Thursday, April 12, 2012

Northern Nipmuck Trail Race Report 2012

And the training continues!

I first discovered the Northern Nipmuck Trail Race back in 2007 by accident on a trip to visit Mom over the Easter weekend.  The race was so much fun, I've returned almost every year.  It usually signifies the return to trail running for me as most trails in Vermont aren't runnable until mid April at the earliest.

I looked at the race this year as a fun training run.  Right now I'm into the peak training season for the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 Mile Run in early May, so again, no time to really taper.   I tried to bulk up on miles earlier in the week to give myself a couple days of "rest" towards the end of the week.  I attempted some speed work on Tuesday prior to Nipmuck to end a 20 mile day, wasn't happening.  It is what it is.  In any event I felt decent by the end of the week.  So Friday afternoon I packed up the truck and was on the road to the Bigelow Hollow State Park in Union, CT by early evening.  It would be about a 4 1/2 hour drive so I figured going down the night before was certainly the better choice than getting up at 3:00 AM Saturday morning.  It was an easy drive down and the almost full moon had come out.  I arrived at the park around 10:30PM.  It was quiet and empty.  I found a nice spot to park, had a snack along with the traditional pre-race Bud and off to bed.  I don't know why but I always have a great sleep in Hotel Ford.  The temp inside the cap was 36 degrees when I woke up but with flannel sheets, blankets and the trusty down comforter, it doesn't get much better than that :)
Hotel Ford ready to go

I got up around 7:00 AM, went for a quick shake out run to wake up the body and then back for a little breakfast.  I got the stove going and quickly was sipping hot tea to go with my wheat bread with peanut butter and Nutella, a favorite pre-race snack and a banana.  I relaxed a bit then saw RD Jim Campiformio had arrived.  I went over and helped him set up some tents and we chatted about races, health and travels.  Jim puts on a great race every year, low key yet totally organized and he listens to concerns.  He knows I get lost almost every year and tries to make sure those areas are marked extra to avoid me getting lost again.  Jim also mentioned a slight change in the start this year and explained the new route.  After the tents were set up I returned to the truck to get ready for the race.  Being only 16 miles didn't require anything to special.  I had GU Brew drink for hydration, GU gels and electrolyte pills that should be sufficient for the race duration.  I went for another short run to warm up and then headed over to the start.  It might have been a record number of starters this year or close to it but still small in comparison to other races.  With the tight single track and an out and back, the race really can't handle many more runners.

The start went off as planned but this year instead of running immediately up a steep hill we ran along a buffed out logging road at a brisk pace, quickly thinning out the pack.  Before long we were gradually going up and up to hook on with the old trail.  Right from the start a number of fast guys took off including Greg Hammett and Ross Krause.  I wasn't too far back but saw no need to burn myself up in the first 2 miles.  I settled in and just did my own thing with the objection, to have a fun run.  Before the top of the hill, a new friend from NH had caught up, Ryan Welts.  Ryan has been running well this year and Nipmuck was his first trail race of the season.  Soon he was ahead of me and I was just in cruise mode behind.  Before long I noticed I was alone and should have hung on to Ryan a bit longer.  As I looked up after a rock garden I was lost.  Not again!  I even recognized the area but just stood there as I didn't want to continue on a wrong path.  Soon
some other runners came along and guided me back on the trail.  I missed a 90 degree turn up through the rocks.  Yes, been there done that before in that same spot.  Anyway, I had some new guys to run with.  We went back and forth a bit and chatted some.  A couple of young-ins from Mass.  We plodded along and finally made it to the half way point turn around.  I thought it took quite a bit longer than usual.  My legs felt a bit tired but was I really that much slower this year?  I didn't realize until much later that the new re-route out was longer than the old version.  After the turnaround you have to climb out of the hollow and head steeply up hill for a while.  I had to chuckle as a couple of woman were there watching the guys run back uphill commenting on the view from the rear of the men.  They seemed to like my legs as I was climbing.  Always nice to hear :)

