I met some friends Saturday morning at the Merrimack River Trail Race course behind the Wyndham Hotel in Andover, MA. The racecourse is a five-mile out and back along the banks of the Merrimack River. The first three miles are flat and with the fourth and fifth being very hilly. You then turn around and run it again in the opposite direction. This makes miles 4-7 pretty challenging in the ten-mile race. We planned to run a double out-and back giving us 20 miles for the day. This would be my final long training run in preparation for the Stone Cat Marathon in three weeks. The run was organized by Bill M, one of the Lynn Woods regulars.
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I was behind schedule as usual and thought I would be one of the last to show up for the run. I expected to see a few runners from the usual Sunday morning Lynn Woods runs but saw several unfamiliar faces as well. It appeared Bill had done some serious recruiting as cars continued to roll into the parking lot as I gathered my gear. Once everyone was set to go Bill introduced me to the folks I did not know. I met Deb, Steve and Liz, a mother, father, and daughter team as well as Billy S. Their faces looked familiar to me. It turns out they also run the weekly Lynn Woods races held during the summer. I had something else in common with them. We would all be running Stone Cat for the first time. The rest of the group was made up of Liza, Sarah, Jay and Dan C, all runners I know from Lynn Woods.
We all started off together but soon after the group began to split up. Sarah, Jay and Dan were setting a faster pace than the rest of us and soon they were out of sight. Bill M stayed back with the slower group leading us along the leaf covered single-track. He was really great about not allowing anyone to get left behind or make a wrong turn. He would run ahead then double back to pick the slowest of the slow (me) so I wouldn’t get lost. He repeated this several times over the course of the run. I’m sure he must have logged an extra mile with all the back and forth running he did.
At five miles we turned around and headed back to the start. About a half-mile later we heard some thrashing in the woods. We weren’t sure what to expect but then we got a look at what was causing all the noise. It was Paul C, another Lynn Woods’ runner. He got a late start but managed to find his way though the trails to locate us. Well, actually we found him. No telling where he would have ended up if we hadn’t seen him and called out to him through the trees.
We took a short break after ten mile to eat, drink and for some, make a change into dry shirts. Things started to get a little interesting in the final five miles. I’m sure it had a lot to do with fatigue setting in but people starting going down all around me. I don’t remember the exact number of falls but I’m pretty sure Deb, Liz, Steve and Billy fell at least once. I know one of them fell twice but I can’t remember which one. The competition for the best fall of the day has to go to Paul. At the time of his fall we were moving at a fast pace. Paul must have caught his toe on a root hidden under the leaves. Suddenly, he was catapulted into the air, rotating forward and landing on his shoulder. He then did a complete summersault, retuning to his feet and continued running like he never even fell. I scored it a 9.75! Paul was unhurt and it was definitely the highlight of the run.
Sunday: Ravenswood Trail Race – 4.25 miles
On Sunday I drove north to Ravenswood Park to run a 4 mile trail race. I wasn’t in the mood for racing after running 20.5 the day before but figured I would just use it as a training run. This was my first time running Ravenswood and I must say I was very impressed with the race organization and with the racecourse itself. The course was a nice mix of narrow carriage roads and single-track trail. With an abundance of rocks and roots it reminded me a little of Breakheart Reservation where I do most of my training.
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My legs were tight at the start of the race so I just settled in near the back of the pack and took it easy. After 1.5 miles my legs loosened up and I started to feel pretty good. Much better than expected after running long the day before. I slowly picked up my pace and started passing a lot of people who had gone out too quickly and were now paying the price. I finished very strong and recovered from the race very quickly. This is a fun race and I will be back next year for sure.
Time to taper, finally….