Monday, May 13, 2013

Shad Bloom 10K Trail Race: A Tale of Two Races

Block Island, RI
Saturday, May 11, 2013

I had signed up for this race back in February, else I probably wouldn't have gone.  Fresh off a 30-hour door-to-door trip from India with still some Indian stomach distress, I arrived home at 11:30PM Friday, got some mixed sleep, and Mike C showed up at the house Saturday morning to graciously transport and entertain me for the day.

The hour ferry ride went by quickly as we also met up with another Westerly runner, Colleen Saila, as well as Dave Seddon.  Took a school bus to the Block Island School, where we caught up with the remainder of the WTAC crowd:  Way, 3 of the Gray clan, and Eric & Yvonne.  Ran a 10 minute warm-up with Dave, who was giving desired pointers as he ran this last year.  Also psyched to hear he's signed up for the BI Tri in  August - I think that makes about 6 of us from WTAC.

Race 1 (Start to Mile 2.5):  It was about 60 degrees and drizzling at the start, as 203 of us lined up in the BI School parking lot.  For the first 2.5 miles, there were four prevailing common elements to this part:  a light drizzle of a rain, a ferocious headwind, flat to downhill terrain, and surface was gravel roads.

The eventual winner and a kid flew out from the starting gate.  Passed the kid at about 1/2 mile and never saw the winner again.  Behind the leader, we ran as a pack of about 6 for the first mile, and then we strung out quickly.  I was in 5th place, where I'd remain for the race, never to pass or be passed.  Despite the howling headwind, the net downhill and gravel roads made for fast times:  Mile 1 in 6:16, Mile 2 in 6:11.

Race 2  (Mile 2.5 to Finish):  Stunning scenery as this next section picked up right along the ocean at "Split Rock Cove" (see above Strava map).  I have never been to Ireland, but looking up now at the next section of the race is what I envision Ireland to look like:  meandering footpaths climbing through green meadows uphill overlooking cliffs down to the ocean.

What changed in "Race 2" from "Race 1":
- A change in course direction ended the headwind.
- Replace "gravel road" with "narrow singletrack"
- Replace "drizzling rain" with "downpour"
- Replace "flat to downhill" with "steep climbs and rolling terrain"
Dave bringing up this group of runners
towards end of trail portion of race

Mike looking like a drowned rat
as he approaches Mile 6

The next mile was figuratively and literally taking my breath away.  I managed a 6:52 pace for Mile 3, but only because the first half of Mile 3 was part of the "Race 1" downhill on carriage roads.  At one point, the man in front of me looked back at an open field switchback and saw me probably 150 yards back, but from here on in I ran as an island.  I looked back at the same switchback and saw no one.  By the time I pulled into Rodman's Hollow at the Mile 4 (7:24 split) mark, I was sucking wind.  The RD warned us about the next part:  a 130' foot ascent at grades varying from 10% - 18%.  I jogged the first third of the steepest ascent, but found I could walk the same speed with less effort, so I chose the latter until the slope lessened.  There was a water stop at the top of the hill climb where we briefly emerged onto a road before a wooden ladder over a stone wall onto more trails.  Mile 5 split 7:29.  The final mile leveled out, but the biggest danger here was slippery wooden planks in the pouring rain.  Mile 6 split 7:05.
Soaked post race (l-r): Dave, Mike, me, Eric, Yvonne

Final results:  full results here
41:50, 6:45 average pace.  5th overall.
I was already soaking wet, so I jogged back to the trailhead to see fellow WTAC'ers finish.  Back at the school, a hot shower and a dry change of clothes hit the spot.  Hung around for awards and snacks before Dave gave 4 of us a ride back to the ferry home.  Great fun!  I was chipper in the morning, but starting to return to zombie jet-lagged mode by mid-afternoon, so especially thankful to Mike C for the ride home.
Loot I took home for my efforts


  1. Great work after all that travelling. Sounds like a tough, fun race (I'll take it without rain though.)

  2. Great race! Drowned rat indeed, but what a fun race. Great as always to be able to "talk shop" on the way out and back, and I'm still impressed that you had enough left in the tank for such a great result!

  3. I'm pretty surprised (and impressed) that you did this race after just traveling for so long. It sounded like a fun time! Great job.