|Rounding the corner to the finish!|
[Photo courtesy Gianina Lindsey]
Greenfield, NEW HAMPSHIRE -- My latest venture, the Granite State Trail Series (GSTS), is yet another expression of my passion for training and racing in beautiful wild places. And it's a tremendous pleasure to collaborate with other passionate and talented folks...like the Greenfield Highbush Half Marathon RD Jen Shultis. Last weekend Karen and I caravaned with our neighbors the Lindsey's to Greenfield for the 2nd race in the GSTS. Lately I haven't put in much mileage as I've tried to balance my training (running & cycling) so a 13+ mile trail race would be a big stretch for me. What I might not have had going for me with respect to miles on my legs I certainly made up for it with being rested and injury-free. Coming off a recovery week I felt great. The intel on the race was that it was a big clockwise lollipop on a combination of single & double-track with approximately 1000 feet of climbing up and over Crotched Mountain and her sister peaks. Knowing that my training was rather sparce for this distance I decided to go out easy, hammer the climbs (my strength), and then do my best to hang on at the end. With the go command the group quickly narrowed to double and then fairly technical singletrack along a beautiful little pond. Over the first few miles I held my place and pace pretty well as the race became single file. I settled in with a small group of 2-3 other runners. I stayed right behind them allowing them to pull. On any of the climbs they dropped back and I easily ran past. Then on the descent they would accelerate and run right by me. We played this game of leap frog right up to the first major ascent of the day. I'm guessing it was at least a mile climb...probably more. Playing into my strength I held my pace and surged past the two runners I was trading places with for the first 10k+. Because of my conservative early pace I felt great on these climbs. The ascent was a combination of gravel roads, singletrack, and exposed granite "hiking trails" with very steep, but very short, pitches. Once on the ridge the next mile or two did put me in mind of the infamous 7 Sisters Trail Race with the constant short and steep elevation changes. Without any particular pace or place goal I actually stopped to pee on the ridge...and three guys ran by me. I managed to catch up to two of them and when they missed a turn I was able to sneak by them. It should be known that I hollered to them that they missed the turn and they eventually got back on course. Always important to bank good trail karma. As I started the descent I could spy one of guys I had traded places with the entire first half of the race. He was probably 20-30 seconds ahead of me. The final 4+ miles were a gradual descent on some of the best singletrack I've seen. This section was awesome. At the ~10 mile AS the volunteer told me that I was in 9th place. At once it was great news and bad news. Great news that I was actually in the Top 10. Bad news was that the two guys who had missed the turn earlier were right behind again...and now I was in a race for the Top 10! For the first time all day I started to "race". As I picked up the pace I could hear their back and forth chatter getting softer and softer until I didn't hear it any more. Thanks to my increased tempo with about a mile to go I actually caught up to the guy in 8th place. I closed a 100 meter gap to just feet before we hit the first of a few very short (10 feet) but very steep (45% grade) ups at which point both my adductors went into spasm as I attempted to run up. Grinding me to a very slow shuffle my adversary was able to increase his margin on me in very little time. I was able to run again on the flats but alas like Superman losing his ability to fly, my "climbing powers" had escaped me. I peeked back to make sure that my Top 10 was secure and 'limped' into the finish in 2:11:38 good enough for 9th overall and 5th 40+. As a first year race I must say that the course was very well designed, expertly marked, and fantastically organized. It's a shining example of what trail racing is all about here in NH. Kudos Jen Shultis and your entire crew of volunteers!
NEXT UP: Barnstead Firefighters 5k