I’ve been so busy training, working, and dadding that I haven’t gotten around to writing about recent events! On June 16th, 2018 history was made in the mountains of New Hampshire. The Chocorua Mountain 25K Race would make this day special by being the first sanctioned organized race to be granted a permit to operate on Mount Chocorua in the White Mountain National Forest. Rockhopper Races managed to weed through the red tape and get a special permit to throw this event! Once I saw registration was available, I knew I had to sign up!
Mount Chocorua is one of the most popular mountains to hike in the area due to its iconic profile and exposed rocky summit that grants incredible 360 degree panoramic views of surrounding mountain ridges. This draws tons of hikers and trail runners alike from all over to witness its beauty for themselves. Due to the popularity of the mountain Rockhopper’s Race Directors wisely chose to ascend the Eastern side of the mountain that is much less popular due to its remote nature.
This race isn’t for the faint of heart and that was obvious upon pulling into the parking area. The registered runners for this race were legit! Some of my idols in the sport were standing by along with plenty of other athletes. I’ll be honest, it was a bit intimidating!
The race is marketed as a 25K but in reality it’s closer to a half marathon distance event according to my GPS data and Maps. Despite the relatively “short” distance, runners would need to ascend nearly 3500 feet of gnarly, knee busting, New Hampshire terrain to gain the summit of Mount Chocorua. That’s only when the fun begins! Descending the mountain is far more painful on the joints! Particularly when you’re in a hurry. I had a loose goal of “sub 4 hours” coming into this event. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
Hitting the Course
The Chocorua Mountain Race began in Tamworth New Hampshire in a private field on Scott Road. After picking up my bib, some sweet race swag, and socializing with some of the other runners for a bit we lined up at the start/finish line ready to party. Ryan Welts (Race Director) gave a pretty motivational speech about what this race meant for the trail running community, reminded us to be good trail stewards, and the green flag dropped precisely at 9AM and the mass of runners headed off down the trail.
The race starts out on old logging roads and double track that eventually transition into brush covered single track trails for about 3 miles. These trails weren’t particularly strenuous but they were hard to follow due to overgrowth and leaves. This created a fun, but interesting obstacle to start the race. Thankfully the trails were freshly blazed in orange flags. That’s about when we popped out on Fowler Road to begin the 3 mile road run on unpaved dirt roads.
The group picked up the pace and this is where I started to fall a bit behind. I’m not a fast road runner! I’m built for trails! At Mile 6 I approached the only aid station of the course that was a bit crowded. I opted to pass by this aid station as I had plenty of water to make it up, and down the mountain.
At mile 6 is basically where the “real race” started. The Claybank Brook Trail steeply ascends gnarly single track with river crossings, mud, roots, and rocks. Ascending around 3.1 miles and 2,150 feet of elevation gain to the Junction of the Hammond Trail. Everyone’s pace slowed to a crawl here, one foot in front of the other.
At the Junction of the Hammond Trail there’s a short 1/4 mile in-and-out to the true summit of Mount Chocorua. This short 1/4 mile section is filled with steep slick slabby rock climbs and boulder hopping all the way to the 3,478′ tall summit of Mount Chocorua. At the summit I checked in with a race representative and gave them a high-five… Now it was time to get back down!
The nearly 4 mile descent from the summit of Mount Chocorua drops 2,850 feet in elevation. The upper section of the Hammond Trail starts off pretty gnarly but eventually tames out a bit. During our descent a few groups of hikers were coming up in the opposite direction. Runners were courteous to the hikers and we all tried to share the trails as best as we could. I kept a modest but consistent pace on the descent.
Rounding the final corner of the trail I could see the big green finish line sign in the distance. The spectators and runners cheered me on as I crossed the finish line in 3 hours and 1 minute. I had beat my expected goal by an hour! I guess I had underestimated myself. I landed in 48th place out of the 174 registered runners… I’ll take it!
Post Race Party
As with any well organized race there was food and beer at the finish line. Runners got to enjoy their choice of veggie roll, hot dog, and ice cream. On top of that Hobb’s Tavern and Brewing Company provided some excellent beer selections that really hit the spot after huffing and puffing for 14 miles. It was a good opportunity to network with some fellow trail runners from the area.
Race Experience Review
This was a well organized event that drew an awesome group of runners and volunteers. I enjoyed the amenities like receiving some killer swag (t-shirt, stickers, race pictures) along with a unique course in the white mountains. The food and beer at the finish line was a nice touch too! I hope that RockHopper Races is able to keep this an annual event, I’ll definitely be signing up again next year!
Want to sign up next year? Visit the following links!