Sunday, May 17, 2009

Soapstone Mountain 24k

Sunday morning I shot down to Stafford, CT for the Soapstone Mountain 24k Trail Race (results) put on by the Shenipsit Striders.  It is also part of the WMAC's Grand Tree Trail Race Series. Now, I know absolutely squadoosh about trail racing, but I know I had nothing going on today so I figured I'd jet on down and give it a go, even though I ran the 12k yesterday up in Bedford, NH.  This race went slightly better than yesterday I think, and it was definitely more fun.

As the alarm went off at 5am, I laid awake and pondered making the 2 hour ride out.  Around 5:30am, fresh out of the shower, I almost convinced myself to get back into bed and just do a regular run later.    By 6am, I was out the door.  I got down to Stafford in just under 2hrs and was amazed at how many cars were in the lot (field) already.  The line for post and pre registrations were both very long and the weather was shockingly cold and wet.  I was unprepared (what else is new) for the cold fault for just 'assuming' May is always gonna warm.  I recognized only Dan Scotina and Ben Nephew before the race, although there were tons of people getting ready to hit the trails.  After a brief warmup with Ben (a multiple time winner of the race), we got ready and headed on down to the line.  He gave me a lot of pointers and info about the race as we headed down, but I knew the best plan of action was to let him give me a tour of the woods today, and that's exactly what he did.

As the race went off, Ben and I were chatting a bit while still on a relatively tame dirt road (full course description here) and a third guy was right with us and then quickly headed on up and took the lead.  He looked familiar to me, but as I said to Ben, I had thought I had seen him a few times on the roads.... He ran very strong up front and seemed to really handle the climbs better than both Ben and I (Ben was coming off of a 50 miler from last week).  We came to what was probably the single most ungodly climb I've done in a race, but it was so early in, that it wasn't that bad surprisingly.  A quick power-hike was in order for most of it, but it was so early on that it really didn't affect my rhythm.  Had it been at the end, I would have been in serious trouble.  Because it was so soon into the race, I still have to say that the climb up the Upper Walking Boss at Loon is worse (keeping in mind, I am only speaking about races I've run in), but this climb was way steeper.  I ran right behind Ben for almost the entire race and even clipped his heels once (again, I'm a newbie at this single-track stuff).  We both would reel in the leader and get within 10 yards or so and then he would take off again.  Ben and I made quick chatter back and forth for about half the race before things started to get a little more serious.  Ben made a move on the leader down a very rocky decent and splashed by him through a muddy and wet section where we were running in a river bed.  I didn't get a chance to go by the other runner and settled in for third as we hit the next climb single file.  As soon as the brief climb was over and the trail hooked a left onto a wider, more gentler slope, the dude screwed by Ben and put the hammer down.  That was the last we saw of him.  I got right up behind Ben again and we ran together for probably the first 13.5 miles of the race in all.

Over the last half mile+, there was one last climb that broke my rhythm and forced me to slow to an almost power-hike.  Ben kept pedaling the bike and put 10-20 yards on me.  That's where we stayed.  At the top, it dumped out onto a paved section but my legs were toast from the back to back days.  My cardio was great, but my calves and quads were screaming for a break.  Up a ways the road turned to dirt and then the last bit of trail then open field to the end.  I looked down at my watch on the last bit and noticed I'd be under 1:39, which (after doing my homework last night and looking at all the previous times to get a general idea) was actually a decent time.  I finished third overall out of a solid 169 runners, with a time of 1:38:37.  Only 10 seconds back of Ben.  

All in all, it was a fun day...perfect weather for racing, perfect scenario for me (having Ben to work off of the whole time), and a really well organized event w/ nice people all around.  Most importantly, I had no difficulties on the course today.  Of course it's tough to say for sure (because I followed Ben the entire race), but I did pay attention to the blazes that were laid down before the race and there would have been no way I could have gotten lost even if I was by myself.  They did a very nice job marking the course for sure.

After the race, I walked over to Ben's car and noticed the guy who won was standing there talking with him.  Right away I knew who he was.  My instinct during the race was that he was Brendan Callahan from BAA. I turned out to be right.... Legit road racer from CT who has placed very high in the first two Grand Prix road championships (1:08:23 at New Bedford and 51:40 at the DH Jones 10 Miler) this year.  He's also got a 1:07 half on his resume, as well as a truckload of other fast road times.  He'll be at Mount Washington this year and I think he'll be right up there in the hunt, after seeing how strong he was on the climbs.  

For my efforts, I got a very cool trophy and some BBQ before hitting the road to make the 2hr ride back to this dump.  I only fell asleep a half dozen times or so, and had maybe somewhere between 10 and 20 calf cramps and lower back spasms...but other than that I feel great.


  1. Soapstone was my favorite race last year. I loved the course, and believe it or not I got lost...and I was running with one of the co-race directors!
    That's an awesome time for a roadie too :-)

  2. Steve, it was a nice course for sure. They marked it VERY well this year... no way anyone could get lost. I believe the race director said at the beginning that Ken Clark marked the whole thing himself... he did a great job. As we were running, Ben indicated that it was way better than last year.

  3. I know that hill you're talking about; it's the one where you're basically head-butting (or butt heading?) the person in front of you? Love this event--ran it MUCH more slowly!!! in 2006. Deb and her club put on a great race! I was sad to miss it this year. Congrats on taking third.

  4. Thanks Emily! That hill was ridiculous for sure... I would have preferred to go around ;)

  5. Jim, great to see you at Soapstone and congrats on 3rd. Roads, snowshoe racing and now trails. What's next?

  6. Jim will be staying on the roads, along with Brendan.....

    That was fun, Jim. Thanks for keeping me going. Both you and Brendan did really well on the technical sections, like the stream. I thought at least one of you would take a dive when I took the lead! The current course is definitely slower than the old course, so we were moving right along.

  7. Yeah, lots of fun Ben...for sure. You kept me way I would have done that alone...not even close...I was happy w/ the time and effort. Tough going out there (for me) but we maintained a good clip... very memorable run for me. See you at Washington!!!