I went into yesterday's 14m trail race (results) in Wolfeboro,NH a wee bit nervous. I ran just under 100 miles total for the month of March and just over 100 for the month of April. Banging out 20+ mile weeks just isn't the kind of mileage I was hoping for leading into this season.
Last year at this time I was running nearly 50 miles/week and riding 30-40 miles on the bike and ran the Muddy Moose 14m race in 1:51:34. So, being a data-driven guy, I was pretty sure I was in for a 2+hr hurtfest this year. Bring it on!
It was sunny but cool (mid 40's) and windy as all heck. Without the wind I'd go with just a singlet but the wind was COLD standing around at the start. After waffling for a few minutes I finally decided to go with a singlet and what Chris Dunn called "arm pants". I'm sure it's some sort of fashion faux pas but it was just enough to keep from getting frost bite (at least at the starting line). I told Deb I'd probably be around 2hrs, lined up a couple of rows deep with Mike Wade and waited for the start.
The mostly out and back course starts out on the road and heads downhill pretty quickly for about a half a mile or so before heading into the woods. Knowing I had absolutely no long runs under my belt was always on my mind. So, with that little nugget always present, I was very careful not to go out too fast. The initial trail was heavily logged since last year, with lots of branches, sticks and other sharp objects just waiting to impale you if you stumbled. Fancy footwork was a must. Of course one of the problems with going out a little slower is you get caught up in the crowds, which makes it a bit more challenging picking out obstacles (like sticks, rocks, and shoe-sucking mud pits). You tend to get funneled into directions you might not choose on your own (like the middle of a shoe-sucking mud pit). Most of the serious mud is in the first 2 miles (and the last 2 miles) so it's hard to avoid (because there's so much of it) but if you can navigate around it (especially if you're running 14 miles) you'd be better off. Some sections it's just not possible. I got bogged down (pun intended) pretty early on in the mud and Ian Parlin (TMR) nearly ran me over trying to get by me. He was gone in a flash.
|photo credit - Josh Spaulding|
The lead runner (Kevin Tilton) passed me on the climb, a few minutes sooner then the place he passed me last year. I assumed I was running slower but in reality he was flying to a new CR. The lollypop can be run in either direction but for the second year in a row I went right (or counter-clockwise). This section, although not muddy, is VERY wet, with deep, cold water everywhere. My feet hurt they were so cold. I got around most of the beaver dam water by running over the top of the dam. I checked my watch for the only time all day at the end of the loop (1hr exactly). By this time my 'arm pants' had turned into 'wrist shorts' as the temperature was quite comfortable.
The next few miles were mostly a gentle down hill. Last year this section was a little wet, this year not so much. I was still feeling strong and tried to stay with the 2nd o/a female. I never looked back but I always assumed Mike, Leslie and Kurt were right there. The course loops back around to the 5 mile water stop (now at mile 9ish) and turns left. The rest of the course is the same as the way out.
I passed the 2nd o/a female on the climbs and held her off until the steep descent on the escarpment where once again she went flying by. During this section I got my first glimpse of another aR runner, Ri Fahnestock. Ri looked like was struggling a bit so I was hoping I could catch him on the dirt road section. About a mile onto the dirt road I could now see Ian Parlin as well. I was slowly closing on both of them but I wasn't sure if I was closing fast enough. Just before the last water stop at mile 12ish I passed Ri and encouraged him to stick with me. I was motoring pretty good and now had my sights on Ian. The mud in the last couple of miles (with 200+ runners going through it already) was much harder to navigate on the way back. More than once I almost came to a stop as I got stuck in the mud. I got close to Ian but not close enough that I thought I could make a legitimate move as we left the woods and hit the last uphill road section before the finish. I finally made a quick peek over my shoulder to see if anyone was nearby and then just held my position until the finish, finishing 20 seconds behind Ian and 4 seconds behind the 2nd o/a female.
|me and Ian after the race|