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Downtown Temple,NH

Monday, May 17, 2010

Soapstone Mountain 24k Trail Race

In 2008 I voted the Soapstone Mt 24k Trail Race my favorite trail race. I loved the course and the great weather didn't hurt. Not much changed for the 2010 version (results). The weather was perfect....again. The course was probably a bit better this year too. Not nearly as much water as I remember from 2008. Surprisingly not a lot of folks from NH come down for this one. At first glance the location sounds far way...Connecticut. However, it's actually closer than some of the Western Mass races, a short 1hr 45min from Merrimack.
Trail races have been hit and miss for me this year. Some times I feel good, other times I feel terrible. Most times I don't know which until after the race starts. It's been frustrating to say the least. 5 minutes into this one I knew what kind of day it would be. I would struggle early and often. Bummer. Oh well, such is racing. Good thing it was a beautiful day and I like the course! Don't get me wrong, an off day running is still better than not running at all so I'm not complaining. I expect more from myself, that's all.

Summit of Soapstone Mt
If you haven't run Soapstone, you should. It's a great race, with a nice mix of single track and fire roads, both fast and technical stuff plus a bit of mud and water. Oh, and it does have a couple of nice climbs (and descents). But most of all it's nearly all runnable (accept for a couple of climbs).
For a trail race it has a lightening fast start, a slightly downhill stretch on a fire road. It's hard not to get sucked into the 5k dash. Thankfully it settles down after about a mile when the course takes a sharp left onto the more familiar single track (which is the majority of the course). Even going out fast I still found myself around 15th once we reached the single track. Just after the 2m mark we climb 'Killer Hill', maybe a 1/3m climb up the side of Soapstone Mt. It's probably one of the steepest trails I've climbed in a race. Everybody walks this one. I took it pretty easy (if that's possible), and had quite a few folks pass on the way up.
Once at the top, the trail descends quickly on a steep technical section before hitting a series of rollers. The rollers would make up most of the remaining race. Nearly the entire race I was right in front of or right behind John Agosto and would also go back and forth with several other folks I did not know.  We'd trade places often throughout the day. I hit the first aid station at 3.6m around 30 minutes in. I'd do alright on the flats but couldn't hold the pace on any hills..up or down. Grrr.

This year I was hoping not to get lost. So much for hope. This time it was only about a minutes worth so not a big deal. A whole group of us missed a flagged sharp left turn between the first and second aid station. I don't want to say the course is hard to follow, it just requires you to pay attention (more than normal), a hard thing to do when you're watching where to place your next foot. All part of the experience that is trail running :-)
The second aid station is around mile 7 and I think I reached it around 58 minutes or so. For the most part I was still hanging with the same group of guys I'd been with since the top of Soapstone Mt. Shortly after the aid station we start a long descent down a stream bed. In 2008 it was more of a stream. 2010  was totally different, with very little water. It is VERY technical and once again I got crushed on this section with several runners flying by. John went by me for the last time, finally putting me out of my misery. For the rest of the race I just tried to keep his yellow Shenipsit Strider singlet in site. Except for an occasional glance of his shirt, I would not see another runner for the remainder of the race.
The finish is near
I limped into (emotionally not physically) the last aid station (11.6m) in 1hr 38m, a full 8 minutes slower than the first time I did this race. Ugh. The guys at the aid station kindly inform you it's only 2.9m to the finish. Of course they don't mention you have to climb Soapstone Mt again. I did some math and thought I might have a shot of breaking 2hrs. After walking most of the way up Soapstone I changed my mind. Not a chance today. The trail down Soapstone is VERY steep so all I could do was fast hike it down. We actually run on pavement for a short bit (oh the horrors!!!) before jumping back on some fire roads for maybe a 1/2m. Finally it turns right onto a short single track before a short climb through the fields on the way to the finish. Not necessarily a disappointing finish, just not a satisfying run. I believe I finished in 2:02, 20th overall out of 160-170 runners.

Scott Mason was kind enough to come out and take some photos, which can be found here. Scott gets credit for all photos above. Thanks Scott!


Scotty "PHAT" Graham said...

Good job Steve. You would have crushed me on that course

Jaymanruns79 said...

Good Run. I love that race as well. I did it I think it was 2006 when the road was like a river and the water was above the ankles. Gonna be at Northfield Mnt next weekend?

Steve Wolfe said...

Scott, you won't know until you try!
Jay, great conditions out there yesterday, just a little mud and water. I'll be at the 12k USATF Championships in Bedford so no Northfield for me. If you go, good luck!