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|
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|