Cider House 5k
I looked at a lot of races for the third weekend of the month but nothing really jumped out at me. I narrowed it down to a few races and then Petey (who only races once a year!) sent me the link to a trail race at Wachusett Mountain. The entry fee ($20), start time (9:00am), and course which I’d run in parts during the Wachusett Mountain race all looked great so my choice was made. Thanks Petey!
I got to Wachusett an hour before the race and picked up my number and checked in with the race director to make sure I had the correct course. I gave myself plenty of time to check out the “Cider House 5k” course since it had 600’ of climb and drop and would involve a lot of dirt road and trail. I’d checked out the 2015 results and 23:03 had won it so I was hoping to be a bit faster than that. The first part of the course was not marked (they’d have volunteers on the course during the race) but by ¼ mile in we’d be on Balance rock road (rocky dirt road) and from that point on the course was very well marked. Any time I can check out a course I do it, it is so much easier to race when you know where you are going and what the terrain will be. It was a pretty steady climb and particularly steep on the “Old Indian Trail”. Once at the top of the trail the course would be very fast. In the warm-up I got to the top and checked my watch to get an idea of how long it would take me in the race. I was cautious on the way down especially on the “Balance Rock Trail” which has some very nasty footing for the first 200 meters. Based on my 29+ minute warm-up I figured I could run around 22 minutes, guessing it’d take me 13 minutes to the top and 9 minutes down.
I switched into racing flats and for the first time saw someone warming up, right after that I saw CMS teammate Scott Leslie (who had run a 2:23 marathon 7 days before!). We both laughed about both looking for an easy win. Any pressure to win was gone for me; unless Scott went off course he should be able to beat me just doing an easy run.
Conditions were good for racing, 50’s and sunny but quite windy (but we wouldn’t have to worry too much about wind after ¼ mile it was all woods). I went out in the lead but Scott went by 100 meters in and noted “I better push on the road part” or something to that affect. He didn’t have anything to worry about but it was a compliment to me. After that it’d be a lonely run for both of us. At the top of the Bunny Slope he was 12 seconds ahead and moving fast. I never looked back but based on a post-race perusal of Garmin I could see where the competition was. I was 6 seconds ahead of third place and 9 up on fourth at the top of the Bunny Slope.
We turned off of Balance rock road and headed up the Old Indian Trail. I was 27 seconds behind Scott and he was out of sight. John Kinnee was in third place 11 seconds behind me and Will Guerra (who narrowly missed winning the race in 2015) was another 21 seconds back. I know I’m not a great descender so working the climb on the trail was important. This rough trail had an average grade of 15% for ½ mile, but it felt a lot longer. I hit the top in 12:09 which was nearly a minute faster than I had guessed, so that was a good sign. Scott was way ahead (50 seconds) but Kinnee was only 21 seconds back with a lot of fast running left. The downhill on North Road to Balance rock road is super-fast. Erik MacNight has the fastest time for this descent (from the 2016 Wachusett Mountain race) where he averaged 4:07 pace! I was a lot slower than that but “only” lost 17 more seconds to Scott over this section and put another 15 seconds on Kinnee. I’d need every second I could get.
The final Balance rock trail section was pretty bad, my only goal was to get through and not get hurt. It didn’t help that there were quite a few hikers on the trail not paying attention (and letting their dogs run free). I ran the same split as Scott over that last part (he must have been VERY cautious), despite that he crushed the course record and finished 1:07 ahead of me. Kinnee had fast closing split making up 12 seconds in the last ½ mile to finish in third place 24 seconds behind me.
After the race I headed out for a 2 mile run on the Mid-State trail, heading from the ski area to Redemption rock. Redemption rock is a Trustees of the Reservations location, this was my 29th Reservation I’ve run in this year although I only got .2 in the actual location. I stayed for the awards ceremony (a rarity for me) since I wanted to collect my loot. For winning my age group I got a $10 COW card (good at Wachusett Mountain), a gallon of apple cider and a huge apple pie. This race is a great deal at $20 (including a t-shirt, post-race cider, and donuts)!
Finish Bunny Slope Split Indian Split Top Split Balance Final Split
1 Scott Leslie 20:24 1:43 4:25 6:08 5:11 11:19 6:10 17:29 2:55
2 Dave Dunham 21:31 1:55 4:40 6:35 5:34 12:09 6:27 18:36 2:55
3 John Kinnee 21:55 2:01 4:45 6:46 5:44 12:30 6:42 19:12 2:43
4 Will Guerra 24:16 2:04 5:03 7:07 6:41 13:48 7:17 21:05 3:11