Monday, October 21, 2013

Mt. Toby Race Report

Sunday was the 25th-annual Mt. Toby Trail Run, a 14-mile out-and-back trail race up (and down) Mt. Toby in Sunderland and Leverett, MA.  Some years it is quite competitive, and the relatively good footing makes it accessible--nay, winnable-- for those who don't specialize in trail running. It does, however, punish the legs, with 2300' total climbing (and 2300' descending).  The Man With Many Names (Matteo Jesus) won last year, posting a nice Victory for team Leverett Leisure Club or whatever the hell we three (me, Stoneman, Matteo Jesus) call ourselves on any given weekend, running a convincing 1:28:40 or so to beat some good competition.  I've only raced here once, in 2010, where Matt kicked my ass in the final 200 meters, finishing 2nd to my 3rd.  He ran just under 1:31 that year and I was just over.  I hoped to go faster this year, given the cool October weather, good training recently, and the fact that my 2010 race was at the end of a 90 mile week.

The morning was crisp-- this race used to be run in August, so a morning like this promises faster times.  Footing was tricky on the rockier patches in the first few and final few miles, but otherwise the leaves didn't bother me much.  If anything, the sparse feel of the woods made it  The plan was to work with Matteo Jesus for as much of the race as we could, defending against any random fast dudes who showed up, but nobody challenged us this day.  I was feeling great up the initial climb (the first 3.5 miles or so climb gradually up Cranberry Ridge) and I pressed the pace, leaving Matteo Jesus and Stoneman, which concerned me.  I hadn't planned on a 14-mile solo effort, but my focus was there and everything felt right, so I carried on.  This was one of those once-a-year races where the effort feels actually pleasurable and I didn't want to slow down, at any point in the race.

Cresting the climb and doing my best to keep my footing down the other side, the course emerged at the North trailhead, where it flattens out onto a mile or so of cinder trail.  I knew this was nearing the 4.5 mile point and I was at 26 minutes, and I was surprised by the sub-6 minute pace, especially given that the course had net gained a few hundred feet by this point.  But if it feels good, do it.  Next is the main climb, 850' or so up Toby itself on the access road.  I made the climb from the parking lot (flat for a mile, then straight up for 1.7 or so) in 19 minutes and change, a hair faster than what I've done in training.  Tagging the fence on the summit marked the halfway point in 45:44, just over 6:30 pace for a net gain of over 1200'.  My 2010 split was 49:00.  I knew I was having a great race... or I was setting myself up for a huge bonk.

Descending around mile 8.

Pressing back down the mountain, I noted that Matteo Jesus was about 3 minutes back, and Stoneman was not far behind him.  I was convinced that this wasn't too big a gap for a good downhill runner like The Jesus, but he wasn't 100% on his game and I managed to put more distance on him.  It became clear that I wouldn't be bonking, so I pressed for what I thought was the course record-- low 1:25's-- hammering the final climb over Cranberry Ridge (miles 10-11 or so) and completing the 2nd half in 39:56 (5:42's).  I finished in 1:25:41.  Overall pace was 6:07, which is something I didn't think I could pull off over trails, but I guess I've finally gotten better off-road.

Winning a case of Berkshire Cabin Fever 22 oz bombers!
Leverett Leisure Club swept the podium--Stoneman Legend and Matteo Jesus.  Not sure how Satchmo got on our team...

The race director chatted with us for awhile about possible improvements to the race (maybe a mini-Toby race in May?) and we conjectured about the course record. Further research turned up the following performance list:

#1) Ryan Carrara, 1:23:26 (2007)
#2) Michael Page, 1:24:32 (2005)
#3) Mark Mayall, 1:24:58 (2004)
#4) David Herr, 1:25:16 (2004)

Other notable trail runners have raced Toby: Ben Nephew ran 1:27:04 in 2004; Paul Low ran 1:25:51 in 2005; Steve Snover had the record in 2002 at 1:25:50.  So it appears that I'm sitting at #5 overall, which makes me grin ear-to-ear, given that the other names mentioned are very serious trail guys.  Consider, however, that all of these other times were run in August.  Still, I'll take it!

Not sure what's next.  I am inclined to all but give up on road racing and keep working on my trail and mountain skills.  I've never had more fun competing than I had this year at Domnarkski MTB, Greylock, Loon and Toby.

Full results:

Top 10:
Place   First Name         Last Name M/F    Age          TownState     Time          GT %   
2SatchemoRyderM33South CreekIA1:31:0694.05%

Valley Advocate article on the 25th running:

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