Monday, May 11, 2015

New England Trail Championships - Merrimack River Trail Race

I recently measured the Merrimack River Trail race to be 9.4 miles long by a GPS Garmin product. The course is out and back along the Merrimack River. The middle four miles are rolling (as in, hills). Thus the first three and last three miles are flat. The start and finish is at the trail head in the back of the Wyndham parking lot. You will hear the buzz of Rt. 93 commuters going north and south minding their own business.

Looking surprised by the camera out from under Rt 93 overpass
Photo by Denise Underwood
Brett Rickenbach and I arrived at the race early so as to get primo parking, register, give Cath a hug, catch up with teammates and spread out some CMS threads. I managed to educate a few new comers to the race on what to expect on the course. The race was part of the North Shore Trail Series and the All Terrain Series. I got a 2 mile warm up in before heading to the start for the pre-race instructions from the always hilarious, race director, Stephen Peterson. He does a great job of keeping the atmosphere light and funny. Smiles and laughs all day in his presence for sure. I was careful to get a good clean start while not getting tripped up or tripping anyone as the race funnels into single track after twenty feet. We also had to contend with a leaning tree so anyone over 5ft tall had to navigate under at full stride carefully 50 yards into the course.

Up power hill with Scott in tow
Photo by Michael Quintal
My positioning was spot on, early, on the single track. I passed one runner on the field on the other side getting a few seconds behind Ethan Nedeau and Matthew Veiga. Scott McGrath was behind me and I heard Todd give instruction to get up and after the next group (Ethan) but I was content with my effort. The gap widened between Ethan and team Jim, Scott, Todd as we hit some hills. Todd pranced by before the mile 4 mark. I kept my thing going on and Scott seemed content a step behind. My time was approximately 31:15 at the turn-around. Now we are going against the race - runners heading out to the turn-around so it does get rather interesting. I kept to the far right of the single track as much as possible heading into oncoming traffic. I do keep the safety of myself and others in mind. I appreciated those runners that did show awareness of my approach (coming at them). I cheered or thanked as many as I could. Some bailed off the single track (am I that intimidating?). Some stopped. Some wanted the same part of the trail as me (very few). I did hear that Chris Mahoney took a knee to the quad and this knocked him down right in front of Scott Leslie. That incident, for both involved, is something that can happen, but I would rather avoid.

Through the power lines heading back to the finish with Scott
Photo by Michael Quintal

I threw in some surges in the technical areas back to the power lines to shake Scott. I recall telling him to focus on his leg lift on the way back so as not to get lazy and trip up. The key is to also give yourself some space so you can see a few feet ahead of your stride and the runner in front. Therefore you can visually see and plan for the next maneuver on the trails. Once Scott and I got on the comfortable flat section, he flew past me. He looked so fresh and comfortable. I encouraged him to close in on Todd who I could only see on the longest of straights. At this point, I was done and mailed it in. I looked back and did not see any pressure (still had 2.5 miles to go ) so I got in cruise control until I saw 1:03 on the watch and hustled to the finish.  I finished up with a time of 1:03:58, 11th overall, and 3rd master runner behind Ethan and Todd.
Brett and I with raffles and chocolate bars
Photo by Bonnie Hallinan
My post race warm down took me to the post race spread for liquid and a lot of it. Also getting my attention was chocolate bars, Oreo Cookies, and Coconut water. The best part of the race was to share the stories, cuts, bruises, and laughs that followed. Stephen Peterson handed out raffles with the usual humor and stories along the way. The CMS team did great with a team win for the open, masters, and 2nd for the Seniors. The CMS ladies team took a team win as well. Next up, recover and get out to Trav’s Trail Run. Full results


  1. Nice job and excellent account. I got 9.6 on my GPS, probably because I was going so much slower!