Official time: 1:14:13. 5th overall out of 65. Results here.
I've been looking forward to this race for a couple months. I missed it last year due to its proximity to the Blessing but this year it was two weeks earlier so there was no conflict. I had never been on these trails and wasn't sure how I'd fair but I drove out there ready to race. It's a 10 mile race that takes place on a 5 mile loop. There was also an option to just do I loop but of course I was driving there for the ten.
And drove and drove. Chepachet is seemingly only a few feet from Connecticut and it was a long ride (by Rhode Island standards) to the race. It rained briefly on the way and the conditions were cool but not too humid when I arrived at the parking lot. Spoke briefly about the trails with Race Director Bob Jackman and photographer extraordinaire Scott Mason and then met up with the Super Hammett Brothers to warm-up on the last 1.5 miles of the course. I wore my MT20s for the warm-up but it was slippery and rocky out there so I decided to switch to my tanks (the Cascadias) for the race. I think this was a good choice as they have a little more traction and I was still slipping and sliding as it was.
Bob lined us up, gave a short recap of the course and then we were off. After a short trail and open field section, we came upon an uphill stretch of dirt road and already the field was spreading out. I was in sixth place and could see Greg Hammett taking off already with Johnny behind him. They were followed by guys in grey, yellow and white. Once we entered the woods I was right behind White Hat guy and could just see Yellow Shirt in the distance. Soon Yellow Shirt was no longer in sight and I couldn't hear any other runners behind us - it was just me and White Hat.
This race was advertised as intermediate in terms of difficulty and I'd say that's spot on - there were plenty of big rocks and technical spots to contend with. I think I handled them pretty well and they didn't affect my pace too much. I was working hard and felt it but figured that even if I slowed in the second half, I'd still have a cushion based on how spread out everyone was already.
I stayed behind White Hat for the first two miles. Suddenly he looked back and shouted "Go left!" I wasn't sure why since it looked like the trail went straight but then I realized we had hit the bog that Bob mentioned in the pre-race briefly. White Hat had gone right into it but his warning allowed me to skirt the edges. Now behind me, White Hat became chatty, telling us that he thought we could catch Yellow Shirt as he was young and probably went out too fast (little did he know this was Dave Merkt, member of the Shenepsit Striders and RD for the NipMuck Marathon this year.)
The two of us hydrated at the mid-loop water station and then continued on another long stretch of dirt road but White Hat's footsteps were growing fainter. He fell farther back over the next trail section and when I finally recognized the trails I had warmed up on, I was all alone. I'm glad I ran this final section in the warm-up as it contains lots of rocky footing and some deceptive hills. I passed Scott Mason snapping shots and spied Grey Shirt ahead of me. He was moving well on the hills and I soon lost sight of him again. The last section of trail is smooth and downhill which is a blessing but I tried to keep it in check. I was thrilled to be in sole possession of 5th place but there was another lap to go and I was still concerned about running out of gas.
I was feeling it as I began the long uphill dirt road that begins the second lap. I could see Grey Shirt up the road but he was farther ahead now. Clearly he had found another gear. Or I was losing speed. He entered the woods and I would not see him again. As I was about to do the same, I glanced back and saw no one. This pumped me up and I found renewed energy as I hit the trails.
I was alone for the rest of the race and even though I knew I probably had a couple minute cushion on 6th place, I recalled Jonny's blog from the 2012 race and felt like I was being hunted. I managed to get pretty soaked in the bog on my second pass but the water station hit the spot and the farther I went the more jazzed I was knowing that I had 5th place locked up. Starting the second lap I thought maybe I could break 70 minutes - not to be as I was at 1:10 at the start of the hilly section but I pushed it to finish in under 75 minutes and I crossed the line just after 1:14. White Hat finished 2.5 minutes after me. Greg Hammett dominated this race once again with 1:05 and Jonny destroyed his time from last year with a 2nd place time of 1:09!
Afterwards a short cool down, some pizza and a dip in the pond before a long drive up to Springfield, Mass. The Hammett Brothers took the team competition (and some tasty looking growlers.) Sadly with Jonny choosing blood over running club, WTAC only had two people running the 10 miler (Mike Crutchly finished strong in 1:43) but there's always next year. This was a terrific, challenging course and I'm very happy with my performance (and the lack of deer flies!) The Pulaski Park had great facilities and the pond was most welcome afterwards. I even scored a cool running hat from the swag table afterwards. I really enjoyed this race.