|Runnin' Da Rivah|
[Photo courtesy Rose Dunham Washak]
ANDOVER, MA -- This weekend was my second time around at the Merrimack River Trail Race and once again the race didn't disappoint. Not only did acidotic RACING turnout a HUGE number with 14 athletes in action, but the event drew a lot of friendly familiar faces and a similar personal result. After such a long snowy winter (finally thank goodness!) everyone's spirits seemed to be buoyed by the combination of terrific April weather and yes, DRY TRAILS! The objective for this race, as it is for nearly every race for me, is to run hard and consistent. Word had it that the trail was in outstanding shape and would be "fast". I ran really well here last year paced by some good friends on the way out and some great competition on the way back. My very good friend, teammate, and competitor Rich Lavers and I seeded ourselves just behind the 3rd row in what looked like a strong front field. As the start command was given the field began to move forward toward the trailhead only to come to almost a complete stop as 5 wide tried to squeeze into a 2+ wide trail. Once we were finally running I felt and it looked like I had lost a lot of time and positions in the early jockeying. Rich and teammate Jerry Fitzgibbon were 7 or 8 spots in front as a long line of runners negotiated the first few hundred meters of trail. The pace seemed much slower than last year and I knew I was way out of position and needed to start to make a move if I had any chance of splitting around :35 like last year. As the course opened up to a field I started to catch back up and finally gained Rich's shoulder. We ran in this order for a few minutes before I offered to pull. As the early race progressed the field thinned and it became a little easier to find a rhythm. Rich stayed right on my shoulder through the mile split in 6:21. Although that seemed a little fast for a 10 mile trail race I was actually quite pleased considering how poorly I had run that first mile from a tactical standpoint. We ran together picking up a handful of spots through the first 4 miles until reaching the powerlines where things got a little tougher. I opened a little gap running much more of this section than last year thanks in part to my busy snowshoe racing schedule this winter. It was also around the powerlines one of my Trail Monster Running nemesis' Jeff Walker caught and passed me. I only saw him one more time as the field doubled back after the 5 mile turn around. I hit the 1/2 way split in 35:07. Reaching the powerline climbs again I ran all of the ups and pushed the sketchy downs as hard as I could safely manage. Although gassed by the climbs I recovered very quickly and worked as hard as possible over the next 1.5 miles knowing that the final 3 miles were flat and fast. Looking at my watch at the 7 mile mark I did a quick calculation in my head (never a good idea) and roughly figured that my PR of 1:13 was out of reach. Without someone close enough in front to pull me along I wasn't in the best position to attempt to make up :15-:20 per mile. Content my overall place was secure I tried to settle into a groove although my legs began to feel a little weary. With a mile to go I again peeked at my watch and low and behold this time calculated a PR was actually within reach after all! Obviously I had done the math wrong earlier but thankfully didn't tank it instead maintaining my painfully slow pace. When I reached the underpass with just a few hundred meters left I knew that I had actually pulled it off...a PR at The Rivah! I crossed the finishline in 1:11:15 placing 29th overall (8th master). Reviewing my splits revealed that I was only a minute slower on the return trip. For an early April 10 mile race I'll take that every time. Nearly all of my aR teammates stuck around the awards ceremony as Judson Cake, one of our own, stood atop the overall podium. Joining him were fellow teammates Steve Wolfe, Jerry Fitzgibbon, and Robin Allen-Burke who all took home age group podiums. It was fantastic to see so many first time teammates make the trip to Andover. Although the result is incredibly rewarding, 7 Sisters looms in less than a month. Based on how I faded in the last 5k this weekend there is still much hay to bale.
NEXT UP: 7 Sisters