Am I really running this again? The phrase I’ve asked myself for the past three years before committing to my favorite mountain race, and during the entirety of training. I don’t consider myself a serious runner; I feared running the mile as a gymnastic requirement, and never expected it would be an activity I would seek out in adulthood. After a great winter of fitting ski boots at Skirack, I found my passion for selling gear. Since I’m not a biker, I brought my feet fitting skills to the run department.
I learned quickly that you can’t relate to the person of whom you’re fitting shoes without going through similar experiences. So, with the encouragement of my co-workers, I dipped my toe into the running pool. Before I knew it I was signing up for 5k races, and then ran my first 10k - the furthest distance I had ever gone before. My personal accomplishments were empowering, but I found myself becoming bored with road running.
Like many runners, I lack the motivation to train unless I’m signed up for a race, and I wanted to do something different. That’s I when I discovered a 4.3 mile uphill race with a 2,500ft elevation gain: The Race To The Top Of Vermont. The run (which you can also bike or hike) is straight up the Toll Road on Mount Mansfield, located in Stowe, Vermont. This popular annual event is organized by the Catamount Trail Association and is in its 11th year.
What’s the appeal of running up a mountain? you may ask. I’ve been in Vermont my entire life, and I love going uphill in shoes or ski boots. RTTTOVT is not an easy race, but it’s true what the event poster reads: “Anyone Can Do It”; whether you’re running, hiking, or biking. For those of you unfamiliar with MUT - Mountain/Ultra/Trail running - there is less running involved than one would expect. MUT involves lots of power hiking, and slow paced laps - something I can get behind! I have no problem running a 15 or 20 minute mile especially with steep elevation in the mix. And while I romanticize about the “U” in MUT, I don’t see myself running 25+ miles any time soon. But you never know!
Like many runners, I lack the motivation to train unless I’m signed up for a race, and I wanted to do something different. That’s I when I discovered a 4.3 mile uphill race with a 2,500ft elevation gain:The Race To The Top Of Vermont, straight up the Toll Road on Mount Mansfield, located in Stowe, Vermont. The event is organized by theCatamount Trail Association, which is in its 11th year.
Year two I had a strategy, but plans fell apart, and training was put to the side many times as my husband and I were purchasing our first home. Going into the race I felt completely unprepared, but brought nutrition and electrolytes to achieve the realistic goal of summiting. I ended up finishing six minutes faster than the previous year - go figure. My other objective was to not vomit, which I was also pleased to achieve.
Last summer was the most fun, because of our move closer to the mountains. Waterbury, Stowe, and Morrisville have tons to trails to discover, and I explored lots of cool destinations. Some of my favorite places include Cotton Brook Road, Wiesner Woods, and the Cricket Hill Trails. I was so hyped on trail running I pushed myself to accomplish personal victories, like running five days in a row. The enthusiasm transferred to race day, and I eliminated another 3 minutes off of my time, finishing in an hour and 13 minutes.
After 3 years of MUT running I feel confident in how to train, and knowing not to stress out about not training enough. I’ve collected all the gear to keep myself comfortable for race day, even if some consider wearing a running vest overkill for a 4 mile race. This year’s goal isn’t to beat my previous time; like last year, I am using the race as motivation to continue exploring new destinations.
Our state and community take serious pride in preserving the area we love to recreate in, and the options are limitless. Some of the destinations on the list include Kirchner Woods, the Sterling Forest Trails, and the Adams Camp Trails. These places will be great for my longer running days. For mountain hikes I’ve already knocked off Hunger Mountain as a “never-been” location. I’ll continue to frequent Mount Mansfield and Spruce Peak, since those are my favorite places for elevation training. And after all is said and done, if I happen to beat last year’s time, it’ll be a happy coincidence.
So, when I’m out in the middle of the trail, heart bumping harder than EDM, sweat dripping off of every inch, quadriceps screaming, and questioning myself “am I really doing this again”, it will be followed up with “of course” as my eyes take in those summit views, and all of Vermont’s natural beauty. As long as I’m getting outside, putting one foot in front of the other, I’m already winning.
- Allison Kozar,
Vermont Trailwear and Skirack
Click here to learn more about Allison.