By the fourth mile I was cursing the bride and groom. Turns out when you are a master’s runner, it’s not a great idea to prep for a race by staying up to the small hours of the morning drinking, dancing and eating way too many shrimp appetizers. At my age, I need a week to recover from such debauchery, so running a 5.6 mile trail race a mere two days later was tough.
The series started in 2015 and it’s been my white whale. Each year, circumstances (it is a holiday weekend), injuries, freak diseases or weather (one year was absolutely torrential rains) has kept me from racing. So, given that history, I wasn’t about to let a lingering hangover keep me from racing on Monday.
The Powisett Trail series is a 2-race series with the first taking place on Monday, May 28, 2018 (Memorial Day) and the second in October (usually Columbus Day). Both events are based at Powisset Farm in Dover, MA and include running the fields of Powisset Farm and the trails of Noanet Woodlands right across the street. There are 4 race distances to choose from — 8.3 miles, 5.6 miles, 3.1 (NEW for 2018) and 1.5 miles.
The group that runs the event, Sun Multisports, is a regional outfit that runs some popular triathlons in the New England area, but has recently been partnering with the Trustees (a group that preserves land in MA) to develop more trail races. Given that they are expanding the series to other farms, it appears this unique partnership is working.
The morning dawned gray, cool and misty, a little on the humid side, but otherwise pretty good racing weather. I arrived race morning to find plenty of volunteers directing you where to go to park in the field.
Given that we were returning from a road trip and a wedding, I hadn’t registered in advance and missed out on a pretty nice looking t-shirt. I feel like the pendulum is swinging back from tech shirts to offering some type of non-racing t-shirt now. Given how poor most race shirts (tech or not) are designed, I was pleasantly surprised and a little sad to miss out on this one. I did however receive a race belt for signing up. You also receive a free digital copy of a race photo. I wish more races did this.
One oddity to note, they weren’t using the disposable bib chips for timing, but rather the ankle straps you’d usually find in a triathlon. It didn’t end up being a big deal as I forgot about it on the run, just unusual.
Registration was quick and left me with plenty of time to jog around the farm and warm-up.
Porta-potty notes: about 8, I think and while the line got a bit long, it remained a single line. Hooray! One line is definitely the most efficient type of line. Always drives me nuts when people queue up behind individual units.
The 1.5 mile, ostensibly the kid’s run, went off first and there was a wait to start the 8 and 5 milers until all of the 1.5 mile participants were done. I was impressed, there were some fast kids. A nine year old girl won and threw done a 10:35 time. I wish I had been that fast at 9.
Soon, we were in the corral and ready to go. Both the 8 and the 5 would start at the same time (the 5k would start a little later) with the 8 milers doing an extra lap in the woods. There was an aide station on the second lap for the 8 milers with water and gels.
The first part of the course takes place on the farm. There is roughly a 1.5 mile loop on mostly a mowed path. It’s flat and my pre-race plan (as much as it existed) was to go pretty hard on this section as I knew the woods had some rolling hills and would slow me down and maybe some slick terrain.
So, as the race started, I went out pretty hard. Some areas were single track and I had to wait to pass, but I got off to a pretty hot start. This turned out to be a mistake.
The mowed parts were pretty rough. The grass was short, but it was through a field, so there were hillocks, tufts, divots, pretty much a minefield of ways to twist an ankle. My weak ankles came out unscathed but if I do this one again, I’d throttle back a bit. The woods are coming up and …..
Mile 1: 6:46
Mile 2: 6:56
Given that the two races started at the same time and did the first loop together, it was tough to know what place I was in, but I knew I was near the front. As we finished mile 2, I was also beginning to suspect that I had paced this one incorrectly. Turns out the Noanet trails were well groomed and while rolling, it was possible to keep up a decent pace. I entered the woods with two other guys but they gradually pulled away during the third mile. I struggled to hold onto a 7:04 pace.
The fourth mile includes the climb up to Noanet Peak, a quick, but steep and rocky incline, especially at this point in the race. Apparently it has great views of Boston in the distance. I did not look up. At this point, I was concentrating on keeping my feet moving. I had to power-walk the last uphill section to the top, but managed to get the legs moving again on the downhill. One guy passed me here so at least I had someone to chase now.
Mile 3: 7:04
Mile 4: 8:26
Mile 5 to the finish
After cresting Noanet peak, I thought I was in the clear. I thought the descent would bring me back down to the road and across the street to the farm and the finish. Oh, I was so wrong. Turns out there is another climb. Not as high as the peak climb, but neither I nor my legs were in any mood for more uphills. I managed to get up the gradual hill, but I was gassed, as we started coming back down, I was passed again and heard more people on my tail. I refused to look back. This time I could actually see the road and the finish beyond, so I put my head down and told my legs to shut up and keep running.
Throughout the wooded section there were plenty of signs and volunteers to keep you on track. There were only a couple places, one where the 8 milers had to turn and one where the 5k merged back into the race where things could potentially get confusing, but I didn’t hear anyone complaining. The course was well laid out and the pre-race announcements covered those potentially sticky areas.
Crossing the road and sprinting over that tufted grass to the finish, I did manage to hold off the rest of the pack behind me, which at least gave me a little solace for getting passed twice late in the race, which is a bit unusual for me.
Mile 5: 7:56
Last .5 to finish: 6:38
Overall: 40:51 for a 7:20 pace/mile.
Turns out I managed 5th overall. Now those two late passes really stung. But I did manage to hold on to 3rd in my age group. I think a more even pacing in the low-7’s could be a better approach. Going out fast and fading to the finish never feels good.
There was a local brewery on-hand at the finish with a complimentary beer. That always helps take the sting out of a poor finish. I was also impressed with the quality of the post-race spread. There was watermelon, bananas, gatorade, water, Clif bars and a few other things. There was also a food truck on site if you wanted to purchase some breakfast.
I really enjoyed this race, despite my belly-aching about my finish. My only real complaint was that the mile markers were way, way off. Not just a little where it might be GPS variation, but almost a quarter mile by the end. Left me wondering if they were misplaced or the course was short. Turns out, just misplaced.
Other than that, the event was well-run (most Sun events are) and organized and offered a unique and challenging course. Not a bad way to finish off a holiday weekend. I just wouldn’t recommend trying it after a late night of drinking.