For the next 4 miles it was much of the same, cruising along, passing many runners on this out and back section.  I must have been daydreaming at one point and lost focus as I tripped and found myself falling head first into a log across the trail.  This was not looking good.  So as I was going down, I quickly pushed off to get extra lift and distance and cleared the log going into a nice tuck and roll in front of an audience of fellow on coming trail runners.  Not a problem, just another day on the trail.  Going into the last 4 miles I was a bit behind the 2 young bucks from earlier but for me, the last 4 miles are my favorite.  It has some good uphill sections leading up to a fun decent for the last mile.  After the mile 12 aid station I was I could see the other guys up ahead.  They were starting to fade a bit while I was feeling stronger.  Usually it takes me a good 10 miles to settle in.  Soon I was ahead of them and totally enjoying the trails.  The trails this year were in excellent shape and just a joy to run on.  Finally it was downhill, usually a mud bog but this year very little mud.  I was all alone and just in cruise mode.

Photo of me courtesy of Scott Livingston
I arrived at the finish a couple of minutes faster than 2 years ago and with the longer course, I was happy with that, especially with all the miles I've been putting in lately.  I was top master and won my 50's age group and was 8th overall in the middle of all the young 30 and 20 year olds.  I can live with that :)

Some other highlights of the race, for the men, Greg held onto first with Ross coming in second.  My New Hampshire friends had awesome races.  Ryan took forth place and had his best Northern Nipmuck performance narrowly edging out 2 other runners who were within 6 seconds of him!  And Kristina smoked the course and took first for the women breaking her old Northern Nipmuck time by over 20 minutes!!  Deb Livingston came in a strong second for the women.  (Deb has also been training hard for some soon to happen upcoming events).  Good luck Deb!

Full Results

The Gear:
Pearl Izumi Peak II trail shoe
For this somewhat technical but short race I wore the Pearl Izumi Peak II shoes.  They were right on!  The traction was superb especially on some of the sharp downhills and they were lightweight yet supportive enough.  For socks I wore the Drymax light hiker.  With a little extra cushioning they were great over the rocky terrain.  I also wore the Headsweats race cap to help absorb a bit of sweat.  And for nutrition I drank GU Brew Blueberry Pomegranate flavor and had the Vanilla Bean GU Gels except I saved the Expresso Luv Gu gel (2x's the caffeine) for the last 4 miles.

Drymax Light Hiker ready to run


This is NOT me.

This is more like me.
In hopes of finding other ways to cross train now that skiing has melted away and to improve fitness I began bikram yoga a few weeks ago.  I am not flexible by any means and am as graceful as a dancing elephant but I try.  I also figured the intense heat would be good for heat training.  I try to hide in the back row in the corner so I can use the wall if I loose my balance but somehow the instructors seem to find me.  "Hey sports guy" they call out as I can't do any of the poses.  Then they come over and give me "special" treatment making me bend and flex in ways I never thought possible.  I even said to the instructor, "You're here to hurt me aren't you?"  She kicked my butt!  In the first week I bonked bad once.  The heat took it's toll on me.  The next week I took electrolyte pills before and had an electrolyte drink during.  Much better!  This week I tried to do too much and bonked bad again.  I had to lie down on the mat while they were doing standing poses as I was seeing stars.  Once I recover from class I do feel great.  My legs don't feel as tight and the sweating definitely is cleansing.

Bike Season Is On.
With the trails so dry, mountain bike season is on!  I had a great ride at the Pine Hill trails in Rutland last week.  And Catamount opens up this weekend :)  Keep an eye out for the FOTW trails as they are slowly opening up.


On April 1, 2012 at the Fools Run 50K in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, local ultra runners Serena Wilcox and Heather Furman successfully completed the run.  Serena blazed through the course just a couple of minutes off the women's course record taking first for the women and 10th overall.  Congrats to Serena & Heather!!

On April 7, 2012 at the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run in Washington, DC, local runners Norm Larson and Allen Mead were there representing VT.  Norm easily won his age group and came in 45th overall for the men at a blistering time of 55:35.  That's a 5:33 pace for Norm, unbelievable for most and especially at 56 years young!  Allen posted a time of 1:02:57 taking 20th place in his age group of 648 runners.  Way to go guys!!

That's it for now.  See you on the trails!

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”

Happy Running!

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