Nov 282011

By David Bidler

This morning I ran the Hidden Valley Nature Center Trail Race in Jefferson, Maine.  Originally scheduled to be a half marathon the course was shortened due to the effect of last Wednesday’s snow storm on the trails. This was a smart decision as the sections of course that were removed would have posed serious risks for the runners.

Due to the modified distance and the very snowy trails I had no projected finishing time in mind. My plan was to stick with the lead pack for as long as I could, gain a position that I felt capable of maintaining for 10.5 miles, and hold that position until I crossed the line!

Over 40 people in all manner of winter running gear lined up at the starting line and with a send-off from HVNC Director Gary Hayward we headed off into the woods. 7-8 runners immediately broke away from me and another couple passed me in the first mile. I wouldn’t see them again until I reached the finish line.

I was able to put some distance between myself and the pack behind me and I found myself running solo for the next 4-5 miles. The course was so tranquil that I felt as though I were on a snowy winter run as opposed to a race. In fact, it surprised me to suddenly find three runners directly behind me. I told them to speak up if they wanted to pass and I soon found myself solo once again.

The miles passed slowly but in the best possible way. Each mile marker was a surprising reminder of how little ground I had actually covered. But in truth, I was in no rush to end this beautiful winter run.

As I passed the starting area to begin the second half of the race I heard Trail Monsters Ian and Emma cheering my name. This type of support goes such a great distance when you are in the heat of a race and I reflected on how deeply I value the sense of community that these races foster and develop.

A very steep climb at mile 7 presented yet another reminder of how much I neglect hill training. The Watchung Winter Ultra, the MDI Marathon, and the recent Snow Shoe Bad Ass (a group run where we completed all three courses of the upcoming Bradbury Snowshoe series) reminded me of this as well. More hill work from here on in!

I hadn’t planned to take a GU during this race (I don’t usually eat anything until after the 2 hour mark) but I felt as though I’d run through my pre-race bagel by mile 8.5 and was in need of some fuel (and a few milligrams of caffeine!). 12 ounces of Cliff Mocha Gel did the trick and I felt ready to run strong towards the finish.

The last two miles of the course were truly gorgeous. I raced downhill through a stretch of technical trail and came upon a stunning lake with its still winter waters mirroring the brightly shining sun.

The runner who’d passed me earlier was within view but I didn’t think that I’d be able to reel him in. And honestly, I didn’t think about reeling him in. I assumed that he would come in ahead of me and I was focused on picking up speed to put additional distance between myself and anyone making a final mile charge. (Maybe I need to hone my competitive edge? Or maybe I was just grateful to have run what I felt to be a strong race and to have discovered the incredible trail system at HVNC that I plan to fully explore this winter)

Either way, I found myself getting closer and closer to him and when it became clear that I could pass we shared words of encouragement and I ran the rest of the course at a strong and steady pace without another runner in sight. This kind of camaraderie is one of the many things that I have come to value about trail racing. I’ve never felt as though I’ve “beaten” or “lost to” another runner. I show up to these races to test myself. But it is the other runners challenged by the same course and the same conditions that I measure myself against. I think that this line of thought is prevalent in the trail racing community and that it develops the most positive and constructive form of competition possible.

The crowd at the finish line must have spotted me coming down the trail. I heard the metallic clang of the cow bell before I saw the large group of runners, volunteers, and HVNC staff members cheering me in.

I can’t end this report without a word about the volunteers on the course. From sincere words of encouragement, to details on what position we were in and what terrain we could expect ahead, to warm smiles and great vibes, these folks are the heart of any successful race. Many, many, thanks to all made this morning’s race such a positive experience!

I wouldn’t (and couldn’t) have done anything differently this morning. What I could have done is altered my training to better prepare for the elevation gains and for the possibility of snow which I never considered until a foot of it fell down on us last week! I ended up finishing in 14th place out of 41 runners and discovering an incredible new trail system to explore when I’m in the Jefferson area. Overall, a great experience and an excellent precursor to a winter of serious trail running!

  One Response to “Hidden Valley Trail Race – David Bidler”

  1. Crazy strong finish, you!! And a great report. That footing was hella intense for sure. I’d like to echo Dave’s thanks to Trail Monster Running and the myriad volunteers from Hidden Valley. Awesome event.

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