Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Bear Brook Trail Marathon 2014 Race Report

With my main goal of the summer, the AMC Hut Traverse, behind me, I prepared to rest before running the Bear Brook Trail Marathon the following week. When I ran the race last year, I found it to be probably the most fun I've had on trails yet at a race. The combination of it being one large continuous loop, winding singletrack trails, short but challenging climbs and descent, and varied scenery helped to make this "marathon" distance race a great morning out on trails. I use "marathon" in quotes because that term is used loosely, the race is actually between 28 and 29 miles according to whose watch or gps you trust. What's a couple more miles when you've already run 26 anyways? It just means you'll be out there a little longer. The race organization and trail marking were great and I had no trouble following the course this year or last.

The days following the Hut Traverse were spent taking my kids to the beach at Sebago Lake in Maine and only running a short 4 miler to check the legs. Everything seemed fine as far as muscles and joints, so I figured I would still run at Bear Brook the following Saturday. I did one other 4 miler on the Thursday prior to the race with a couple 1 minute on/1 minute off intervals thrown in just to blow out any lingering fatigue. I went into the weekend feeling as good as I could after a hard effort the week before. I figured I would just see what happens and run as hard as my body would let me that day.

My friend Jay offered to drive up with me as he was volunteering, and drive his own car, so I jumped at that opportunity. That just meant I could have a beer or two after the race and rest on the way home. Not a bad deal if you ask me. We arrived a little early and I mentioned that the weather seemed like it would be identical to last year's weather, which was cool in the morning but got a little warm around 10:45 for my finish of the race. The race was to start at 6:30 and I joined some of the guys near the front because I knew there was a short stretch of fire road before the trail took off into the singletrack where it would be harder to pass people. I settled in around 15th place or so and started the ascent up Catamount Hill. Passing a couple people on the uphill and downhill, I ended up somewhere around 10th or 11th, where I would end up staying most of the day.

This year I spent about 27 of the 28.5 miles running by myself, but shared the trail a little with Jeremy Merrit somewhere between miles 8-12. Jeremy went on to have a great race taking ten minutes off his time from last year with about a mile or mile and a half longer distance. When he passed me around mile 14 or so, he was flying up the hill. I was trying to regulate my water intake as the temperatures started to climb and I knew I would be in trouble if I ran low on hydration. This strategy was pretty successful, but there was one stretch between the campground (mile 18) and the next aid station where I got behind and started walking some sections. I felt a little crappy here, but after filling up and getting some calories in, I decided to suck it up and stop being wimpy because I only had single digit miles left to go to the finish.

I felt pretty decent on the last 5 miles or so, running most of the trail except the kick-in-the-ass climb at mile 27 or so that Ryan threw in just for fun. At least it kept the finishing pace pretty honest for the last section of the course. All in all the day went good, I ended up in 9th place for the second year and ran 4:46:32 (results here). Below I posted the pace/elevation chart from the 2013 and this years races, notice the inconsistency of my pace in 2014 with some walking and some 10-12 minute miles through some sections. Was I a faster runner last year, maybe, but I think the hard effort at the weekend prior's activity hurt my climbing and really slowed me down. Whatever it was, I still had fun out on the great trails at Bear Brook and will return next year, which I'm told may happen in the fall instead. I like that idea, the park is probably pretty scenic with the foliage in bloom and there won't be the deer flies to contend with.

Paces started out okay, but dwindled toward the later miles

Bear Brook Trail Marathon 2013, a much more even effort across the board

Bear Brook Trail Marathon 2014, notice the inconsistencies of pace after mile 15 and around mile 22
Strava info 2013: http://www.strava.com/activities/70171752

Strava info 2014: http://www.strava.com/activities/168057016

Up next will be a little rest for me. I have been pushing pretty hard through the spring and early summer to try to be ready for the Hut Traverse and I could use a bit of the break from the grind of continuous training. I think I'll take the next two weeks and run just a little, skipping the long runs, then start back up after that. Planning for nothing (yet) but another go at the Midstate Trail Traverse in the fall, I think I could come up with a plan that slowly ramps up the mileage to achieve a bit less suffering than I had at my last extra long run, Ghost Train 100 miler in 2012. Although I am possibly thinking of running the Big Brad Ultra 50 miler in October and/or the Fall Classic 50k, but you never know. I am also thinking of hitting the gym to try to work on my upper body and core strength which is really lacking since I last worked out in February.

Not having any plans for August will also allow me to spend less time away from my family and enjoy the rest of the summer without worrying about a race coming up or trying to fit in my long run before a big day with the kids. My wife has been really supportive of my running and daylong trips in the mountains up to this point and I want to keep the balance between family and ultras in check.

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