Doyle's Emerald Necklace

Doyle's Emerald Necklace

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Merrimack River Trail Race 2015

On Saturday, John and I headed down to Andover, Ma for the Merrimack River Trail Race. I had never been able to do this one due to scheduling conflicts and/or childcare for John, so I was excited and nervous about it. I was nervous because this year it was the USATF-New England Trail Championship Race AND part of the All-Terrain Series, so I had no idea who was going to show up. I had a good idea Kasie Enman would be there, since she does the ATS, but other than that, I really wasn't sure. I was told that this was a really fast ("roadie") course, as opposed to your typical trail race, so the times would be fast. This also meant people who don't do a lot of trails would be showing up. Why I bother worrying about this, I don't know, since it just doesn't matter, but I do. Besides, I'm back to being a "roadie" so I was definitely ready for the speed of the course.

I was nearly falling asleep on the way down, so I was thinking this was a bad sign, until I remembered that I can usually run through any fatigue without a problem. Shortly after we arrived, I found Jenn Brooks and Regina Loiacano, my CMS teammates, and then joined them for a warm up. I couldn't believe the course. Flat as hell. I knew this was only for the first 3 miles or so, but still. Wow. This was going to be a fast start and meant going out hard to get in a position I wanted to be in. Jenn and Regina are two of the nicest people I've ever met, so it was a joy to run with them for 2.7 miles. On the way back, just when I was thinking how easy this trail was, I tripped over a root, fell, rolled and got back on my feet. Ha ha. Was this a sign to come? Well, yes.

Once back at the car, I got John all set and then headed to the start line. I lined up with Jenn and Regina and chatted with Kevin Tilton for few minutes about the course. And then we were off. I had planned to start up front to avoid too much of a bottleneck, but it still happened. It dispersed quickly, and I made sure to see how many women were in front of me. I started passing people right off the bat, and made my way into 3rd position for women by the first mile. Kasie was up in front, with a woman in between, but we were all pretty close together. I continued to run hard because I could see I was already gaining on the second woman.  I caught up with her just before a small up and down, and after I saw she was a little apprehensive on the down hill, I moved past her. I continued to push on, passing a few more people. Kasie was still in view, and, while I didn't expect to catch her, I wanted to see how close I could stay to her. By the time we hit the power lines, she was about 45 seconds ahead, and I couldn't even see another woman behind me. I was still feeling really good, too. Michael Quintal was up at the top of the steep climb and snapped some pictures. I actually walked a part of this hill, but when I saw him, I started running again for the photos. Ha ha.
Just before mile 4. Photo by Michael Quintal
And this is where it all went to shit. Just past the power lines, 2 guys in front of me and the guy behind me took a right instead of a left. I know exactly where we went wrong. It was marked fine, but I saw the people go one way and followed. I should have known because the trail was all of sudden covered in leaves, but I didn't. This involved a steep downhill to the river. We were running along, and then the guy behind me said that he didn't see any flags. Fuck! He was right! But, wait! There were flags. A lot of them, but were they the right ones? We realized they weren't. The two guys in front of us stopped, and we were all standing there looking around. No people coming up behind us. DAMN. We knew were off course and immediately started backtracking. Then I looked WAY UP the steep hill and saw the other runners up there on the right trail. My heart sank. I had been running so well, and it had just been lost. We started moving up the hill. Fortunately, our wrong way had just paralleled the regular course, so no mileage lost or gained. Only time lost. I ran up that hill and jumped back in the race, but not before I saw Regina go by. I yelled to her to ask her how many women were ahead. She yelled out a number, but I couldn't hear her.  (It was actually 3 since Regina was in 4th.) I actually got back on the course behind the woman behind her which put me in 6th place for women. I was so bummed!! But I just started hammering it out. I HAD to catch up. And I just gave it my all. The 5th woman immediately stepped aside to let me pass. Just before the turn around, I saw that 2nd and 3rd now had a good lead on me, but I thought I might be able to catch 3rd at least, since I knew I had the skills on the hills (I can rhyme!). I passed Regina at the turn around when she stopped for water. By the time we were back to the power lines, I could see I had made a huge gain on 3rd. Mike asked what happened. He thought I had just lost it, but I told him I had gone off course. He snapped another picture, and I have no idea why I was smiling because I was pissed at myself at this point. And the runners the other way had been cheering me on for being 4th woman. Ugh. If they had only known. Just bummed me out more as I ran.
Angry but still smiling. Photo by Michael Quintal

I put it in high gear and quickly caught the 3rd woman. She was confused at first and asked if I had gone off course. I told her I did. She was cool. We both agreed that it's trail race, and it happens, which is so true. Once past her, I pushed myself so hard over the hills that I, literally, wanted to puke. By the time we had 2 miles left I was toast. I kept pushing as hard as I could and got to where I could see the second woman not too far ahead, but I knew that there wasn't enough course left to catch her. Michael Narcisi and I had been running the last 3 miles together and just before the finish he blew past me. I commented, "This is just like New Bedford all over again," and we both laughed. We had played leap frog there, too, with Michael passing me towards the end. I came through the finish all done. 1:09:33, 3rd woman, 21st overall and only 34 seconds behind 2nd woman. I had been hoping to run a 1:07:something, so that goal had obviously not been obtained. I'm not sure I would have anyway. I was still bummed after I finished and walked right to my car to see John. We took out the lawn chair for him to sit on, and he was content. I started reflecting back on my race and realized that I had actually run really well. I made a big mistake, but I had to be happy with the result considering. I had given my all to get back to where I was and immediately had an attitude change about it. Shit happens, but it's what you do to deal with it that matters, and I hadn't given up. I pushed myself to the brink, and I am happy with it. I came in 3rd!! And since the 2nd woman wasn't USATF, I ended up getting 2nd for the New England Trail Championship. I even won $50. I'll take it. 

Post-race involved awards and a unique raffle that involved prizes starting with letters of the alphabet going from A-Z. The race director is such a character and absolutely hilarious. What a treat that was to be involved in this race. I know I'll be back for future years. And I loved the course, as it was very pretty and involved a little bit of everything. Fast and flat, good climbs, a little bit of technical running (not really that technical with what I'm used to, but enough to slow you down). And the other racers were a joy to be around. I knew a lot more people there than I thought I would, so it was good to see some familiar faces and catch up with them. It's that time of year to start seeing them all again every other week or so.

After the race was over, John and I took a walk on the River Trail. He liked the graffiti on the I-93 underpass walls. I would have taken a picture, but some 9 year old had killed my phone battery. :)
We left the race and decided to pay Mike Quintal a visit to his furniture store in Lowell. We were so close by, and since I don't find myself down there often, I had to stop by for a quick visit. I drove by it twice before realizing it was the store. It was a short visit since we had to get back home to the dogs, and John was out cold in his seat, but I ended up leaving with this:
Yes. That is a high heel chair.
I had joked around with Mike last year after he posted a picture of one of these chairs on FB that I wanted one. It's just so funny. Who wouldn't want a high heel chair, right? Well, I'm now the proud owner of one. Ha ha. Thanks, Mike. 

We finally made it home and took the dogs on a walk up Heavenly Hill. John's friend, Dylan, joined us. It was his first time up, and he seemed to like it. It was a great way to round out the day.
John and his friend enjoying the view. 







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