Hitting the hills this weekend?
Taking a warm-weather trek to the top of Mount Washington or another of the inviting peaks in the White Mountains?
Thousands will no doubt take on vertical challenges across the state during the weekend.
Several hundred of those with a hankering for hills are doing it with trophies and honors on the line in two more of the state's premier uphill events.
Some 200 cyclists are expected for Saturday's Newton's Revenge bicycle race up the 7.6-mle Mount Washington Auto Road.
About the same number are due in Lincoln on Sunday morning for the Loon Mountain Race, a 5-mile dash up the hill that features an elite field on the women's side in particular. This year's race serves as the sole qualifier for the United States women's team for the World Mountain Running Championships.
Kasie (Wallace) Enman, who did her high school running at Manchester Central and now races out of Vermont, is not only the defending champion at Loon but also the defending world champion, having won that title in Albania last fall.
The top four women at Loon will qualify to represent the United States in Italy in early September.
“It's really going to be interesting to see who makes the team,” said Paul Kirsch of Madison, co-director of the race along with Chris Dunn. “It's going to be tight. There are about 25 elite women coming in. I think there are eight former US team members trying to make the team.”
Among the list of two dozen elite contenders that Kirsch compiled, nine are from Colorado, including Kim Dobson and Brandy Erholtz, who finished one-two in the Mount Washington Auto Road race last month. Morgan Arritola, an Olympian in Nordic skiing, and Abbey Gosling of Meredith are also among the group of elite women who will start at 9 a.m., 15 minutes before the rest of the field.
“I'm going to have my work cut out for me just to make the US team,” Enman said.
She was third behind Dobson and Erholtz at Mount Washington, but it's in trail running that she excels.
Enman, 32, set the course record of 50 minutes and 58 seconds for women last year at Loon.
Eric Blake owns the men's mark of 46:01, established in 2008.
Loon is one of six races, three of them in New Hampshire, in the New England Mountain Circuit. Races at Pack Monadnock and Mount Cranmore were held last month, and the Ascutney Mount Challenge in Vermont concludes this year's schedule on July, 22.
The Ascutney race starts in a dirt parking lot along the Pemigewasset River and winds its way on service roads and trails up the mountain to the Summit Lodge at the top of the gondola. From there, the course traverses across the mountain on the Haulback ski trail and then takes a right to attack the steep top half of the Walking Boss trail. It ends at the top of Walking Boss.
“Probably about 10 percent of the runners will run all of Walking Boss,” Kirsch said. “The rest will do some power walking. It's pretty tough. Even marking the course hurts.”
Newton's Revenge grew out of the Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb, a fund-raiser for the Tin Mount Conservation Center that will be contested for the 40th time on Aug. 18.
The Hillclimb regularly sells out its 600 openings, and the Revenge, which covers the same course and recognizes the same records, helps fill the demand for spots.
“It has the same feel to the bikers as it does for those coming to the foot race,” said Howie Wemyss, general manager of the Auto Road. “It's the major challenge of conquering Mount Washington. It's great. You talk to any of the people and it's all about the personal challenge that is every bit as important as the race. It's the sense of accomplishment you get by doing it, and they come back year after year.”
Marti Shea, 49 and a former Manchester resident who now competes out of Marblehead, Mass., has owned the Revenge and is expected back to defend her 2011 title. She doubled up and also won the Hillclimb last August.