Winners Circle cross-country race – I’ve raced a lot on Thanksgiving and the one race I’ve done the most is the WCRC XC race. The venue changed a few years ago but the event itself is unchanged. This year the start was postponed by ½ hour due to the overnight snow storm. There was anywhere from 3 to 5 inches of snow on the ground at Pipestave hill. The course is almost all in open fields so there were very few spots where there wasn’t deep heavy wet snow with a crust to punch through.
I showed up extra early figuring I’d need additional time to run the course. I got my number and put on Kahtoolah traction devices and headed out. The course was well marked and was easy to follow especially since there was only one set of footprints out there, from the guy who flagged the course. The running was a slog. I ended up covering the course in 28 minutes (a little over 9 minute pace). The Kahtoolah’s didn’t really help they just got clogged up with icy clumps of snow. I switched into Inov-8 racing flats and did another half-mile with a couple of strides. My guess was that I could run right around 7 minute pace. This was not going to be easy.
Teammate Greg Putnam and I lined up in the middle of the soccer field along with 300 folks. Greg won the race last year and was looking for another win but more importantly did not want to get hurt. My goal was also to not take a spill or something like that and pull a muscle. The mad dash sprint was pretty wild, almost like a snowshoe race with the snow flying. I stayed on my feet and found myself just outside of the top 10 as we turned at the first cone 100 meters into the race. One hundred meters later I was in sixth and by 400 meters I was in fourth place.
Greg was out front breaking trail and two other guys were trying to stay close to him. I was already 10 seconds down as we hit the first hill. The long downhill into the mile was fun, probably the nicest running of the day. Then I ran into trouble. A lady with five dogs did not have them under control. One dog shot off with Greg (and ran with him for another mile), one pounced me and bit me! I yelled at the lady to get her f-ing dogs under control and powered on full of adrenaline. Greg was twenty seconds up as I hit the mile in 6:41 with the two guys about 10 seconds ahead of me running together.
The climb up Pipestave hill was tough, but I felt that the two guys in front of me were “coming back” so I worked it as hard as I could. Greg was now out of sight but the other two were 15 seconds ahead. After two miles (a 6:50 split) I caught sight of Greg on the climb back up through the equestrian field. Chris Ritchie (Coastal) had pulled away from Sam Coppola (a junior running at Pentucket) who was struggling on the climb. At the top we hit a section that we’d run on previously and the 300 pair of feet had packed it down. It felt weird to suddenly be able to accelerate. I went by Coppola and kept pushing. I was worried about him coming back and kicking by me in the last quarter mile. That kept me rolling, with 200 to go I heard them announce Greg winning the race as I looped around the paddock into the finish.
Greg was happy with his win and I was pleased with my time (breaking 7’s). We quickly grabbed a t-shirt and headed back out on the now packed down course. We caught up to Mom Dunham on that final uphill which was slick from the packed down snow. Mom took the 70+ division and I was top in the 50+ (although they took me out of the age groups for finishing in the top three). No spills but now I have to watch out for rabies symptoms!
Pl Time Name Sx Age Cat Cat Pl City, St1 20:22.4 Gregory Putnam M 45 TOP3 1/3 Stoneham MA
2 20:46.1 Chris Ritchie M 31 TOP3 2/3 Hampton NH
3 21:08.7 Dave Dunham M 50 TOP3 3/3 Ward Hill MA
4 21:38.7 Sam Coppola M 16 M1317 1/11 Groveland MA
5 22:40.4 Keith Leblanc M 36 M3039 1/37 Amesbury MA