2009 Nipmuck Trail Marathon

Today, the 2009 Nipmuck Trail Marathon went like I hoped it would. I was focused on breaking the four hour barrier for the first time on my fifth try. I did even better, knocking 17 minutes off my personal best time, finishing in 3:48:30. It has been a great year so far, and so much better than last year. I’ve got PB’s in every running race that I have done (trail and road), which is pretty amazing. Whatever I’m doing (swimming, diet, rest, etc.), it is working and I plan to keep it up.

I ran 4:05:12 in 2004 and had not come close to that time since. Debbie beat me by 20 seconds that year after catching me with less than 1/2 mile to go. It is still painful to think about the sting of that defeat! I made up for it today and was sad that she couldn’t have been out there with me. It was a perfect late spring day for running 26.4 (.2 longer than an official marathon, but who is counting when you are talking trails?) and it looked like a lot of folks (despite the pain of the effort) were having a good time. The Nipmuck Trail was in fabulous shape on this day after National Trails Day/Connecticut Trails Day. The rains of last Thursday and Friday didn’t leave too many wet spots, and the muddy spots were actually tacky. You could run right through it and not get your feet dirty. 

I’ll post a link to the results when they are available, but Ben Nephew was the first across the line. He had a really good run. Debbie and Shep were out hiking on the course, so she got a good look at everyone. She says that he was flying the first time she saw him at mile 15, though she says he was definitely hurting when she saw him again with a mile to go. Donna Utakis was first woman, a great result for her. 26.4 is pretty short by her standards. She ran the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 just three weeks ago in nasty conditions, and is running the Laurel Highlands Ultra (70.5 miles) next week. No rest for the weary! Kelly Perkins was the second woman. 

Donna Utakis with her 2008 Soapstone Award and 2009 Nipmuck award.

50 year old stud, Jack Pilla, chased Ben all the way and ended up second. What is up with these superstars in the 50+ category? They are so strong and such an inspiration. I ran a good part of the race with Rob Higley, who is 55, and went on to finish 4th. Right on! I’ve said it before; I’ll be happy if I can finish these races when I’m that age. These guys are turning back the clock. 

2009_Nipmuck Trail Marathon 9 - Version 2

Race Director, Nipmuck Dave Raczkowski, was up to his usual pre-race antics. His port-o-potty was exquisitely decorated with photos and flowers. I pity the two trail runners who were crushed when they unloaded it from the flatbed truck.

2009_Nipmuck Trail Marathon 2 - Version 2

Dave entertained us before the start with his traditional pre-race instructions/speech and tried to top last year’s 25th anniversary celebration by singing like Michael Jackson. He was backed on vocals by a trio of trail ladies known as the “Muckettes.” 

The Muckettes.

In lieu of a tele-prompter.

My race went to plan. I went out relatively hard. I led a group of six or seven guys for a good part of the first 12.4 miles. Rob was in the group along with Peter Keeney, Brett Stoeffler, Keith Schmitt, and a couple other runners. We ran in a pack, occupying 4th through 11th places. I attempted to run within my limits, but stuck with my strategy of running with this group of guys. They would  normally beat me by 25 minutes in a race of this distance, but my other 2009 Grand Tree races had taught me that if I could just hang on, that I would reach my goal. 

We came through the start finish pretty much intact, but then we got spread out a bit over the next seven miles. Brett was the first one to put in a surge. On the dirt road, he hammered down the hill. I couldn’t match his stride, but kept him within 10 seconds. The others were strung out behind me. When the road changed to pavement and went back uphill, I clawed my way back up to him. We hit the singletrack again and stayed together for another mile before he gapped me. He didn’t accelerate, but he maintained his pace over some tricky rocks as the trail climbed a bit more. We had just chatted about the fact that I was in new territory, running this pace, so it made sense for me to let him go. 

I was passed by two more runners before the turnaround at 19.4 miles, including Rob. He dropped the hammer. Thanks to Peter’s pacemaking, we kept them close, though we couldn’t see them. I got by Peter again, but it was temporary. I was bummed to come across Brett walking with a limp at 23.2. He told me that he had sprained his ankle and was going to get a ride back to the finish. I had pulled a bit ahead of Peter and ran through all the final aid stations on my own. He caught up to me again with a little more than a mile to go and challenged me to hang with him. I told him that “I would do my best,” but I knew that I couldn’t increase my pace. I was stuck in one gear, which was fine with me. After the last aid, I had calculated my  projected time and knew that barring a disaster or an injury, that I was on track to smash my PB.

I was toast when I finished. I sat for about 20 minutes with my legs elevated, trying to get some blood out of my feet and up to my brain. We watched many of the other runners finish before collecting a finisher’s log and heading home. I knew that Debbie was bummed to not be running, but it was best that she just watched this year. I’m sure she will be back in 2010. Considering that I’m not sure if I can do better (it would take some work), I may choose Daddy Duty next year.

Race Results

1 Response to “2009 Nipmuck Trail Marathon”



  1. 1 Post Nipmuck & DOMS « Life Adventures Trackback on 9 June 2009 at 9:19 am

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