by Laura ClarkThis year, the day was not rainy and cloudy and either because of that factor or an enthusiastic PR person, there were actually lines at the registration table which did not dissipate until shortly before takeoff. Plus, this being my sophomore year, I at least had an idea of what to expect. We all know that one trail’s 14 miles can be totally different from the next and that, as in life itself, a freshman is at a distinct disadvantage. If we could have spun the wheel of fortune to a perfect weather pattern, this would have been it. The day started out coolish, warmed up during the humid first miles and then relented and fanned us with a cooling wind.
That’s a pretty clever title and I couldn’t resist it, but for me, this year, Southern Nipmuck did not “go south” as the expression goes but rather remained exactly where it was supposed to be. With Sir Thomas handling the motoring duties and Jen Ferriss riding shotgun, I did not detour through UCONN and their world-famous dairy bar (a pity) and did not discover myself encamped in someone’s driveway instead of at the correct trailhead. I did not have to be rescued by Nipmuck Dave who patrols the local roads rounding up folks confounded by confused GPS signals and IPhones that go on vacation once they cross Nipmuck boundaries. In other words, the drive out was fairly ho-hum and begged overridden by an exciting race.
With matters in hand, most of us resumed our journey, albeit at a much slower pace through the maze. Having shared transportation, Jen and I were stuck in the tandem position, so I figured she would continue, meet me at the pass and we would finish together. Just like the good ‘ol days (for me, not her). When Jen first started running, I was faster, then she was faster on the roads, then on the trails. Now I can sometimes pass her snowshoeing, on a lucky day, when the course is truly miserable. (I like tuff courses). You get the picture. I form the transitional group, where beginners latch on and eventually peel off.
Some of us weren’t as lucky. Around the 2 mile mark, well into the humid rainforest section, Mary became entangled in a twisty root and fell. Hard. It was one of those cases where the phrase, “Do not move the victim,” comes to mind. This called for more than the typical human crutch approach. By the time I arrived, about 10 runners were perched on various slippery roots, in shock and totally grateful it wasn’t their accident. Jen and I had recently completed a CPR course, but since Mary was screaming, she was obviously breathing. But one of the things they repeated over and over and over is that one person needs to be in charge and tell the others what to do, especially repeating the phrase, “You, call 911!” By the time I had arrived Jen had become that person, had called 911 with a miraculously functioning IPhone, and was trying to explain to the EMS squad the difference between a trail and a road. I know I would not have succeeded as I do not give, let alone follow, directions.
If you have ever run this course, you already know what happened: we missed each other on the two-way loop near the turnaround. We kept getting messages: “Jen is looking for you.” “Laura is just a bit ahead.” But no actual contact until the road section. By that point Jen had decided to run the entire course and I was running out of steam. My lack of energy annoyed me as I didn’t remember feeling as tired for the final miles last year. Later on, that made me happy, as it turned out I was around 13 minutes faster. Could age 69 possibly be a faster number than 68? Not likely. But I think what happened was that with the higher registration I always had someone to run with and push me.
Despite the bad luck accidents, the course is no Escarpment or 7 Sisters and was actually quite runnable. What I enjoyed the most was the variety: wide dirt forest trails, pine forested paths by the river, grasslands, and Yes! even the roads were enjoyable. They were country lanes, not highways, with interesting houses, outbuildings, garden tours and even a few vocal turkeys. I loved the grassland tunnel lined by wild roses and the perfumed scent that lingered afterwards. It couldn’t have been more perfect and we were all privileged to share in this experience. It will be a signature race for Jen and I for many years to come. One of our post-race traditions is to seek out obscure liquor stores and purchase beer not sold in New York State. We hit pay dirt this time with Lawson beer, brewed locally. We might even return early next year for a practice South Nipmuck run!