There isn't much happening in the month of April for road racing. It's early season and the skiing was still really good in the White Mountains. I was in bed a week before the race and was searching cool runnings for upcoming events. The Muddy Moose Half popped up as a 'local' race, right on my birthday and the registration fees were only $17. After some light research, seeing the photos and past results, I had to try it out.
Hilary and I left early Saturday AM to drop Squall of at my parents. It was there when I realized that I forgot my running shoes back at the cabin. Fortunately it's only four miles away and we had plenty of time to double back. We got to Wolfeboro with plenty of time to spare and took a quick one mile warm up.
This race is usually dominated by fellow MWV locals Jim Johnson or Kevin Tilton but neither showed up this year. However, a very in-form Justin Freeman and Tristan Williams did show up. I couldn't really worry about those guys, I knew they would be out in front and I wasn't in any position to tag along. My goal was just to watch my heart rate and put in a hard effort while learning the course.
The word was this year was a 5/10 on the mud scale which I was thankful for. We lined up by the school for the start and were off. The course starts on pavement, then gravel, then snow-mo trails for a section and back to gravel then the fun really begins. Justin and Tristan took off in front, I settled back into 6th or 7th. I started off trying to avoid all the mud trying to pick the perfect path. This was pointless and I fell hard in my wasted effort. I then embraced the mud and focused on the race. The four milers turn right and the half marathoners turned left 1.8 miles in. I was in 4th at this point and had the 3rd place runner in my sight about a quarter mile ahead. He soon disappeared though and I would only see him on one more straight away 4 miles into the race. At 3 miles in the course turns a hard left up the "escarpment" which is a 250' climb covered in slippery leaves. I was forced to hike the majority of this section but once up high it levels off then drops back down at mile 4. As I was descending down to the next turn, I logged all the decline in my head that would be incline on the return, it was significant but not too bad, much more runnable from the opposite direction. The mud had subsided after the initial 1.8 miles but at 6.2 miles (if you run the outer loop clockwise) you hit the beaver dam pond crossing and are once again knee deep in muck. I passed Justin with Tristan on his tail while I was descending down to the dam crossing. They had chosen too run the loop counter clockwise which meant they had a big gap on me (maybe 5 minutes/0.7 miles). 3rd place guy was no where in sight which meant we both took the loop in the same direction.
On the return I started passing people entering/heading to the loop but then you take a left and are on a fresh section of trail and start a nice long descent where you can really open it up. I tried my best to push it on this section and take advantage of the relatively non-technical downhill on an old road.
After this section I was back on section of the course that we had came out on and started the climb back to the escarpment. This climb was moderate, about 9 minutes, before dropping back down on the camp/dirt road. My legs were toast at this point and I was only able to hold 6:40 pace opposed to the 6:27 on the way out and up. I had no one in the rearview either and focused on a strong finish. Unfortunately we had to run back through all the mud we started with. This resulted in a punishing fall, submerging my entire left side, just before the road crossing (11.4 miles). That was the sh*t icing on the sh*t cake. The last mile was unremarkable, mailed it in and took 4th place.
I think on the drive home I said, why would I ever do this race again? But in hindsight I'm almost 100% sure that I'll race in 2016.