Northern Nipmuck Trail Race

40 degrees Fahrenheit and raining at Bigelow Hollow State Park in Union, Connecticut. The 2009 Northern Nipmuck Trail Race was run in glorious conditions today! I can tell you that this edition of the event wasn’t for the meek. This section of the Nipmuck Trail is known for its treacherous terrain, and the only difference today was that the rocks and roots were extra wet and slippery, instead of their normal hazardous selves. For the most part, the trail had drained well after a night of drenching rain and the mud wasn’t too bad.


It took a lot of effort and craziness to get out of the house this morning, and in the end, I forgot a couple of important items, including my bag of special emollients. All Debbie could do was laugh as I complained of not having my bag of goodies. It probably is more of a superstition than an effective pre-race ritual, but it is MY superstition. In one giant zip-loc bag, I’ve got Icy Hot, Tiger Balm, Start Oil, Extra Hot Start Oil, Bag Balm, chamois cream, Anti Monkey Butt Powder, sunscreen (didn’t need that today), lip stuff, and Eucalyptus oil. Depending on the conditions, I apply a special mixture of these items to various parts of the body, being sure to keep certain body parts away from certain salves. The key is to go in the right order. Regardless, the concern about leaving the bag behind today was that with the moisture, chaffing (especially in the chest region) would be an issue. Fortunately, fellow runner, Will Danecki, came through with some chamois cream and I was chafe free the whole race.

I was a little out of sorts before the race, but that was expected because my ritual was thrown off a bit. The start/finish is a half mile from the parking area and I have missed the start of the race at least once before. Today, Debbie went ahead because I had to run back and retrieve my water hydration pack, but I still got to the start in time. I was wearing bib number 45, which is almost as good as Debbie’s 44. When we registered, I thought I had gotten 44 and I let out a whoop. The only number better than 44 is 4. But, it wasn’t to be. 44 was for Debbie. The race director offered to switch us, but I told him it wasn’t a big deal. I would be happy with 45, and in my mind, I knew that I was back to even; number 45 made up for forgetting my emollients.  Another superstition. I guess if I was more focused on training and less concerned about my little rituals, I might perform better! 

It was spitting a bit at the start, but the air was mostly moisture free for the first 75% of my run. But, with four miles to go, the temperature seemed to drop 10 degrees and the sky opened up at the same time. I felt bad for all the folks still way back on the trail because it ended up pretty miserable with lots of cold rain pouring down. “Raw” is the best description that I heard uttered about the conditions.

Ken Forrest said he was dressed for a "mountain top."

Ken Forrest said he was dressed for a "mountain top."

Hands down, this was my best New England Grand Tree Trail Running Series race in a long time. I had done Northern Nipmuck six previous times and have suffered miserably in the past, but today, I was on. I shattered my personal course record by more than 11 minutes, finishing the 16 miles in 2:22:39.  I made it to the Boston Hollow turnaround in 1:08:50 and then hung on to run 1:13:49 on the way back. That is a pretty good spread for me since I usually run 15+ minutes slower on the second half of this course. I’m used to dying out there. Today was totally different and I hope that bodes well for my bigger objectives later in the year. I knew I had gone out fast. John Agosto clung to me like a backpack. He drafted me for eight miles without taking a pull, but that was fine. I used the sound of his footsteps to gauge my pace. Over the past few years, we have often been together in trail races, and it is fun to have someone to run with. We chatted amiably and both knew that we were pushing it. We ran together for part of last week’s Bimbler’s Bash, but this pace was  up a notch up from that, and the distance was more than twice as far. 

For me, it was an experience that worked out. For John, well, you would have to ask him, but at about mile nine, we went up a steep hill as Peter Keeney was catching us, and that was the last I heard from John. I chased Peter a bit, but never gained ground. I passed one other runner before the final aid station at mile 12. I knew that I was having a good day when guys like Rich Fargo and Brett Stoeffler, who normally beat me handily, were behind. Of course, this is an early season race and everyone has different levels of fitness at this time of year. As for Rich, he is running the Boston Marathon in two weeks and was wise to save his legs and run cautiously to avoid a serious fall. I would expect that Brett is also training for something serious in the coming month.

At one point, I looked back and did see someone chasing. It turned out to be Charlie Iselin, but he told me at the finish that he couldn’t hold the gap on the hills. I had only glanced back a few times, but every time I did, I looked ahead, gritted my teeth, and sped up. He beat me last week by less than a minute, so I was happy to return the favor this week. I was amazed that I could push as hard as I did in the final four miles because that is usually where I crack on this course. All in all, it was a fabulous race. I don’t know my place or official time, but I’ll post the full results when they are available. 

The men’s race was won again by Greg Hammett in 2:03:19. He was chased by Brian Rusiecki, Daniel Uriano, and a host of other talented runners, including veteran hammers, Jack Pilla and Paul Young. In the women’s race, Amy Lane bested last year’s winner, Beth Krasemann, running 2:28:21. Beth wasn’t far behind in second spot. Megan Raymond finished third. Debbie Livingston finished fourth and was very happy with the result. Like this year, she ran this race pregnant in 2006 and finished in 3:15. Today, she was 2:53, which is a big difference. She is a month behind 2006 in terms of the pregnancy, but factoring the weather conditions and how she felt in her first trimester this time (major morning sickness and very little training), she ran much faster this year.


It was a tough day to mingle in the parking lot, but the race directors and volunteers had their usual spread of bagels, pizza, hot soup, hot coffee, and other drinks. We crowded under a couple of tents and stayed close to the fire pit. The volunteers, especially those at the aid stations, deserve extra credit today for standing out there in the cold rain. When hanging out after the race, we wore every piece of dry clothing that we had brought with us and we were still shivering. It was perfect conditions for a trail race.

Bekkie Wright and Joe Poliquin broke out the retro-'80s gear.

Bekkie Wright and Joe Poliquin broke out the retro-'80s gear.


Race Results

4 Responses to “Northern Nipmuck Trail Race”

  1. 1 artroti 11 April 2009 at 7:05 pm

    Sounds like a good day. We weren’t so lucky at the MTB race. It was MUDDY! Still a great start to the GT Dirt Coalition season. Check out my blog tomorrow for the pics.

  2. 2 SL 12 April 2009 at 7:55 pm

    I lost my GPS signal with several miles to go. It extrapolated, but not accurately:

    Lost it in the same spot last year.

  3. 3 lalaith2000 14 April 2009 at 10:38 am

    Wow even pregnant your lovely wife kicks my butt ; )


  1. 1 2010 Northern Nipmuck Trail Race « Life Adventures Trackback on 4 April 2010 at 6:19 am

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