Thursday, June 17, 2010

Race Report - Boxford State Forest Trail Race, or the Return of Team 'Possum

I didn't even really have plans to run Boxford again this year, but the trail continually calls.  Jack London would be proud.

Mostly I remember the technical terrain, and my lack of eyesight made the race about an hour of concentration and stress.  I try to live as far away from my vision problems so I don't ever think about limits or the like, but then a race like Boxford State Forest or the Blue Hills Skyline come along and my inability to quickly read and react to the terrain significantly slows me down.

Nevertheless, these tougher technical races are great because they are excellent training, and are a way to show myself and others that visually impared runners can throwdown on the trail just as well as anyone else.  I will say that there are others that are worse than I am (less vision or completely sightless), and I am continually thankful for the vision I have, but thankfulness does not give extra acuity out in the middle of the woods!

As far as the race went, it was another low-key and social North Medford Club race.  I really love these races because they are essentially a time of socialization with a trail race mixed in for good measure.  Though all of the other Ultra Gang folks were off to other things, I still saw some familiar faces from last year's trail excursions, and was not nearly as bashful and introverted as I usually am.

As far as the race, eventually the RD corraled the cocktail party, gave us some final instructions, and we were off!

I got out to the front pretty fast knowing that I had a far better chance of survival if I found a pocket of running where I could concentrate totally on the trail and not have another runner's feet giving me less time to see oncoming rocks and roots.  This is one lesson I have learned in 2 years of trail running.  Packs are great on the roads, but running behind people on the trails tends to spell disaster because obstacles appear out of nowhere!

Just like last year, the first mile inspired an ambitious pace on my part, and I cruised through the first mile much faster than I probably should have for a trail 10k - 7:33.  Mile 2 was where I started feeling the effects of going out too fast and suddenly found myself feeling like these first two miles of this race are the longest miles I have ever run - mostly because the early terrain has you constantly monitoring every step and quickly shifting gears to get up and down short steep hills.

The remaining 4 miles were a little depressing because I needed some shorter walking breaks because my legs felt dead, but I only lost a few places, and was able to hold a decent pace while I was running.

All in all, I had two immediate goals:  first, to beat my time from last year (59:27), and second, to break 9:00/mile pace.  I was able to accomplish both amid the walking breaks by finishing the course in around 54:10 (8:44/m).  

Following the race it was more social time with Jim Martin, who I met at Oxford Dam last year, as well as Bob from the Shamrock R.C., and Charles Peabody, another trail circuit regular from last year. Other familiar faces in attendance were Paul Young, Mike from the Lynn Woods crew and many of the Gil's Athletic Club crew, including Jim Barry who taught me a thing or two about finishing kicks and holding people off at the end of races, as he totally smoked me over the last 200 meters to the finish.  It was awesome! 

Speaking of which, I love trail racing because after Jim and I threw down at the end there was a friendly fist bump at the finish... during all the road races I have run over the last few months I have had similar finishing battles with some of the 'roadies' which usually end in scowls.  Need I say more?

Very happy with the time, but really need to build a little more toughness out there.

Just one last side thought... while out on the trail, feeling totally wrecked, my mind started to wander and I began to think about the topic of 'Spirit Animals'.  Jokingly, I mused that my spirit animal was clearly an Opossum because they are known to have less visual acuity than other woodland critters.  Then I thought about how Em has Trail Pixie, and kZ has Team Extreme, and I am thinking, maybe I should start the independent Team 'Possum... I can already see the jerseys now!

Here are just a few of the 'Possum facts I found that make a compelling case:

From and copyright of the National Opossum Society (

* "Solitary and nocturnal: usually slow moving; when frightened and unable to flee may fall into an involuntary shock-like state, 'playing 'possum'." 

* "Hiss or growl and show their 50 sharp teeth when frightened; but, in reality, they are gentle and placid - they prefer to avoid all confrontations and wish to be left alone."

* "Omnivorous: eats insects, snails, rodents, berries, over-ripe fruit, grasses, leaves, and carrion; occasionally will eat snakes, ground eggs, corn or other vegetables."

* "Adaptable; able to live wherever water, food, and shelter exist. At home in trees; uses its prehensile tail to help stabilize position when climbing - it does not, however, hang by its tail." 

Training at night and in solitude, slowly, desire to avoid confrontation, will eat just about anything, and runs in just about any weather, on any surface, and is adaptable.... yep, that sounds about right.

Until next time.....  


RawBodyGoddess said...

Awesome :)

Dan said...

Nice race and course PR. I think I may be a opossum too.

RunninRob said...

Nice, I'll put you on the list when I eventually decide it is totally worth making t-shirts and jerseys.

wayfool said...

Nice job Rob. I lost my contacts during the race and now have a small inkling of what it must feel like when you run. Keep up the strong racing!

RunninRob said...

Thanks Wayne, kudos to you as well on a strong effort out there in the bugs and the wild! When I was as fast as you guys back in my former life as a speed demon in college I knew what it was like running fast on ridiculous terrain like that of Boxford Woods, so I am impressed. This will be my third year coming back to running, so I am happy with the progress, and know now that fast times are great, but enjoying the journey is what really matters!

pathfinder said...

I don't know seems like the Opossum's diet would be much too difficult for me to adapt to....I think I am more of a meat and potatoes kind of guy. If i was to pick an animal, I suspect it would be a goat as it is sure footed and always reaches it's goal ...eventually! Though I don't care much for their diet either.

Trail Pixie Trespas said...

Rob, I would have been at the Boxford Race but ran 6 in the Stix in Newport, NH that weekend prior. I love that Boxford is so close to us all and that it's also a chance to check out the Forest. You'd make a delightful ' start the homebrewing for the post-race Possum Pick-me-Up. I can see the label and shirts already! TUG will reunite soon, I can feel it. Great job out there on the course!