Sunday, August 2, 2009

Laconia XC

Saturday was race #40 of the year and took me up to Laconia, NH for the LaconiaXC race (results) to support the Laconia High School cross country teams.

This event was pretty low key but did attract a few good local guys and some Laconia H.S. alumns. The weather was perfect and the course was ideal for a good ole' fashioned XC race (if you like LOTS of mud).

There was no website or online form, etc. for this race. All there was was a listing on CoolRunning that included time, date, and location. Somehow, I managed to write down the wrong address and instead of going to where the race was, I wound up at Laconia High School. It turns out that that was the address for questions to be send to the RD, and not for the actual race. I got up to Laconia High at 8am. Race started at 9am. I drove around the school a couple times and made note that there was nobody there. I got nervous and started to ask random people walking around the surrounding streets if they knew anything about a race. Nobody had any clue what I was talking about. Then I found a guy who told me there was another school down the road that I could check out. I went down there (to the middle school) and still didn't see any signs of a race anywhere. I kept thinking about the race listing and didn't remember seeing any directions other than the high school address but took out my phone and looked up Coolrunning and found the listing (now about 8:15am). It did mention the Robbie Mills sports complex on Meredith Center Rd. I quickly plugged that into my GPS and shot across town, the 4 miles it told me separated where I was, with where the race should be. The GPS took me right into the now abandoned Laconia State Prison (which closed in June) and up to a road that has since closed. I had to whip around and head back down and now make up a route to get around. After a GPS recalculation, I came up on the sports complex (which is basically a couple of athletic fields and a nice baseball park). I pulled in and noticed some Whirlaway guys (Patrick Ard, Joe Hegarty, and a couple others), Scott Clark (CMS), Scotty Graham (acidotic), and Sam Wood (Laconia H.S. / Keene State). It looked like it could be a good day to race, and plenty of guys around to mix it up with. Patrick and his boys were about ready to go out for a late warm up (now 8:30) and I joined them for a couple of miles. Then it was a quick change into the Inov-8 x-talon 212s (and I let Pat use my f-lite 230s). Just before we lined up on the grass for the start, Scott Clark told me he had seen the course before hand and it was a mess. Good thing I brought the right shoes.

As the gun went off and the first group of us went out, it was clear nobody wanted to take charge. With only about 200 meters in, I moved to the front (reluctantly) and started to push across the first field which was VERY wet. The grass was about 6+ inches of field grass that was saturated. There had been a vehicle that had gone through earlier to mow and the tire tracks were just filled with water from the previous day's rain. By the time I got into the woods and hit the single track, I had a pretty good lead and could hear the guys behind, yelling about the mud and how slick the course was. Even with the 212s on, I almost went down a couple times early. I yelled back at one point to watch one of the turns, and then hit the footbridge (that we cross a couple times) and almost went down hard off the side. It was like ice. The entire section of single track/double track woods was just black mud, muddy rocks, and roots. The only color contrast to the blackness of the woods was the white spray paint used to mark the course. The 1 mile mark was sprayed on a full tree that had been laid out right across the course, that you had to jump over a couple times during the race. I hit that solo in 5:22 and started to push up out of the woods, in one of the only climbs there was. The course dumped back out to the field and went against the race traffic. I saw some of the walkers as I passed by and shot across the lower end of the field to do a big loop before heading back into the woods again. I didn't see the second mile mark, but turned to see that Sam Wood was next in line and then really nobody after that. The fields were soaked to the point where every step you'd land would pull up a few inches of water up to your ankle and swallow up your shoes. I was having a blast. As I went back into the woods a second time, the wet and sunny comfort of the fields turned back into the muddy blackness of the trails. I looped back over the same single/double track trails and back up to the fields for one last loop on the higher end before crossing back to the sports complex and finish area. I knew I had slowed considerably on my second mile, but was happy with a strong 3rd mile and was able to put even more distance on Sam, but could see him behind me on the last stretch to the line. In the end, I finished up in 16:45, which I think is blazing for the conditions. I felt really strong and comfortable considering. I think the shoes make a huge difference for sure. My confidence level is very high with those 212s and the grip they give me in the slick mud and grass. I noticed a few of the guys wearing just training shoes (Scott Clark included) which I cannot imagine running fast in, given the condition of the course. Sam Wood finished up in 2nd place, followed by Scott C. in 3rd. Read Scott Graham's race report here.

After an ad hoc cool down with Scott C. and Scott G. we gathered for the raffle and awards. For the win, I got a cool Saucony bag with some swag inside and a 2 month membership to a local gym in Laconia, which I gave to Scotty Graham who has a place in nearby Gilford. Then, the raffle, I got another 2 month membership to the same gym funny enough....I let them call out another name for it, as I wouldn't be able to drive up there 1+ hours to take advantage of it.

After that was over, I followed Scotty Graham in his fire engine red shiny new Corvette through the streets of Laconia and Gilford and headed over to his very cool place on Winni for a quick dip in the lake and a relaxing sit down on his beach before heading back. Thanks Scotty!

Next up 'may' be the N.H. State Police D.A.R.E. 5k on 'the track' in Loudon, NH on Wednesday night. Rumor has it that Kevin Tilton, who just broke an hour up Mount Washington this past week, will also be there looking for the NH state 5k Men's Open record. Should be fun if I decide to go. There's also a race on Thursday night in Portsmouth as well. I'm not sure if I will do another mid-week race again this week or not.

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