this was my second nipmuck trail marathon, so i wouldn't get a "high fall risk" sticker on my race bib. in fact, i almost didn't get a bib because i didn't know emmy's license plate number! the race volunteers, under strict - and apparently literal - orders not to dispense bibs without first securing a license plate number, refused to give it to me. what a ridiculous way to start the day! i can hardly remember my own, and i'm expected to know someone else's license plate number?! it was a scene which could've been written by eugene ionesco, and apparently played only for me. everyone else had a license number at the ready, and had no trouble. eventually emmy arrived and liberated my bib for me.
after the license plate business, the race itself was practically anti-climatic. i had a finish of 5 hours in mind. last year i finished in 5:36, but it rained during the race and the trail conditions were pretty tough. with drier conditions (it did rain the night before), the trail would be easier to run this time. the course is a 20k out and back southbound leg, followed by a 14 mile out and back northbound leg. while the southbound leg is the muddier of the two, the northbound leg is hillier. the 1.6 miles from the 17.8 mile aid station to the turnaround at 19.4 miles is almost a straight uphill climb.
the race began 15 minutes late. we ran on perry hill road for a short distance before the trail head for the southbound leg. this was the most congested portion of the race, where all the runners funneled into the essentially single track trail. this was actually a good thing because it forced everyone to be patient for the first few of miles as the runners moved into relative position along the trail. the southbound leg crosses i-74 and, thankfully, there was traffic control at that point. this reminded me of similar road crossings at the long island greenbelt trail.
last year i reached the turnaround in 1:13. i shaved 5 minute off that split and arrived there in 1:07. the return leg was even faster, and took only 54 minutes - a full 14 minutes ahead of last years 1:08 for the inbound leg. i completed the entire southbound 20k in 2:02, 19 minutes ahead of 2007's 2:21. while i was happy with the time, it wasn't as fast as i would've liked. i'd need to run the northbound leg in just under 3 hours to reach my 5 hour target. that was a 1:28 split for each of the 7 miles legs. neither of the 2007 northbound legs had gone that fast; 1:40 and 1:34, respectively.
but i felt good and kicked off the northbound portion aggressively. while the trail head from perry hill road starts with a significant uphill climb, the trail is very runnable for the first few miles. but my real problem occurred about 30 minutes into this leg. out of the blue i heard an unpleasant tearing sound and realized the mid-sole upper on my shoe had ripped open! in a race first, i suddenly found myself with a 2+ inch long tear along the bottom on my running shoe!
i pulled off the trail to exam the it. my concern at that point was all the dirt and grit that would find its way in there. the stability was still okay, but if the tear got any larger it might actually impact my running. i put my trail shoe back on and moved on. luckily, i only needed to stop a couple of times to fish out some debris along the way. while that slowed me down a bit, the real discouragement awaited me at the 17.8 aid station! "only 17.8 miles," was all that went through my head - i just couldn't believe we hadn't run more miles! and now the final stretch to the turnaround point was the toughest part of the trail.
it took 1:46 to reach the turnaround (heralded by giant-size wooden stairs leading downhill to the aid station). it was 6 minutes slower than last year - but pretty much on account of the trail shoe mishap. it was now 3:49 and i'd need to retrace those 7 miles in 1:11, to finish in 5 hours. theoretically possible, yes - but realistic, not a chance. i still felt strong, so i would try and hit my original 1:29 target for the inbound leg. just as i finished climbing back up the giant-stairs, i caught sight of emmy on her way to the turnaround. she had picked up her pace significantly and would catch up to me in a couple of miles.
in fact, after emmy caught up, one of the most dramatic episodes of the race occurred as we crossed route 89 at iron mine lane. after i crossed and was about to turn onto oaks road, some jerk in a steroid fed s.u.v. gunned his engine and tried to run emmy off the road! what a cowardly [expletive deleted] jerk. on the upside, the adrenaline rush from such a frightening experience boosted our pace for the next couple of miles.
it took 1:33 to finish the inbound leg, 4 minutes slower than i my goal - but a minute faster than 2007. my 5:22 was well off the 5 hour target, but still a good 14 minutes ahead of my 2007 finish. emmy had taken even more time off her 2007 finish! she had sped on ahead in the last mile, grabbed her camera from the drop bag, and took a picture of my finish! we both knew rob was having a tough time because we had seen him on his outbound leg as we did the return portion. he was beset by some serious intestinal problems, but still managed to finish the race!
there was plenty of food at the finish - especially pizza! the list also included cold cuts, watermelon and donuts! a good number of the runners had brought their own beer, as well. thankfully for us, rob had a cooler filled with sam adams! they were the highpoint of my post-race rehydration plan!
here are the race photos.
check out emmy's race report!
check out scott's race report!
and one more race report from a different scott :D
next up: a very early wednesday morning (5:30) nyrr 50th anniversary race in central park!