Backwoods Farm 5k + Cannon and the Kinsmans – 12.75 mi, 5000ft of elevation gain

This past Saturday, I raced the inaugural Backwoods Farm 5k, and then drove up to Franconia Notch to run Cannon and North and South Kinsman.

The Backwoods Farm 5k was a fun little adventure, and then the Cannon/Kinsmans run was a little more than I’d planned. Read on for more!

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Backwoods Farm 5k Race:

This was a cool little race in it’s first year. Organized by Dan and Ashley Lader, to benefit the Baker River Arts and Music Festival, this race was held at a farm that specializes in 4×4  truck and ATV mud events. Some of the trails were filled with pits 2′ deep and 3′ long that you had to either run around, or run down into and up out of. It was sort of trail it’d be fun to ride a mud truck through, so it was pretty fun and unique to run through! Most of the course was wide double-track ATV trails, and it crossed back on itself where you’d run out one side of the double-track and back the other side, and had extra loops to get some extra distance. Pay attention, that’ll be important…

I showed up just expecting to run this like a nice warmup. I was hoping to be able to run 7:00-7:30 pace. But the field had a few faster guys in it, so I had to step it up a bit.

We started, and I took off to build a little lead, but Jeff Hixon of aR stayed pretty close as I settled back into 10k pace or so. We ran like that for 3/4 of a mile or so, and clearly that wasn’t going to work, so I picked it up a little. The course varied between smooth sections where I could really stretch the legs out, and sections where that was really impossible. So the pace was even more varied than a normal trail race! At one point, I misjudged how deep a hole was, and landed on a straight knee, which is still bothering me a few days later.

Somewhere in the middle of the first lap, Jeff missed the turn for an extra little loop, and had to double back, losing about 5-10 seconds, so I was able to relax a little bit again without losing my lead.

I finished the first lap with a pretty solid lead, and as I left the start finish area (about 150 yards long) I didn’t see Jeff yet. However something in me just decided to hammer the last lap, since at this rate I had already compromised the rest of my day, what with no warmup and all. So I put my head down, picked up the effort level… and missed a turn. Or took an extra turn, I’m not really sure. About 1/3 of the way through the lap, I look up and I’m entering the start/finish area again. Uh-oh, not good! There’s no way I finish a 5k in 15 minutes, whether the course is a little short or not! I stopped… I looked… I swore. I turned around and backtracked a ways… stopped again, couldn’t find the right course. I looked for Jeff or someone that was near the front of the race… no dice. I saw something that looked familiar, decided what the hell, and gunned it. I ran about as hard as I could, probably 2 mile race effort or so. Considering I didn’t have a warmup, that was probably a bad idea.

It turned out I did (after several backtracks) get back on the right path, and finished the entire second lap correctly. That was COMPLETE luck. I had lost too much time to catch Jeff or the guy in second place who had passed me without even knowing they passed me. I finished in 3rd, in 20:30, 49 seconds behind Jeff, and 36 seconds behind 2nd place.

Overall, it was a fun race! It had more twists and turns than most trail races, and the constant variation between bumpy and smooth really made you vary your pace, and kept you on your toes!

After the awards ceremony (I took home some local maple syrup!) I headed up to Franconia Notch to get ready for my Cannon+Kinsmans run.

 

Cannon and the Kinsmans:

I got my pack ready and headed out as quickly as I could, and started at exactly 2pm.

Kinsman Ridge Trail up Cannon is very steep, eroded and rocky. I knew that. I’ve done it before. But somehow, I still thought it was a good idea, even after some heavy rain. The first mile ascends 1800 ft! With the water everywhere adding to the danger factor, I was significantly slowed, and I could already tell this day was not going to go as planned.

I stopped on the cliff and took a couple photos. Nothing spectacular, just a dreary day.

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All the way up, I passed people that were going down, and they kept asking me if I was going to the wedding…

 

After pondering whether or not to crash the wedding, I took a few photos, then headed down Kinsman Ridge Trail toward the Kinsmans. This was the worst part of the day for me. It was incredibly wet and slippery, covered in rocks. It was pretty hairy for awhile. Not the good kind of hairy, like a nice warm beard in November… but the bad kind of hairy, like a 12-foot tarantula that makes you think “Oh god, I’m gonna die.” Not only was it not runnable, I barely felt comfortable hiking it at all in some spots.

After finally making it to Kinsman Junction, I pondered whether or not to just head for Lonesome Lake and home, but some hikers coming off North Kinsman said it was drier up there and they were able to make pretty good time. Knowing the last 2+ miles of my journey would be a paved trail, I knew I could do that in the dark with a headlamp if I had to.

So, I continued on to North and South Kinsman. These were the best few miles of my trip, by far. Runnable, but not so easy that I had to put in a ton of effort and pick up speed. On South Kinsman, I took a break and had my first bit of food. It took about two minutes before my body temperature dropped enough I was really shivering. It was cloudy my entire trip, and had even sprinkled for a few minutes coming over the Cannonballs. Now on a clear peak with the wind blowing, it was very chilly. I put on my jacket and headed out. (I really love this jacket… expect a gear overview/review of my most frequently used gear, coming soon!)

Coming down the Kinsmans was fun, as it was dry enough I could safely run in places. After reaching the junction, I took off down Fishin’ Jimmy Trail. I’d heard horror stories about it, so I was ready to stop and gingerly pick my away around slippery rocks again… but overall, it was not bad. There were some spots that were rough, but a lot of spots that were runnable.

Finally, I reached Lonesome Lake Hut. I took off my jacket, and was about to fill my water bottles, when the hikers that had told me the trail above Kinsman Junction was dry came out and told me they’d only arrived a half hour before I did! I filled up my water, trying out my rig to fill my reservoir without taking my pack off, and it worked like a charm.

I headed down to Lonesome Lake, my first time there, and took a few photos. Unfortunately the lens on my phone was a little sweaty…

 

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Then I started down toward the parking lot. This was a ton of fun, and I really picked up a lot of speed here. Appropriately, the Strava segment is named Kamikaze Jimmy, and I even got 4th out of 26 on that segment. Time to go up again when it’s drier!

After reaching the bottom of “Kamikaze Jimmy” and the campground, I took off at a solid pace that my legs were just not ready for. After hours of trail running and mountain hiking, a 7-minute pace on pavement just wasn’t happening. So I stopped running and walked it the rest of the way back to my car.

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The last 2 miles of “trail.”

Between not warming up, the 5k race, the drive in between, and really having to slowly lower myself down wet rocks, my quads were pretty done for, and walking the last mile or so was pretty rough. Not so rough I couldn’t have run had it been a race… but it certainly wasn’t a fun time.

Luckily, I’d been smart enough to stop at the store and grab some recovery fuel.

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Overall, it was a solid day, and my quads got enough of a workout I took a rest day the next day. The combination of factors discussed above made this one short run hurt more than both of the back-to-back runs I did last weekend!

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