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Downtown Temple,NH

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pisgah 23k Trail Race

Update - added elevation profile and overview map
Today was my 4th consecutive weekend of trail racing (10m, 6k, 17.5m and 23k distances). I'm not a big believer of tapering for my weekend excursions so during this period I also maintained my typical weekly mileage. I have to admit, I'm a little tired, and felt it today early on in the race. Reach the Beach is coming up at the end of the week so I'm going to have to force myself to take a couple of days off (not taper) and rest up. Ok, now on to today's race!

The Pisgah 23k takes place in New Hampshire's largest state park, and one I've never heard of. Heck, I can't say I've heard of Chesterfield either (the location of the start/finish). In case you were wondering, Chesterfield is about 10 miles due west of Keene, and just a couple of miles from the Vermont border.

There were two races today, a 23k short course and a 50k long course. I opted for the short course today. Since both races started together and followed the same course for the first couple of miles, there was no way to tell how many runners were doing the 23k or 50k. It was a safe bet that most of the folks up front (who shot off like it was a 5k) were doing the 23k. Ben Nephew & George Adams, who probably had the closest finish EVER in any trail race back in 2006 (when they finished the 23k in near identical times of 1:33:57), Josh Ferenc, and a bunch of young guys who all had their heads shaved for some reason (I'm guessing they lost a bet) all rocketed to the front on the fast downhill start. So in a 14.2 mile trail race my position was essentially set in the first 10 seconds.

Most of the first 2 miles of this race was on paved and dirt roads that lead up to the Pisgah trail head. There was a short downhill at the start and then a couple of decent climbs (one on pavement and one on dirt). The 50k folks split off to the left not long after entering the Pisgah State Park and the shorties continued straight on the Reservoir Trail, which was a very runnable doubletrack trail. The course was so well marked with pink ribbons that it would be impossible to go off course. Even with the rain the previous couple of days there was very little mud and my feet never got wet the entire day. Nothing overly technical, just the same ole roots and rocks we've come to love in New Hampshire. The Reservoir Trail was lots of short ups and downs sprinkled with a ton of moss-covered wooden bridges strategically placed at the bottoms of the downs (at least it seemed that way). In general I'd say the net effect was we were climbing more than we were descending.

23k elevation profile

At mile 6.7 we came to the first of two manned aid stations. Temps today were in the mid 60's and my hand-held water bottle was doing just fine so I motored on by. The course then heads up the Pisgah Mt Trail (gee, I wonder where this trail goes?) and the serious climbing began. If I remember correctly this 2 mile trail was the only single track we ran on all day and some of the most difficult running (up and down). I just had nothing for the climbs and felt very tired (not a good thing at the half way point), losing a couple more positions. I don't like getting passed in general and I HATE getting passed after the 1/2 way point of a race. I always interpret this as me fading as opposed to the other runner surging. As I struggled up Pisgah Mt trying to maintain contact with the runner in front of me I could now hear another runner coming up behind me. Oh crap, there goes another spot. I held him off for nearly 2 miles but shortly after the second manned aid station at mile 9 I was swallowed up. Anyone else care to pass while I'm suffering?

The next 4 miles were back on doubletrack trails (Davis Hill Trail and Hubbard Hill Trail). The only thing that made these trails slow were my tired legs. Otherwise they'd be some nice (maybe even fast) trails to run on. The terrain was a bit easier now, with mostly small rollers to deal with. The last mile or so to the trail head exit on Winchester Road was mostly downhill and once we hit Winchester Road we had about 1 1/2 miles of dirt and paved roads to the finish at the Chesterfield Fire Dept.

23k overview map - race goes CW

At the time I didn't know how long we had to go once we hit the road (I was guessing maybe a mile). The dirt road was all downhill so I picked up the pace but it went on and on before finally turning to pavement. Ah, I must be close now I thought so I kept up the pace, trying to get in under 2hrs. I was not about to let anyone pass me at this point either. I glanced back a couple of times and was ready to run myself into the ground to avoid someone passing me in the last mile. Luckily for me there was no one back there. Then my pace came to a screeching crawl as the course threw us one more hill. As I shuffled up the hill, checking my watch, I was just about to throw in the towel on my sub 2hr attempt when I reached the top and saw a stop sign off in the distance. That stop sign was on Rt63 and the finish was only 100m down the road from there. As I started running hard again all I could think about was how pissed I was going to be if I came in at 2hr-anything. Heck, in the end it wasn't even close. I finished in 1:57:52, 12th overall (2nd master) and could have dogged it a lot more in the final mile :-)

early results board

Josh Ferenc won the race and set a new course record ( I believe) with a time of 1:30:45, followed by Ben (1:33) and George (1:40). I didn't hang out long enough to see any of the 50k'ers come in so I don't know how that went. As of this morning results were not posted yet.
Update: results posted

view from the finish

I'm not sure how long they've been running this race but they had a cool display setup with photo albums, maps and results from all previous years (some were hand written in notebooks). To me it's always helpful to see course maps, elevation profiles, pictures or just race reports from previous years when I'm deciding what race to run. The more info the better. This is a great race, well supported and run by some of the nicest people I've seen so far. Scan all this history and get yourself a website already!


Anonymous said...

Nice race and report Steve. I've always wanted to do this race, but it conflicted with Ollie this year. I think I know which one I'll choose next year.

Steve Wolfe said...

Kevin, Ollie was on Saturday, what conflict? :-)

It's a nice race. I'll be back next year, maybe I'll even try the 50k!