Monday, May 24, 2010

Northfield Mountain Race

This weekend was off to Northfield, MA for the Northfield Mountain race (results), put on by my teammate Dave Dunham.  This was race #1 in the USATF-New England Mountain Series and also served as race #7 in the 2010 WMAC Grand Tree series, and the USATF-New England Trail Running Championship for 2010.  This race typically attracts quite a few top mountain and trail runners from the New England area and beyond. With this year's race conflicting with the USATF-NE road GP 12k in Bedford, NH (or rather with Bedford conflicting with Northfield :)), it was perhaps not as deep as it typically is, but that didn't stop 2x Mt. Washington winner / Olympic Trial Marathoner / 2x US Mountain Running National Champ / Treadmill Marathon World Record Holder / 4x US Mountain Team member Eric Blake (BAA) from showing up.  I was
expecting a couple other guys like maybe the infamous Josh Ferenc to show up, but aside from Eric and the usuals like Tivo, Tim Mahoney, Ross Krause, Bob Jackman, Todd Callaghan, and a couple others, I didn't see any of the other big guns I was expecting to maybe give it a go.

The weather was a tad on the warm side, and the sun was shining bright.  It was really cool to be back at Northfield for the first time since 1996.  I went out in 96 with my assistant coach from Lowell, on a recruiting trip to the MA state XC meet.  Previous to that, I had been out there in 1993 for the MA state meet, but this time, I was running it!  That was my very first XC season, as a junior in high school.  I have never run the mountain version of this course (the HS version is obviously much different), but this year's version was shortened to 5.3 miles due to some construction being done on the grounds/trails.  I figured the shorter course may be a big factor in the race, as it tends to even out the playing field a bit, but in the end, it probably played out as it should have.  I warmed up w/ the Mahoni (Tim and Abby), and Paul Kirsch and Gina Lucrezi (Inov-8) and then made my way over to the starting area for some last minute strides and warmup.

After some words of wisdom by the race director (DD), we were off and running.  I quickly got behind Eric Blake and knew I wouldn't be in contact with him for long. That kid rips it up on the hills.  The harder and more insane climb, the better for that guy.  He just keeps pluggin' and it was probably only about a half mile in before I started to lose contact with him.  The first part of the course goes up a wide xc ski trail for a while before dumping onto a fire road along the power lines.  This part of the course is deceiving because it is out in the open, but there is a lot of climb here.  Right around this point is the first mile marker and I got passed here by Paul Morris, who I found out afterwards, ran for Columbia University.  He looked pretty strong and went by me with authority.  I decided to keep doing what I was doing and let the race play out a bit before I started to worry about place.

Off of the fire road, we hook up onto another set of wide xc ski trails.  After a while of this, and continuous climb, it switches onto some very narrow and twisting single track, that made me urn for snowshoe season believe it or not....I just got flashbacks at this point.  Once onto the single track, I immediately closed the gap on Paul and got right behind him.  Looking back, this is where I should have really put distance on him, but instead I sat back and ran right on his heels for about half of it before he actually pulled off and let me go by him.  I reluctantly took the lead on him, but I appreciated his gesture, as he was being pretty cautious in this part and felt like he was holding me up.  To his credit, he was wearing some xc spikes, which may not have been the best choice for those types of rocky single track sections, but it would help him for sure later on.   Soon after taking the lead, he settled in right behind me and a few minutes later, I actually yelled back to him to go around if he wanted, because I felt like I was slowing quite a bit.  He said he was fine where he was and motivated me to keep pushing it.

