Distance: 10.28 miles
Weather: Cool w/ Thunderstorm
Mid-afternoon dash up Bergen Peak just as some ominous black clouds were gathering behind Bergen Peak, which looms over the grassy upsweep of Elk Meadow Open Space.
As I took off from the lower parking lot, the Gods started making a lot of rumbling noises, seemingly emanating from just behind Bergen Peak...maybe somewhere in the Bergen Peak State Wildlife Management Area, which comprises much of the backside of the mountain.
Running up the Sleepy S Trail, I was doing some wishful thinking about setting a summit PR today. The thinking was I had fresh legs after two days off and it was pretty cool out (what with the storm threatening). Why not get after it?
I was on pace at the turn-off onto Elk Ridge, which climbs steadily up to the Meadow View Trail. I hung a right, still on pace. The trail rolls in and out of the woods for a mile or so before intersecting with the Too Long Trail, where the real climbing begins. About a half-mile into the Meadow View section, the rain started. Still on pace, though.
As I began the climb up Too Long, I passed a hiker descending in full rain gear. She was well prepared. The wind hadn't yet come up, so it was still warm and I was just in a pair of running shorts. Three or four minutes in, the rain intensified and the rumbling thunder became full-on thunder claps, right overhead, which caused me to flinch every time another loud "boom" rolled across the sky.
I paused to pull on my t-shirt as the wind had kicked up and the temp had dropped 10 degrees or so and continued running. I was feeling good and enjoying the cool weather and the intense downpour. Soon, the trail was filling with rivulets of water. If anyone doubts the value of erosion bars and the importance of not cutting switchbacks, just run a mountain trail during a rainstorm and see where the water goes and the amount of sediment and other trail detritus it carries with it.
Made solid progress up Too Long and hit the Summit Trail still on PR pace. I was feeling the effects a bit as I made my way through the steep rocky section at the beginning of Summit. I managed the keep up the pace, but was feeling like I was on the edge of missing the PR.
Finally, the hard climbing was over and the flat-ish section up top were all the that was left. I had hoped to up the effort and pace a lot through this last section, but didn't end up picking it up as much as I had hoped, or at least it didn't feel as easy as it usually does through here.
Hit the rocky overlook, but didn't pause to gaze down on Elk Meadow. I curved left and pushed on through the super-rocky section around the signal tower building and up to the official summit sign at 9,708 feet. I hit the watch split and looked down at it.
I tied my PR - 55:49. Damn. So close, yet so far...
I immediately turned and started heading back down, walking 20 feet or so to catch my breath and then started jogging. Back on the main trail, I flashed back to one of JM's recent posts about a run up Bergen Peak where he had come up just shy of a 1:30 round trip - 1:30:43 to be exact. I started wondering if I could complete the run in that time.
I usually don't time my descents, so I didn't have a good sense of what the splits had to be to make it down within 1:30, so I just ran. I also was thinking about the SJS50 and that that race showed me I need to work harder on my descending skills. No time like the present, I figured.
So, I pushed relatively hard heading down. As I made the turn from Elk Ridge onto Sleepy S, I thought 1:30 was possible, so I turned it on...and midway down it was hurting! Just a bit out from the finish, 1:30 clicked by. Still, I kept at it and hit the finish in 1:30:42 - again, so close, yet so far...
A damn good and damn hard run. Felt good to push it, but would have felt even better to have PR'd the summit!