Probably the most overlooked race in the Eastern New England Trail Races Series, the Overlook Trail 7 mile race in Saima Park has much to offer veteran trail racers and rookie runners alike. Single-track trails, rocky paths, stream crossings, mud, pine needle floor trails and a trailside junk art exhibit are just some of the highlights an adventurous group of 42 enjoyed this past Sunday. I almost hate to hype this race too much lest the word get out and hordes of dirt devils descend on the race next year and spoil the charm of this small, low key event hosted by the North Medford Club. And don’t let me forget the hungry mosquitoes. They were out in full force pre-race but not a problem once the race began.
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I made the drive to Fitchburg, MA with trail buddy RunninRob. The time flew by as we discussed the impending race, our injuries, ultra plans and other non-running related topics. I got a little too deep into our conversation and missed a few turns despite the frantic warnings from my GPS. They’re only useful if you listen to them! A couple of detours later we pulled in the parking lot of Saima Park just as I received a call from Trail Pixie giving me instructions on how to find the place. HA, too late!
We got our “numbers” and a very cool long-sleeved shirt at the registration desk. We also saw Sara who I met at the Fells Trail Races back in March. The Fells may have been her first race (way to pick and easy one, right?) and I think this was her first race since then. I tried to recruit her for Soapstone Mt. in a couple of weeks. She didn’t commit but I hope she makes it down there. It will be a good opportunity to test her new Gator-Bait Gaiters under race conditions. Come on Sara. I’ll be looking for you!
Rob and I got to the starting line and vowed we would not have a repeat of last week’s Blue Hills flameout. To help keep our promises, we lined up in the middle on the pack. As the race started we settled into a nice comfortable pace. A few runners went by us in the first ¼ mile but then things settled down and we maintained our position. Approaching the first mile, I went around a runner on a rocky descent and got separated from Rob. Shortly after that I heard a horrific scream behind me. I knew someone must have gone down hard on the rocky section I just ran through. I turned around and saw Rob and others had stopped to check on the fallen runner. I thought for sure something must have been broken but thankfully it turned out to be a bad sprain.
Climbing a washed out trail complete with leaf-covered rocks, roots and downed trees branches I passed a few runners and tucked in behind Cynthia from the GBTC. She was running a good pace and I was too lazy to do my own work so I followed her into a twisting section of single-track. I noticed she was a little stronger on the up hills than me (big surprise huh?) and I was quicker on the descents and flats. She noticed this as well and offered to let me past on one of the down hills. I said “Thanks” but declined as I wasn’t quite ready to be lead dog. We passed one or two runners here, and since I was feeling good, decided to go pass Cynthia too.
I set my sights on a runner up ahead and began to work on reeling him in. I was beginning to feel like the Dan of races past, starting out slow, picking off runners one by one and finishing with a strong kick. I was closing in on my prey but when I took a look over my shoulder I saw that I had not completely dropped Cynthia. The hunter was also the hunted! I caught the runner ahead of me after we crested the climb up Flat Rock trail. As I passed he told me to “Hammer it home” so I knew then he was all done. I said “Thanks, nice race” and poured it on down the other side of the hill not wanting to give him time to reconsider his surrender.
After Flat Rock hill there was easy running on a non-technical trail so I maintained a fast pace here. Turning right on a sharp switch-back I looked up hill and saw the runner I just passed had fallen way back and Cynthia was out of sight too. I felt like I was almost home free but there was still about 2 miles to go. Dropping down onto some more single-track I could hear the sound of rushing water. I was getting close to the water crossings, my favorite part of any trail race! Speeding down a short, steep hill I leaped into the stream and kept moving forward. One more hill and I would be nearing the finish line.
My pace slowed a bit on the long, final climb but I kept moving forward. The rest of the way was either downhill or flat and I continued to push the pace thinking there could be another runner around the next corner just waiting to be caught. Sadly not, but I finished strong and feeling good. The thing that pleased me most is that I ran a smart race and passed many runners, but was never passed by anyone after the first ¼ mile. I’m not saying I am back in racing shape but at least there was no repeat of my crash and burn flameout from the week before. Promise kept!
Next up MorFun Wapack. Say a prayer for me, maybe two….