Once we emptied back out onto the ski trails, he went around me and took a commanding lead up the rest of the way.  I stayed close and pulled near him a couple times, but kept falling back a bit as I really tried to get used my heart feeling like it was going to pop out of my chest.  It's been quiet a while since snowshoe nationals, which is the last time I experienced that feeling/sensation that I refer to as the 'Mt. Washington Burn'.  To anyone who has done Mt. Washington, you know what I mean...when your lungs hurt and the pulse in your neck is so loud, you can hear it.  Once I got to the top, where the water stop was, I was once again right with Paul.  At this point, there was a ton of downhill on the ski trails and some single track sections.  I almost wiped out a couple times on the single track sections, but once we got back out on the ski trails, it was all I could do to keep Paul close.  The first couple miles had been pretty slow. The third mile was the worst of it, clocking in at 8:12 (welcome to the mountain series).  The  next 2 miles were all out miles down the mountain, on rocky/grassy ski trail.  It wasn't all downhill however.  There were plenty of down down down followed by some steep ups before the next set of downhill sections.  Not having run this course before, I was really not sure how much uphill was actually left.  It would have definitely helped me, with the way I like to run races, to know when I could start emptying the tank...but I constantly tried to keep some sort of reserve in place in case I got into some trouble with guys catching me over the later parts of the course.

After the majority of the downhill section was over, the course dumps back out onto the power line road and this is mostly downhill with a couple of steep climbs near the end.  I really tried to run down Paul here, but it was far too late.  He was too far up on me at this point, and I could now see the next guy behind me.  I didn't recognize who it was, but knew he was close enough to me that he had to have rocked the downhills and was picking up ground on me.  I could also see Eric Blake again, way up ahead.  He was about 45 sec. or so ahead and comfortably on his way to the win.  I was just trying to salvage a 3rd place finish at this point.  I cranked a 4:50 5th mile here, which I clicked through right before the last steep uphill section before it turns to go back down to the field and finish area.  In the end, I came through in 3rd place in 32:59.  45 seconds back of Eric Blake and 13 seconds back of Paul, who ran a great, strong race in his very first trail/mountain race.

I made the right decision, going with my x-talon 212's once again.  They are a perfect mix of trail/mountain/light weight racing flat (except anything but flat!) with some great nubs on the bottom, for superior grip... Good thing I have 2 pairs of these...I am starting to wear these ones out!

Splits (not that mountain race splits are impressive, but they certainly are interesting!) - 5.3 Miles - 32:59 (6:13 pace)

Mile 1: 6:09
Mile 2: 6:36 (12:46)
Mile 3: 8:12 (20:58) - welcome to the mountains...
Mile 4: 5:47 (26:46)
Mile 5: 4:50 (31:36)
last .3: 1:22 (32:59)

Top 10 (CMS in Blue)

PlaceNameTimeAgeTeam
1EricBlake32:1431BAA
2PaulMorris32:4623
3JimJohnson32:5933CMS/Inov-8
4KeironTumbleton33:3344Hopkinton RC
5TimMahoney34:1430CMS
6TimVanOrden34:1442CMS
7RossKrause34:1630Run Reg.com
8ToddCallaghan34:3240GCS
9RobertJackman35:4427TNT
10TimothyCote35:5834

264 Total Finishers.

After a cooldown with the Mahoni, I went over to the awards ceremony where I got a t-shirt and free entry to the Northfield Snowshoe race for 2011, plus 10 bucks!  Thanks DD! :).  I also got a 2nd place medal for the USATF-NE Trail Championship (Paul was not a USATF member).  After the awards and talking to some folks, I headed out with Tivo and Erik Wight to do another 30+ minutes of running over the course.  We went up pretty damn far and got a bit lost but found our way back down.  Definitely a tough cooldown.  By the time we got back, we were the very last 3 people there.  Tim and I walked over  to the cars and we were the last 2 people out of the place.

Before I took off for the 1:30 drive home, I had Tivo take that photo of me at the very top of the post.  Thanks Tim!

Next up is Wachusett Mountain this coming weekend (Saturday).  It should be loaded, as guys like Dan Hocking, Ryan Cararra, Kevin Tilton, possibly Eric Blake and Paul Morris, etc. will all be there.  Should be a great field and a great race down to the wire!

Photos I used in this post, courtesy of Scott Mason and Dave's sister Rose.

Scott Mason's full Photo Gallery with great photos for sale.

Dave Dunham's photos on PhotoBucket.


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