Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Three Race Weekend: Rock N Race, Northfield and Hoppin' Mad Mud Run

  After a weekend of sitting on my butt at a continuing education course, I was ready to get back into some races. Things started off on Thursday night for the Rock N' Race, Concord's big fundraiser for the Payson Cancer Center. If there is just one fundraiser that you do next year, make it the Rock N Race. It has such a good vibe, well-organized and is obviously for a very good cause. Last year I walked it with my parents due to my stress fracture so I was eager to see what I would do this year. However, speed work hadn't been a huge part of my last few weeks of training with St. George and the subsequent week of recovery so I wasn't expecting anything special from the race. Which is exactly what I got. Felt good the first mile and slowed down for the next two... Fun slow death march, getting out-kicked at the finish to end up just outside the top ten. Did get a good finish line photo though... Which way to the beach?

Amber had a good Rock N Race finishing second female overall with a solid 18:17. She was disappointed not to have been able to repeat her 2010 win, but it was great to see her run so solidly and fast for something that she has not been training for. Supposedly, it was the closest female finish ever at the Rock N Race.

The next race was the last Northfield Mountain Race, at least the last one directed by Dave Dunham. Amber and I had done it my first year running and I remembered really enjoying it and a few fellow aR and GCS runners were doing it so I signed up. I carpooled down with 'Drea McCusker, Chris Dunn and a new aR member, Jay Massa getting there about 90 minutes earlier than I would have if I had gone on my own. After registering and putting on my bib, I had 85 minutes to kill. In this time, I managed to spot about 15 guys that I knew were in contention for the win as well as another 10-15 guys who would be competing for top ten. Knowing this, I decided to play it safe and start out conservatively and hopefully pick off a few runners that blew themselves up.

 After a brief intro by Dunham the race was off. Sure enough, I immediately found myself 40+ people back. I had forgotten how fast and minimally uphill the first mile was, going through in 6:15 and still being well over 30 people back. The climbing didn't really start until about 1/4 mile into the second mile and even still it was more rolling than anything. If I were to categorize this race, I'd classify it as a hilly trail run not a mountain race. Which is definitely better for me. There was a short out and back about 3.5 miles into the race which gave me a good perspective on how far back I was from the pack. Tim Van Orden was the first person I saw and he was not in the lead. That meant there were over ten runners ahead of him that had already completed the out and back before I even got to it. They must have been flying.

I had just passed a BAA runner before the turn around and could heard heavy breathing right behind me and just assumed that it was him. As I made the turn around though, much to my surprise, I found myself face to face with Carolyn Stocker. Little Carolyn Stocker the snowshoe racer. Huh? I thought I was placed pretty accurately in the field, but am usually considerably ahead of her in races. I picked up the pace a bit to see what would happen, and sure enough, Carolyn stuck right with me. She has certainly improved her running since last time I saw her, as we went through miles 5 and 6 in low 5 minute mile pace. And she was able to talk! She courteously let me save a little face by letting me go ahead of her at the finish line, but I wouldn't have been the least bit surprised if she could have outkicked me if she had wanted. I'm a very eager to see how she does at UMaine next year.

Carolyn and I finished in 27th and 28th place in times of 42:45 and 42:47, respectively, which put me well out of placing in my age-group but Carolyn finished second female overall.

After a short cool-down with Massa, the aR crew packed up and drove back up to NH. After all we still had another race the next morning.

The next race, to be the last of the weekend, was the Hoppin' Mad Mud Race down in Amesbury, MA. Chris Dunn and four other aR runners had won the team competition last year and he was hoping to repeat. However, Chris would be the only returning runner. The new runners would be me, Rich Lavers, Jay Massa and Phil Erwin. Now Jay, Rich and I frequently do Wednesday night workouts together so I had a good handle on their abilities: Both Rich and Jay would have no trouble with the obstacles, and while Rich can bomb the descents and hold his own on the flats often struggles a bit on the ascending. Jay on the other hand, holds his own on the ascents and flats but often restrains himself on the descending. Therefore, it would behoove us if we were able to leapfrog and allow everyone to do well at what they excel without holding anyone else back.

The one unknown was Phil. A career Air Force man home from Afghanistan, I was a little concerned that we'd be pulling him along. How wrong was I? Not only was he our strongest runner, with the exception of the tires, Phil also pulled us along on the obstacles. Chris, I suspected, would have no troubles with either the obstacles or the running.

Since our team technically won last year(despite having a nearly entire team line-up), we were placed in the "Elite" wave. This certainly added to the pressure. Not so much because of the other runners in our wave(primarily individuals), but because if we took the foot off the gas at any point we could potentially lose to a team that we wouldn't even see during the race depending on the placement.

The gun went off and we took off. The first 5k was primarily a regular race with a combination of trail and road. We went through the first mile in 5:47 and the 5k mark in 18:29 which was a PR for Rich. Immediately after the 5k mark, the obstacles began with Jersey Pile-ons. Hurdling these proved to be one of the easier of the obstacles. We quickly came upon five and seven foot walls we had to climb over, followed in close succession by a wade through a bog. A short but very steep climb was next and I looked to make sure Rich was holding ground, which he was. The descent was unusual as it was a slip and slide with a twist. It was covered in soap. Which meant WE were covered in soap. I tried to get everyone to find a dry piece of cloth to wipe the soap off because I knew that would affect us later if our hands were slippery. Finding that dry cloth was a challenge as we were all pretty drenched at that point. Oh well. We next came upon a long balance beam, something that looked like land-mines and stools which we had to negotiate around or over.

Another series of steep climbs and obstacles laid ahead of us but we(for the most part)deftly negotiated ourselves over, under or around them so that when we arrived in the final mud pit to crawl under an electric fence, we had a pretty good idea we had won. We finished up in 43: 17 for the 10k course and 1st place overall team. We were rewarded with muddy beer glasses and a box of pizza. Not a bad day.
Hoppin' Mad Champs! Massa, Rich, Phil, me and Chris Dunn

But it wasn't over yet. Oh no. We still had the second annual Pull-up contest amongst aR runners. Chris started out, opting for the more challenging pull-up(overhand) option and knocked out ten solid pullups. Phil completed 12 and Massa and Rich both then completed 14 chin-ups(underhand) while I somehow was able to complete 18. Therefore Chris was the pull-up and I was the chin up champ and will have to return to Hoppin' Mad next year to defend our two titles.

Danny mid chin-up
All in all a very fun weekend of racing. Memorial Weekend will be a different sort of challenge, as I have to compete against my siblings in the Third Annual Gold Jacket Tournament, this year to celebrate my sister, Mar's graduation.

UP NEXT: Mooseman Triathlon on June 5th.

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