Ten miles is a really fun distance on trails. I just try to go as hard as I can the entire time. I was hoping that all my winter miles and even the last few days of running on actual trails would help my position in this race. Despite the smaller than usual crowd (probably due to being rescheduled and also the icy roads the morning of), most of the usual suspects were in attendance. I wanted to run my own race, but I also wanted to stick with the lead pack if possible, thinking that I had a decent shot at a podium finish. The team competition was also shaping up to be a good battle between my club (WTAC) and the Rhode Runners. Local road speedster Eric Lonergan showed up, and of course Steve Brightman was there. It seemed that if Chris Garvin and I could run well and keep the team battle (top 3) even, it would come down to our teammate Jeff Walker and Rhode Runner Chris Fox. Jeff had beat him at the snowy Belleville 10K, but Chris finished ahead of Jeff at last year's Li'l Rhody 8 Miler. I was excited to race!
After a warm up with Jeff and Chris and chatting up the usual suspects, it was finally time to strip down to my singlet and short shorts for the race. Despite the chilly temperature (25 degrees when I first arrived an hour early), the late March sun felt warm. I also wore a hat and gloves, but probably could have gone without either. I lined up front next to Brightman behind the starting line drawn in the snow. The mood was light, even though soon we'd all be running our hearts out trying to outduel one another. Ready, set, go and off we went across the snowy field.
Sharing a laugh with Garvin at the start. Photo by Scott Mason
No one took the race out hard. I thought that Lonergan or Brightman might do this. Instead, I found myself in a lead single file pack of five as we jumped onto the single track. I was fourth behind Lonergan, Brightman, and Bob Jackman. Garvin was on my heals. The pace felt pretty good. Challenging, but not out of control. After about a mile, the three ahead of me created some space. Clearly they were picking up the pace, and I wasn't interested in killing myself (yet). I told Garvin to let me know when he wanted to pass me. I figured he might get antsy and want to keep contact with the leaders. He said he was good for now. The trails were in decent shape - mostly a thin layer of new snow with pockets of older deeper stuff. For now, the ground was frozen too. I was happy with my shoe choice.
The 1.5 mile mark. Photo by Scott Mason
I continued to lead Garvin as we made our way to the ridge. The three leaders were usually out of view, but it appeared that Jackman was now falling back from the top two guys. I tried to just run my own pace, but I did like having Garvin behind me to keep pushing myself. I wondered when he would pass. Finally as we left the single track and reached the camp road double track (all old snow with post holes - approx. 3 mile mark), he went by me (politely of course). I was able to relax a bit, but I wanted to make sure I still ran hard. I made my way through the muddy bog bridge section, keeping Garvin in my sight. Then we reached the campground and he turned it up a notch. He was closing in on Jackman the last time I saw them on this lap. I took a couple of glances back to see if anyone was close behind me and could see no one. I tried to keep pushing. Race Director Mike Galoob had thrown in a new wrinkle on the course (an awkward log and rock descent near the beach) that I as I approached, I wasn't sure how to attack. Scott Mason was there taking pictures, and captured my indecision and confusion rather well.
Confusion at the 4.5 mile mark. Photo by Scott Mason
more Scott Mason photos from this spot here
I finished up lap 1 and Mike announced my time as 35 minutes flat. I was really happy with my effort, but a bit surprised by the time (last year my first lap was sub 33 minutes). I guess the snow was making a difference. I could see across the field that Garvin was now ahead of Jackman, and I felt confident that I would catch Jackman soon (he did run a race the day before). Honestly, I don't usually start the second lap with confidence. I'm usually already exhausted and ready to finish. Not today. I was feeling strong. I caught up to Bob on the short steep climb in the first mile, and then passed him on a hill in the exact spot Aaron Rome passed me, Bojo, and Jeff three years ago. I really didn't want him to stick with me, so I kept sprinting until I created a safe distance between us. I didn't slow down much after that though, as I was still feeling relatively strong. I would occasionally look back, but I never saw Bob again. I reached the ridge, and ran it really well. The new snow was melting fast at this point. I could now see Garvin again, and by the end of the ridge, he saw me and encouraged me on. Maybe this would be the race where I would finish ahead of him? Not this race. He then took off and created a big gap between us. At one point I thought he must have gone off course. Where was he? I did see him again on the long look on the camp road. I still couldn't see Bob as I then made my way back into the woods at the bog bridges. I again ran them well and then consciously made myself push hard through the camp cut-throughs. No point of saving myself now. I was moving well, even on the snowier spots. I navigated the tricky spot near the beach much better this lap. I kept pushing and pushing. Maybe Chris was running out of steam just up ahead? One more Scott Mason photo op:
Half mile left. Photo by Scott Mason
I never did see Garvin again, but finished up with a good sprint and final time of 1:09:52. Negative splits! 35:02 first lap, 34:50 second lap. After congratulating the top finishers, it was then time to see who would win the Jeff Walker/Chris Fox battle. Despite Jeff's best effort, it ended up being Chris this time. Rhode Runners won the team competition. It will come down to next week's Big River Half to decide the series winner. The individual series winner is also up for grabs. Should be very interesting! Thanks to the Galoobs for putting on another fun memorable race. I was really happy with my performance in this race and I will be expecting bigger things next week. Until then....