Monday, October 1, 2012

Nipmuck Trail Marathon

3:50:51.  5th place overall.  Results here.

The day had arrived.  No more fretting about what to wear, how many GUs to bring, mid-point drop bag strategy, etc.  Met up at Mike C's house at 6AM in the dark and we're off.  It helped having someone to talk strategy and running in general on the 1-hour drive up.  Arrived with the better part of an hour to check-in, perform "duties", position the drop-bag on the trail at midpoint (after 12 miles on the southern leg, the mid-point was also the start and finish point), and mingle with Seth and a couple of guys Mike knew.

Pre-race remarks from RD
The photo isn't blurry; all the runners
were shaking with trepidation

Muddy section at start
turned out to be one of the
few on course

Mike, Seth, and I all had "High Fall Risk" stickers,
but theirs as was most were yellow and mine was orange.
I thought it was random, but the RD said orange was especially
for those trail marathon newbies with a really high risk!
The gun went off at 8 sharp, with the start on a road about 100 yards before converging into the trail.  I settled into about 10th place.  I found several people passing me right away.  Am I going too slow?  The terrain got very technical about 1 mile in as we went downhill through a rock garden.  I heard "On your left" as an older gentleman (yes, it's possible for a trail runner to be even older than me) went flying past me through the rock garden, cut in front of me, then wiped out completely on the rocks.  I hesitated for a moment until he yelled "Go!" and so I did.

I stayed in my place for a while.  The two guys in front of me were talking about the ultras they had run, and making me feel like I either didn't belong here or was too far up, but by mile 3 I got my confidence and started passing people.  At mile 5 when we crossed a road, a volunteered shocked me by yelling that I was in 6th place!  I passed two guys in front of me to go into 4th, and then on a downhill gazelle style I overtook the 3rd place runner.  I was in the 3rd place at the turn-around of the southern leg (mile 6), and scarfed down some cookies and water at the aid station.

Normally I don't like turn-arounds, but from here on in, the race was often lonely, so I really enjoyed seeing all the runners on the way back, most offering "good job", "looking good", etc.  Quickly saw Seth and then a ways back high-fived with Mike.  I got passed on an uphill to move into 4th, and then on a flat section a mile from the mid-point I retook the 3rd, where I remained through the mid-point and start of the northern leg.  OK, still feeling good at mile 12 (that feeling wouldn't last much longer!).

I kept 3rd place for the next 5 miles until a trail junction where blue blazes went both directions and I took the wrong turn.  By the time I back-tracked, I got passed again.  I hadn't seen anyone in 5 miles, so we chatted for a bit as he passed me.  Now the terrain got ugly!  At about mile 17, I was running up this very steep rocky single-track and my legs were just burning.  I made it about 2/3 up, when I figured what's the difference of running 12+ minute mile here or walking maybe 14-minute mile, so I decided to walk the steep uphills (about 3) for remainder.  I made it into Boston Hollow for second turn-around, walked up the long slippery wooden staircase built into the hill, and trekked on.

Nipmuck elevation changes, especially miles 15-20, were a force to be reckoned with

Boston, by comparison
About mile 18, I got passed by a guy much younger than me and I just kept my course, slower and slower and slower.  It seemed to take forever to reach the aid station at Iron Mine Lane, and when I got there even though I was probably about mile 22, I was on fumes and stopped for 2+ minutes to scarf down fig newtons, oranges, and watermelon.  OK, just get me home now.  There was a nasty gravel road uphill that just wouldn't quit - ran most of it, but walked the final section.  Back on the trails, I saw llamas - an ethereal illusion?  No, there were really llamas, on the edge of a farm.  Can't be long now, but it seemed to just be turn after turn after turn and getting very hard to jump over even the smallest of logs now.  Finally the finish!  I just held off the the 6th place finisher behind me, and broke 4 hours, something I had not expected.
The finish line was the most welcome sight
all day
Changed, toweled off, and got some vegetarian chili to refuel.  By then, Seth had come through in an impressive 13th place at 4:12!  He and I hung out and chatted along the trail for the next couple of hours, while I made many return trips for cookies, brownies, and all sorts of junk food - I earned it!
Mike came through, and while he didn't hit his target time, it was a solid effort and impressive first marathon finish in good spirits.  Compared notes and trail difficulties for the hour ride home.  A good day.
PS - Cyberstalked later to find Muddy set a new marathon PR in NH.  Also heard that Mike B won another 5K 2nd day in a row.  Congrats gents.


  1. Great job! Love the High Risk stickers, that's hilarious, you need a T-shirt of that, although...I don't think you mentioned falling this time? Is that a PR?! You guys are killing it lately, looking forward to getting some running in with you this fall/winter.

  2. I agree about the stickers, too funny...still not sure how they decided that I got a yellow sticker and Jeff got orange?! Great job yesterday though, Jeff, very impressive first trail marathon!!!

  3. Congrats, Jeff. Impressive. I don't think I would've been able to handle that.

  4. Muddy gets the carpool invite for next year...good times, good times :)

  5. Jeff, congrats on the impressive trail marathon debut! Reading about your adventure made me think I should do this race some year. And the sticker is hilarious!!

  6. Awesome race and impressive performance Jeff!

  7. A stellar run and a lot of fun. It's amazing how awful you can feel at the end of these things and yet want to do it again once it's all over. Good chatting with you afterwards.

    I took the plunge and created my own blog. You can read my NipMuck race report here:

  8. Thanks for all the feedback, guys. I'm glad I don't have any marathons in my immediate future. And, no, Mike Galoob, I didn't fall - muddied, blistered, and a tiny bit of blood from scratches - many stumbles and slides, but no falls!