Take a personal challenge this summer and run to the big New Hampshire sky at Pack Monadnock 10 miler.
I ran my first Pack Monadnock 10 miler last year and if you’re looking for something new – something with challenge and adventure. Something with “great running story” potential… this is it my friends.
Posted Monday, 25 February, 2008
Pack Monadnock, in Peterborough and Temple, N.H., is the ‘little brother’ of the more famous Mt. Monadnock. The race itself is a 10 mile run on rolling back country roads with a finish up the Pack Monadnock auto road. This year’s “Pack”, as previous participants call it, will be held on Sunday June 1st 2008.
Run a mountain!
Mountain running is a departure from your everyday road race. If you haven’t tried it you should. You don’t have to be designed for it or good at it to enjoy it. If you enjoy the challenge of a hard 10k or the triumph of a well executed ½ or full marathon then you’ll love the mountain run too. Who knows? Maybe this will be the start of another benign addiction and you’ll find yourself pounding up Mount Washington one of these years!
It’s a tough run, but it’s not as tough as it sounds, and it is also very fulfilling. Pack Monadnock is NOT some bizarre endurance event for hard core maniacs – the race draws your normal cross section of runners and is well worth the effort.
The Pack Monadnock course is very pretty. It guides you through a landscape that is classic New Hampshire hill country: Deep green fields and forests; old lichen covered stone walls; fenced fields with frolicking horses. Most of it is asphalt. Some of it is hard packed dirt roads. All of it is pretty and isolated.
The “mountain” part of the course doesn’t start until the end. It isn’t until after 8 miles that the course pops out on to 101 for a long grind up to the parking lot of Miller State Park and the access road up the mountain. The last 1.3 miles are up the mountain. It is a series of steep switch backs and then a short, very steep, straightaway to the finish at the peak. A real “chin scraper”.
The course climbs 2,000 feet and drops 300 feet in 10 miles. Pack is the second race in the USATF NE Mountain Series – Wachusett Mountain is the first. Pack has been part of the Mountain circuit since 1995, one of the original three. The race has been held continuously from 1990 through 2003. It skipped a year in 2004 but returned in 2005. Pack means "Little” in Native American, but after you’ve run it you’ll agree that final climb feels anything but little!
The race features friendly people, strong organization and some very scenic back roads of New Hampshire. The last mile in Miller State park has climbs steeper than Mt Washington (11.5% average grade). The final 200m has a grade of about 30%. Amenities include mile markers, water stops, baggage to the finish, and a great view from the top. There is also a nice pile of snacks to fuel up on afterwards.
How I learned to stop worrying and love the mountains…
Pack Monadnock was part of my transformation last year into a “Mountain Goat”. I have hundreds of bib numbers in my shoe-box, but until last year I had not run a mountain race. It really happened by accident. I ran Wachusett Mt. on a whim and was hooked.
I’d always considered myself anti-mountain. Growing up in New England I’ve ran my share of hilly races, like Stu’s, Derry, and my prep school’s X-country course, but had always drawn the line at purposely running a race up a mountain. When my buddies went off to run Mount Washington I had no desire to join them. I’m close to 200 lbs and I decided long ago that the less I fought gravity the better off I’d be.
But that all changed last year. Now I’m an official “Mountain Goat” and I have the shirt and photo to prove it. (That’s me in the purple shirt in front.) Fate willing I’ll be joining the 900 folks who charge up Mount Washington this year too.
Running uphill isn’t any easier but I found a number of other treasures on the mountain circuit that I’ll share. These are the things that converted me once I got my toes wet. These are the things that will convert you too – if you give it a try!
- The mountain races are a new challenge
If you’ve rolled a few thousand miles of road under your shoes and are getting bored, looking for a new challenge – Mountain racing is it! Pack Monadnock is not terribly hard per se, but it is totally different. There is so much to learn about strategy, form, energy conservation and courage. If you thrive on new challenges and love to continually learn new things about the human machine that is your body – run a mountain.
- The mountain races are full of nice people that you will enjoy spending time with.
The folks who run Pack Monadnock run the gamut from young to old, male and female and are a great crew. They are ‘real’ people and for the most part experienced runners who love the sport. Nothing slick and pretentious here - These folks are part of our tribe. It feels more like a club run than a race.
- The mountain races are in beautiful places where I want to spend time.
The countryside around Temple Mt. and Peterborough N.H. where Pack is run is indicative of the country venue that all of the mountain races are situated in. If you love being immersed in pristine colonial New England, if you draw strength from it, these are the races for you.
