This weekend I went to Merrimac Mass to run a trail race. This was my first time at this race and it was great to see a bunch of familiar faces with all the Trail Monsters that showed up. The out and back would give me a chance to cheer them on as they passed me.....of course they cheered me on too.
Wholly Crap.......The Merrimac river race was so much different than I imagined. My intent was to start conservative, use the 5 mile out as a sort of a warm up, try and weather the returning hills then race the remaining 3 miles.
I heard the 4th and 5th mile hills were pretty tough and was not sure how I would handle them. Though I have been running hills at Bradbury, these sounded a touch more difficult. I figured this would be a good gauge of my condition.
I was in no hurry at the start so I hung at the back of the pack and mentally prepared for a surging walk run for the first mile or so. To my surprise, this group was in a huge hurry and there was very little clogging after the first S turn.
The terrain opened up with plenty of room for passing so the runners seem to settle very quickly. I think because the first 3 miles is fairly easy, most runners wanted to take advantage before the steep inclines.
I found myself pushing the pace also so instead of an easy 11-12 minute pace, I somehow ran a much speedier (for me), 9:58 1st mile, a 9:06 2nd and 9:30 3rd.. I was fairly happy with this pace and only hoped I could mirror it on the return.
The first three miles were easy and I found myself enjoying the terrain and the scenery. The run along the river was amazing and I felt like I was just out for a relaxing run rather than running a race. This is unusual for me as I tend to hate the first couple miles of a race and don't settle into a comfortable pace.
Through most of the 4th mile I kept looking for the huge hills but found nothing that I couldn't run up and actually enjoyed the extra work to get my heart rate going. Mile 5 I found the hills but really didn't get slowed down by them too much because even though they were steep, they were not very long.
The three things that slowed me down the most (miles 4 -5) was there was no room to pass because by now we were hitting a lot of return runners (I was very careful to give them the room they needed), the runners in front me were slower than I wanted to go and I really couldn't seem to get the speed going on the down hills.
My cardio recouped very quickly after each hill so I felt ready as I hit the next one. In the end, there was really only two inclines that were difficult. I was reduced to a ridiculous pace in the my 6th and slowest mile because I hit the runners coming through their fifth mile and they didn't seem to give me the room I allowed the oncoming traffic when I came through. I found myself pulling off the trail and actually stopping many times. I guess that is one drawback from an out and back on single trails.
By the time I hit mile 7, there were very few runners coming and I was able to settle into a comfortable pace. Each of the last three miles became quicker and I began passing many runners. There were a couple runners pushing like I was and leap frogged with each other to keep our pace going.
Everything was perfect until mile 9 when somehow a root grabbed my left foot ( not sure how this happened because there were very few roots here) and I found myself flying forward toward the ground rather than running. I hit hard and the runner that had been chasing me along with two others were able to push me back three spots. I don't know why this bothered me but it did.
I was discouraged to lose those spots but also determined to get them back. It was so difficult to get back in the zone and I only caught two of the three but at the same time passed another runner and out kicked one right at the end, so I gained a total of five spots.
I finished strong and somehow beat my estimated time by almost 25 minutes. It was one of those races where the running gods were in a good mood and I felt like I could continue forever. In essence, I guess I slapped the Merrimac down a bit as it could not get the best of me.....at least not this time.
10 mile race 1:35:53 (9:36 pace)
5 mile splits: 1st half 50:51, 2nd half 45:02
Splits: (garmen read 9.48 miles so the splits are a bit slower)