Our 6th and final Race to the top of Vermont Spotlight is on Amy Bruce. Growing up in Underhill, VT, Amy pretty much had Mt. Mansfield in her back yard. She shares with the CTA her inspiration and motivation for running in the RTTTOVT for the 4th time this year, as well as some insight beyond her years.
Name: Amy Bruce
Hometown: Underhill, VT
Occupation: Sophomore at Colby College, Waterville, ME
My name is Amy Bruce and this will be my 4th year participating in the Race to the Top of Vermont. I’m a sophomore at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, but this summer I’m in Vermont working and training in my hometown of Underhill. I’m a member of Colby’s Division 1 Nordic Ski Team, so there’s plenty of training to be done for that, but Race to the Top is definitely one of the events that I look forward to the most in terms of training for skiing.
Four years ago, I decided to run the Race to the Top of Vermont. My ski coach at the time, Jim Fredericks, was the Executive Director of the Catamount Trail, and strongly encouraged me to run the race. He told me that if I wanted to be tough enough to race Nordic at a highly competitive level, Race to the Top would definitely toughen me up to my competitors. At the time, I certainly didn’t like the idea of running up the tallest mountain in the area. However, somehow I got myself up there to run it and it was actually super rewarding knowing I’d raced my way up, enough so that I’m back for my 4th official race.
As a competitive nordic ski racer, a lot of my training is done over the summer. Since I can’t ski on snow the whole year in Vermont (darn), I’m often running for training. Training for the Race to the Top more than complemented my needs for high-intensity aerobic training for skiing, and the two actually meshed very smoothly. I train six days a week, and I’ll often run 3-4 of those days. The other days of the week will be rollerskiing (Google it if you’ve never heard of it before!), biking, kayaking, or other cross-training. In preparation for the race, once a week, I run a course that’s similar to the race. My favorite course is running from the bottom of Mountain Road in Underhill, past the ranger station at the Underhill State Park trailhead for Mount Mansfield, and continuing up the CCC road until the gravel ends at the Halfway House Trail. It’s a similar distance to the race, but the ascent is significantly less vertical. I like that course because I can force myself to keep running the whole time, just like I want to when it counts in the race. I usually also make it to Stowe to run the race course once or twice a summer to get some training in there. I’m always impressed by how long it takes to come back down, because it shows just how far you have to go up!
One of my favorite parts of running the race is how supportive the community is. Everyone running or biking knows how hard the race is. Everyone’s suffering just the same. I remember getting near the last few turns of the Toll Road the first year I did it, and I was starting to get a little disappointed in the number of people who had finished the race, making their way down to the bottom before I had even finished yet. But these people were so excited to help people finish the race! I had a few friends walking down at that point and I could literally feel my energy pick up as they cheered for me. I’d also get many people I didn’t even know congratulate me and tell me to “keep running, you’re right there!”. It was awesome. There are few races where you can feel that accomplished at the finish, especially with the company of others who just overcame the same thing you just did. Because, yes, time does matter somewhat, but what it comes down to is that everyone has the same goal: to push their limits and make it to the top.
As for gear, I’m going to wear my rather beat-up Saucony running shoes. They’re old, but they’re broken in and save me from the fear of blisters. I have a Suunto Ambit3 heart rate watch that I wear both training and racing. It’s really nice because I can connect it with my phone after I run to check my elevation and my heart rate over time, which is fun to look back on afterwards, especially after running up a mountain. Knowing my heart rate while I run the race also helps me from going too hard in the beginning, so any heart rate monitor in general is a great tool to have.
Through my racing experience both in this race and in skiing, I’ve constantly worried about whether people would be disappointed in me if I were to do badly in the race, or if I couldn’t finish it. One of my main fears before my first Race to the Top was that people would look down on me if I got a bad time. The truth is, it doesn’t matter as much as you think. What I’ve learned is, the race comes down to what’s important for you. There’s very little at stake when you step up to the start line, except for the possibility you might not meet up to your own expectations. People will already be impressed when you’ve said you’ve raced the Race to the Top of Vermont before. That’s a cool thing to have accomplished. And a fast time to go along with the fact you made it all the way up the mountain? That’s icing on the cake.
Every August the North Face Race To The Top Of Vermont draws as many as 800 hikers, bikers, and runners from across the U.S. and Canada to climb Mt. Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak. The course climbs up the historic Mansfield Toll Road, is 4.3 miles in length, and climbs 2564 ft. For some it’s all about trying to achieve a fast time up this tough 4.3 mile course. For others… they come to test themselves, and to enjoy the spectacular views.
No matter why you came, for everyone the North Face Race To The Top Of Vermont is about supporting the Catamount Trail Association and all of the good work they do. This event is their largest fundraising event of the year. So, while you’re out there challenging yourself, know that 100% of the money raised at this event goes to support the Catamount Trail and backcountry skiing and riding here in Vermont!
Interested in helping out behind the scenes? Volunteer at the RTTOVT to help us get all of our ducks in a row.