the 2009 nipmuck trail marathon is in the books - my third, and fastest. but given our late start, it almost didn't happen! the plan was to meet emmy at 5:40, pick up rob at 5:50, and get on the road by 6 - to reach ashford in plenty of time for the start. a small mix-up changed things in a big way. i was on the merritt side of greenwich waiting for emmy - only to discover at 5:50, that she was on the i-95 side! as she drove to get me, she called rob to meet us at the stamford exit (instead of us meeting him at his house).
we were a solid 20 minutes late getting on the road after that mix-up. to make it more stressful, "helga," rob's gps device calculated our arrival time as 8:13 - for the 8:00 start! that was hardly good news to kick off the trip. but the announcement barely dented emmy's determination. she a insisted, despite the gps calculation, that we'd arrive in ashford at 7:40, with plenty of time to spare. amazingly, not only was emmy right - but she insisted on a rest stop along the way!
we've had a couple of near misses - a few nyrr races where we literally ran from the car straight to the starting corrals, and two years ago, we barely made the start of sybil on time! but aside from the stress of watching the clock - and speedometer - we were no worse for the wear when we got to ashford. in fact, the race didn't start on time because dave's pre-race briefing included musical entertainment (which was hilarious). the extended pre-race briefing probably pushed the start back 10 minutes.
for the race itself, i once again went into it with a sub-5 hour target in mind. my 0nly plan was to run first out and back in two hours and the second, north-bound, leg in three hours. for each of the two preceding years that five hour target proved unrealistic (in 2008 i ran a 5:36 and then, in 2007, i ran a 5:22). this year i wore my lightweight new balance 840s - instead of my new balance 908s (this had nothing to do with the memory of my 908s self destructing during the 2008 race) - and would regret that choice at the end of the first leg.
that first leg went according to plan, 53 minutes. i had fallen in with a group of runners that included mark, clint and bruce. i was 14 minutes ahead of 2007 start. the 840s felt great, and that "too good to be true" feeling hadn't caught up to me yet. i was surprised a the absence of mud - and water at the turnaround. in a fitting tribute to that momentary sigh of relief as i crossed the "dry" bank, my left leg fell into a sink hole up to mid shin! that snapped me back to attention.
on the inbound leg i slowed down a bit, taking 58 minutes to run it. i completed the first leg in 1:51 - roughly 11 minutes ahead of my 2007 time for this section. it was here that i started to doubt the wisdom of wearing the 840s. i as started out on the second leg, easily the tougher half of the race, i pushed those doubts out of my head. i had 3 hours to run the two seven mile legs of this section, 1:30 each. very doable.
once i made the first climb, i was momentarily lost - unable to find the next blue blaze. after i retraced my steps, i got back on the trail. soon a few runners caught up w/me - one of whom, joe, had his running shoe sucked off his foot by the mud! as i picked my way along the northern route, the rocky terrain exacted its toll. i was truly sorry for not wearing the 908's - i felt every rock, big or small with the 840s. i had run the stone cat trail marathon with the 840s (and had no problems), so this was truly an unpleasant surprise.
for the second half of the outbound leg i ran with jim. that portion went by quickly - and it was great to have someone to talk jam bands and craft beer with as the miles went by! after climbing down the giant size stairs, i reached the turnaround in 1:27, for a cumulative 3:18. if i could just keep it together, a sub-5 hour finish was very doable. in fact, jim was speculating about going for a 4:30 (that goal, i told him, he'd have to reach without me)! we stuck together until returning to the road portion, then i went on ahead.
the remaining inbound leg was uneventful. i managed to maintain an even split, 1:28 for the return trip. easily the toughest part has to be the last mile, marked in 10th of a mile splits along the trees. on a trail of switch backs that seemingly climbs upward without end until the last 10th of a mile, it was mental (if not, physical) torture. i passed a few runners walking it - and was passed myself by a couple of runners sprinting to the finish! when all was said and done, i finished in 4:46:13 - and couldn't get those running shoes off fast enough :P
here are my 2009 race photos.