Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Weekend on the Trails
Should a runner look this comfortable a quarter mile from the finish?!
What a wonderful Spring weekend we have just had here in New England! Saturday I ran one of my favorite New England Trail races, the Northern Nipmuck 16 miler put on by Jim Campaformio. Luckily, in this age of trail running boom, this race remains low key. N.N. is rugged and technical and attracts some hard core trail runners. Brian Kusiecki outran Russ Krause for the men while Abby Mahoney beat Deb Livingston for the women's title. Both were close races. Watching these guys and girls glide over and around the rocks, roots, shrubs, and outbound runners on their way back after the turn around was pretty inspiring. I think of myself as sure footed on the technical stuff, but those front runners were amazingly agile.
The weather was warm and the trail was dry. This course has short steep rocky climbs and descents on tight single track throughout. I couldn't ask for more. The first time I ran this event I was told by another runner to expect a finish time of about 15 to 20 minutes faster than my current road marathon time. This seems to be about right.
Until about the four mile aid station I ran in a line of runners. We thinned out leaving the station and I found myself running for the rest of the race with Rob from Connecticut. He pulled for a long time, making continuous small talk and jokes. Normally a chatty runner bothers me on the trail, but I've been running alone all Winter and I enjoyed his company. At the turn around I took the lead from Rob and passed several runners. This put some distance and some runners between Rob and me and I didn't think I'd see him again. But after 10 or 15 minutes I heard his familiar banter from behind. I held a steady effort and felt no signs of fatigue, other than a little clumsiness on some of the rocky sections and a little cramping in my feet. Rob fell silent with a few miles to go, but held onto my pace.
With about a quarter mile to go I found Kevin standing beside the trail and when I paused for a kiss, Rob took the lead and made me chase him to the finish line! I was a little disappointed with my time, seven minutes faster than last year, but still about 20 minutes slower than 2009. I am training hard and I feel fit. I think it's just a matter of getting back into the racing groove. I need to remember how to push past my comfort zone. I can honestly say that when I finished Northern Nipmuck this year, I felt like I could have held that same effort for another ten miles. I will try to run some shorter races this summer to re-learn how to push myself a little.
After the race Kevin and I drove two hours to Barnstable on the Cape. We checked out the beginning of the Trail of Tears on foot. The walk stretched out my legs and felt good. Sunday morning we had a big breakfast and hit the trails on our mountain bikes. I loved it! These trails have the same steep technical ups and downs that I had been running the day before at Nipmuck. My quads were tired from Saturday's race and I had to push the bike up several of the hills. Otherwise I felt great. Trail of tears is a wonderful network of mountain bike trails in the Branstable Town Forest. We can't wait to get back out there for some more riding!