Saturday, April 17, 2010

Merrimack River Trail Race - Race Report

THE RIVAH!!! Wicked pissah, guy!!! Racing in Massachusetts is awesome. Need I say more? Of course, I do. (Quick note: I've been working on this race report all week, but it feels more like a year.)

I was pretty excited to finally get to race this race, since I was sidelined in 2008 with a calf strain and was forced to watch D run. We headed down to my parents' house on Friday night, only a half hour from the race, and they offered to watch the Little Lady, so D and I could both race. Of course, that doesn't mean we got a good night's sleep. Not being completely comfortable in different surroundings, the Little Lady thought waking up every two hours was a good idea, and as a result, we were not so frisky first thing in the morning. We did manage to make it to the race in time for me to do a very short warmup, which was more of a search for a place to pee, and in time for D to wait in the porta-potty line, twice.

A good crew of Trail Monsters were on hand for the festivities, including Ian, Jeff, Erik, Floyd and Four. I also bumped into Chris Dunn of acidotic RACING fame, who was also trying his hand at this race for the first time. The race director was barking out instructions and course details, including "If ya don't see any orange flags for a while, ya're bummin'!" Racing in Massachusetts is awesome. "Ready! Set! CAYUGA!" And, we were off. Sort of...

After about 10 yards, the course narrows immediately to singletrack. Let the logjam commence! In another 20 yards, the main trail bears right over a narrow footbridge, and most people lined up single file to cross it. Ian and I went straight through the mud puddle next to it, and passed at least 20 people. From racing here a couple times before, Ian reminded me, "You have to make your moves when you can on this course." And, that's exactly what I did in the next two main passing opportunities: under the highway and through the first field. I passed a number of people and finally settled into a comfortable pace.

Based on what I knew about this 10-mile out-and-back course, my plan was to run the first 3 miles relatively hard, since they're basically flat. Then, in the hilly four miles stay strong but not kill myself, since hills aren't my strong suit. In theory, this would set me up to hammer the final three. Looking at past results and guesstimating my fitness, I had set a goal of 1:17:30 for myself.

I passed the first mile in 6:18. HUH?!?! It appears that I need to work on my pacing early in races. So, that was a touch frisky, but I was in a good space at this point: out of the chaos and running smoothly. At about 1.5 miles, Chris passed me, and I had someone to focus on for a little while...about 5 steps, anyway, because he took off. I passed 3 miles in 20:48, feeling good and pleased with that time.

Then the hills started. I was expecting some long, sustained climbs, but they were just the opposite. The next two miles were a series of short, steep up and downs. Some VERY steep. I walked the steep ups sticking to the plan and tried to stay upright on the gnarly downs. I got off course for about 5 seconds at one point when I crossed one of the many muddy streams, but quickly righted myself. To my surprise, there was actually a fairly flat section after you left the powerlines but before the turnaround point. I was expecting more hills. Sweet. It was in this stretch that the leaders started coming back at me. Let's just say that they were going a bit faster than I was. For some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to count the runners as they went past. I reached about 20 and was feeling pretty good about myself. Then, about 20 guys came by at once, and I realized I was somewhere in the low 40's. Oh well. I hit the turnaround in 37:48, meaning that I'd run the first two hilly miles in an average of 8:30. I'll take that.

Since I'd now seen the entire course, I figured I had a good shot of hitting my goal. What I didn't factor into the equation was all the traffic. I now had to pass about 180 people. That's a lot of traffic. By the time I was approaching the powerlines, I'd passed about 90% of that traffic and was ready to start really focusing on racing. But, just before I reached the powerlines I rolled my left ankle pretty good. It was a high quality roll, and I was very tentative going back down the powerline hills and on every other hill for that matter. Lots of tiptoeing. I really lost my focus and just hoped to not roll it again. It took me a little while to trust it again. During this time, I let two guys whom I had been running with getaway. This was more mental than physical. I had an excuse to back off, and I took it. Lame.



I hit the 7 mile mark in 55:25, which is 17:37 for miles 6 & 7, an 8:47 average. Slower, but again, I think that it was more mental than physical. Knowing that the last 3 miles were flat, I was ready to roll. Unfortunately, I think this was the identical plan to everyone else in the race, since I only caught two people in the last three miles, and they both looked to be battling injuries. More importantly, no one caught me, and, in fact, I was basically alone. I only caught a few glimpses of the two guys in front of me, and I was too terrified to look back. I finished in 1:16:55 in 44th place. I knew was I going to hit my main goal, but I really wanted to get under 1:117. I managed 21:30 for the last 3 miles, which is OK (perhaps that 6:18 did come back to bite me), and 39:07 for the return trip, also OK. My per mile pace for the entire race was 7:42. For the six flat miles, I averaged 7:03. My average for the hills was 8:36. Hmmm...better than I would have thought.

RESULTS

Overall, I'm pretty happy with this race. I really like the course. It's hard, but fair. Most of all, it was fun. I think part of the reason for this is that I got a glimpse of the front of the race...something I don't generally get to see while racing. Plus, the race has a fun, low-key atmosphere, even though it's stacked. A few days later, I can still feel my ankle. I've rolled it on two subsequent runs, but it's no worse from either turn. It should heal up completely relatively soon.



Shout outs! Congrats to Kevin for taking the victory. (He's won this race twice, and I been there both times. Clearly, not a coincidence.) D had an awesome race rocking out a 5 minute PR from two years ago in her first post-baby race. As a team, Trail Monster Running finished third behind Central Mass Striders (someone test those guys!) and acidotic Racing (who probably cheated). Great races by Floyd, who clocked the 4th fastest 50+ time ever, and Jeff, who proves again that you can ski all winter and run fast in the spring. Ian ran well also while battling/coming back from an Achilles injury.

Photo Credits:
1 and 4: Krissy Kozlosky
2: Scott Mason
3: Steve Wolfe
5: Jim Johnson

Up next, this Trail Monster is hitting the road! I'll be at the biggest road race of Patriots' Day Weekend: the Save Our Swinging Bridge 5k on Sunday.

4 comments:

vja said...

As always, a good read. And a great run!

Steve Wolfe said...

Good run Ryan.
Unfortunately good isn't going to beat aR :-)
See you at Pinelands...bwah ha ha

CHRIS J. DUNN said...

Like we say at aR..."If you ain't cheatin' you ain't trying hard enough.". Nice race Mr. Triffitt. We'll see you fellas again...soon.

middle.professor said...

Good analysis of the numbers (and a good race too).