Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Pleasant Climb

Saturday October 11th 2008 (Race 29)

Another perfect New England fall day. Loni, still nursing the knee injury from the VT50 tags along and is sad she is unable to race today. I’m feeling fresh surprisingly seeing how in the last 12 days I had run a 50 mile and a half marathon. One of the volunteers spots my VT50 sweatshirt and asks if I was there this year. He tells me he’s the official time keeper there as well. I thank him and tell him it’s my favorite race of the year and I’m already looking forward to next year.

The race director gives us the standard pre-race shpeal and the small group of us head out of the school parking lot. I was surprised how few people showed up for the race. After all it was the final race of the Western NH Trail Running series. Oh well I say to myself, perhaps I’ll have a better chance on scoring myself some sweet shwag!

Even though this is a “trail race” the first mile of it is a grueling pavement downhill. Many runners dart past me as I fall into my standard 10 minute mile pace. It’s a flaw that I have to correct. At short races I end up leaving too much in the tank because I’m still in “ultra-mode.” At any rate I fall in line with another guy that seems to be smiling and enjoying himself. His name was Tim and he drove over from Rutland Vermont to do the race series. He had missed the first race but had done the rest. He said this was his first year back into running in many years. I welcomed him back to the community and thanked him for being so social able. It still bums me out when I do short races and people are so stuffy and aloof.

He bids me farewell as we finally get off the pavement and hit the single track, he’s a bit conservative, and I’ve logged so many miles in the woods this year that I just power on. I catch a few runners that have obviously pounded their thighs too much on that first mile. They are huffing and puffing and my motor is still warming up. As was told by the RD there are several pockets of cold due to the amazing little stretch of waterfalls that border the side of the trail. The sun beaming threw the oaks and maples that still have their leaves, the trail covered with the yellow birch leaf blanket; THIS is what I think of when I think New England in the fall.

We make one of the 3 manned turns in the woods and start the “pleasant climb” as would be assumed. The river on the other side now still trickles between crunches of footsteps. It’s quite fantastic. Sadly that feeling ends as we turn away from the stream and a long large stretch of steep single track looms ahead. There is a bit of mud here, but nothing like the race director had warned of, onward and upward still with dry feet I push on. I catch up to a fellow in yellow that grunts and growls when he rolls his feet or trips on roots. I laugh a little because that’s a lot of how I run. We don’t speak much here because we’re on a climb to what must have been the peak. It wasn’t long before the elevation turned in our favor and down we were plummeting, you could see Mt Kearsarge to the left over Pleasant Lake. With the foliage and the sun it was pretty spectacular. I hope to get back here someday to hike and take some photos. As the hill steepens there is a rather large log, a tree, one would say in the trail. The guy behind me yells, “High hurdle that log!” Of course I oblige, and I hear him cheer when he sees me do it. Sadly this is the last of the happiness on this decent. The road steepens and turns to pavement. I suffer a bit through this, I’m wearing trail shoes and I can feel my legs burning from the past two races on now my second pavement decent of the day. Thankfully the road turns back to dirt at the bottom of the hill and rolls for about a mile. The guy, Amber’s father, as he introduces himself catches up to me and we share the next few miles together. Pushing and pulling each other along. He talks about how he’s done the triathlon that runs here and I listen while enjoying the scenery. I guess his daughter (Amber) is running this and her boyfriend (whose name escapes me) wins many of these races. I scope out a neat little man made stone bridge on a pond before we dart back into the woods for the final set of trail before the finish.

The trail quickly turns from pleasant doublet rack snowmobile trail to what looks very much like Fox Forest. A bolder-lined, grassy, muddy, stone and hidden sink holed disaster of a trail. But of course, this is what you’ll find over much of New England so I’ve become attuned to it. I roll my ankle once, then again, then again, but I’m still making good time. I look over my shoulder and I’ve left Amber’s father in the dust. Thankfully the boulder-trail ends and I’m left with 500 yards or so of 2x12 timbers lined single track. It’s pretty neat and I can see life moving way up in the distance. Just before I get out of the woods I see loni laying in a pile of leaves, she tells me the finish is just up around the corner. The person I was chasing was now approached by what appears to be another runner. He’s encouraging her to push on. I can see them both looking over their shoulders. I figured this is Amber and her boyfriend. I know he’s telling her that I’m gaining and that she should push on. We make the final turn and I can see the finish, she shifts into another gear and I match it. I’m about 5 feet behind her now and I joking say ‘aw man, you’re going to make me work for this now aren’t you.” I don’t know if she thought it was funny or not but her boyfriend didn’t seem pleased with what I said. Guess that’s how the lead runners feel, you probably aren’t supposed to laugh and have a good time at these things. Too bad for him that I still have another gear and shift again. About 500 feet from the finish I pull ahead of Amber and beat her by almost 5 seconds.

At the finish I see that not only did Amber win her division, her boyfriend won his, her father won his, and her mother won hers. What a great running family, so very cool. Loni laughs as, yet again, I’m one of the only people that DOESN’T get picked for the post-race raffle. That’s 0-2 this year, but it’s all good as I got my etched beer (orange juice) mug and quickly got out of there and home for my Oktoberfest 08 party!

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