"Lost time is never found again." -Ben Franklin
FRAMINGHAM, MA--On Sunday teammate Rich Lavers and I headed down to Framingham for race #21 in the Grand Tree Series, the Busa Bushwhack. I typically don't race in October, preferring instead to spend my weekends on the couch with a beer, the remote, and more football than is humanly necessary. But I'm also very easily pursuaded by gentle peer pressure to get out and race. Especially if I get a chance to spend the morning with a great friend and teammate. And, after all it was my debut as a GoLite Footwear sponsored athlete. Initially Rich had planned to race the 10 mile option, but after a couple whiney e-mails (by me) I had changed his mind. My rationale for racing the 5.3 miler was solid...1.) I hadn't run more than 5 miles in a month and 2.) I had no desire to start this weekend. Scouting the race results from '09 it appeared that the two of us had a pretty good chance (assuming a typical turnout) of cracking the Top 10. We met up with Jim Johnson and Ben Nephew before the race and chatted briefly about the course and the upcoming snowshoe racing season. As we lined up for the remote start on the street of a residential neighborhood (this is a trail race right?) Rich spotted Rich Miller and we got some recon on the course. What I took from Rich's comments was that the course wasn't well marked and to be very careful not to miss the final right hand turn back into the col-de-sac for the final 3/4 mile road run to the finish. Both races started together and the pace at the start was purposeful and brisk. We ran for about a 1/4 of a mile on the street before the end of the col-de-sac filed us into Callahan State Park. I was immediately fixated on the trail leaf litter which covered fiendish ankle turning roots (fitting on Halloween). The course was a long stemmed lolli with both distances racing together for approximately the first 3 miles. Rich hung onto my left shoulder for the first few flat miles before we hit the one "hill" on the course. We ran up the gradually sloping side, down to the bottom, up the other steeper side, and then down to the split in the course where the 10 milers went right and the 5.3 milers went left. Somewhere on the second ascent I had put a little gap on Rich but knowing him he'd rally and push me hard right to the end. When I hit the split all of the guys I was racing around went right and continued on the 10 mile course. Which left me to go left seemingly by myself. As I raced back against slower traffic I received words of encouragement but no race updates (ie. you're in 2nd, you're in 4th, or whatever). Assuming I wasn't leading but figuring I was up near the front I tried to focus on avoiding the slightly hidden rocks and roots strewn over the trail. I literally ran alone for the next mile and a half. The marginally reliable odometer in my head began to alert me to raise my focus up from my feet to the trail ahead guessing I would need to make that right hand turn Rich had warned me about some 30 minutes earlier. The next few minutes were an absolute abomination. Figuring it was my turn I took the next right hand turn. There appeared to be arrows on the trees that may have pointed me in that direction but the information came way too fast for my neurons to process. As I strided down this narrow trail I was almost immediately struck by how unfamiliar it looked...even for an out and back. By the time I noticed that I hadn't noticed any pink tape on the trees I had already committed at least :90. Panic overtook me. Turn around?! NO! What if you're right and you run back AT the rest of the field!? Fortunately (if you look at it that way) before I had a chance to stop and turn back I popped right back out onto the race course...about 25 meters from where I had taken the wrong turn! My 1/3 of a mile side trip had cost me at least three minutes but in a stroke of luck I had taken a loop instead of a trail to "Lord Knows Where". As I crossed the final side street before the finish I asked the volunteer how many were in front and he said "7". I taped the finishline in 38:29. Rich (who had an incredible race finishing 4th overall) was standing there at the finish and had a very familar "what the heck happened to you?" look on his face. It appears that my extra .3-.4 mile cost me not only 3 minutes but it also cost me six places. Apparently I was in 2nd place overall (1st Master) at the time of my screw up. I finished in 8th place overall and 2nd Master when the results were finalized. Never had a Top 10 and podium Masters finish seemed so dissapointing. This weekend I learned the hard way that part of trail racing is staying on course.
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