Absolutely. Perfect. Weather.
Trail Monsters Four, Andy, Ian, Emma, Chuck, Don, and I crossed state lines for the season opening Merrimack River 10 mile trail race. This race really is a must do every year because the field is top notch and the race is old school cool. Don and I did a 2 -2.5 mile warm up and I noticed several overgrown sections of the trail with skin-piercing brush. I stopped to break the eye-gouging branches (to those less vertically challenged than I) off a dead tree that was precariously leaning over the trail.
Andy and I lined up about 3 rows back - this is a fast crowd and quickly came to a dead stop as the course narrowed to singletrack after only 10 feet of pavement. I chose to skip the first bridge and run through the mud which allowed me to pass about 5-6 runners. My goal was to go out at about last years pace and hope that I'm in better fitness and thus avoid bonking on the return half. The first 3 miles was about 5-10s/mile faster than last year and I had to constantly check my speed. This allowed Andy, Steve Wolfe and Chris Dunn to pass me. I hung on to Dunn and stayed within eyesight of Wolfe. Andy was gone. I got a little impatient when we hit the hills so I passed Dunn and the other runners in that group and felt great as we neared the turnaround. Andy was rocking the course and quite far ahead but Wolfe was reachable. I picked up the pace (slowly) and effectively caught (maybe 10s back?) Wolfe on the hills. When we returned back to the flat finish (3 miles left) I thought my only chance of beating Wolfe was picking it up here, passing him, and seeing if he would follow. I did pick up the pace but so did Wolfe but I hung on until the last little climb and descent. I passed Scott Spence on this small climb and hoped to catch Wolfe but he kicked in the turbo engines and took off downhill. Back on the flat river trail, with about 1.5 miles left, he just slowly drifted into the horizon. I had put some distance on Spence but could still hear him within striking distance. Indeed, Spence started to gain on me and with about 1 mile left he was in my wake and biding his time. I had nothing left to drop him and he passed me under I-93 with about 1/4 mile left (or less). I just didn't have the 2nd tank to race him. I did manage to negative split and finish in about 1:09:21 (18th overall, 5th old dude), which is almost a 4 minute PR from last year when I died.
I recognize that *everyone* is racing through their training but I'm pretty thrilled with this race given that I'm still on my ramp up phase from ski season and did an 8 X Bitch hill repeat Wednesday, a tempo run Thursday, and an easy 5 miler at RIT yesterday. I was also running on 4 1/2 hours sleep after driving 17 hours over the previous two days. All the trail monsters had strong races with Andy leading the charge in 1:07:xx and Emma taking 2nd overall! I'll get a medium-long run in tomorrow and then coast in to Boston next week for an "assisted training run".