- Feeling of triumph and accomplishment—peak finish.
If you like your accomplishments measureable and discrete there’s no better way to measure it than getting to the top of a mountain. When you push through that final comically steep 200 meters at Pack Monadnock, I guarantee a triumphant feeling! You’ll have something new and cool to talk about with your running friends. “Oh yeah, I ran up a 30% mountain last week!”
- Low impact and good for us old folks.
If you’re like me and fast-twitch muscle fibers are fleeing your body like rats from a sinking ship, a slow grind up a mountain evens the odds a little. It’s very low impact and your pace will be 1-3 minutes per mile slower than your 10k pace. It favors ‘veteran’ runners who know their bodies and have experience. Strategy and pacing become important success factors. There is no competitive advantage in going out fast in this race!
- Even the tough guys walk.
Part of the strategy for mountain races is knowing when to walk. I ran the whole way for Pack last year because I’m stubborn and I was still learning the mountain race strategy. Somewhere on that last steep stretch a runner 10 years my senior ‘power-walked’ right past me while I was essentially wasting energy running in place! There’s no shame in walking in a mountain race – everybody does and it’s part of the strategy.
- Great strength training for a fall race schedule.
If you typically run a fall marathon or other race schedule the spring/early summer mountain races are awesome strength training. The timing puts these races in the 1st third of your training and that’s perfect for strength. You can polish your speed and stamina in the late summer for your races. If there’s a hilly race on your schedule (like Fred Brown Relay for example) you’re one step ahead. By the end of this series I had quads like an East German shot put champ!
Be a “Mountain Goat” a “Granite Runner” and win a pass to the Mt. Washington lottery.
Pack Monadnock is part of the 2008 LaSportiva USATF New England Mountain Running Circuit. The circuit consists of six races, with runners' points scored from their best five races. Races include:
and Mount Ascutney
This year will be the 13th annual series promoting competition in New England Mountain Running and encouraging the running community "to support the sport" by becoming a USATF member. If you run all the races you earn the title “Mountain Goat” and get to bypass the lottery for Mt. Washington.
There is a new twist this year – the race is also part of the New Hampshire Grand Prix a series of 7 New Hampshire Races. Any runner who completes the series earns the moniker “Granite Runner”. Potentially a runner at Pack Monadnock could be scoring in two race series at the same time.
When you get to the top of Pack the views are great. Last year it was overcast – it was great weather for running, but the views suffered. Usually, because of the way the mountain is situated you can see 50-60 miles in all directions. You can see the rolling green vistas of New Hampshire, Vermont and Mass. On a clear day you can see Boston.
It is like a description from a James Fenimore Cooper novel (Last of the Mohicans, etc). As you peer out from the top of Pack you’ll see deep green fields speckled with white farm houses. Shimmering mirror lakes and ponds reflected from deep forested valleys. Seas of grand white pine, red oak and majestic maple stretch out to the horizon north and west.
Pack Monadnock is part of the Wapack trail that stretches across a ridge of mountains down to Mt. Watatic in Ashburnham, MA. The Wapack is one of the oldest trails in the country and was the precursor to the Appalachian Trail. There’s another race, the Wapack Trail Race, in the fall that runs 17 miles of the ridge from New Ipswich N.H. to Watatic and back. I highly recommend it for hiking and running. The whole range is accessible and you can bring the family for some great easy day hikes.
Last year the weather was overcast and mild. In typical New England style you can get warm and/or cold days in June - but the average temp is in the 60’s. The race organization will shuttle your gear bag to the top of the mountain for you so you won’t be short a warm shirt when you’re up there at the finish. I found that to be very cool – having access to my gear bag at the finish allowed me to get into a towel, a warm shirt and a couple ibuprofen!
Runners park at the Temple Mountain Ski Area and shuttle to the Wilton Lyndeborough High School for number pick up and the start. The start is on Highland St near the Wilton Lyndeborough High School.
The finish is at the peak of Pack Monadnock Mtn. in Miller State Park. In between is 10 miles of New Hampshire roads. At the end of the race the majority of the runners walk/jog back down the mountain across the road for the cookout, post race food and awards back at Temple Mountain across from Miller State Park entrance. This is convenient because that is where your car is parked already.
Make Pack Monadnock your mountain triumph!
Make this the year your conquer mountain running. Join the friendly folks at the Pack Monadnock 10 miler and do something you can be proud of. Don’t deny yourself the thrill and challenge of this beautiful race. Make this the year! I’ll see you out on the course. I’ll see you on the Mountain at Pack!