Mt. Baldy Run to the Top Race
~ 7.5 miles uphill , 4000 ft gain
damn 6 minutes
Two years ago I entered this race for the first time. In fact, I think it was the first race I’ve actually competed in since early high school. If only I had the training discipline then that I have now! In that race, I managed a 1:32 to the top, which included a wrong turn that put me back a minute or two. So this time, I figured if I could improve my fitness a little bit, maybe I could shoot for a 1:28.
My girlfriend and I woke up and got to the ski lift parking area around 6:30 am for the 8 am race. I would highly suggest getting there around this time because by 7am its a zoo with lots of time spent waiting to park your car. If you want an additional challenge, you could hike up from Icehouse canyon, like Cy who I saw hiking up the switchbacks to the ski lift.
Months ago, Rachel was planning on running the race, but some knee problems had her planning on just hiking up and watching. However, the thought of everyone else there racing but not her drove her crazy, so when I saw she had disappeared I knew she was signing up
We met up briefly with Steve, Pattie, Fernando and Iron Mike before the start of the race. Then it was on to the start. I didn’t even bother warming up.
At the start, there is about a 1/4 mile run downhill back to Manker Flats, which then turns uphill another 1/2 mile on paved road then onto dirt road. The scene at the beginning is somewhat amusing to me – watching all these people sprint down than run up the road way faster than they can maintain (at least most of them). I think a lot of people need to read this hiking science post! A few guys went from running to walk within a few minutes! Of course being the science doof / control freak I am, I had my heartrate monitor / Forerunner 305 on again to make sure to pace my heartrate. It really is hard to keep reasonable at first – adrenaline really makes you want to go much faster than you should.
The first 4.5 – 5 miles of this hike are steady fire road – just the way I like it. The first 3.7 up to Baldy Notch generally goes at around 9% grade, which for me means a nice slow running pace of 5.5 – 6 mph. I was able to keep my heartrate around 173-174 up to Baldy Notch. These were similar heartrates up to the Notch as what I did 2 years ago, but this year my time to the Notch was a minute or two longer, hmm.
From the notch, the fire road steepens to average about 12.5% grade, although it could vary from 10-20% in spots I believe. Last time, I remember my heartrate dropping below 170 in this section and I was keen to improve my pace. I ended up running more of it and keeping my heartrate around 175-176, so by the time I got to Devil’s Backbone, I felt like I was doing pretty well.
The trek along Devil’s Backbone and the final push up the steep east slope of Baldy are the last two sections of the race, and they require good tactics, which I may lack in racing. The backbone is single track with not much room to sidestep people, so what always happens is that you end up in the middle of a train of people. It’s too much energy to try to pass, so you just hope that the pace they maintain matches yours. On this occasion, I felt like the pace was okay…my heartrate dropped a few beats but nothing dramatic.
The backbone has a lot of trail “variance”…lots of changes in steepness going from running flat / jogging / hiking. These changes require excellent mental focus in deciding when to change pace so that your intensity is consistent. To me, the more changes, the harder it is to keep a good heartrate / intensity. I’m sure this is like that for others and probably why the “train” of runners I was in went at a pace that I thought was hard enough even though my heartrate dropped a little.
Finally we passed Mt Harwood and I was about 1:21 in…and I was somewhat pissed because I realized I wouldn’t get that 1:28. I continued up pushing at a good rate for about 2/3 of the way when I got to a relatively flat spot and saw the summit was another few hundred feet up. I was exhausted at this point. I noticed my calves teasing cramps and I pushed on. The last few minutes seemed to take forever! Finally I got near the summit and tried to run to finish it off…well I did run but my calves started cramping so I probably ran 20 seconds like I had a stick up my ass. 1:34 and change.
Somehow, I felt I gave a fuller, more intense effort but ended up with a slower time! I was pissed, but wait first I had to stretch out my calves. Ok now I was pissed! Wait I have to get some orange slices and sit down. Okay…what happened? Well two things changed against me since last race. 1) I didn’t sleep in my car at 6000 ft the night before, and 2) I gained 7-8 lbs up to 192 (at least it was muscle). Given my hiking at altitude the last 3 weeks, I really don’t think #1 had much weight, but I may be wrong. I’m quite sure #2 had an effect, but exactly how much is hard to say and worth a whole post in itself. Suffice to say there could have been a 4% increase in workload from 2008 to 2010. I probably burned around 1900 kcal in that run! So I am mad I went slower, but given I stayed around 90% of my max heart rate the entire race, I’m also happy. And it was fun either way.
A short time later, Zip came running up.
Then Rachel hauling ass getting in around 1:50. That’s without much running training nor any race preparation!
My camera was all sweaty being held in my hands – this was a partial shot of Iron Mike (on the right).
Nice temps, another lovely day in the mountains.
This entry was posted on Monday, September 6th, 2010 at 8:48 pm and is filed under Trip Report. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.