Monday, May 25, 2009

Wachusett Mountain road race report

The 2009 USATF New England Mountain series kicked off with the Wachusett Mountain Road Race. Due to construction of the access road up the mountain, the race course had to be changed and diverted into the beautiful trails. Runners were warned or at least advised with plenty of signage in and around the registration area. I even recall a refund was offered in advance if the course change was beyond expectations. Mountain runners are hardy souls and did not seem to mind. I welcomed the change of scenery and like the idea of having some generous downhill in the 2nd half of the race.

I went out pretty hard for the 1st mile, settling in behind Andy McCarron and Craig Fram. I did not get a mile split but the effort was quicker than I usually put forth. Kevin Tilton and Ryan Carrera took command after the mile and took off as we approached the entrance to the park. I opened the stride as we then got off the road and into single track trail. It was in this part of the race (1.5) miles that Craig Fram stepped aside to let me by as he was very cautious with the tricky footing, descending beside the 1st mile along Mountain Road. I ran past Kristen who was taking photos shortly before mile 2. I could see Andy way ahead. Meanwhile, I think Tim Van Orden was a few seconds behind me.
Then the grind began up Old Indian Head Trail. This was a steep half mile section that was pretty tough. Tim passed me about half way up. He looked pretty strong and I felt that I could hang on with him through the top . Seconds later, Middlesex Fells training partner, Todd Callaghan, passed by chasing Tim before we got to the top of the trail. I was suffering a bit but was counting on the down hill that awaited a bit after 3 miles.

I looked at my watch at the top of Indian Head and saw 21 minutes or so and wondered how long it would take to see the finish line. Tim and Todd had a 8-10 second lead at the water stop somewhere beyond 3 miles. I opened my stride and tried to reel them in. I made slow progress of that as we were all flying at the same pace. This was a controlled down hill section and thought that it was far from the reckless free-fall that I encounter at Northfield Mountain. I was closing the gap a bit as we ran past the Indian Head Trail that we ran up earlier. I caught Tim on the last uphill climb for the day and a few seconds later got around Todd.

Meanwhile, I looked left and down toward the ski lodge where the finish line awaited. I was not too sure how much longer it would take before we would arrive and what the course was like approaching the finish line area. I did not research the last mile so it was a big unknown. Todd checked out the course on Thursday so he had an advantage. My college coach at Salem State, Tom Derderian, always reinforced to me that you must know the course before the finish line. At any rate, I was in the midst of a battle.

We turned left off the fire road and down toward the duck pond beside the ski lodge. I took the inside turn and surged down the hill. I still had no idea how much race was left and how to get there besides the course flagging. I was trying the shake Tim and Todd. I remember taking the inside lane around the duck pond, even dropping my left arm, pointing to claim the lane as we approached a boulder about 20 yards from an upcoming narrow footbridge. Tim and Todd were hot on my tail as I navigated, carefully around a tree and onto the asphalt, taking a sharp left turn toward the finish chute 10 feet away. It was like the last 100m of a mile race on the track with three hungry wolves fighting for the kill. I crossed the line just ahead of Tim and Todd. I turned to see Tim in the chute right behind me and then Todd followed. I was exhausted.

Todd quickly pointed to his leg and mentioned a wipe out. I did not recall seeing him go down in the last two miles of the course and asked him where he dumped. He took a fall in the heat of the battle with Tim and I on the tough corner just before the parking lot. Kristen happened to get it on video and did not even know he went down because she lost us behind the tree and she stopped recording as we bolted into the finish line. You'll notice how Todd was making ground before we approached the bridge and then the three of us approach the tree and two make it out.

We ran a nice relaxing cool down over the last few miles of the course and certainly shared some good laughs over the battle for the finish. I hope to have many more with these guys in the future.

Wachusett Mountain (5.2? miles) road race
May 23, 2009

1. Ryan Carrera 30:44
2. Kevin Tilton 30:48
3. Andy McCarron 31:46
4. Jim Pawlicki 32:44
5. Tim Van Orden 32:45
6. Todd Callaghan 32:48
7. Tim Mahoney 33:26
8. Allen Spencer(?) 33:31
9. Dave Dunham 33:35

Course profile

Cooling down while Todd points to the scene on the corner before the finish line straight. Dave Dunham, myself, Todd Callaghan, Francis Burdett, and Tim Mahoney. Photos by Kristen Kozlosky.


  1. Nice run! Is there a link to Kristen's pics?

  2. Congratulations on a great race! Excellent footage of "the battle". You guys were flying around that duck pond. Nice stuff.

  3. Double-d - just sent some photos over to you. We neglected to get them into a album. Dave Q, we will see you at Rhody...

  4. Jim, you guys were cruising. Seems like you're back to your old self.

  5. Mike, hope all is well and we'll see you racing soon.