathy Morell of Ketchum, Idaho.  (Chico readers will note that she told me she has a niece working at the Hotel Diamond.)  Due to my speed-up on the level-and-downhill portion prior to Bull Gap, I finished there before she did, but that would not be how things ended up.  She made a quick stop at the aid station, took off running a few seconds before I did, and soon I stopped seeing her in the distance.  She smoked the rest of the race, finishing nearly 13 minutes ahead of me (2:44:43).  Kathy is 50, and won the women’s 50-59 division!

Just a few minutes before the  race start, I looked to my right and who should be there but Jen Briggs, a recent former resident of Chico who now lives with her family in Eugene, Ore.  What a surprise!  I had no idea that anyone I knew would be there.  As it was, she, her sister Lori, and brother-in-law John from Colorado were running it, too.  They all did very well, and  less than two weeks from now are running in the Pike’s Peak Ascent which has an even greater elevation gain than the Hill Climb, plus it starts at about the same elevation where Mt. Ashland ends.

2012 ?

Ski Lodge aid station - the final push to the summit in background
I wasn’t planning to make this a same-time next year kind of event.  I made my goal of coming in under 3 hours, and maybe some other year I’d give it another try.  But after I finished, my partner Keith (whose knee injury has prevented him from running since January), mused about the idea of powerwalking the Hill Climb.  (Keith’s powerwalk is faster than some people run.)  Should he decide to powerwalk it then I’ll run it in 2012.  I think Keith just wants to enjoy the free beer after the finish, as well as the $10 Standing Stone Brewing Co. gift certificate that they put in the runner goody bag.

If you are interested in running the Hill Climb, note that the field is limited to 300 runners, and this year it sold out within two weeks of the start of registration.  To go on a list to be notified when registration opens up in the spring, click here.

The numbers:

Total # of finishers: 192
# of male finishers: 107
# of female finishers: 85
Men’s winning time: 1:51:54 (Erik Skaggs, 29, Ashland)
Women’s winning time: 2:11:40 (Stephanie Howe, 27, Bend, Ore.)
# male finishers 50-59: 16
My divisional place: 5
Fastest male 50-59: 2:20:39
All results

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