Dare Mighty Things

"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those timid spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat." -Teddy Roosevelt

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Exeter Trail Races presented by GoLite Footwear

Exeter,  NEW HAMPSHIRE -- After a string of unsatisfying performances I was overdue.  And there was no better time or place to shake out of my funk than at the 10 mile Exeter Trail Race presented by GoLite Footwear.  With the added 'pressures' of a head to head battle with our nemesis Trail Monster Running (TMR) and wanting to show well for our newest sponsor GoLite Footwear, everything came together in what ended up being one of my best efforts this year.  Over the last two weeks I, along with TMR's Ian Parlin, have worked to develop a team trail running challenge between our two groups that we have named the New England Dirt Cup (NEDC).  Consisting of six races this year, each club's top 5 performances at these races score points toward an overall team total.  As a NEDC race, our TMR rivals made the trip from Maine led by outstanding trail runners Jeff Walker and Floyd Lavery.  One of the beauties of trail running is the low key vibe and tremendous sense of community.  Another is the smaller fields allow you to have a pretty good idea who you'll be racing.  And when I say "racing" I really mean chasing.  Jeff and Floyd have dominated me at every event we've competed in this season.  Honestly, I'm happy to run within minutes of these two.  But Sunday was different, it was our home turf and it counted.  Although I had only raced one more time on these trails than either of the other two I felt like I had somewhat of an advantage.  The question would be if I was fit enough to make the most of it.  With Jeff positioned just off my left shoulder at the start I decided to start strong knowing that the trails would very quickly narrow into a serpentine-like twisted roller coaster and passing opportunities would be limited early on.  At the start the lead group pulled by teammates Geoff Cunningham and Tim Cox were out of sight within the first 100 meters.  I settled in behind a very strong group of three which included one of my newest teammates Bob Swarthout.  A former collegiate runner, Bob is a very strong and for a few minutes I wondered if I had gone out too aggressively.  Knowing this freight train could pull me along if I stayed within 3-5 meters I worked hard to stay connected.  Running in the woods always gives me the sense of running faster than I'm actually going but the pace my group was maintaining early on had to have been in the 6:40's and surprisingly I felt very comfortable.  Somewhere around the 4 mile mark my train conductor decided he was tired of doing all the work and before I knew it I was in front.  Faced with two choices...fast or faster, I decided that it was time to lean forward and see if the group ahead of us was attainable.  I had seen glimpses of them from time to time so I knew they were within striking distance and there was enough race left to catch them.  The funny thing was that our original group of five was now just two, myself and a taller gentleman who apparently was running his first trail race at this distance.  For the moment he was content with letting me do the pulling.  As we pushed forward, we slowly began to reel in the loosely organized group of three ahead of us.  When I was close enough I was astounded to see that one of those runners was Floyd!  Once within shouting distance I yelled to him that I was closing on him (he later admitted that my yelling had startled him a little).  After expending tremendous effort to close on him I wasn't sure I would be able to match his suddenly surging pace.  I hung on for a few minutes and then decided that the best strategy would be to get in front of him and 1.) make him run my pace and 2.) make him work a little harder to pass me if he was so inclined.  It worked.  Once ahead of him I relaxed a little and made him slow down.  While it worked nicely to contain Floyd, it opened the door for the guy still racing off my shoulder and he flew by me in a blurr.  Content, I was happy to race with Floyd as long as there was no sign of Jeff.  The final challenge of the race was a devilish little section of trail called the Camel's Hump.  Aptly named, this 25 meter climb looked more like a series of three small walls than a trail.  With plenty of hill training under my belt I blasted up the climb and quickly regained my rhythm knowing that the time to hammer was at the top of the hill when everyone else would be trying to recover.  With less than a mile to go I peeked several times waiting to see someone trying to close.  Luckily, the race course ran out and I was able to maintain my place.  Finishing in 1:14:59 was good enough for 12th place (5th Master...what the heck is it with fast guys in their 40's?!) and a 6+ minute PR from last year.  But perhaps the best news was that I was finally able to beat both Jeff and Floyd.  Always gracious competitors we shared congratulations and some great stories after the race.  Overall, acidotic RACING again won the team title over our Maine rivals.  The next race in the NEDC series is the Bradbury Mountain Breaker hosted by TMR in August.  As for me, it's time to taper (again) for perhaps my greatest mountain (or is it road?) challenge of my life.

NEXT UP: Mt. Washington Road Race

[Photo credit: Brent Doscher Photography]

1 comment:

  1. You had a great race Chris. I thought you were going out too fast and I'd be reeling you in over the last two miles but...that didn't happen. Great trail system, great course marking, and fun raffles at the end. We'll be back next year! See you at Mt. W.