Monday, October 10, 2016

Run for the Pumpkins Trail Race - 2016

Westerly, RI
Saturday, October 8, 2016

The 14th annual Run for the Pumpkins, and the second year since we moved it to trails.  It was a busy week getting ready for the race, and the morning had arrived.
One week prior:
A joint section of both the XC and Pumpkins course was suddenly blocked by
three fallen trees, a day before an XC meet.  Momentary panic set in.

The night before the race:
Our living room is awash in orange,
as Jana worked hours getting shirts sorted and organized.

Morning of:
Time again to play how much race stuff can I shove into the Volvo?

Mile 1:  SNERRO had a gun start on the field, and we were off.  I had widened the starting line this year to be at least 50', and we were all converging for the first cone right-turn just 28 meters away.  With a full contingent of high-school cross-country runners, they took it out hard and fast.  Even 1/4 mile in, the only non-HS runner in the top 10 was Tommy 5K.  Where are Muddy and Jonny?.  Way ahead I could see Matthew already turning off the field into the trails, and no one was anywhere near close to him.

Wider starting line this year.
Muddy passed me (finally!) on the field, and I went into the trail in about 12th place, with Tommy, Muddy, and many XC runners ahead of me.  On the long 100' climb I passed about 4 XC runners and got passed by Jonny and eventual female winner Randi. We spilled out onto the short gravel road section and I was just behind Randi and Jonny, but it took me a while to catch my breath.  The next trail is pretty flat, straight, and fast.  Finished the 1st mile in 6:43 and about 10th place.

Mile 2:  Early in Mile 2 the long double-track ends and you take a brand-new single-track detour to avoid a rock-strewn short gravel road section.  When I say brand-new, I mean we just made it last week!  After the short single-track through the pines, it's a short section of gravel road before you start the 0.6 mile "Hansel & Gretel" long twisty single-track in the deep pines.  I wanted to be in a good position starting Hansel & Gretel, so I pushed it and passed two more XC runners here.  8th place.
Just a week before the race,
this is what the single-track detour looked like!
And here's the nasty rock-strewn section of trail from last year's race
that we were bypassing.

FLASHBACK:  Just a year ago, I "made" Hansel & Gretel purposely going deep into the pine forest, and selecting tight turns whenever possible.  In my mind every turn on the trail is crystal clear, but then again Strava shows that I've run it 60 times in the past year.  It is obviously NOT crystal clear as even trail-master Crutch went off course a few times while helping us to mark earlier in the morning, together with Mikey, Muddy, Matthew, and Jonny.  We put 700 flags on the course this year, and about 300 alone went on to this section!  Back to the race ...
One of many logs to jump over
on Hansel & Gretel trail

Without a bevy of flags (before marking)
every few feet, you can see how
the trail may not be so easy to follow

The #2 boys XC runner (Thomas M) was just ahead of me, who was now just behind Randi.  As soon as there was a straight section on the trail, Thomas went by Randi (politely saying "on your left" as he did so) and I took the opportunity to do the same.  I stayed right behind Thomas as we made our way past Tommy 5K and we took the near-180 degree turn to start the trail heading toward the rock.  By the time we reached the rock, Thomas had caught two more runners:  Jonny and Patrick, a sophomore who runs for LaSalle.  The rock is the end of Mile 2.  My slowest mile at 7:53 (not surprising given it's the most challenging mile); I'm now in 6th place.
Not everyone likes the rock that you go up
and over, but it seems most do, and when
I hear comments like "That rock was so AWESOME!",
I guess I'll leave that as part of the course!

Mile 3:  We were in a line of four (Jonny, Patrick, Thomas, me) as we snaked our way out of Hansel & Gretel.  Once we crossed the gravel road and started the wider return trail, I went past Thomas and then Patrick. I was concerned that now that we were out of the twisty single-track, I had lost my advantage and would be re-passed by them and/or Tommy 5K, who couldn't be far behind.  I relied on my downhill prowess and pushed against my fatigue to carry on.  I was chasing Jonny now, but he put a little separation on me as we raced downhill to the finish.  Once I started the final steep downhill, I could hear the crowd on the adjacent field, and I correctly guessed that Matthew was finishing.  Exiting onto the field, Jonny was just ahead of me and Muddy a little way ahead of him.  I pushed it to the finish as fast as I could, knowing I was being chased myself.  Fastest mile at 6:02.

Final results:  20:43, 4th place, 1st in age group.  Matthew was 1st, Muddy 2nd, Jonny 3rd and 9 seconds ahead of me.  I held off Patrick by just 6 seconds, and FiveK by 10 seconds.  Thomas must've dropped off a bit, as he finished 27 seconds behind.

Caught my breath, and caught up with friends and other runners before leading out the kids' run and hosting the awards.  Meanwhile, a number of my teammates were working hard behind the scenes to retrieve the patchwork of mile markers, signs, and ghosts.  Everyone really came together for this race and it paid dividends.

Finished up the day with locking up the gates, as Mikey noticed and picked up a cell phone that someone had left behind and he handed it to me.  Yeah, that Samsung cell phone looked a little too familiar.  It was the same one that I had "temporarily" placed down when unlocking that gate some four hours ago!  What a dolt!  Thanks Mikey for saving me from myself again.

Jana found this on Facebook and I loved it.
Really fast 9-year old had me working much harder than I was hoping.
What a way to cap an awesome day of running at 2016 Run for the Pumpkins!

1 comment:

  1. Jeff, super job racing and directing this race! It was a hit. The race management, course markings, and general logistics were second to none. Well done on all ends.