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Higgins Pond Haul - CCAC Grand Prix #8
Orleans, MA, January 28, 2001
End of the Road
It all comes down to this ... the last race in the 2000-2001 Winter Grand Prix series.
The last race in this millennium series was hosted by Valerie and Bob Magor at their retreat deep in the woods next to Nickerson State Park. With a little trepidation, Bob decided to use one of his favorite courses through the trails and roads of the park. Normally strewn with roots, branches, rocks and other detritus, race day found the trail coated with a fine veneer of ice and packed snow. On the previous day, I'd had the opportunity to ride the course a few times in order to certify the distance (exactly 2.92 miles ± a few feet for slippage and the few times I fell over) and managed to finish it in about 25 minutes, riding for time. At that time, there was still some decent traction from the dusting of snow we'd received the night before but as the day wore on, instead of the rising temperatures melting the snow and ice down to the trail, the sun turned the surface ice and snow to slush which promptly froze up over night. By 11:00 AM on race morning, some of the surface of the trail could be seen here and there but most of the trail was still covered with crusty snow and ice, a real ankle-beater. And the ¼ mile stretch of road in the park was packed ice of both the white and black persuasions.
Be that as it may, this was nothing to deter the CCAC running crowd, especially those eager at a chance to pick up a last few series points. Some brought along their cross-country or track spikes which this course demanded in almost any weather situation. I opted for the poor-man's spikes and screwed a few round-head wood screws into the bottoms of an old pair of trainers and was ready for bear. Worst case: I'd be finishing with a pair of bloody feet ... nothing different there. At about 10:30, Mike Naughton, who lives down the hill from the Magor's, snuck out of his house for his long run and despite becoming momentarily entangled in Grand Prix warmer-uppers, managed to disengage himself and continue on his run. By 11:00, several runners had taken brief warm-ups along the trail and despite shaking heads in disbelief, decided to give it a try anyway. An eager Bob Magor called competitors to the starting line ice with an air horn and after a requisite photo-opp [see photos], we were underway. Realizing that positioning and visibility would be crucial, there was a fast surge at the front for position. It quickly became obvious that the conditions and the course would favor the lighter and quicker of foot as George Gomes took the lead after a minute and never relinquished control. He trounced my bike record as he set a course record of 18:25. For much of the race, he was shadowed by Leonard Christo, Jane Zee's triathlon training partner, and Geof Newton. Geof took second as Leonard slowed a little at the end to finish 3rd in 19:05. Leonard is leaving shortly for studies in Australia and is excited to have the opportunity to train in the land of triathlons. We wish him well on his journey and make sure to watch for him on his return. Mike Parker claimed 4th in 19:54 and Mike Herlihy rounded out the top 5 men. Mike Parker finished a solid 45 seconds ahead of Mike Sellars and took the Grand Prix age-group win by 1 point in one of the most contested races of the season. In the women's race, Mary Peabody claimed top honors with a time of 23:09, followed by Fillies Jane Zee and Kate Naples. Karen Santos and Kathleen Thomas, 1 and 2 in the F40-44 age group, closed out the top 5 women. In the Clydesdale division, Dwight Pfundstein held off Brian Kelly by 6 seconds for the win but was eclipsed in the Grand Prix point scoring as Brian took 1st place overall. In the fiercely contested battle for 4th slot in the Clydesdales, Jeff Zee took the win by a minute and the Grand Prix position from Russ Hubler, even though Russ brought his husky along as incentive. Perhaps that's what kept Jeff moving. Jeff had also benefited by being chauffeured to the race by his wife Jane; ostensibly to rest his legs for the upcoming competition, it was clear that she just wanted to keep him away from that rumble strip.
The course itself was beautiful and there was much comment about how picturesque and enjoyable a race it was, apart from the ice. With overlooks of Higgins Pond, sharp cutbacks, thick pine trees, momentary lapses of pine needle covered trails, a ½ mile run along the edge of the beach, and a few log jumps, it was a course to be proud of. As a Cape race, the only missing ingredient was the vertical ascent up a dune. I look forward to exploring those trails, both by bike and foot, at a more leisurely pace as the snow and ice disperse. Those who paused to absorb had the best time and most who participated were wholly unconcerned with their place and time. This race stood alone as one of those unique and enjoyable running experiences, no matter what the speed or pace. How often are we treated to a true cross-country run on Cape Cod even though we have miles of great trails and beaches? Kudos to Sean Doherty who managed to negotiate the uneven terrain and fallen trees with a double stroller full of Jack and Mark in 28 minutes. Jack enjoyed that dessert that dad promised back at mile 1, should they ever actually reach the finish, and Mark slept through the entire ride.
At the end, the assembled crew was treated to a vast array of food, drink, warmth, and hospitality in the Magors' original #1. Created by a local architect, the house was designed as an exploration into passive solar heating and was replete with a towering ceiling, blazing wood stove, and a north face completely made of glass. Mingling contentedly in "the garden" and grazing on pasta, pastry, and other tasties served as an excellent appetizer for Super Bowl Sunday and the parties just hours later that afternoon.
Thus ends the 2000-2001 Winter Grand Prix series. Final points standings are posted but to find out who really won what, you'll have to come to the annual banquet on 10 February. The CCAC Grand Prix series will return in December 2001 and everyone's invited. See you in 10 months! To find out more about CCAC happenings, visit our site at http://www.capecodathleticclub.org/.