Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Exeter Trail Race - USATF New England Trail Championship

Todd Callaghan picked me up and headed to Exeter, NH for the 10 mile Exeter Trail Race which was a New England Trail Championship for 2017. I knew zip about the course and terrain but was looking forward to racing on the trails which were sure to be competitive with $1K in prize money. Here is a nice description of the course (found after I ran the race).

"This a very technical trail race. There is arguably no better urban trail running and mountain biking network in the northeast than the Oaklands & Henderson-Swasey Town Forests. Located just minutes from downtown Exeter, NH these trails are better known as Fort Rock. If it’s technical trail running you are looking for…search no further. This may be the most technical trail race anywhere in New England!" - Visit Exeter New Hampshire

I warmed up on the course with CMS mates Ed Sheldon and Paul Bazanchuk and got a feel for what the legs would be in for. I would compare it to the single track found in Ravenswood in Gloucester or Greenwood Ave in Beverly Farms. One eye would be needed on the ground and the other up looking ahead for trail markings.

The start of the race narrowed down after 300m of road down to the single track trail in a hurry. I settled into about 14th place. I quickly determined that I had to move up and around the gent in front of me. I wanted to keep Ed Sheldon close and his orange shirt was quickly getting out of sight after a few miles. I passed the runner in front of me and was rolling pretty well. After 3.5 miles, I found Ed on the ground. He was in pain, taking a hard one to the earth. I asked if he was OK and he confirmed. I was not convinced yet I ran by certain he would be back on his feet chasing me soon enough.

My failure to have my Garmin watch on me was biting me big time. I was lost without it. I wanted to know how far into the race I was on several occasions. I had nothing to go by except for knowing water stops were at 3, 6, and 9 miles. The trails continued to roll. Not once did the course have a wide flat fire road. Miles of single track, navigating the turns, rock hopping, planks, and board walks got surprisingly tiring.

I managed to pass a few more runners in the middle of the race, the last of which was one of the two Jeff Walker’s – this one from RI who is in his 50’s. He hung close behind me in the 2nd half of the race. His presence kept me honest and to keep attention to the course markings which were a bit sparse in several areas. We managed to keep course all the way but was not too confident on several occasions. The legs were junk over the last few miles. The goal was to not get passed and to stay on my feet.

I finished 10th overall with a time of 1:13:07.4. Jeff was just 23 seconds back. I finished a whopping 4 minutes behind the 3rd place master, Ryan Carrara and almost two and a half minutes behind 9th place (Scott Leslie).

After finishing, I turned my attention to looking for Ed. Soon enough, he would come in with a bloody elbow. I have said it before, and will say it again, this guy is tough as nails. I got him a bag of ice where I had to poke a hole to get water to clear out his wound on the elbow. He was in good spirits and carried a great sense of humor. If that were me, I am not so sure I would be as positive as he was. He deserves a hard hat of the race award!

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