Monday, October 7, 2013

NipMuck Trail Marathon 2013

Official time: 3:42:51.  3rd out of 136.   Results here.

Finally the NipMuck trail marathon was here.  I outlined my goals in last week's log and was ready to get to work.  Met up with Jonny in Hope Valley at 5:45 AM and we drove together to the race, talking race strategy and whatnot.  By the time we arrived the rain was a steady drizzle and any hopes of a precipitation-free race vanished.  After picking up our bibs we hunkered down in Jonny's car to get ready while avoiding the rain.

Jonny and I ready for business.
Photo by Mike Crutchley

Race director Dave Merkt gave an overview of the race and then we all headed down the road to the makeshift starting line.  Most people didn't seem to keen to tow the line so I lined up next to Jonny and eventual winner Chris Hayhurst.  An abrupt shout from Merkt and then we were off!

I entered the woods behind Jonny and Chris and for a moment I was worried the wet leaf-laden trail would make for a slow treacherous run.  But I got a feel for the trail quickly and settled into my pace, watching Jonny pursue Chris off into the distance.  Still, I was in third place which was a bizarre place to find myself.  A group of 4-5 people were not too far behind, chatting up their recent ultras.  They didn't seem to be overtaking me - was I going too fast?  My pace seemed easy but a marathon is a long race. I thought back to the Spring Classic and how that easy pace became anything but.  One member of the group behind me (Stanislav Trufanov) finally passed me around mile three.  Any moment and the rest of them will go by me, I thought.  But he was the only one and I found myself close behind him and Jonny as we reached the southern turn-around.

The NipMuck is comprised of two out-and-backs so it gives you a chance to see everyone that's ahead/behind you.  Heading back towards the start and as I passed folks I noticed how spread out the field had already become and how far ahead I was.  Again I wondered if I was going too fast but it didn't feel that fast so I kept up with Stanis.  After a couple of staggered bathroom breaks I found ahead of Stanis and his footsteps faded before we reached the Start/Finish aid station.

The rain had moved out by the time I arrived at this not-quite-halfway aid station and I wasted little time in filling my handheld and grabbing some food from my drop bag.  I heard the aid workers cheering for the approaching Stanis as I headed out on the northern section and tried to maintain the same pace.  The northern half has the painful elevation and I stuck to my strategy of power hiking any of the steeper hills to conserve energy.

I was still feeling good.  My calves were beginning to ache a bit and unlike my last NipMuck run I was completely alone for this entire stretch.  My pace hadn't slowed much and it wasn't until I reached the last few soulcrusher hills that my pace began to waiver a bit.  There's one hill in particular that's a Crusher of Dreams and just before I reached it Chris Hayhurst flew by me, looking sharp.  I pushed on, knowing that I was nearing the stairs down to Boston Hollow.  Jonny came running past, looking deadly serious and he shouted words of encouragement. A few moments later I arrived at the steep wet staircase that led to Boston Hollow Road aid station.
I grabbed some food and water and quickly made my way back up the stairs.  It was another minute or two before I passed Stanis and now I was pumped at the lead I had over 4th.  Last year this seven mile stretch was an exercise in brutality.  This year I felt great.  I had been in third for most of the race but it wasn't until this last stretch where I really felt like I could keep it.

It was raining again.  Harder than before.  I began to pass more and more people still making their way out to Boston Hollow.  I tried to give all of them a Good job or Nice work.  They were going to be out there a while and the conditions were getting worse.  Approaching the last aid station at Iron Mine, I passed Crutchley and gave him a high five.  "I'm running out of my mind," I told him and that's how I felt. I couldn't believe how good I felt and how fast I was still moving.

Last year, this short road section of the course was where the wheels really began to come off. The rolling hills of the dirt road had reduced my movement to a plod. This year I was able to maintain a decent jog up these hills - until the last one which is hideously steep. I definitely walked slowly up that one. But I was able to jump right back into a decent pace when I got to the top. Last year I essentially had to throw myself forward to start jogging again.

The last two miles of trails were a sloppy mess with water pooling all over the place. At this point the rain and mud didn't phase me at all and I plowed right through it. Just before the finish there are a couple devilish hills that reduced my pace to a crawl. I dragged myself up them, using a tree at one point for leverage. At the top of the last hill, I had a deja vu moment from last year, looking back for potential rivals. There was nothing but rain and leaves behind me and I motored it down the last section of trail, a few intrepid folks cheering me on a couple hundred feet from the finish line.

So I crossed the finish line in 3rd place in just under 3 hours and 43 minutes. Thirty minutes faster than last year. I'm still completely amazed by my race and not quite sure how I did it. While I was faster overall it was the second half of the race where I really improved over 2012. Here's some comparison to last year:

Improvements across the board but it was the last 7 mile stretch that really shows the difference. I was much stronger in the last leg, jogging/power hiking up hills this year that left me hunched over and exhausted in 2012. I've put a lot of miles on my legs in the last year (and lots of trail miles especially) and it paid off in spades.

Jonny had a great race and finished in second place! Mike Crutchley battled the elements and his own doubts and finished 30 minutes faster than last year. Afterwards I ate some chili and then collected my prize - an apple crisp pie! I had told people at work that the winners of this race received pie and they thought it was a pretty lame award. However I was absolutely thrilled to get one because it meant that I accomplished something I'd have never thought possible.

Thanks to the Shenipsit Striders for putting on a great race and all the volunteers who manned the aid stations in crappy conditions. Their positive motivation and attitudes helped push me along!


  1. You ran a Hell of a race, Seth! And you definitely ran "Out of your mind," very impressive numbers across the board! And enjoy the pie, it was a well-earned award :)

  2. Great race Seth - nice job - like the write up also

  3. Great write up!! Awesome race!!! Congratulations!! However you managed it you beat your A goal and that is totally worth a WHOLE pie!!

  4. Great job, man! If you felt that good, next year you're rocking a 3:39 or lower!

  5. Wow, great job Seth! I know first-hand how challenging that course is, so improving your time so much on the stretch back from Boston Hollow is quite impressive.

  6. I couldn't believe how awesome you did out there. I thought you wouldn't have trouble going sub 4 hours and even 3:50ish seemed doable. You totally smashed it! Keep up doing what you're doing because it's working! Cheers!