Merrimack River Trail Race – The 24th annual “Rivah” race was moved to May due to the historical level of snow over the winter. I had originally intended to race but my ankle/foot woes meant that was not to be. I still felt good enough to run 10 miles so a pre-race race made sense. On Friday I put out the mile markers (approximately every mile!), then met up with race director Steve Peterson to put out over 400 flags to mark the course. If you go off course at the River you were not paying attention. My ankle was a bit cranky after nearly 2 hours on the trail but I was looking forward to running the course hard the next morning.
Dan Verrington, Scott Spence and I met up with Dave Lapierre at 5:45am and headed out for a 1 mile warm-up. Dave was planning on racing all-out and the rest of us were going to run behind Dave (but no one was obligated to do so). As race volunteers this “sunshine start” would count in the official results.
At 6am we were off and running. Dave took it out a bit hard but the pace seemed good and he was running at a steady clip. Scott was feeling chipper and was chatting away. I was working, not all out but it was a good solid effort. Fortunately the first three miles are dead-flat so there was time to get into a groove and get warmed up. The conditions were just about ideal (50s and cloudy with little wind) as we hit three miles a few seconds under the hoped for pace (22 flat). Dave was looking to run around 1:20 which for this course meant 7:30 pace for the first and last three miles and 9:00 pace for the middle hilly and technical miles.
The leafy downhill run into the four mile mark was the first real test of the day. Just staying on your feet was a reasonable goal. The climb up power-line hill was also tough as Petey hadn’t gotten there yet to rake out the leaves. Scott and I moved ahead a bit on this section and rolled on to the 5 mile turn around. We hit the turn in just a click over 40 minutes and Dave and Dan roared in 20-30 seconds later. Now the real fun started with the long climb from the turn back to the power-lines. Dave was still running strong and we huddled behind him.
I started really keeping an eye on my watch after the 6 mile mark, we were a bit behind now and would need to push to break 81 minutes. The final couple of hills were not easy, but we hit 7 miles in 59:04. We’d need to break 22 minutes to come in under 1:21. Dave upped the tempo as Scott pulled away. In a nice move, Scott got a lead so he could stop at the water-stop a 7.5 and grab a cup for Dave. Teamwork! With a mile to go we still need a fast finish to get under 82 minutes. Scott bolted with a mile to go (he ran sub-6 to get a 1:19:57). Dave, Dan and I pushed on and I kept giving updates as we closed on the finish. Dave brought it home with a 6:42 last mile to record a 1:20:53, I finished 1 second later, and Dan another 1 second back.
Of the 11 times I’ve run the race that was just about the most fun I’ve had at the River. The rest of the day was spent working at the race including a 5 mile run afterwards to sweep up all of the course markings. Dave and Danielle La joined me for the fun which made it go by a lot quicker. My ankle/foot was pretty swollen afterward but it was worth it.
Top 10 in the M50
1 1:10:34 Jack Pilla 56 GMAA
2 1:10:53 John Gillis 51 CMS
3 1:11:08 Edward Jeffries 51 Team Gloucester
4 1:13:21 Stephen Whittey 58 Team Gloucester
5 1:16:51 Chris Fauske 57
6 1:19:57 Scott Spence 50 Grey Wolves
7 1:20:53 David Lapierre 50 CMS
8 1:20:54 Dave Dunham 51 CMS
9 1:20:55 Daniel Verrington 52 CMS
10 1:21:45 Todd Brown 51 NMC