So, today I celebrated my one year running anniversary by running the Groton Town Forest Trail Race. First, let me say that I love running in the Town of Groton. Every time I run there I run a PR! I ran my 10k PR of 49:19 at the Groton Road Races 6 days post-Boston, and this race is a 9.5 mile trail race, a distance I've never run before, guaranteed to be a PR! Love it! That's the best part of being a new runner, it seems that just about every race is a PR!
Before I get started with the race report I just want to reflect a little on this past year. What an amazing year! I've been truly blessed! I can't believe how far I've come. I ran my first race on October 24, 2009. It was the Oak Scare 5k in Brighton (I'll be running it again this Saturday) and I ran it in 29:00. To be fair, I had only been released from Physical Therapy for my knee surgery and back to work for 1 week. I ran a few more races in the fall, and the last 5k of 2009, I set a 5k PR of 25:38 at Walter's Run less than 2 months later. All in all I've run 14 races in 12 months... a bunch of 5k's, a couple of 5-miler's, 2 10k's, a 9.5 miler, 3 Half-Marathon's, and the Marathon (Boston).
I've made leaps and bounds as a runner, and I've logged a lot of miles (1207.3 to be exact). I've lost almost 80 pounds and dropped my blood pressure by nearly 20 points. But I think the fact that I'm most proud of is that between Lex's Run for the MDA (the charity race that my wife and I organize and direct), and the Children's Hospital "Miles for Miracle's" Boston Marathon Team I've raised almost $15k for charity! No small feat in this economy... And I'm doing it all again this year!
Enough of that, now on with the race report:
I arrived early with every intention of getting a good warm-up in. However, I picked-up my number and t-shirt, went back to the car to get ready (I had a spot right in front) and ended getting into a conversation with my friend Chris Russell (@cyktrussell) of RunRunLive podcasting fame. We had talked (or tweeted, actually) about running this race together, along with a bunch of our twitter friends who are part of our New England Running Twits (#NERTs) group on twitter: Adam (@adamm9), Sandy (@Trifatlete), Melody (@MrsKnitpho), Heather (@wickedphysics), and Jonathan (@thinmedic).Chris said he was "banned" from racing this one hard, so we would make this a social run/race. Little did I know that his "not racing" would be my "racing as hard as I can."
Anyway, we chatted, and I tweeted and IM'd everyone to figure out where they were and get some ETA's. Adam and Jonathan were running a bit late and someone "got a little lost" without actually being lost. Sandy, Melody and Heather showed-up, Thin was the next to show and as we were making our way toward the start Adam finally showed-up. We milled about the start chatting it up about the course with Chris since he was the most familiar with these trails (his running club, the Squannacook River Runners, put on the race). Adam showed-up right before the start and we were finally all together. Thin moved-up to take his place near the front for the start (he ran a ridiculous time around 1:09:xx).
At the start we all took off at a nice comfortable pace, which soon picked-up to comfortably hard as the field spread out. By the time we hit the first single track Chris was in front, I was behind him and Adam and Sandy filed in behind us. Chris took-up the role of tour guide letting us know all about the features and topography of the trail coming-up (which was great actually), and even a bit of the area like the Dead River and the Groton School. I could tell he really wanted to push the pace at times and I was doing my best to keep-up and hold conversation. The four of us passed a bunch of people here and there and hung together pretty well. There was one girl in particular that didn't want to yield the trail to us, and got frustrated when we'd pass her on the uphills and then she'd come flying by us on the downhills. This only lasted a short time though as she finally gave up and we left her behind.
Around about the 2-2.5'ish mile mark (our Garmin's weren't exactly accurate) I noticed Adam starting to fade (he ran the Bay State Marathon only 1 week ago), I just assumed Sandy was hanging back with him as I didn't hear him on my heels anymore. I was pretty proud of myself for hanging with Chris this long. We were running together pretty smoothly and the conversation helped the time and miles go by. We hit the first set of glacial kettles and I was impressed. They were much larger and steeper than I'd even imagined and seemed to cover much more distance. I knew it was going to be a bitch coming back through the second set near the end of the race. It was somewhere past the first set of kettles that I noticed Sandy was right on my heels, like a silent assassin. The three of us hung together for the majority of the race.
Chris really was a gracious host. He'd get a bit ahead of us and either stop or slow down and wait for us to catch-up, but he never really got more than 50 yards or so ahead of us. It was great. However, after the last time he stopped for us at a fork in the trail, he let us go ahead and Sandy took the lead. Sandy really started pushing the pace and Chris was more than willing to keep up. This is about where the pain really started creeping in during one of the steep uphill sections for me, and I just had to let them go. Somewhere between 6.5 and 7 miles I just watched them steadily pull away from me. I did pretty well through the first part of the second set of kettle's. I was getting pretty good at just flying down the hills, keeping-up my cadence and running light on my toes just barely touching the ground as I went.
In between the last set of kettle's we came to an nice flat, wide section of trail. I relaxed and picked-up my pace a bit, until I turned my left ankle. So I walked for a minute until the ankle felt ok and I figured I could get going again. Problem is, I also saw the annoying girl from earlier closing in on me and thought to myself "Oh, no! That is just not going to happen!" So about 100 meters or so into running again... I turned my right ankle! This time it felt like it might have been bad, so I stopped. As I stopped, "annoying girl" flew by me. I swear I heard her chuckle too! So, I started walking, figuring I'd at least get my butt across that finish line no matter how I had to do it. Even if I had to crawl. By the time I hit the last kettle I was running again, not nearly as fast, but running none-the-less.
After that final kettle I thought we had to be done with the hills, but I was wrong. There were quite a few long steep climbs followed by sharp descents. Somewhere around mile 8 I resorted to power-walking the uphills and letting myself fly on the downhills. I figure it was good practice for my future Ultramarthon career, right? As I was rounding a corner after a downhill I heard Adam yelling my name, so I stopped and waited for him. We stayed together for the rest of the race. Adam turned his ankle once, but we ended-up finishing together, in a dead sprint! As soon as we saw the finish, Adam said to me "so, you wanna run it in?" To which I replied "Sure, but I don't know what I have left!" As we got closer, we got faster. I felt him surge so I surged, and on it went. I think I almost ran over someone's dog. We finished in 1:32:50 according to my Garmin, a 9.5 mile PR for both of us!
I've decided I love trail races. They might just be my niche. I'm going to do as many as I can. I felt like a kid running through the woods. I'm going to buy some trail shoes though, with a low profile and some sort of reinforcement under the forefoot. The Brooks Launch were probably the wring choice for this race. My feet are destroyed. All of my toes are hurting and the balls of my feet are ridiculously bruised. But it's all the kind of pain you feel after a job well done. After the race we hung out by my car, took some pics of the NERTs, had a beer then went in to re-fuel with some carbs provided to us by the race organizer's. I'll definitely be running this race again. Good times! Thanks to all of the NERTs who showed up and made this such a great day. I wouldn't have celebrated my anniversary any other way!