This past weekend I ran down in Oxford, MA at the Dam Trail Race (results) put on by the Central Mass Striders. This race is usually around 10 miles (just over) and has changed each time I've run it during the past 3 years. I was attending a cookout south of Boston on Saturday anyways so I figured I'd hit up this race and then continue southeast afterwards.
The weather for this one was hot and humid to say the least. The sun was already blazing when I got there after sitting for near 3 hours in the nice and comfortable confines of my car (w/ AC cranking of course). After registering, I headed out for a warm-up with John Pajer and Marty Ellowitz over the first part of the course. Then it was over to the line for some last minute strides and warming up. As I looked around at the start, there appeared to be a few fast looking potentials but no one I really recognized from previous years or any of the usual suspects.
As the gun went off, I quickly moved out to the lead over the first half mile or so, which is dirt road. There are plenty of loose rocks and sand and other rough footing on a lot of it, so it is a tough first part of the race but gets easier as you dip into some single track about a half mile in. During this stretch, I had what sounded like a couple of followers hot on my tail, but I didn't want to look to see who they were and just kept pushing to try to stay in first place.
It took a few minutes in the single track (which is essentially the next majority of the race) to start to lose the chase pack and I could no longer hear footfalls by maybe a mile and half in. I tried to relax after a couple miles, as I usually do in this race, once I remember that it is a 10+ miler and not a 5k. There is a lot of rolling ups and downs and switchbacks and many parts of the course where you feel like you're double-backing on (although that only happens a couple times). After a few miles I started to peek back and didn't see anyone (a replay of last year). I continued to push and was really starting to burn up from the hot and humid temps. I wore a singlet which I wish I had gone without, and it felt like 10 extra lbs on me.
There was one straight section where you come out into a clearing, cross a dirt access road, and then run down a dirt road across an open field. You can see very far back during this section. I peeked back a couple times here including at the end of it, and did not see anyone back in view. I knew I had a good lead and just tried to maintain. There are a few more sections of dirt roads mixed in with single track and one small change to the course this year, where it goes from 10.5 miles down to 10.3 (avoiding a wooded section of single track and substituting in a sandy hill and road section instead). I also hit a nice stream crossing and chose the wrong side to try to cross. Apparently it was run-able to the right, but I decided to try to cross over to the left and ended up having to jump into a waist-deep section of water and slog back out of to get going again. It was actually kind of refreshing but definitely slowed me down a bit.
After one last field crossing (in an open recreation area with tennis courts, etc.) it was back into the woods again and more single track until I reached the dirt road section that you'd be on and off a few times on the way back to the finish area. I was glancing at my watch here, thinking about my time and wondering how it would stand up to the previous couple years. I knew I was running OK and felt better here than I did last year at this point. I pushed on and hit the last couple of single track sections that weave off and back onto the road and then hit the last dirt road section back to the finish. I ended up coming across in 1:04:04 and taking my 3rd win here in the last 3 years. I ran just slightly faster than my previous CR of 1:04:31 (for the 10.5 mile version). I think the course was accurately measured, as some folks with GPS' had it at 10.33, etc. I finished 3:37 ahead of the next finisher, Bob Hult, who I ran down Ascutey with a few weeks ago.
I gathered up some water and went out for a horrendously hot and slow cooldown on my own, over some of the course and the access road before heading back for the awards. I won $50 for 1st and found out this may be the last race, as the RD is stepping aside and is looking for someone to go and take over. I hope someone steps up. It's a good location for a race and the course is pretty fast, with almost zero major climbs. If you like a good fast trail race with good footing, this is one of the best around.