Last Saturday was the 2nd annual Run with the Beavers 10 Mile Trail Race. I again signed my family up and we ran as Team Hammett. Since Bob Jackman RD used ultrasignup.com for registration, I was able to size up the field ahead of time (as the site lists all entrants who pre-register and ranks them based on previous trail/ultra races results in their system). It looked like I had a shot of improving my position from last year (fourth) and our team might be able to take the team title (after losing to the NRA last year - not that NRA - Narragansett Running Assoc). I knew my brother Greg would be ahead of me, but I thought I might be able to be next to finish, depending on who registered at the day of the race.
The days leading up to the race were busy with family activities (as my brothers and their wives were in town from New Hampshire), and I was distracted from the usual pre-race nervousness. I also had a gig later in the afternoon to play with my band, and logistically, my day was very complicated. I drove up with my brother Glenn feeling really relaxed. I finally got excited when I pulled into the already busy parking lot an hour before the race. Greg and Jen (sister-in-law) were also there, and we grabbed our bibs. Greg, with bib #1, was able to fold it into the tiniest square I've ever seen. We chatted with a few other familiar faces (Seth and Mike C from my club WTAC, and local runner/photographer Scott Mason).
Greg, Seth, and I headed out for a warm up, running the course backwards. The weather seemed pretty good. It was noticeably cooler than recent mornings with the temperature in the high 60's. Of course it was humid, as it always is this time of year, and there was a chance of light rain at any time. The course was in good shape - just wet. I was a little concerned with shoe choice, as most shoes I like to wear are super light and not good on wet rocks. I ultimately chose my old friends the Nike Frees, and just would deal with the consequences. I didn't want to wear my clunkier sticky trail shoes. The other thing to note was that it was not buggy out. Very surprising, but welcomed. We ran out to the dirt road above the pond and then turned around and headed back with 10 minutes to spare.
I changed shoes, chatted some more, found the "fourth" Hammett brother - Boj, and then headed to the starting line. I toed the line next to Greg and Seth. There was a fit looking guy also up front that I thought might have been the 3rd place finisher from last year. I was very curious to see what would happen at the start. Next thing I knew, we were off!
I tried to stay under control as I followed closely behind Greg the first quarter mile. No one sounded close behind me. Greg found another gear and powered ahead as I decided the smart thing was to not overdo it on a longish race. The first half mile is open and I still didn't hear any footsteps behind me when I entered the single track in the woods. Without seeing or hearing any runners, I was trying to push myself as hard as I could on this tricky section. The footing alternated between okay and messy. I slipped a bit on one rock and made the mental note to keep my footsteps short and quick for balance.
The course was feeling familiar from last year until it crossed a dirt lane. I knew there was a dicey downhill on wet rocks, but I didn't remember it being so long to the water stop. I was super focused on my footing, which was made more difficult by my glasses fogging up (and it was dark in the thick woods). There were a few water/mud bog crossings that were not easy to navigate through like last year. I found myself just plowing through trying to stay upright and not worrying about getting wet shoes. The mud tried to tug my shoes off a couple of times too. The biggest bog was right before the water stop. I followed the flags (shortest distance), but paid for it by slipping into the mud/water. I regrouped, let out a short shout/laugh, and tried to get back up to speed.
I then reached the open dirt road near the water stop. I continued to run as hard as I could, which here meant a pretty fast pace. I did glance back before re-entering the woods to see if there was anyone close, which there was not. My breathing was a bit labored, and I wondered if I was going to be able to maintain for another entire lap. I finished up the slower section along the pond and stream. The footing is very awkward - roots and rocks along the side of a hill on a twisty trail. Then there is a long hill (steep at first) with a fast descent to the start/finish area. Bob greeted me with water and told me I was only 2 minutes behind my brother. The clock read 34:32 (one minute faster than last year's first lap).
Along the stream during lap 1 - photo by Scott Mason
I began the second lap with a bit of an adrenaline surge. My breathing seemed to relax, but my pace felt peppy. Was I really only two minutes behind Greg? I assumed Bob was embellishing, but it made me run faster. I was also worried I would slow down on this lap as I did last year. I was on pace for 1:09 (my goal was sub 1:10), and I didn't want to screw it up. The long single track section seemed easier the second time around (despite tripping and almost falling when I kicked a root). I really felt like I was running harder than the first lap. I still got water in my shoes and more mud on my legs in the bogs. I passed the water stop and the people said I looked stronger than the first lap. I tried to keep it up on the dirt roads and pine tree trail sections. I was subdued again by the stretch along the pond and stream. I climbed pretty well and then finally peaked at my watch at the top - 1:08:05. Yikes! I wasn't sure I could descend to the finish in under two minutes. I gave it everything I had. I was out of control and my turnover was as fast as I ever have remembered. The terrain levels out right when you get a visual on the clock, and I was dangerously close to 1:10. I sprinted through the chute to finish at 1:09:54!
Official Results here
It felt good to finish second in this race behind my brother and get the time I was hoping for. I'm glad I checked my watch otherwise I probably would have missed my goal. I was surprised how close third place was behind me. The guy had a fast finish as well. Greg and I watched the next few finishers (Seth in 1:14!), before jogging the course backwards to look for Glenn and Boj (who Bob said had gotten off course on the first lap). On our way we saw two more Shenipsit Striders finish (3rd overall was also on their team) and I began to worry about the team title. Glenn was not that far beyond that however. We jogged back to the finish and feasted on the spread of food and drink. Boj soon finished up (tacked on two additional miles getting lost). The post-trail race vibe was excellent as always - everyone has there own adventure story to tell. Team Hammboj (as dubbed by Bob) did get the win and we were rewarded with Berkshire Brewery growlers and a free entry into the RI 6 Hr Relay later this year! I love this challenging course and can't wait to do it again next year.
Team Hammboj (minus Glenn) - photo by Mike Crutchley