Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Nipmuck Trail Marathon Race Report

On October 2nd, 2011, I ran the Nipmuck Trail Marathon.  What a spectacular course, and the weather was pretty good, too.  The race director, Clint Morse, the Shenipsit Striders, and Nipmuck Dave put on an excellent race.  The volunteers and aid stations were amazing, and the other participants were all incredibly supportive...  if only I could have enjoyed it.  Maybe next year? 

It was a relaxing, foggy drive down to Ashford, CT from Worcester, MA, and I had plenty of time to get settled before the pre-race meeting.  I picked up my very lovely race T-shirt and a bib with the traditional "High Fall Risk" sticker, indicating that this was my first attempt at Nipmuck.  Clinton Morse informed us that the normally muddy trail was even muddier due to the wettest August ever in Connecticut, and what may have possibly been the wettest September.  He let us know that there would be a beaver pond with 8 - 10 inches of water to wade through.  Nipmuck Dave got up and gave a rousing, hilarious warning to us against leaving Gu packets on the trail.

Then we headed down to the starting line, and at 8:12, we were off.  The start and finish are in the middle of the course, and it consists of two out-and-backs on single-track trails.  I dutifully got into the conga line.  Was it ever muddy!  After a mile, we crossed over I-78.  Clint said that cars wouldn't be stopping for us, but on the way out, they did.  I can't imagine that anything going on at 8:30 on a Sunday in Connecticut is half as exciting as 150 muddy runners crossing the road!

Shortly after crossing the road, still in the conga line, I slipped and fell in the mud.  I heard some people laughing, and someone behind me said "Looks like ya got THAT out of the way!"  And someone else said, "Better you than me, this time!"  I was okay, and barely missed a step.

The crowd thinned out a bit by mile three, and then it began pouring.  This was my favorite part of the race.  I love running in the rain!  As I got to around mile 4, the lead runners began coming by in the other direction.  When a whole pile of fast guys came through, I stepped far to the right up a slope and slipped.  The guy who was probably in 10th place stopped, letting about five other runners pass him, and helped me up.   What incredible sportsmanship!  (#27?  Who are you?  You are my hero).

I hit the turnaround at mile 6 in 1:10, apparently somewhere in the middle of the pack judging by the amount of traffic before and after I turned around.  I was feeling kind of tired, but thought I'd probably feel better later.  However, when I approached the mid-point of the course, which is also the start and the finish, I was seriously considering a DNF.  I talked myself out of it, though, because I genuinely couldn't figure out what was wrong.  I checked over all my parts, and they all seemed to be feeling well.  I hit the portapotties for good measure, hoping that would help.  I convinced myself that it was all mental, downed some Coke, and headed out onto the second half of the course at 2:28.

The beaver pond was the best part of the second half of the course!  I don't know where Clint went through where it was only 8-10 inches deep.  The water was above my knees, and by the time I hit it, very murky and muddy.  There was also a long, very pretty section that wound between laurel bushes.  That section caused me to take a nose dive on a training run, but didn't catch me during the race.

By mile 16, it was turning into a death march, and I began to have a vague idea of what was wrong.  I remembered how I woke up three times in the middle of the night, chugged a glass of water, and went back to sleep.  Odd.  And then, at the beginning of the race, I wasn't cold in a tank and shorts, even though it was only 55 degrees.  My neck and throat hurt, and I was pretty sure I was running a fever.  What a wonderful time to get sick!

All the other parts seemed fine, so I figured I'd at least try to finish the race. The mossy covered rocks were starting to look like a good place for a nap.  I'd run for a while with some other runners, and chat with them, and then start to feel worse and they would blow past me.  I have no idea what my time was when I hit the turn around for the second half.  I didn't care much anymore.  But I kept on running.

I finished with a not-spectacular, but not-embarrassing time of 6:09:24, and collected a truly unique finishers' award, handmade by Nipmuck Dave.  It's emblazoned with the same color paint as the Nipmuck Trail, and it's making my basement smell deliciously like birch beer.

I didn't end up staying for any of the post-race festivities.  I intended to go back and socialize after changing, but after getting to my car, I just couldn't resist the desire to drive home and go to bed.  :(

When I got home, I confirmed my suspicion that I was indeed running a fever.

I can't wait to come back next year and try the course again - without the orange High Fall Risk sticker.  I'm sure I'll have a wonderful time.