2013 marked the second running of this single-loop trail race and the conditions could not have been better. One word of warning (and you will find that if you hang out around trail runners long enough that road-racing terms like “marathon” rarely convey an exact measured distance): this race is actually about 27.2 – 27.5 miles long.
At 6 a.m., about 200 of us runners and our friends milled around the snow mobile lot just west of the main entrance to Bear Brook State Park, waiting for the sold-out race to start. The crowd was filled with seasoned vets and newbies alike. Some waited anxiously, while others finished their registration or used the port-a-pot one last time. I checked in a tad late, but got what I think is probably the best bib number ever for a marathon: 262!
The weather forecast couldn’t have looked better and the early start meant cool temps almost the whole time. At 6:30 a.m., race director Ryan Welts fired up his megaphone and began marshaling everyone to the start. With an unceremonious blast from the horn’s FX box, we were off, darting into the dissipating fog and foliage.
This race alternates directions each year. This year’s race was run counter-clockwise, which placed all of the climbing (2300 ft) in the first 17 miles of the race. After charging down the first, brief downhill, the front pack turned a hard right and we began the assault on the rugged and technical terrain. After a couple of minutes, the pack spread out and I ran alone for the majority of the race.
I tried my best to conserve energy on the early climbs, but by the Hall Mountain loop (miles 14-17), I was feeling worn. The recent rains didn’t help and I was having vicious flashbacks to the mud bath that was the Pineland Farms 50K. It was nice to finally come down the last stretch of Hall and onto the Lynx Trail. Running this course in reverse direction truly saves the best trails for last.
The east side of the park is my favorite and it contains beautiful, well-maintained and flowing single track without any sustained climbing. If it weren’t for my dehydration, I would have enjoyed this portion of the race thoroughly. In fact, just prior to dehydration setting in at mile 21, I thought to myself how I felt like I had hardly been running for any length of time; when in fact I’d been on the trail for nearly 3 hours! Despite my dehydration, I managed to pull myself along the remainder of the course and finished 4th in 4:06.
The aid stations for this race were well stocked with food (no gu or gels), Heed by Hammer Nutrition and Water. They were well spaced, with the exception of the final aid station, which could have been a little closer to the finish (I will admit I didn’t practice very good hydration, so this is a bit biased). A neat thing the Acidotic Racing crew did when organizing the aid stations, was instead of having paper cups at each station, they gave each runner a reusable UltrAspire cup to carry and refill. Following the race, they reported only needing to carry out a couple of trash bags worth of garbage, compared to several truckloads of cups and other refuse last year. Way to go!
At the finish line, each finisher was presented with Bear Brook Trail marathon glass, which I proceeded to take home and celebrate the fantastic morning with what I thought was a most fitting brew.