|Finishing another 'Rivah'.|
[Photo courtesy Dave Dunham]
Andover, MASSACHUSETTS -- The winter that never was has given rise to a bountiful spring of opportunity. Having probably put in more 'longer' quality training units than in the past several winters, the Merrimack Rivah Trail Race was an excellent venue to test my early spring fitness. Last weekend was my third trip to the "Rivah". I had PB'd last year by almost two minutes (1:11:15). Father Time marches on for everyone, but nevertheless my goal was to get in under 1:11:00. To do that, the plan was to split sub 35:00 and then find a dance partner to bring home. An absolutely beautiful day greeted us at the start line with temps in the 60's, a light breeze, and full sun. I lined up 2-3 rows back and waited for the start command. As predicted when the race started everyone took 7-8 very slow choppy steps forward and then came to an almost complete stop as 25-30 runners attempted to funnel through a very tight opening to the trail network. I managed to make my way through the mess without hazard but again felt like I had started too far back as I had to pick my through and around some slower competitors to find some clean trail. As things began to thin out I found Trail Monster Running's Ian Parlin who had gotten off to a great start and was running very strong. I tucked in behind him and tried to match his pace as he accelerated around slower runners. Although I wasn't looking for it I happen to catch a quick glimpse of the 1 mile marker and looked down at my watch...6:08. Drawing on experience, although it was much quicker than my average pace would be at the end I knew that to get to the turn around in under 35:00 the first 5k would need to be very brisk. I settled in over the next few miles and ran comfortably hard as my pace moderated a little probably in the 6:30's. In the 72 hours leading up to the race I was very concerned about the state of my legs and my overall fatigue. I wasn't feeling at all myself and actually considered going to see my PA...but I didn't. I chalked it up to a couple of really hard training cycles including a month's worth of three days a week of run/ride doubles. My concerns faded away quickly when I got up to pace and was able to maintain the effort. Right around 4 miles we popped out to a series of very steep and loose powerline climbs. I ran all of the ups and cautiously picked my way down the downs hitting the 5 mile split in 34:42. The first part of the PB mission was a success. I had placed myself in great position at the half way mark to meet my goal, now all I needed to do was find someone to run with to force me to stay on pace during the last 5k which tend to be my nemesis. Luckily I had several guys within 2-5 seconds/mile of my target pace who were more than willing partners. We cruised through the last few 'in' miles maintaining a very strong and consistent pace, albeit slower than our 'out' pace. With a little over a mile to go my new teammate Gabe Flanders caught the group I was racing with and went around. He apparently had run a very conservative first half and was saving his legs for the final 5k. Both he and the guy I was running with began to accelerate away from me leaving me in the dreaded "no mans land". They were just a little too strong and I was a little too apprehensive to TNT my PB so late in the race so I let them move away as I focused on straying relaxed. Moments later I spied the overpass and quickly looked at my watch. As long as I avoided a catastrophic fall I was in position to run under 1:11:00. Rounding the final turn I accelerated back to the pavement and the finish line in 1:10:33. My second PB at the event in as many attempts. The finish was good enough for 20th overall and 6th 40+. My 'in' split of 35:50 was clearly slower than my 'out' 34:42 but I'm convinced that for me not only was the sub 35:00 'out' the correct tactic by my return split variance (:42) was as good as I've done at this race. Needless to say I was very, very pleased with the result and encouraged that as poorly as I felt heading into the race that when the lights come on I'm able to rise to the occasion.
NEXT UP: Hoppin' Mad Mud Run, Muddy Moose, or perhaps Willowdale MTB Race