2010 Northern Nipmuck Trail Race

Today’s Northern Nipmuck Trail Race was run in glorious conditions. If anything, it was too warm for a 16 mile run. The massive amount of rain that we had earlier in the week had softened the trails up a bit, but the terrain wasn’t bad. The Nipmuck Trail is extremely undulating, and obviously, drains well. The normally wet spots were wetter, but there really wasn’t much mud. The stream crossings were a bit trickier. The water was high, so you just got a little wetter.

There was a solid turnout for the first event in the 2010 New England Grand Tree Trail Running Series. The results show that 111 people finished the race. Debbie and I both had a good time. I was training through this race, so there really wasn’t an objective. My legs were sore from a week of hard training, including yesterday’s 84 mile bike ride, so I had low expectations. I also rode part of the way to Bigelow Hollow State Park today, so that I could add some time on the bike for the week.

I hit the turnaround in 1:09 with Dave Mingori, Brad Reed, and Rich Fargo. We all played leap-frog on the eight mile return leg. Brad took off. Dave and I stuck together for a couple of miles, and Rich trailed. Then, Dave dropped me, caught Brad and kept on going. Rich kept his steady pace while the rest of us faded, and ended up passing all three of us by the finish. I finished last in that group and 12th overall in 2:30:22. That is about eight minutes slower than my 2009 time, which was my best on the course. That proves that my legs were sore. The conditions were also a bit slower today. The damp trails and warmer than average April heat (almost 80 degrees Fahrenheit) made this race more difficult.

This year, I’m overly sensitive about getting hurt at the trail races. With the focus on Ironman, I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize my main objectives. My right ankle is pretty much permanently trashed, but since spraining it (again) at Wapack last September, I have had extra problems with it. I keep saying that I’m going to get a real ankle brace, but for some reason, I never get around to it. After today, I’ve made up my mind to experiment with one. I rolled the bad ankle several times. The ligaments just get more and more stretched out. Fortunately, the pain wasn’t debilitating. It did slow me a bit. I only took a couple of falls, which in recent races has been a rarity. I attribute it to leg fatigue. I also haven’t run trails in a while, so my coordination is probably off.

Debbie had a really good race. She was third woman and 23rd overall. Her goal was top three women and under 2:45. Her official time was 2:43:41. It is good to see that she has realistic expectations during her second post-childbirth comeback. In 2007, she had already run a 50K within six months after the birth of our son. She ultimately fell ill and it took some time to regain her strength again. It wasn’t until 20 months after the birth when the breast feeding slowed, that she felt back to normal. Our daughter is now six months old and is also nursing, but Deb is taking things a bit slower this time. Also, life is busier with two kids. Pushing the double Chariot isn’t the best training, but it is better than nothing. She has a great season planned, but is mostly using 2010 to rebuild her fitness foundation in advance of 2011 and beyond. She says that she is taking it one race at a time. I assure you that she had a blast today. She has the scratches on her legs to show for it. She says she was just as fast as normal on the descents, which means really fast!

The overall win went to Greg Hammett in 1:59:41. Greg was locked in a two-man battle with Jim Johnson. Jim is coming off a fabulous winter snowshoe season where he dominated the competition. When they passed me on their return leg, they were flying. Jim ended up finishing second in 2:00:30. I would like to know the details of their head to head competition. Ben Nephew was third in 2:02:44. Brian Rusiecki was fourth in 2:10:35, but he was slowed as a result of running an ultra in Virginia last weekend. It would have been great to see a four-way battle. All of those guys have won Grand Tree races in the past couple of years. The competition is at a very high level for both the men and the women.

First woman was Gina Lucrezi in 2:30:49. She was hot on my heels. With three miles to go, I looked back and she had closed to within 30 seconds of ย me. She was at the bottom of a big hill and I was just cresting the top. I put my head down and just tried to hang on. I was still with Brad at that point, but I was just about to lose contact with him and end up in no man’s land. Gina was followed by Abby Mahoney, who was very happy with her run. She finished in 2:33:35. Amy Lane had also been in the mix, running for a time with Deb, but she pulled out, also suffering from the same ultra that taxed Brian’s legs last weekend. When Deb returns to top form, the Grand Tree Series is going to be blessed with its most competitive women’s fields ever. All of these gals have won Grand Tree races. Amy is the overall series defending champion. I’m excited for the battles ahead.

Race Results

Coda: I happened to scan my 2009 race report and was shocked to see that I also referred to last year’s weather conditions as “glorious.” Goes to show that I don’t really care if the temperature is 40 degrees (Fahrenheit) or 80 degrees. I actually prefer the cold and wet conditions (for running), but the sunny and dry conditions for hanging out.

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