Under gray skies, runners and bikers lined up on Sunday, August 29th in Stowe, VT, to “Race to the Top of Vermont.” The 4.3 mile race climbs over 2,500 vertical feet up the Mt. Mansfield Toll Road at roughly an 11% average grade, this year finishing inside a cloud with wind whipping the finish line flagging. The event drew in nearly 300 participants with 215 runners taking on the focal challenge of making their way up the mountain on foot. The event is a fundraiser for the Catamount Trail Association (CTA), which maintains a 300 mile long backcountry ski trail through the heart of Vermont, from the Massachusetts border to the south and ending on the Canadian border at its northern end.
According to CTA events director Greg Maino, “[The CTA] focuses on developing backcountry ski terrain, conservation in the state of Vermont, and increasing access to the outdoors for everyone.”
Topping the results list were several members of the Craftsbury Green Racing Project (GRP), including winners Adam Martin and Caitlin Patterson. FasterSkier connected with Martin and Patterson via email as they prepared to travel across the pond to spend time on snow.
Martin expressed that his summer training has been “going great”. Crossing the line as the first runner to the top — he was beaten by just one cyclist — Martin stopped the clock at 34:11.5, nine seconds off his fastest time. In his email, he explained how this race fits into his ski training regimen.
“This year my big focus is on prioritizing intensity workouts, and so far, I think my body has been responding well. We’re planning on heading to Germany [to get on snow in] the Oberhof ski tunnel this week, so last week I backed off a bit ahead of the race and upcoming travel. Across the GRP, I think we were all coming in at varying levels of fatigue.”
It’s no secret that Martin has got some wheels. He’s got a 1:06:18 half marathon PR (5:03 per mile), and caught our eye for running a 14:34 5k in 2019 (4:41 per mile). While uphill is a different ballgame for some runners, ski training lends itself well to the challenge.
“Sunday the race was great – and hard. Early on I broke away from the rest of the field and tried to embrace the grind for the remaining 30+ minutes of the race. I really like this event, specifically how it’s a huge climb on an easy running surface, and I’m really happy to come away with the win.”
All five of the men of Crafsbury landed in the top-eight, with biathlete Raleigh Goessling taking third (37:10), Luke Brown fourth (37:45), Akeo Maifeld-Carucci seventh (38:28), and Carsen Campbell eight (39:14).
Female cross country skiers have a history of breaking the tape at this event. Queen of the hill climb, Liz Stephen holds the course record of 37:15.9 set in 2014. This year, Patterson set a new personal best of 41:14 for tenth place overall.
Making a clean sweep for Crafsbury, Alex Lawson took second place in 41:42, with Margie Freed following for third in 43:09. Both women are new to the GRP this season after graduating from Middlebury College and the University of Vermont, respectively.
Hallie Grossman took fourth in 45:25, and Annuka Landis rounded out the GRP results in sixth 47:23.
“Race to the Top of VT is always a fun one, and I’ve done it enough past years that it’s a bit like a fitness-check time trial for me,” wrote Patterson after the race. “I was looking forward to it as a hard effort and chance to put on a bib – I’d hoped to have done some running races earlier in the summer, but I strained a tendon in my foot in July so have hardly run at all during August. Of course I’ve been doing plenty of other ski training and all of that is going well, but I was very pleased with the Race to the Top, to win it and to run a fast time. In fact this year was my fastest time ever, helped I’m sure by the nice cool misty weather conditions.”
Patterson also sent the following comment about her racing strategy, which she initially shared with a local newspaper covering the event.
“Alex and I ran together for at least the first 3 miles, and she was really strong today too. We’ve been doing running workouts together for our ski training and I had an idea that Alex would be fast today. So we ran together for much of the race, and then I very gradually pulled ahead in the last mile or 1.5 miles or so, but Alex was not far back at all. In an uphill race like this, I think we were just enjoying the company in suffering, keeping moving, but not doing anything drastic. My race strategy was basically just to run smooth and efficiently, to breathe well, and be ready to dig in and make it hurt especially towards the top. So I was pleased with how the race went and I enjoyed running with Alex while it lasted because otherwise I did not see many people at all.”
Rachel is an endurance sport enthusiast based in the Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado. You can find her cruising around on skinny skis, running in the mountains with her pup, or chasing her toddler (born Oct. 2018). Instagram: @bachrunner4646