Sunday, July 2, 2017

Exeter Trail Race 2017

Exeter, NH
Saturday, June 24, 2017

The three of us were in southern NH visiting UNH, which between a presentation, campus tour, meeting with XC / track coach, and eating at a campus dining room, took up most of the day on Friday.  Matthew wanted to stay overnight and run the Capitol City Classic 10K in Concord the next morning.  Fortunately that all worked out fine for him, but last summer I had more than my fill of humid road races and just wasn't up for it personally.

Matthew mentioned the Exeter Trail Race was the same day and this year was serving as the USATF-NE Trail Championship.  Now a 10-mile trail race, on the other hand, does have appeal for me, especially where this one was almost exclusively single-track, had a few technical sections, and no repeating loops.  Hmmm.   Could we make it to both?

As it turned out, we made it to Exeter with about 25 minutes to spare.  Perfect.  I had already run 4 miles in Concord, 2 warming up with Matthew, and 2 running to see him at mid-race, so I was good.  Jogged to registration table, signed up, jogged back to car.  Changed into trail shoes and a dry singlet.  Good to go!

Lined up at the starting line in 77 degree humid weather.  Thought I might see at least one familiar race here, maybe Leslie O'Dell or Steve Brightman?  Nope.  (It turns out Leslie was there; I just missed her with my tardy and rushed arrival and departure.)  Just before the start, a guy came up to me and asked "Are you Jeff Walker?", extended his hand and announced he was also Jeff Walker.  At last we meet!  (as I later find out, courtesy of Leslie)  He joked that if I finished ahead of him, he was taking my time, and I assured him that seeing his times, it wouldn't happen (he beat me soundly at Loon by 9 minutes).
Start of race
(Pics by Jana)

I'm on left in light blue singlet,
jockeying for position before entering the trails.

First three miles (south of 101):  The RD had announced that we would be on pavement for only 300 yards before exiting onto single-track, so place yourself appropriately.  I went out real hard and as I found myself about 15th place hitting the trail, I was worried that I had gone out way too fast.  After passing a runner or two early, I found myself running just behind a tall guy in an orange shirt and immediately behind him and in front of me was the first female.  I thought the pace was fast but manageable.  When we hit a downhill section with mountain bike like whoops (double set of rolling bumps), the orange guy seemed to get jammed up and slowed down.  It was awkward as the first female sidestepped around him and I turn got too close to her and went wide and around her.  Shortly thereafter I rolled my ankle and was pleasantly surprised that the first female took time and energy to ask if I was OK.  (I was.)  On an uphill section I could feel I was holding her back, and I moved to give room and both she and orange guy went past.  I closed out the southern section with a downhill scramble to a tunnel going under 101, where each runner was met with cowbells clanging.
The race started and finished south of Route 101;
the sections north of 101 were billed as hillier and more technical.

North of 101:   The RD had mentioned that the section north of Route 101 was much more technical and hilly.  Exiting the tunnel, I told myself I better slow the pace if I wanted to finish this at all, as I was breathing fairly hard already and it was getting quite warm.  Not long after the tunnel, I came around a corner on a somewhat technical downhill, and saw orange guy sprawled out on rocks, with his shirt pulled up and looking pretty scratched and banged up.  Evidently he was having a religious moment, as amidst the f-bombs, he invoked Jesus' name quite a bit.  I did stop and while he was obviously in pain, I asked if he would be OK, which after about 15 seconds he nodded and said he'll be alright, so I sauntered on.  (Was relieved to learn later that he actually finished the race.)  By the time I got going again, a teenager had caught up to me and gone by.

After a rather long climb, I re-caught the teen pretty quickly and within the mile I felt someone coming up on me.  I figured it would be the teen again, but it was a CMS guy in his 30s.  He went past me, but I stayed with him almost the entire rest of the race.  While the course was well marked, there were a few long stretches where we hadn't seen any flags, and with no one else in sight of us, it was comforting to just be able to see another person as he would occasionally ask if I had seen any flags.  The rest of the "north" section was pretty uneventful.  There was one water stop that was much appreciated as I was dehydrated, and there was a dilapidated bridge crossing that was not at all horizontal and I was afraid I'd fall in the drink.  There was really only one sizeable hill on the course, but by Mile 7 or so every small hill was beating me down.  At long last, I reentered the tunnel again to the sound of cowbells, signaling less than two miles to go.

The finish:  At this point, we were running into the back end of the 4 mile runners.  Except for one woman with headphones (why do people wear headphones on trail races???), all of the runners / walkers could hear me coming and kindly gave me room to pass.  My GPS measurement was quite off, and thus, we got back to the trail race finish much quicker than I anticipated.

Final strides before the finish.  I'm spent!

Final results:  1:13:30, 11th place out of 92, 1st in age group!  Full results here

Really fun and rather challenging trail race.  Yes, it was quite hot (82 at finish), but somehow running entirely shaded on the trails made the suffering a little less than open roads.  We had to leave to head back to RI pretty much immediately, and anyway, despite my age group win, I wouldn't have gotten the age group award because they only give it to USATF members, which I've never joined.  (Do others belong?  Is it worthwhile?  Is it just a NH thing, or just because this was a USATF championship?)

Anyhow, really glad I did this, and in an unexpected turn for me, if only for today, RI Jeff Walker beat ME Jeff Walker.


  1. I love your race report! Very entertaining. I think you're one of the few of us who didn't think the course was very technical. Your "somewhat technical" description for part of it is perfect. I found it to be way too favorable for the "roadie" crowd. I'd love to see a much more technical course as the championship course next year. I actually told someone that Rhode Island trail races are much more technical than Exeter. Haha. Oh, and it's definitely worth becoming a USATF member. You are fast and could possibly win prize $ at these for your age group. It's only $30/year.

    1. I kept waiting for really technical terrain as well. There are definitely more technical trails in RI (Long Pond and Yawgoog as examples). Thanks for the USATF advice.

  2. Oh, and Jim Pawlicki (the CMS guy) would be psyched to know you thought he was in his 30s. Haha.

    1. Ha! I'm a terrible gauge of age. I should've looked up his age before posting.

  3. What is your comparison this to the Beavers course? Actually asking for a friend who ran the short course and has been considering Beavers but worried about it being very technical. She thought this course was technical, she is very much a roadie, but was a trail girl when she was in California. I already gave her Leslie's assessment. Thanks for any thoughts you care to share (and I'll click the notify me box).

    I honestly can't tell one from the other I think that's more a factor of my conservative running pace than anything else. I thought Leslie's course was fun, lots of hoping from rock to rock, some climbing, one sketchy section where you jumped off boulders (see fun!) guess that's technical. Clearly I am clueless and only out there to see what I can see and do what I can do.

    1. I'll preface this with the fact that I've only run each race once and don't remember every detail. I only recall one sustained technical section at Beavers (rocky single-track early in race) and found it longer than any at Exeter. Exeter had occasional short somewhat technical sections but was quite runnable, as was Beavers. Found Exeter to be hillier, but neither very hilly. Hope that helps.