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Downtown Temple,NH

Monday, May 2, 2011

2011 Muddy Moose Trail Run

I've thought about doing this race for years but for whatever reason I just never made it happen. This year the planets aligned (aka Seven Sisters scheduled for the same day) and the decision was a no-brainer. The only thing that would stop me now would be....well, me. I almost succeeded. A Friday night mountain bike ride (or should I say crash) had me sitting in the waiting room for 2hrs on Saturday in order to get x-rays on both my left index finger and right ankle. Good news, nothing broken except pride. A splint on my finger and ice on my ankle. I needed a rest day anyways...

 Muddy Moose (results) is the aptly named 4m or 14m trail race in Wolfeboro,NH (founded by my long lost relatives no doubt). I scouted a few past race reports, checked out the pics and asked a couple of folks for a scouting report. I even looked at the results over the years. I'd say most of the stuff I heard and read didn't match my version of reality. Yes it was muddy. Other than that they seemed to have left out some of the other course details which 'may' have been helpful. For future note: past results won't tell you anything. This course is all about conditions (and maybe weather) and my guess is they've varied greatly over the years. Thankfully Sunday was a near perfect day with temps in the 50's to 60's, dry (as in not humid) and sunny.

I tested my ankle early with a short warm up and it seemed fine. No worries there. In fact, I was perfectly relaxed and had no expectations at all. No goal time, nothing. Run, have fun, get muddy. Plenty of familiar faces including no less than 8 acidotic teammates, mountain man Kevin Tilton and a couple of fast masters who routinely kick my butt in trail races (Keith Schmitt and Paul Young). RD Fergus Cullen claimed the course was drier than in past years. For the record, even having never raced this course before, I challenge that claim. 8" deep mud and water as opposed to 12" deep doesn't make it 'drier' or less muddy or wet. I'm just saying.....

Both the 4 milers and 14 milers start at the same time and run together for the first 2 miles before departing ways. The course starts on pavement before moving onto a dirt road and heads downhill pretty fast before entering the woods at about 1/2 mile. I'm guessing these trails must have a purpose but for the life of me I couldn't figure out what it was. Although great for a race once a year, I can't imagine doing anything on them except maybe snowmobile in the winter. I wouldn't drive my skidder on them (if I had one). So for the next 1 1/2 miles we slopped our way through some shoe-sucking ground. I wouldn't even call it mud at times since it looked just like a normal forest floor with grass and such until you tried to run across it. Very deceiving and very tiring to run through. There really wasn't a good line to follow, you were going to get wet and muddy, I was just trying to avoid loosing my shoes. This is what they call dry conditions?? Yeah, ok.

photo credit - Salmon Press Sports
At 2 miles (first water stop) the field had thinned out quite a bit as the 4 milers and 14 milers parted company. The 4's went right, the 14's went left. The next 1 1/2 miles were on a dirt road. It was a welcome relief on the way out but not on the way back for some reason. I had a good solid pace going through this stretch and reeled in a few folks, probably moving up into the top 10. At 3 1/2 miles the trail turns sharply UP a very steep hill. I was running (slowly) about 1/2 of it before I came to my senses. The terrain was so steep, it was easier to walk up the stone wall boundary (which seemed more like steps). This section, called the escarpment was tough but relatively short and was probably the only section of single track all day. A short climb, a nice run along the ridge on top and then steeply down the boulder field on the other side before getting back on the snowmobile trails.

The next mile was dry and runnable before dropping steeply down a sandy hill before flattening out on mildly wet trails all the way to the 2nd water stop at around 4 1/2 miles. As we turned left at the water stop, the trail began a long, relentless climb, hardly noticeable at first but unrelenting at times later one. It wasn't steep, it just went on and on without a break until just about the 6 mile mark (the start of the lollypop loop at the turnaround). Kevin Tilton passed me on his way back about 1/2 mile from the start of the lollypop. He looked like he was on a training run and I was nearly bonking at this point. Although I carried a hand held water bottle, looking back I don't think I drank enough. I was quite fatigued at this point (not even half way) and starving! I had my one gel and hoped for the best. I took my one and only split of the day at the start of the lolly pop loop (50:44) and headed right around the loop. NOTE: you could go either way. Honestly, I'm not sure if it matters. The 2 guys I was chasing went left and I never did catch them. The loop was very rocky, very wet but still fairly runnable without too much difficulty. The water was a relief at times, washing some of the mud off my shoes and socks. The majority of the running from mile 6 to mile 9 was a welcomed gentle downhill. The course goes a different way on the way back to the water stop at mile 4.5/8.5. It was all very runnable and only a little wet and very little mud to be found.

I timed a runner in front of me to gauge how close he was just before the water stop. It appeared he was between 1 min and 1:20 ahead. This gap would stay the same the rest of the way. Occasionally I checked behind me and saw a runner maybe 30-40 seconds back but he didn't seem like he was gaining so I didn't pay too much attention to him. As we made our way back up the sand hill and back up and over the escarpment section I was really getting tired. My legs were borderline ready to cramp up. Thankfully they did not.  Out of nowhere I came across a young runner as I started down the steep escarpment hill. I have no idea where this kid came from but there is NO WAY in heck he ran the entire course. I could see nearly 1/2 mile ahead at times and he was not there but all of a sudden he's right in front of me? And he wasn't walking, he was running fairly strong too. There was NO WAY I would let this kid beat me. Cheater.

Near the finish - photo credit Donna Poirier
Back on the dirt road I purposely picked up the pace, more than I would have normally. I wanted to drop this kid quickly and not worry about it. The 1 1/2 mile section of road was awful. I hated this section. It seemed long and slow and I couldn't wait to get back in the woods and into the mud. At 12 miles I got my wish and the road ended and the trail began. I grabbed a water and knew I had less than 2 miles to go. Unfortunately it would be the muddiest section followed by an uphill road finish but what can you do? My feet were killing me by the time I hit the road with a 1/2 mile to the finish. I had so much mud and muck in my shoes it was painful to run. I glanced one more time behind me and saw a runner fairly close so I tried to finish as hard as I could. Please don't pass me in the last 1/4 mile. I will hate you. I'm sure he was suffering as much as me and decided not to race me to the finish. Thank you. I was exhausted and sore. This was much harder than I expected. I didn't expect the mud to be so tiring. I didn't expect the escarpment section. I didn't expect the relentless climb after the second water stop. Other than that was exactly what I expected. Next year I'll know what to expect....sort of. Highly recommended!


middle.professor said...

Good race and good time on that course Steve. Sorry I missed it. I've only done it once and it was a sufferfest on a hot day.

Steve Wolfe said...

Thanks Jeff. It was a lot of fun. Definitely going back next year!