Sunday, March 16, 2008

Northern Nipmuck Trail

Well, this past week has been one of my best weeks of training. It seems like winter is finally ending and the trails are accessible again. I took the opportunity on Saturday to check out my old training grounds, the Northern Nipmuck Trail (home to one of the toughest 16 mile trail races around). The course is rolling on single track and very technical. It beats you up! It's also one of the prettiest places to run with beautiful streams, ponds, and forest.

I had not run here since my training for VT100 in 2006. Since I had moved to the Western part of the state, it is a bit of a haul for me to go back. Driving in on Boston Hollow road evoked great memories and I am always in awe of the surrounding nature. It's an unpaved road that gets little traffic and there are no houses for miles. It's probably one of the few places left in CT where you can see untouched natural beauty.

My plan was to run for 5 hours, but I was also curious to how fast I could do the course. I had only raced it once many years ago and did reasonably well (something like 2:30). I'm in much better shape now, so was thinking I might give it a shot this year.

It's always hard for me to hold back on the pace, so I like the technical trails for that reason.
It forces me to slow down. I parked at "2 Pipes" as good friend and Race Director, Jim Campiformio calls it. It's the halfway point of the race, so it's convenient as a re-fueling point. I started on the southern half because I knew it would be less wet this time of year. The course was in much better shape than I expected and the hills were less intimidating than I remember - a good sign. I ran the first 8 miles without seeing another human being in about 1:45 or so. Hmmm, not bad considering I was planning to go long and the footing was a bit sketchy. I maintained a similar pace on the Northern half. This time I came across another runner heading south. He was flying down the hill that I was walking up. I felt old seeing this youg kid bound down the hill. I reminded myself that I was about 10 miles into a long run of at least 24 miles and this guy was about 2 miles into it. He was going downhill and I was going up. OK, no worries. Don't worry about your ego, just concentrate on the plan.

The last 2 miles was covered with about 1/2" of snow which made footing even more tenuous, and the last mile to the turnaround was soaking wet as usual. My feet weighed a ton and I walked most of the way up the big hill from the actual start of the race. It is a monster hill! Once I was back on the ridge, things got easier. I got back to the car in about 3:05 or so as planned. Hmm, not bad at all. I think I could cut that down to 2:30 or less with good conditions. It's not my style of race, but we'll see...

I decided to run the southern section again to see if I could hold the pace and also see if I came across that runner again. I trudged along about the same as the first time except I managed to do a face-plant somewhere along the way. Ouch! I came across the runner about 2.5 - 3 miles into it which meant we were going close to the same pace. His name was Dominick, and he was training for the race. It was his first time on the course and he was surprised with all the ups and downs. Yep! We chatted a bit and then we were off again. I got down to the turnaround and chatted with a couple going for a hike.

On the way back, I realized it was a mistake not to carry any food for this last 8 miles. I started getting fatigued and had to walk more on the uphills. Oh well! The views without the leaves in bloom are amazing. It was clear, and I could see for miles. I wished I had carried the camera.

Back at the car, I realized that I had done each of the 3 sections in about the same time. Great! I ran for about 4:45 or 5 hours with breaks. I toyed with doing more, but I was sore and had enough for one day.

I took a few pictures of the water flowing out of the pond at 2 Pipes, and then the batteries died. Here's one of the shots!

All and all, it was a successful day. I was able to go long (24 miles), stay on my feet for almost 5 hours, test my fitness on the old course, and see nature at it's best!

Weekly Mileage:

Monday: 6.1M Fast 10K route at work
Tuesday: 12M w Matt (1:26) Hilly
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: 10.5M Treadmill Intervals
Friday: Weight Training, Abs
Saturday: 24 miles, approx. 5 hours
Sunday: 10 miles, 90 min easy pace
Total: 62.6 miles

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