Part of what I like about trails, races, trail races, and trail race series is the opportunity to explore new terrain and experience different places. The Busa Bushwhack, with a twisty 10-mile course at Callahan State Park in Framingham, MA, has one of those names that beckons beguilingly to people like me. The race had been on my bucket list of regional events for a few years now (though as I write that I suddenly realize I'm not all that partial to the concept of a bucket list; I'm more in the camp of hoping to savor the experience rather than checking something off a list), and I was looking forward to trying it.
There were 155 runners in the 10-miler, and another 160 or so in a 5.3-mile version. Conditions were very nice, with overcast skies and temps in the 50s, and the course was well-marked (except for one arrow near the end that was clearly pointing the wrong way, I think because it was on an out-and-back portion and it wasn't clear on the return that you were supposed to ignore it).
After pre-race announcements by the Greater Framingham Running Club and Rich Busa himself at the Brophy school, we all jogged about half a mile north through residential streets to the starting line on Major Hale Dr., right where the road crosses an underground aqueduct. We took off en masse and stayed on pavement for about a quarter of a mile. Then we veered right onto a wide path in the woods. Following signs, flagging, and the directions of volunteers, we wound our way around mostly easy trails for a few miles.
Callahan really seems to be A Tale of Two Parks. The property is more or less evenly divided into two halves, north and south, by a paved road. The south half has wide, gentle, rolling doubletrack trails with easy hills. The northern half has narrower, more rugged trails with harder hills and tougher terrain.
I had taken photos near miles 4 and 7 of this race in 2013, and at that time the downed leaves were pretty thick over portions of the trail, enough so that I was concerned about hidden rocks and roots. But there were many fewer leaves this year, and everything seemed to be visible. At about mile 3 we crossed the road and hit the first water station, then climbed a sharp hill and headed out for a very meandering tour of the park’s northern half.
With only six days left until my A-race of the season, the Stone Cat Trail Marathon, I’m in full-on taper mode, and as such I chose to keep my pace firmly in check despite feeling like I could have gone a good bit faster. Or at least a little bit faster. Early on I found myself keeping pace with fellow western MA trail runner Carolyn Stocker, but I soon realized that the pace wasn’t meeting my “take it easy” taper week rule, so I eased up and held back some. She kept flying and finished 6 minutes and 20 places ahead of me.
There were other familiar faces along the way too. At about mile 7, I passed and said hello to fellow trail runner and photographer Anthony Tieuli, who I’d met briefly before. And I passed Amy Rusiecki directing racers as I exited the woods at mile 9.25, a surprise recognition that I was only able to acknowledge with a belated wave about 50 feet further along.
trail sign in Callahan State Park
The course grew progressively easier after re-crossing Parmenter/Edmands Rd around mile 7. We flew back along Rocky Road, Pine Cone, and Coco Ridge Trails, which seemed to be mostly flat, doubletrack paths, and most of the final mile back to the school is on pavement. As I approached the end, I picked up the pace slightly, but not enough that there was any danger of overdoing it. I finished in in 52nd place in 1:21:34 (an 8:09 pace).
finish line photo (courtesy of Manos Tsagarakis)
Afterwards, I chatted briefly in the school cafeteria with Carolyn and her father, Wayne, as well as Grand Tree series regulars Eric Wyzga and Kehr Davis; self-described new trail runner(??) and the winner of the women’s race, Kim Webster; and a representative of Sudbury Valley Trustees, a strong conservation land trust organization responsible for protecting lots of properties in the area (and the publisher of a great new guidebook: 40 Walks West of Boston).
Overall, it felt like a solid effort that I was well trained for, and at the risk of tempting fate, I feel confident about the marathon ahead. Oh, and I came away with a sweet Busa Bushwhack pint glass for finishing!
full results here
generalized course map
my 2013 Busa Bushwhack race photos here
Scott Livingston's recap of the 2011 race here