The 1st Merrimack River 10/20/30 mile trail run
A field of six turned out for my first attempt at directing
an Ultra. I came up with the idea for a
multiple loop run of the river course while running the 10-mile race in
March. I had hoped that this would be
one of my early tune-up runs for a fall ultra.
Unfortunately I injured my Achilles tendon late in May and have been
hobbled with an immobilization boot.
The race was on none-the-less.
I set the course on Saturday, taking 1:35 to set out a
couple of hundred flags. It was quite
nice out on the course with plenty of wildlife (rabbits, squirrels, and one
deer) and a lot of boaters out enjoying the “class B swimable” Merrimack River. The course would be one, two, or three times
out and back from the Wyndham Hotel parking lot to the Tewksbury town
line. The run was 100% trail with one
road crossing. The trail which is part
of the Bay circuit trail, is unusual in that you seem to be deep in the woods
when you are rarely more than 100 yards from (and many times less) homes
abutting on the long strip of conservation land.
When I arrived at 5:30 for the 6:00 AM start the hardcore
trail runners from Team Gloucester had already arrived. Wes Lassen and Dave Geary were both prepping
for a fall Ultra (and the almost-Ultra of the Escarpment trail race) and felt a
good long run would fit into the schedule well. A few minutes later Aimie Jefferson of the GAC turned up and her
Teammates Vicki and Amy Blais (the mother/daughter team) showed up as
well. Aimie was interested in doing 10
miles, Vicki and Amy were aiming for 20 and Wes and Dave weren’t quite sure
what they were going to do. Last to
show up, at about 5 minutes of 6 was Norm Sheppard of Bedford MA. Norm has the distinction of being the only
runner to do all four of the “river” races this year. He ran the Snowshoe race in January (which turned out to be an XC
race), the Snowshoe race in March (which attracted 4 runners), and the BIG race
in March (the original not to be outdone 10 miler), and was here to run a
distance as yet decided.
Promptly at 6 the group took off. I also took off to set out water at the 5m turnaround. For this style of race (affectionately
called “Fat Ass”) the assistance to runners is minimal. I guaranteed a marked course and water at
every 5m, and that was it. I also
provided Gatorade and cookies every 10m.
Anything else you wanted would have to be carried or dropped. I also went out to the 4-mile mark to take
some pictures and re-route a small portion of the course. One of the trails on Powerline hill had
become very overgrown and unrunnable (also a haven for tics). We avoided that with the scenic and easy to
negotiate “Piekos pass”.
Wes, Dave, and Norm came by about 40 minutes into the run
all looking very good. I missed the
ladies while re-marking the course, but caught them at 6 miles on the way back
to the start/finish. The ladies were
also running comfortably and seemed to be enjoying the conditions (60s and dry
at the start and about 80 at the finish).
The guys came into the parking lot after 1:38 of
running. They wasted little time
refueling and heading back out. The
ladies arrived 10 minutes later with Aimie Jefferson taking the victory in the
The Team Gloucester duo of Wes Lassen and Dave Geary came
into the 20m mark at 3:17:05. I was
impressed with the even split they had run.
Dave called it a day, taking the victory in the 20m. Wes did a quick fill up of water and was on
his way. Norm came in at just over
3:18. He spent less than 5 minutes
filling up his camelback and eating some pretzels before heading out (with half
a bagel in his pocket). Amy and Vicki
Blais came in just under 4 hours with Vicki taking the victory in 3:59:00 to
I headed back out to check on the progress of the two 30
milers, just missing Wes at the 25m turn.
I caught up with Norm who graciously volunteered to pick up the surveyor
flags on his way back to the finish. I
drove ahead to just before the 28-mile mark and caught Wes as he came through
looking like he had just started out on the run, not more than 4 hours in! Norm came by about 15 minutes later also
looking strong. I took the flags he had
so far and headed for the finish.
I missed Wes coming in by just a couple of minutes. He cruised to a victory in his first Ultra
with an easy 4:49:30. Norm Sheppard
came along just under 20 minutes later to finish second in 5:09:18.
Congratulations to all of you! Thanks for making this race a success. I hope to have it again next year and take on the 30 miler…