While most local runners were doing the 10 mile Blessing of the Fleet race this past weekend, I traveled about as far as one can travel in Rhode Island (46 miles!), to try out the inaugural Run with the Beavers 10 Mile trail race. Originally, I was hoping that my club, WTAC, could challenge the NRA and TNT for the team title. After it became apparent I wouldn't have any teammates joining me, I had the idea of forming a 3 man team with my brothers. Greg had already expressed interest in doing the race and Glenn had been running this summer, so why not? They both agreed, and Team Hammett Brothers was formed. I couldn't wait for race day.
Saturday morning arrived, and it was time for the long journey north. My brothers, sister-in-law Jen, and I arrived about an hour before the race, some buzzing on coffee, others slightly car sick. Greg was going to run the course loop (2 five mile loops), so Glenn and I embarked on a shorter warm up, after chatting with NRA members Mike, Aaron, and Ben (who ran 62 minutes at the Blessing the night before). The trail was wide and soft - through mostly pines. It was rolling as well. We parted after a mile and I continued on the trail along a brook and then the pond. It was more technical, but the footing still was pretty good. I climbed a short steep hill that lead to a dirt/gravel road where I met up with Jen. We jogged back to the starting line. The hill on the way back was a pretty good one. We realized that we had only run the end of the course, but I figured that it would be a fast race. There was still 20 minutes to go, so we checked out the post-race swimming option. Finally it was time to start.
There was no big talk from the race director about the perils of running on trails, and the race began quickly. After bumping elbows at the start, the field settled into single file, and I was in 5th place. Greg, Mike, and Rob Hult steadily pulled away, but I was a couple of steps behind 4th place. I wasn't sure if I was going too fast, as I didn't expect to be this far up (a lot of familiar faces at registration from other trail races). I knew that Ben and Aaron were lurking somewhere behind me for sure. The trail spilled out onto a wide gravel road with a decent hill. Up ahead I watched Greg dart first into the woods. This trail was a narrow twisty single track with plenty of roots and rocks to deal with. This was nothing like what I had expected based on my warm up. Again I wondered if I was working too hard, knowing that this type of terrain will quickly fatigue legs. I now had 6th place on my heels - was it Ben? Despite my worrying, I was gaining on 4th place, who then yelled to me to let him know if I wanted to pass. Shortly after I did, and I couldn't tell if the guy behind me passed as well. The trail got even more technical. I came upon a steep descent with a sign stating "SLOW". I obeyed, but feared that I was going too slow through this section. Around a sharp corner was a wet area with a stick "bridge". I tried to sprint through hoping to gain some distance, and after another hairpin turn, I could see that I had opened up a gap. The technical trail continued until it ended on a gravel road. It was downhill on the road until you crossed a small covered bridge, and then it slowly climbed for quite some time. I felt pretty fast, and pushed up the hill. The course briefly veered into the woods, before joining the gravel road again, and I was able to get a long look behind me. Surprisingly, I couldn't see anybody. What was going on? I was excited and nervous at the same time. I then reached the part of the course I had seen on my warm up. The trail descended quickly to the shore of the pond. Despite roots and rocks, the footing was soft. Smile for the camera. I then charged up the long hill. It took the next downhill section to the start/finish area to recover.
I finished lap 1, and I was told my time was 35:40. I listened hard as began my second lap, hoping to hear the crowd cheer for whoever was behind me. As the trail winds around a clearing, I did catch a glimpse of someone. It didn't look like Ben or Aaron. I was especially worried about Aaron, as he is known for his negative splits. I ran on, up the gravel hill, and back on the long technical trail. My speed probably was decreasing slightly, but I kept up my intensity. I ran by the halfway water stop (now manned), and opened up on the descent to the bridge. I glanced back as I climbed the hill, and could still see no one. 4th place seemed in the bag. I was pumped. I ran along the beaver pond and caught up to a couple of 1st lap runners on the long bridge. I sprinted as it was the best place to pass, but paid for it. My legs felt tense, and my pace dropped as I negotiated the trail along the brook. My thoughts turned negative as I faced the large hill. What if my legs cramped up? But I kept moving along, and after reaching the summit, I relaxed mentally, and let it fly down to the finish line. Final time: 1:12:07. Results here
Greg and Mike were waiting at the finish line, and I was excited to find out who had won the race - which was Greg by a good margin. As we chatted, it occurred to me that no one else had finished after me yet. Three and half minutes went by before the 5th place finisher came in. This made me feel really good about my run. I felt that all my training - especially on twisty technical trails, and hills - had paid off. The wait was then on for Glenn to finish. Not knowing who was on a team or not (except the TNT guys all had jerseys), it seemed possible that Team Hammett Brothers could still win (found out later we were 2nd). He crossed the line in 1:36. We then walked down to the pond for refreshments and a swim. After a while, we needed to get back on the road, so we tracked down the director, Bob Jackman, to say thank you. It was a really great race. The course was challenging, but runnable. The venue was perfect - parking, bathrooms, swimming. I hope to run this again next year with my brothers and take on NRA and TNT again.