The Belleville Pond 10k is the third race of the South County 4th Season Trail series put on by the majestic Mike Galoob. Last year it was a snowy sufferfest. We had all been hoping that it would be a dryer affair this year but that was not meant to be. I thought that the multiple storms in the prior weeks would have given us an even tougher challenge. But thanks to Jonny and the other park enthusiasts, word was that the course was in much better shape than last year. Except for the stretch along Route 4 which would still be brutal.
I arrived and set out on a solo warm-up on the first part of the course. I'm not sure how slippery the snow was but the Yaktrax made traction no problem. I was pleasantly surprised by just how hardpacked the snow trail was near the beginning. It got a little choppier once it hit that rise over the pond but it was still much better than last year. I made my way back to the start. There, as if to remind us that it still going to be a hard slog, Galoob led us to the start on the basketball course where the snow had barely been broken.
|It's a mad dash for the single snow track - Photo by Jana Walker|
We lined up and were quickly off. The start was a mad dash past boulders and through the icy parking lot to a narrow singletrack in the snow. Everyone went out like a lunatic vying for position and I found myself in about fifth place once the train fully formed. Last year I found myself too far back at the beginning and had to work hard to pass in unbroken snow. I was much happier to let others pass me this year. Eric Lonergan quickly went by and then Jonny and Jeff followed soon after. All of them wasted no time in gapping me before the rise but I was content to ease off a bit. I hadn't been putting in a lot of miles lately and wasn't sure how I'd fare in the later stages of the race.
There was a nasty choppy section at the end of the rise but the surface improved dramatically as we made our way to the railbed section. Here Jonny/Jeff had already put a great deal of distance of me. I heard more approaching footsteps and made way for Chris Fox. He was soon followed by two other fast looking guys. All of them began to gap me. Yikes, who would be coming up behind me next? I made an effort to cling to them and keep up because I knew the going was about to get a lot rougher. I hoped that would work to my advantage.
|Mile Three was a whole different beast|
As soon as we climbed the hill to the powerlines and hit the heavy stuff, those two guys stepped aside and let me pass. This was the hardest section and the GPS breakdown tells the whole story. The going was tough here and I shorted my stride and kept plodding along. I dropped those two guys immediately and way up ahead I could see Chris Fox. Over the course of the next mile I slowly reeled him in and he stepped aside for me just before we cut across the powerlines. I tried to put some distance on him but on any half-decent surface he was much faster. He caught me just before the return to the singletrack.
I was getting pretty tired now and Chris slowly pulled away over the course of this twisty section. When he reached the railbed he dropped the hammer and he was far ahead by the end of it. I looked back and didn't see anyone so I was confident in my place but I'm always paranoid. The hills back towards the pond weren't bad and I ran the root section well, still paranoid about someone coming up from behind. When I got to the last stretch around the ballfield I was glad to see I had closed the gap again on Chris. But this time I would not catch him as the "path" through the field was brutal. It was the least broken up of the entire course and trying to muster any kind of sprint was impossible. We all looked like drunks stumbling towards the finish line.
|Trying to finish - Photo by Jana Walker|
Afterwards I was exhausted and so glad to be done. Heard the good news that Chris Garvin won the whole thing again and WTAC narrowly took the win over the Rhode Runners. Turns out I had gotten cut up pretty good on the sharp ice/snow of the course. I also had about a minute lead over the next runner so once again my paranoia was misplaced.
|Probably about 20 tiny cuts on this shin - Photo by Mike Crutchley|
Did a cooldown with the guys and then pocketed a couple beers when WTAC won the team award. Afterwards we joined TNT at the Oak Hill Tavern for some well deserved drinks and conversation. I'm really happy with how the race played out and pleased with how I responded to the tougher terrain. Thanks to birthday boy Mike Galoob and Family for another great race. Three down, two to go!