Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Spring Racing

I've always preferred middle-distance races. In high school track my favorite was the 800m. Not the mile or the shorter sprints, but the neither-sprint-nor-distance 800. And the trail races I really enjoy often seem to be in and around the 10-16 mile range.

So this spring, as I recover from last fall's blood clot episode, I've decided to run what makes me happy (never mind that I wouldn't be able to go longer even if I wanted to... quiet, you!). If it all goes well, perhaps I'll (be able to) bump up to big miles again in the fall. But for now it's a season of my faves: middle distance running races.

First up was the brand-new Black Birch Vineyard 10-miler in Hatfield, MA on March 31. I came in 53rd out of 381, finishing in 1:21:30 (an 8:03 pace). This was a fairly straightforward out-and-back 10-miler, mostly on rural roads starting in the flat part of the valley and climbing for five miles up into the hills. I hadn't run a proper 10-miler in years, and remember now that it's a great place to exercise your pacing skills in the early miles.

finishing the Black Birch Vineyard 10-miler

Next was the 22K short course at the also brand-new Mt. Toby Ultra in Sunderland, MA. I came in 26th out of 51, in 2:57:05. This was a somewhat strange event, as some local assholes came along and moved the marker flags around mile 2 and the entire field of both the 22K and the 50K ended up all bunched together and going off on mile-long tangents in the wrong direction, etc. Somehow we all got back on track by mile 5 or so, and though I wondered how anyone could salvage a good time in conditions like that, some people REALLY ran fast in this one. Before the screw-up I'd been near the front of the middle of the pack, making pretty good time. At the end of the screw-up I was near dead last, feeling some weird sense of responsibility for making sure no one ended up lost. I slowly gained ground again during the course of the rest of the race, but not nearly as much as I thought I would, and ended up right smack in the middle. I didn't feel like I could have gone much faster than I did, especially on the big downhill from the summit, which went straight down the wet and rocky telephone line trail, a tricky descent even in drier conditions. At any rate, I ended up running near my friends Dawn and Jeff for the last few miles, so at least I was in good company. A really bright note about this one: the cave section. For a few hundred feet, about 3 miles from the finish, the course goes into and through a cave that's just long enough to actually get completely dark in the middle. Tom Davidson had set up a string of lights and a couple lanterns in part of it, and it was really pretty cool. Very much a unique and fun novelty part of a trail race course. It was drizzling most of the way and temps were chilly; I wore quarter-tights and gloves and a rain cap the whole way and was comfortable the entire time.

cave lights

finishing the first Mt. Toby Ultra 22K (24K) race
(photos by Jennifer Garrett)

Last race for this window was a short one, the Big Cheese 5K over in Athol, MA. I hadn't run a 5K in years either and wanted to see how it would go. I wasn't quite back in fighting form, but I did alright, coming in 35th out of 318 in 23:55. That's at least a few minutes slow for a 5K for me, but this isn't a fast 5K. There's a couple of short but steep hills, and a couple of long, steady ones too.

that's me in the yellow singlet near the top of the photo,
behind the guy in the red "Trump 2020" t-shirt.

just after the start of the Big Cheese 5K
(photos courtesy of the race)

After this we'll be taking a vacation to the desert southwest for a bit, but after that it's back to New England and a couple of mid-distance trail races I've been looking forward to for quite some time...