The Grand Tree Trail Race Series concluded its 15th season with the running of the Stone Cat Ale 50 Mile and Marathon on November 7th. It was a very successful and well attended series with 2100 runners finishing at least one of the 24 GT races during the year. There were 543 runners completing 2 or more races and only 75 runners completed the canonical six or more races. I was one of the 75, with 8 finishes this year. Here’s a re cap of my GT race season.
My season started off with two very poor races for me. I barely survived the rainy 40 degree day and the relentless hills and mud that welcomed 108 runners with the season opener at Northern Nipmuck in Connecticut. My meager training (low miles and no hill work) at that point in the year had not prepared me for 16 very hilly miles and I paid dearly. I hung on to finish but it was damn ugly.
Next up was the MoFun Wapack race in New Hampshire. It was another tough race for me with 21 miles and lots of elevation gain and loss on the Wapack trail. It showered on and off all day so the granite was slick and dangerous slowing the pace. The slow pace didn’t help me much. I still died long before the finish line but met a nice young lady along the way and I managed to crawl across the finish line with her help. Bless you whoever you are!
My second race of the month took me back to Connecticut for the Soapstone Mountain 14.5 mile trail race. It was another cold and wet day but this time it didn’t bother me. This was my first time running Soapstone Mountain but it won’t be my last. I really liked this course, especially running in the rocky stream, DOWNHILL!! I ran well, finishing much fast than expected.
My fourth race of the season brought me to the base of Northfield Mountain. This race is also part of the New England Mountain Series. I’m not a good uphill runner but some of my running friends who were competing in the mountain series applied enough pressure to make me cry “uncle.” It was a super hot and humid day but I still enjoyed it and ran a decent race. It wasn’t all bad. We got to run down the mountain after reaching the summit. I’ll add a few mountain races to my schedule next year.
Over to the Blue Hills Reservation for a tough race on the Skyline trail. This trail is just plain gnarly, nothing but rocks, roots and mucho climbing. A typical hot and humid July day forced me to back off the pace and just run this one for “the fun of it.” I was happy to finish without taking a tumble. I saw several runners during the race that weren’t so lucky. OUCH!
I was looking forward to running my 6th GT race of the year for two reasons. I like the course at Oxford Dam and finishing 6 races in the series would qualify me for the 2010 Nipmuck Marathon. It was a warm day but cooler than expected for August. I ran a good race and had a very strong last 2-3 miles trying to hold off a few guys behind me. As hard as I ran, I just couldn’t shake them. I tripped and fell with less than a mile to go and they went by me. They would have gone by me even if I didn’t fall. I just made it easier for them.
There’s nothing better than running on some fine New England trails in the autumn. The Groton Town Forest race was held on a crisp and clear day, perfect for running a fast time. I decided to race this one from start to finish. I needed the speed work! I ended up beating a few folks I usually don’t so I was pleased with that. Many miles of sweet, twisting single track with roller coaster terrain made this race a joy to run. I’ll be back.
The season finale at Stone Cat! This was the day I had been training for all year, my first 50 mile trail race. The weather was near perfect, clear, cool and not a hint of wind. I ran this race very conservatively so as to give myself the best possible chance to complete the full 50 miles. With the exception of some nausea between miles 25-28 I felt very good the entire race. I really believe I could have run another 5 or 10 miles if I had to so next time I will have to push the pace more. Stone Cat was a great time all around and a good ultra learning experience for me.
I want to offers my congratulations to some of my good trail running friends on their very successful Grand Tree season.
Stanislav Trufanov – 1st place overall with 1249 total points. Stas is a very strong runner on tough technical courses and consistently placed high in all his GT races. He would have been the winner of this year’s MMD (More and More Difficult) 50K if not for a wrong turn in the final few miles.
Michelle Roy – 1st place female and 5th place overall with 1057 points. What makes Michelle’s GT win even more impressive is that she also ran several non-GT races during the year including the Escarpment, MMD and the VT 100. She was the only female in the series to earn over 1000 points. Only six runners broke the 1000 point barrier.
Kevin Zelechoski- 3rd place overall with 1068 points. “KZ” had an excellent year of racing and ran many ultras including 50Ks at the Fells, DRB (Don’t Run Boston), Pineland Farms, Pisgah and 50 miles at Vermont and Stone Cat. Did I forget any?? Oh yeah, he did MMD also!
David Raczkowski (aka “Nipmuck” Dave) – 1st place 50-59 and 11th place overall. Dave is a huge supporter of the Grand Tree Race Series. I got my 6 races this year so I’ll be seeing you in 2010 Dave. I’m not singing though!
Bill Howard – 3rd place 60-69 and 38th overall. Bill ran well in all of his 8 GT races this year. He also competed in snowshoe and mountain races. Lucky for me he’s not in my age group.
Emily Trespas – 3rd place 30-39 and 6th female overall. She wasn’t the fastest in the series but she was certainly the cheeriest! Always a smile and friendly conversation before, DURING and after the race with Emily by your side.
As for me? I’m semi-satisfied with my year on the GT circuit. I finished 36th place overall but only 9th among the 50-59 crowd. Too many fast old guys on the trails these days. I may have to take up knitting. Then again, those old grannies will probably kick my ass at making shawls!
Can't wait until the 2010 GT series begins....