This past Saturday was the third annual Run with the Beavers 10 Mile Trail Race. It was also the final installment of the RI Triple Crown of Trail Racing. And to round things out, it would also be a team battle between Team Hammboj and the WTAC. I was highly anticipating this race!
Last year I finished in 2nd place overall, one spot behind my brother Greg. I was super pleased with my (barely) sub 1:10 performance. After the first quarter mile, I ran this race all alone, which is not ideal on the trails. This year, things were going to be a lot different. Besides Greg who would most likely win, I had a few familiar foes to contend with, plus a couple of unknowns. My goals for the race were as follows:
1. finish ahead of Brightman and jump into 2nd overall (but top Rhode Islander) in the Triple Crown
2. Team Hammboj win over WTAC - we would need great races from everyone
3. finish in 2nd overall - that means ahead of Muddy (50/50 chance) and Garvin (not great odds)
4. set a PR - after looking over last year's summer's training I wasn't so sure
I road up on race day with my dad who was doing the 5 miler. The weather was decent - sunny, not too humid, not too hot. It still felt hot in the sun milling about in the parking lot, but this is summer after all. I hung out with Greg, Boj, and my WTAC enemies for the day: Muddy, Garvin, and Seth. A few of us ran a warm up on the beginning of the course and found the trails to be in excellent shape - no water or mud this year. I spent the last fifteen minutes trying to stay out of the sun, even splashing water over my head to keep cool, and trying to focus on the task at hand. It was funny, because I didn't feel nervous at all. I was having trouble believing I would be racing in a few minutes. I wandered over to the start area and did a few strides, noticing a few unfamiliar fast looking runners. I wasn't sure what to expect at the start, but I'd soon find out....
At the siren, I managed a controlled charge up the immediate dirt road hill. I was behind Greg, but ahead of everyone else. I was feeling nervous and exhausted already. The grade levels out and a new guy asks me if I was a Hammett brother. He said to not worry, he was in the 5 mile race, but wanted to stick to us. This was amusing to me. Anyway, I entered the single track still in second. I felt a gap open immediately and hoped this 5 miler guy would slow everyone else behind him down, and maybe I could get some separation. I didn't want the pressure of Garvin, Muddy, and who knows else breathing down my neck so soon. My breathing got back under control (after the initial climb) and I was making quick work of the tricky technical trail. It all seemed familiar to me, but a lot longer! I was impatient on the first lap - just wanting to get it over with. I continued on, pressing the pace (and possibly my luck) up, down, and over the long single track section. I finally reached the open dirt road at the aid station. No time to relax - I was ready for some company - so I ran the road hard.
As I re-entered the trails in a pine forest, I had someone closing in on me. I assumed, since we were getting close to the end of lap 1 (still over a mile though), it was the 5 miler guy. The breathing was very heavy. I was surprised to see Steve Brightman pass me. He looked strong and quickly put a few seconds on me. Damn. I expected him to start fast and then maybe catch him later. I assumed that since I was ahead from the start, I would stay ahead. I could now tell I had new company closing in and a glance back confirmed it was Garvin and Muddy. No surprises there! I led them along the beaver pond, the clumsy hillside, up and over the "big" hill, and through the finish of lap one. I was tiring, a sweaty mess, and quitting at 5 seemed like a good idea. But what's another five miles of trail race battling?
I forgot to check my watch at the exact half way point, but when I did I was still under 34 minutes. That's fast! Too fast? Doesn't matter now. Lap 2 would be all about positioning with the three people I worried about pre-race: Brightman, Garvin, and Muddy. Garvin quickly went by me on the dirt road climb and latched onto Brightman's shoulder. I wasn't sure about Garvin's conditioning coming back from injury. This was my only hope of beating him today, but he looked well on his way to negative-splitting this thing. Muddy was now right on my heels. I told myself to not let him pass me, as I thought I would be too mentally weak to fight on from behind. My best shot of staying in this race was to keep ahead of him and see what happens with the other two guys.
I made it a point to push hard before entering the single track and any wider trail sections as I knew this was prime Muddy passing territory. I felt exhausted, but determined. We could still see Brightman and Garvin on longer looks. I heard a few near falls by Muddy behind me. At the start of the technical downhill I felt Muddy moving closer and made sure to push myself even harder. I descended well and next thing I know, there is a runner right in front of me. Brightman! We were now in the middle of the slowest, gnarliest part of the race. I was reinvigorated. I charged over slippery logs (falling to my hands once) and jumped rocks to get up on his heels. I then had to wait for at least a somewhat straight section to pass. I got my opportunity, and blew past without looking back. I tried to keep the hammer on for a while, but returned to my tired state after the adrenaline rush was over. Soon enough someone caught back up to me. I looked back to confirm it was Muddy, but more interestingly, Brightman was no where to be seen. This was opposite the experience at Big River. What was similar, was having Muddy trailing me. I hoped I could again outlast him.
We reached the wide open dirt road and again I ignored the water stop. I really could have used some water to at least dump over my head, but I couldn't waste any time. I tried to at least appear I was still feeling strong, and ran the roads hard. Muddy stuck with me, but Brightman still could not been seen on long looks back. And look who is up ahead now - Garvin. Is he tiring? We seemed to be gaining on him. We dove back into the woods on the pine trail. I wasn't feeling nearly as fast as lap one. Then Muddy fell. Was this like Big River and a sign? I powered on, but Muddy eventually sprinted right back up to me. I figured he was probably motivated to not repeat Big River, but also tired. I wasn't sure what was going to happen with only a mile or so left. After another brief dirt road section (climb) we descended to the beaver pond. No longer seeing Garvin, I was waiting for Muddy's move. I felt slow. It was then time for the big hill and Muddy pulled along side of me. I tried to stay in front, but I didn't have my normal power in my legs on the climb. At the top he went by. I didn't give in and let my legs loose on the downhill. About halfway through I passed him back and remained in front until the bottom of the hill (the old finish area). Here Muddy went by again and my legs could not respond on this gradual hill section. My mind also didn't have enough fight. I still did a decent job of finishing strong, but couldn't catch him on this day.
I finished in 4th overall, in a new PR of 1:08:22. That's more than a minute and a half faster than last year. I'm sure having fast company the entire race helped, but it's good to know I'm still improving. Greg won in convincing fashion by three minutes. Garvin was only 17 seconds ahead of me in 2nd, and Muddy was 5 seconds better in 3rd. I finished with enough cushion on Brightman to hopefully catapult me into 2nd overall in the trail triple crown (still awaiting final standings). As far as the team battle, Hammboj just narrowly missed beating WTAC. Boj put in an awesome effort to finish in 1:17 (he guessed 1:25). I missed my window for a post race cooldown, and instead enjoyed the ice cold iced tea instead. Thanks to Bob and Jackie for another great event.