Saturday morning I made the hour drive to the Hodges Village Dam in Oxford, MA with KZ, Rob and Paul L. in tow. The Dam Race is race # 12 in the Grand Tree Trail Race Series and race # 8 on the Eastern New England Trail Race Series. An opportunity to bag points in both series I am competing in this year made it a "must run" race for me. Oxford Dam may not have the cult-like following of Wakely but it does have its share of loyal followers as evidenced by the 117 runners that tackled the trail [results].
At the pre-race briefing the RD explained the changes he made to the course this year. The race would run on some different trails the last couple of miles and go down the pipe-line hill instead of up like last year. I didn't really pay much attention to all he was saying. I knew I would have plenty of people ahead of me to follow! I was happy to know we still had to make the water crossing at the French River. I have to say this is my favorite part of the race and another reason for returning this year. View race course profile here.
Soon the race was underway and I was in my rightful place at the back of the pack. I like to start out way back because it prevents me from going out too fast. It's also fun to pass a lot of people during the race and chat with them along the way. I actually had forgotten how much twisting single-track there was in the first few miles of the race. This, and the fact that the trails had an abundance of rock and roots, made it difficult to pass at times. I followed when I had to and passed several runners when the trail allowed it.
The first 5 miles were the most challenging with rocks, roots, some water, many rolling hills and 2 or 3 big climbs. The next 2 miles were easier but some of the trails had long stretches of whoop-de-dos created by dirt bikes. For you skiers, whoop-de-dos are the same thing as moguls. Running over these things really tired me out! I was holding back a little during this part of the race and planned to crank it up for the final 4 miles after the river crossing.
Ahh, the river crossing! Well, it wasn't as high as I thought it might be with all the recent rain, but it was still cold and refreshing. Note to self: Roclite 320s do not drain as well as Cascadia 3s. After I made it through the river, and running with heavy feet, I set my sights on two runners about 30 yards ahead of me. I was so focused on their backs I almost missed the right hand turn on the course. Yep, that's right, the one they missed! I stopped and yelled "You missed the turn. Come Back!" but got no response. Then I tried, "Hey girl in the pink shirt. Come back!" That got her attention and I pointed to the pink flags at my feet. She understood and off I went. I only hoped she returned the favor to the guy in front of her.
After the crossing at mile 7 I was pretty much on my own. The terrain was more conducive to some faster running so I picked up my pace here. I felt very strong here and ran my fastest split on mile 8. I passed two runners here and was looking forward to getting this thing over. I wanted to protect my place so I took a glance over my shoulder and saw a red shirt coming on strong. I threw in a surge when the trail turned and hoped when red shirt saw me again he would be discouraged and give up the chase. It didn't work! He was still charging hard. Again I put the hammer down, and again it failed. Red shirt was a man on a mission.
With about .75 miles to go I put in one more surge. I figured if this guy is going to pass me I am going to put him in as much pain as I could and make him earn it. Cresting the top of a climb I caught a rock and went down pretty hard. It drew some blood but I was fine otherwise. Red shirt came roaring past me asking if I was OK. I assured him I was and told him to keep going. I got up and dusted myself off as I watched red shirt pull away. Even without the fall I know he would have run me down. My fall just made it a little less painful for him. I met red shirt (John) after the race. A super nice guy in his first trail race. He had the road speed to run me down.
I finished the race in 47th place. I wasn't concerned about my place but I did want to run faster than I did last year. I ended run running 2 minutes slower but the course was 11.2 miles with the changes this year. Last year's race was 10.5 or 10.7, can't remember exactly. Either way, my mile pace was faster this year so I'm happy. I still don't have any leg speed but that's OK for now. I've only been doing long, slow training for my 50K. I'll start doing track workouts in September.
Next up is Savoy Mountain or Moose on the Loose.