Tuesday, August 25, 2015

USATF NE 20k championships course preview

Seasons 20k preview – With a half-day on Friday and nothing exciting planned I figured the time was right for a trip to Acton/Littleton to take a look at the 20k (12.4m) course that will be used for the USATF New England championships on Sept 6.  The race will also serve as the final event in the All-Terrain Runner series.  I like to see a course if possible prior to racing it and actually getting out and running it is best to get a feel for the course.

It was already pretty hot and humid when I got to Nagog Park at 10:30 am.  I haven’t done many runs over 10 miles this year so a 13 mile single run would be long one.  I jogged over to the approximate start location and headed out with a goal of running easy, hopefully under 8:00 pace.  In my mind I’d broken the course into three four mile segments, although after running it breaking it into four 5k segments makes more sense.

Don’t be fooled by the first mile on busy Route 2A/119,
the rest of the course is nice quiet country roads.  Did I mention ROLLING country roads?  This course definitely rolls, there are 7 hills of note but none of them are what I’d call killer.  Each one does however take a toll and the cumulatively it’ll grind you down.  For those who’ve done the Grand Prix series, this course compares to Amherst (MA) 10 mile in total elevation gain/drop.

The first half mile drops about 30’ as you head out onto Route 2A and pass Lake Nagog.  Over the next 1.9 miles you slowly climb 100’.  It is such a gentle climb that you probably won’t notice, especially this early in the race.  At 1.5 miles you turn onto Shaker Road, which is much quieter and shaded.  At 2.4 miles the course drops 50’ in a quarter mile and then the first climb of the day commences.  From 2.6 miles to 3.0 you gain 90’, certainly not a gut buster but a warning of what is coming.
First 5k

From 2.5 to 5.6 miles you will be running on Nagog Hill Road.  I’ve learned that you should always treat roads with “Hill” in the name with a proper amount of respect.  This stretch of the course was the most pleasant.  It was rolling and scenic; there was very little traffic (at 11am on a Friday).  From 3 miles to 3.6 you gradually lose 100’ after which you hit the next “little” hill.  From 3.6 to 4.1 you climb 120’, again not a killer by any means but there is still a long way to go.  You get some recovery after that as you drop 150’ from 4.1 miles to 5 miles.  As you finish Nagog Hill Road you’ll climb 70’ from 5 to 5.6 miles and then the course flattens out as you turn right onto Route 27 and pass through Acton Center.  This is another scenic section and also quick as you drop 70’ from 5.6 to the 10k (6.2 mile) mark.

Nagog Hill Farm
2nd 5k

This is about where I started to realize that course was starting to wear me down a bit.  From 6 to 10 miles you’ll run on Newton road and navigate over four more “small” hills.  From 6.2 to 6.4 miles you’ll climb 50’, then roll with no significant climbs or drops from 6.4 to 7.7 miles.  At 7.7 to 7.9 you’ll face another 50’ climb, which at that point in the race seems a bit bigger than any of the other 50’ climbs. This is followed by a 70’ drop from 7.9 to 8.3 miles, then right back into another 70’ of climb from 8.5 to 8.8 miles.  Are you getting the picture?  From 8.8 to 9.3 you then lose 70’ and you’ve now covered ¾ of the course.
Acton Conservation Area
Final 5k


Most of the final 5k will be familiar territory as you return via Nagog Hill Road, Shaker Road, and Route 2A.  From 9.3 to 9.8 you face what I found to be the toughest little “bump”, climbing 70’ over a half-mile.  It might not have been that bad had I known how long or steep the hill would be.  It also wouldn’t be so bad had it not been that late in the run.  Once you’ve gotten over this climb you drop 115’ during the next 1.9 miles (9.8 to 11.7 miles).  There is one final tough bump at 11.7 to 11.9 miles where you climb yet another 50’.  After that it is flat for the last half-mile to the finish line.

In all it was a pleasant run despite being hot and humid.  Most of the course was shaded and quiet.  I took it pretty easy but found the pace quicken as I got going.  I ran 30:00 for the first 4m, 29:00 for the second 4m, and 28:00 for the last 4m.  I very much doubt that I’ll “negative split” this during the race!

 Packet pick-up at Marx Running & Fitness Center                  

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