The short report is here. This is the looooong report...
The muddy moose broke me, but I'll try to keep my excuses and whining to a minimum. My day did start well. Since I only decided to race the race the day before, I had not prepared my mind and body for a 14 mile run in mud and steep hills and didn't want to repeat my Great Glen bonk-a-thon. About 4PM I sent out a distress e-mail to the TMR blog for gu packs but panicked enough to call Peak Performance, which came through with a couple of packs for me in my favorite flavors. I met Shauna, Jim, and Erik in the Back Cove parking lot and away we went with Shauna driving to Wolfeboro NH. At the race we met Ryan, Danielle, Ian, and Carter.
The temperature was about 72F throughout the race and 56% humidity, not bad if you were picnicking under a tree in the shade. The race started off on a road so the start was fast. It slowed down quickly. What slowed the race was about 1.5 miles of snowmobile trail that was mud from start to end. We had been told at the start that this was a "dry year". Huh? These weren't the fun little mudholes like Blackstrap but long, long stretches of energy-sucking muck with enough buried rocks and sticks to keep you really alert. Actually, these were fun, at least at this point in the race. The mud was followed by 1+ mile of dirt road that took us down to someone's sweet little camp on a small pond. At this point, two lovely women told the runners to take a left, which took us onto a 200 foot climb, the first 4/5 being about a 60% grade. I walked immediately but still caught a small pack of runners running the climb. The pack sort of bottlenecked at the top, the pack being 5 of us, including Andrew Clemence, who skies for UNH now and skied for Falmouth a few years ago. Following the uphill, Matt Silva took the lead with me close behind, as we flew down a fairly steep cut with loose sand, dropping all of the elevation that we had gained on the climb.
We passed the 5 mile aid station and I took the lead (in my little pack) at this point as we started a long, 1.5 mile 400 foot climb. Not a bad grade but the trail had a few rocky water holes (more like mountain water holes than snowmobile trail mud pits). At this point I started to develop a slight side stitch, which has happened in two previous 10Ks when I'm racing right at my limit. I slowed and the Andrew, Matt, and a masters runner named Jeremiah Fitzgibbon passed me. Jeremiah was nice and asked if I was ok. Luckily the grade started to steepen, allowing me to walk at a pace hardly slower than those running. Also around here, Justin Freeman, who was leading the race blew by going downhill (did I say that the race is an out and back?). The leaders kept running past, and kept running past and I quickly realized that we had a lot of runners ahead of us. Wow, I knew this race was part of a series and they had a record registration but I was surprised to see how far back I was, especially all those masters runners. Somewhere in all this rocky, wet stuff, I moved back close to the lead in my little pack, just behind Andrew.
Then I saw Ryan and gave him a big hi-five. Seeing Ryan meant that I had, in fact, made the turn, and I was passing racers that were behind me. So maybe I wasn't that far back. The course isn't really out-and-back but there is a one mile loop at the turn-around, which runners can take in either direction. My plan was to go counter-clockwise but I never saw the split in the trail so didn't realize that I was on this loop. And I went around clockwise. Ian must have gone around clockwise too because I never passed him.
The pack of five was little spread out at this point. Andrew had really motored around the loop and was losing the rest of us. Following the loop, there was a 1+ mile gradual downhill, which was a great relief, especially because I had successfully rid my sidestitch. At the 9 mile aid station, I stopped to take 3 cups of water with my rasberry hammer gel. Gel good, 3 cups of water bad. Jeremiah passed me here. The fun quickly stopped as we returned to another climb. The pack contracted and I was now in back by the time we reached the 100+ foot steep, steep climb of sandy road/trail/tree cut. We were all walking this, except Stephanie Crawford, who passed me as she ran up the whole climb. I hadn't seen her till now and thought, "well she's done" as she ran up. So much for my forecasting. From the top, we had to gently descend back down the 60% grade to the sweet little camp. At this point, with 3+ miles left, I had little energy left in the tank and couldn't keep up with my pack. Andrew had been long gone since the turn-around while Matt, Jeremiah, and Stephanie slowly disappeared into the distance. One other runner in the pack, Tom Miller, also seemed to be slowing. I slowly worked my way along the dirt road back to the 1.5 miles of mud.
This time, the mud broke me. It reduced me to a pathetic blob of tissue. My balance was shot, which made it really hard to run through the puddles with all of the sunken rocks. Mud had worked it's way into my band-aid and was grinding against my blistered skin from the blister I got nearly two weeks ago. Now I had thoughts of walking in or running barefoot. Walking actually seemed to rub the blister more so I tried to run but really had zero balance and didn't want to go down in the mud. This all made 1.5 miles of hell. But Tom was still just ahead of me and he played the part of the rabbit. I passed Erik, who had run the 4 mile race and was now out on the course taking video. He should have good footage of a very broken man. I finally reached the road and was able to muster enough energy to run the final 1/2 mile at a decent pace, good enough to just break 2 hours for the race. The 100 foot tree-cut sandy climb hadn't broken Stephanie, who finished 3 minutes ahead of me and was the first woman finisher. I finished 16th overall, 2nd master and 1st in AG (Jeremiah was first master and is 50+). But I thinked I picked a good year to run this race since past results suggest that New England's fastest masters trail runners didn't show this year. Full results are here.
Not long after I finished, the other trail monsters came in. Jim looked great - I think he's the only one of us that had real fun during the race, despite running 12+ miles with mud in his eye. Ian and Ryan looked about how I had felt and were probably semi-dehydrated, like me. And Carter had stopped sweating so he was in deep dehydration mode. We all need to do better with hydration for our next race. Shauna and Danielle, who had done the 4 mile race, were there to cheer us on at the finish and took some nice pictures, one of which is up top. Shauna finished 2nd in the 4 mile race and woulda had first had she not aided Jim's eye. Following the race, we had a nice bacon-burger-beer fest, which made everything feel better.
The race director put on a great race. He ordered up mud and got it. The course was well marked. Lots and lots of volunteers on the course giving us directions and working the aid stations. The bi-di loop is a great addition. And the homemade cookies and brownies at the end were sweet. This race will definitely remain on my calendar.