Saturday, July 30, 2011

July 30: Dashing madly in Madbury (#123)

This morning it was out to Madbury, N.H. (about an hour's drive to the east) to bag this quiet Rockingham County town by running in a 5K-or-so trail race. Today's conditions: Relatively dry, hot in the sun, nice in the shade, with intermittent breezes to keep things reasonable rather than roastable. A great day for a race, considering what's possible for July in New Hampshire. (How often do I look at the weather map this time of year and find it's warmer here than in Miami?)

Going in, all I knew about Madbury is that it's home to one of our U.S. Senators, Jeanne Shaheen, and that the town is shaped like a thin slice of birthday cake. I've already run races in all the towns around it, but none had been held in Madbury - until today's trail race on the town-owned Kingman Farm property, which is across the road from the town's elementary school, where they've painted their own rendition of the town hall.

And the reason for the race is Chris Dunn and "Acidotic Racing," an adventure/endurance group (motto: Dare Mighty Things) that he started with his brother James in 2001. From the looks of the Web site, they organize a lot of wild events all over the place, including participation in the "New England Dirt Cup," a regional trail race competition. And they raise money for a lot of good causes.

I was surprised to see their members include a guy from my current hometown of Bedford, N.H. and also people from my original hometown of Nashua, N.H. Pictures show members running in snowshoes and across mountain ridgetops and biking in the fog and scaling sheer rock walls and one guy actually leaping a series of burning logs! Well, maybe someday. :)

Today's trail run (sponsored by GoLite Footwear!) seemed rather tame in comparison, but it attracted the faithful, as a very-much-fitter-than-the-usual-5K-road-race crowd was on hand. It being race day, I didn't expect much of a chance to speak to organizer Chris Dunn, but right off the bat I encountered his cheerful and energetic dad, who told me where I should park (around by the dumpsters near the school) and encouraged me to take advantage of the "brand spanking new" port-o-potty on hand, because I'd probably be only the 15th person ever to use it. (I did and it was pretty nice, for a portable toilet.)

One piece of great news about Madbury's Kingman Farm trail race: the entry fee was a "economy-friendly" $10, which came as welcome relief after seeing fees in some cases hitting $30 this year. Thanks! Proceeds were to go to the "Friends of the Earth, Sea, & Space Museum."

One bad piece of news, at least for me with my history of turning ankles, is that, yes, it was entirely a backwoods trail race. But that really means I just have to pay extra careful attention about where my feet fall from start to finish and not get too ambitious in terms of pace or whatever. Luckily, the trails that made up the course were all pretty well groomed.

About 75 people showed, which Chris Dunn told us all was way more than he expected, but it all went off without a hitch. I parked myself near the back (as usual) and off we went to a cowbell starting signal. Surprisingly, I found I had put myself too far back, and began passing folks when the trail allowed. We circled clockwise through shady forest, sometimes on paths and other times on old farm roads, down at first but then grinding up a long hill to emerge in open and working farmland. The corn wasn't quite as high as an elephant's eye (with apologies to Oscar Hammerstein), but it seemed to be coming along well enough.

(The photos here, including one of me, were taken by Steve Wolfe. At that point, I began to hear this horrible bird-like squawking coming from up ahead. Not sure what was going on, I began to feel like a cast member of Alfred Hitchcock's film 'The Birds.' What it was, I found, was the latest scarecrow replacement technology: automated recorded bird screeching triggered by motion, including passing runners, apparently. The real concern here, though, was that it was a long stretch to be in the sun, which is still pretty high in the sky this time of day in Thermador, as Napoleon would have called it.

But I made it back into the woods, entering a dizzying series of switchbacks that took the course up and over a large hill. Weird to see people running in other directions in the forest above and below you! I played tag with a pair of young men, who tended to fall behind on the uphills but powered by me on the downhills.

I had just said "Go for it!" to one of them as he passed me when he tripped on a log and took a classic tumble in the dirt. He wasn't hurt, but the excitement (and the finish line and cowbell looming somewhere below) prompted me to pour it on in the final switchbacks, flying over rocks and turns -- not the smartest thing for me to do, but I somehow survived.

One nice thing about the race was that in the middle of it, I got to hear the horn of Amtrak's Downeaster passenger train, which connects Boston with Portland, Maine. The line runs right through Madbury, and so it was nice to hear the train's flatulent toot echo through the woods as it sped through town while the race was in progress.

Finished in about 39 minutes, 49 out of 75 (Official result: 39:50, 48 out of 74) and was curious to see Chris Dunn's homemade "old school" results board -- something you see less and less of in this age of computerized results. Nice to see the old ways being kept alive! Afterwards, I did get a chance to say hi to Chris and tell him about this adventure, but couldn't stay for the awards and prizes because I had to hightail it back home.

Chris and all the organizers, thanks for a great race!

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