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Downtown Temple,NH

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Merrimack River 10M Trail Race

I headed over to Andover, Ma on Saturday for the 20th Merrimack River 10m Trail Race, affectionately known as the Rivah (results). This race always draws a strong crowd and is a great early season test. The 10 mile out and back course is 3 miles of flat and fast followed by 2 miles of rollers with a couple of STEEP but short climbs and descents around the power lines. So you run out 5 miles, stop, turn around and head back.

photo credit - Gianina Lindsey
This race has a very tight start. After lining up in a parking lot, the trail immediately funnels down essentially to a single track in about 25 feet. There is always a bottleneck and it can be somewhat frustrating. However, this year my plan was NOT to fight the crowd at the start and just go with the flow. The trail eventually opens up in a field in less than 1/4 mile so I was more than willing to be patient for a couple of minutes. Of course, by the time I reached the field I was already questioning my decision with 35+ runners already in front of me (including Keith Obrien, Jeff Walker, Scott Spence and a gazillion other masters). It was crowded but I slowly started passing folks, and probably caught up and passed Walker just before the 1st mile marker (6:16). Most of the way out was all about patience (something that I usually don't have much of). I felt like I could and should be running a lot faster, but the folks in front were making it a little hard to pass so I essentially ran at there pace for the first few miles. I passed when I could, followed when I couldn't.
I finally caught up to Scott Spence around the 3 mile mark and we would go back and forth for the next 4 miles. As we hit the hills just after 3 miles I was pleasantly surprised to find I actually felt strong on the climbs. What the? That NEVER happens. Heck, I was actually passing people on the hills and for the first time ever at this race, I ran ALL the hills, including the power line climb. Granted, I ran slow, but still, no power walking today!
photo credit - Dave Dunham
I had Keith Obrien in my sights as we approached the 1/2 way point and was definitely gaining. As I hit the turn in 34:30 I was surprised to see Jeff Walker only about 10 seconds back. Surprised only because he seemed to be going pretty easy when I passed him around the 1 mile mark. Apparently I gave him a target to chase down. I eventually passed Keith and Scott for the final time as we headed back up the hills. I never looked back but I listened very closely to see if anyone was sticking with me. I was convinced by mile 7 that no one was near me so I focused my attention on a few runners in front. Of course afterwords I found out I was wrong. Jeff was fairly close most of the way back. Unlike snowshoeing, he was very quiet out there so I had no idea he was behind me.
I felt really good all the way back. By mile 8 I started to think I had a chance of catching a GBTC runner that was way up in front. I was definitely gaining but wasn't sure if I had enough course left. I kept up a good effort and slowly reeled him in, passing him at the underpass with a couple hundred meters to go and eventually finishing in 1:08:30, 15th overall and 2nd masters.

This was my easily my best result in the 3 times I've run the Rivah, and for the first time ever, I ran the 2nd half of the race faster than the first, with a return time of 34:00. Overall it was a very consistent race, with my mile splits almost identical on the way out and back. The only big difference was the 1st/last mile which was 6:16 out and 5:45 back. No complaints for the first trail race of the season (other than I think I could have gone faster!)


Gianina Lindsey's Photos

Dave Dunham's Photos

4 comments:

Dan said...

Strong race Steve. Nice work! Maybe holding back a bit at the start helped you on the hills?

middle.professor said...

"coulda gone faster". Uh-oh...

Steve Wolfe said...

Dan,
I'd like to think my double secret training helped me on the hills, but I suppose not running at 5k pace early on helps too :-)

Jeff,
In retrospect, I probably should have kept that little detail close to the vest. Now I HAVE to keep training.

Scotty "PHAT" Graham said...

You looked really good when you finished. Great job1