Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Dam Trail Race

Saturday was back on the trails for me as I ran over in Oxford, MA at the Dam Trail Race (results), put on by my running club, the Central Mass Striders.  It was a rather warm morning, as it has been for what seems to be weeks now, but that didn't stop 119 brave souls from venturing out to run in one of the two events on the day.  There was a 5 mile race and a longer 11.5 mile race, which was the WMAC Grand Tree Series race.  I was obviously running in the longer of the two and knew I was squaring off against one of the best trail and ultra runners in the US, in Ben Nephew.  Ben is a teammate of mine on the Central Mass Striders and Team Inov-8, and is getting ready to once again represent the US in the 50k World Championship over in Ireland in September.

I warmed up with Ben over the last couple miles of the course and truthfully was looking for markers or indications of about a quarter mile or so to go, so I could know when to try to steal a race from Ben, IF I could hold on long enough to be close....I've been able to steal a couple races in this distance range from him in the past, but it isn't easy. He hammers from the gun and ascends down steep, rocky, rooty, muddy trails like no one else.  This race was no exception.  From the gun, he was off and I was right along for the ride.  The first part of the course was on a dirt road for about 2 or 3 minutes before it turns into single track.  I let Ben go into the singletrack in the lead, as I know he was going to maintain a much faster pace than I would, especially on the descents.  I just hung on as close as I could and tried not to let him get too far away from me at any time. There were a few moments where I thought he was going to pull away a bit, but I knew that if I could just keep it close, I may have a chance at the end with my leg speed.  The end of this race plays into my strengths, as it is on a dirt road for a quarter mile stretch of so, and is easy to hammer.

It didn't take us long to start weaving in and out of some of the 5 mile runners, as the two race courses overlap a few times over the duration of the 11.5 mile course.  That made things a little interesting, especially in the narrow areas of the trails, but Ben and I managed to avoid disaster.  At around 20 minutes or so, I stepped on a sharp rock on a downhill section and thought for a split second that I might have broken my foot.  It absolutely killed.  I didn't say anything and just winced in pain as I tried to not step on any roots or rocks with that foot, but to no avail.  For the next 10 minutes or so, I kept stepping on that area of my foot and it was incredibly painful.  Then, around 30 minutes or so in, the course flattens out on some grass and then some soft dirt roads, where I was able to recover and my foot started to feel better.  For about 10 minutes, I didn't know if I'd even be able to finish the race because of bruise I had developed on the bottom of my right foot.

It was business as usual for the next 35+ minutes, as I just sat right behind Ben, with the idea of looking out for the last stretch of road around 66-67 minutes or so.  I knew Ben had run 72 and change last year by himself, and that we'd be probably a few minutes faster this year.  Right on queue, as we hit the road section at about 67 or so minutes, to my surprise, Ben didn't wait for me to react and try to go on by him.  He dropped it down a gear and took off full speed.  It took me a moment to react and for a second, thought I wouldn't be able to catch back up to him.  He was all out flying and I had to really wind up to catch up to him.  Once I caught him, I went by for only a few strides before noticing that the course actually veered back off the dirt road and back onto single track.  I didn't remember this section at all, and panicked.  I slowed right back down as I hit the single track and turned to see if Ben was still behind.  I actually didn't see him and thought he had packed it in after making that surge attempt.  Once I got back onto the dirt road, I looked up and could see the finish area.  I peeked back one more time and Ben was right there, actually surging again to catch back up to me.  He had snuck right back in it and I had all I could do to stay out in front and push to the line in a full sprint.  In the end, Ben was only 4 second back of me after 11.5 miles, but we were both well under the current course record.  It was a great run and Ben once again did all the work to pull us through to a very fast time.  I'd like to think I helped push him along :)...When I finished, I almost puked...that has never happened to me before...

After a couple of Polar Beverages and some sugar cookies (good post race fuel), I attempted to cool down with fellow teammate John Pajer, over the course, but barely made it.  I was hurting pretty good, and really tight.  It was ugly, but I capped off the 16 mile day and headed back East...

The top 4 finishers (including Ben and I) all wore the Inov-8 230s.

Top 10 Overall (CMS in Blue):

PlaceNameTimeTown Club 
1Jim Johnson1:09:22Salem CMS
2Ben Nephew1:09:26Manfield CMS
3Ross Krause1:15:58EasthamptonRunreg.com
4John Pajer1:16:26Leicester CMS
5Rosh Mungeam1:20:15Douglas TVFR
6Dave Mingori1:22:42Charlton CMS
7Brendan McKeogh1:22:43Leicester
8John Agosto1:24:15E. Hartford,CT SS
9Adam Caplan-Bricker1:26:21Northampton
10Thor Kirleis1:26:26N. Reading GSR

86 Total Finishers.


  1. Awesome post and DAMn run; way to work together AND both break the CR.
    (Love the mountain got shirts this year, too!)

  2. Nice race Jim. The Dam is one of my favs in the GT series.