Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Rollin on the Rivah

10 days ago I ran my very first Merrimack River 10m Trail Race. Given everything that’s happened since then, it seems like a lot longer than that!  But, I checked the calendar.  And, yup, it’s only been 10 days!  Anyway, I’ve wanted to run the “Rivah” for a while but it always seemed to conflict with another important race on my calendar - either Boston, or Red’s or Soup Kitchen.  This year, my schedule was clear so I headed down to Andover, MA for this 22 year old (Really?!?!) trail race.

I’d read all about this event through various articles, blogs and race reports (plus, I did a little re-con run with Justin Soucy the week before) so I had a good idea what to expect. 3 miles of flat/fast trail running, followed by 4 miles of mountain climbing, followed by 3 more miles of flat/fast trail running. Pretty simple. I had hoped to average about 7 minutes per mile for a total time of 1:10 - which works out to 35 minutes each way on this out and back single track course.

I got out pretty quickly as I’d heard about the tight quarters at the start of the race. I ran comfortably for the first mile and was surprised see it pass in 6:16. Short? Maybe. Running with Rich Lavers we chatted and joked through pretty much all of the early miles. Still, we passed Mile 2 in 6:14. Mile 3 had a few more twists, turns and bumps, but nothing major. We hit that marker in 7:09 for an average of 6:33 per mile for the first 3.  Not bad.  But, now it was about to get interesting!

Pretending to Run
The first major climb hit pretty hard. After 3 miles of flying along the flat ground, it’s quite an adjustment to switch gears into climbing/descending mode.  I felt a gap develop between myself and Rich - which was surprising because I’m a terrible climber!  This shortcoming was on full display when I hit the power-line portion of the trail and ground to a power walk. Up and over the top and carefully down to the turn around in 15:49 (7:55 per mile as I missed the mile 4 marker) for a 35:30 split.

What makes the first portion of the return trip so “interesting” is that you are running full bore at the people coming back up the narrow trail towards you.  So, while you are trying to avoid the rocks, roots, trees, streams etc, you also have to keep from plowing over (or getting plowed over) by the people coming at you.  Needless to say, it was all a bit unsettling! During this portion I was trading places with Layce Alves.  We both hit the 7 mile marker (missed 6 again) in 15:55. (7:57 per mile).

I put a little distance on her, and also passed a few others, during mile 8 despite running a 7:11.  Somewhere during mile 9 my left calf/achilles started acting up.  I slowed and even stopped momentarily to stretch, but it was persistent in its revolt.  Layce and another runner closed the gap quickly and passed me just before the marker – which I hit in 6:34. Not what I was looking for.  So, I threw caution to the wind and tore after them.

I pushed as hard as I could, trying not to think about the calf, and managed to pass them each.  One right after the other.  I pulled ahead again and felt a little distance open up.  Then I hit the granite rip-rap under the highway overpass and the calf went into full spasm.  I managed to hold off Layce, but the other runner flew by before the last turn for home and beat me by a solid 5 seconds - despite the 6:08 I “threw down” in the final mile.

My Finishing Time of 1:11:18 (35:48 split) was a bit slower than I was hoping for, but even with the calf issue I ran a fairly consistent race beginning to end and finished in the top 5 in my age group.  Which is no easy feat these days!  The post race was great!  I chowed down on some excellent chili and life-preserver sized bagels while massaging my calf, laughing with friends and marveling at the crazy A-Z raffle.  All things considered, pretty good day on the trails!

Next Up: Seven Sisters on May 5th!

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