Jul 19, 2013 5:39 AM
Broken Boulder Dash 6k, Merrimack, NH
Sunday, 14 July 2013
This is the first of, I hope, many race reviews. I run almost exclusively in New Hampshire. So most of my postings will aimed at New Hampshire runners. Coolrunning publishes race results with names and times. I will try to tell runners what the race is like.
For runners who enjoy trail runs it is a good run. On Sunday the heat in the Sun was in the high 80's to low 90's. On the trail in the woods it was in the low 70's. The woods this time of year have lots of green and few flowers except in low, wet areas. Yet, it is much nicer than going past lawns, houses,driveways, and parked cars. The occasional chipmunk or squirrel crossing the trail is a much nicer experience than trying to avoid getting runover by a manic driver.
OK. The climb up the hill that had to be navigated twice due to the double loop was challenging at more than 40 meters over about 200 meters of trail. The roots, boulders, occasional mud due to the heavy rain this year, frequent sharp curves, and bumps made the course interesting for some and difficult for others. Personally, I find straight flat road races boring. I try to keep myself from fixating on the effort of each and every step by talking to anyone who will listen. If I have nobody to talk to I play mental chess, solve math problems, or, yuck, think about problems at home. On the trail I get to focus on the rocks and roots that I run over, around and up and down bumps. My stride changes frequently to match the terrain. I have hardly any time to think about how tired I am or anything else in my life. It is a wonderful escape.
Negatives? This race is advertised as“fast”. It is not. The results posted in Coolrunning dispel the claim of fast. The first place runner had only slightly under a 7:00 per mile pace. In an average 5k the first place runner has approximately a 5:00 per mile pace and the first place runner in the Hollis Fast 5k, Hollis, NH has approximately a 4:30 per mile pace. The race is not 6k either. My GPS indicated that the race course is slightly less than 5k. Adjusting the first place runner pace for the 5k distance yields approximately 8:30 per mile. That is comparable to the Mount Washington Road Race results. I haven't run Mount Washington. Looking at a map I estimate that the climb is about 600 meters from start to finish. That is more than 6 times the climb of this race. The Mount Washington road is wide and smooth and easier to navigate than the trail in this race and the elite runners at Mount Washington likely make the results look similar when they are not close. This race is very much easier and shorter than Mount Washington.
I ran the race the first time it was run. It was not a fun race then. The ascent was straight up an old road that may have been cut through the woods 400 years ago by early colonists harvesting virgin pine trees to provide masts for the Royal Navy. The engineers that created what is now known as The Old King's Highway were very good at laying out a straight track. They didn't bother surveying the land to avoid going up and down steep slopes.Thus, the ascent up the road was difficult for the runners. The descent from the peak used a very narrow trail with many switchbacks to avoid a slope too steep for the runners. Actually, the trail was meant to be easy for hikers to go up the narrow trail with less effort than hiking straight up the road. For the hiker it was an easy trek down the road at a slow hiking pace. Reversing the course to go up the narrow trail would have made the ascent easier, but the narrow trail would still have made passing slower runners very difficult. Running down the steep slope of the road would have been dangerous for most, if not all, runners as they would reach speeds greater than their legs could keep them upright and send them tumbling down the hill.
Since then the trails have been reworked. The race course is now reversed. The narrow trail has been widened and many of the switchbacks have been removed to provide a shorter, but slightly steeper ascent. The road is now avoided. A new trail meanders with switchbacks that provide a longer descent with significantly less steep slopes. That worked well as after the race I didn't notice any injured runners from falls.