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Rock/Creek Race Team’s Dane Mitchell wins the Traprock 50k

I took part in the Traprock 50k this weekend just outside of Hartford, Ct. This is a race in its infancy, and it’s bound to grow in the future. It falls at a good time, especially as preparation for The North Face races in NY, and is in a good location for the trail runners in the northeast.

I drove down to Connecticut on Friday and set up camp at Kevin Hutt’s house. Kevin’s a co-director of the race and was extremely gracious in offering me a place to stay and showing me the lay of the land. It was really nice to see the amount of pride and dedication these guys had put into the creation of their race… real ambassadors to the area.

Race morning turned out to be pretty cool temps, but we all assumed it would warm up through the day. I talked with Jason Friedman for a bit before the race and then met Ben Nephew and Brian Rusiecki at the start line. I knew for sure it wouldn’t be a lonely run with these guys around.

The course consists of 3 loops of 10.5-11 miles each, traversing back and forth along the Metacomet Ridge. There are different sections of the loop that are pretty distinct, including a few really steep but short inclines and descents, a precarious section of stone stairs, some particularly rocky stretches of singletrack, a couple of nice cliff-edge views, and a 1.5 mile section of asphalt that breaks up the intensity.

The race begins immediately up a steep, technical ascent that burns but is over pretty quickly. A handful of us stayed together for the first few miles, but began to separate after the first climb up the staircase. After the turnaround point, it was Brian, Ben, and myself, running as a small pack with Jason right behind. We were able to converse a little, knowing that we needed to take the first loop a little easy. I had some trouble with the footing, stumbling a few times and impressed by the sure-footedness of the other guys.

After the first loop, I took my turn at the lead. I was able to accelerate over the smoother sections, but kept losing time over the rocks. Brian dropped back just a little during the second loop, but Ben stayed pretty close. We ran side by side on the asphalt section, but a small gap opened up over the last portion of trail.

The turnaround for the last loop gave us all a chance to check our positions and I saw how small my lead was. Just as I was feeling pretty confident that I could push the pace a little harder, my quads began to cramp and seize. The last time up the stone stairs was painful; Ben arrived at the bottom as I hit the top. The rest of the loop was more of the same, trying to take whatever fuel I had left and hoping I didn’t have to stop. Other runners made sure to let me know how closely I was being followed.

I was able to push on the flat and uphill sections, but was hobbling on the downhills. As I was told later, the gap between Ben and I was approximately 2 minutes at the last aid station. The last big climb on the trail was a killer. I’m not sure if running was any faster than walking at that point. The finish is a descent down the same steep section of the start, which leads into the chute. Fortunately, the cramping didn’t totally take over, though Ben tenaciously closed to just over a minute behind at the finish.

Post-race activities were a little dampened by the cold temps that only seemed to drop throughout the race. We huddled around and chewed the fat for a bit, but eventually dispersed to our cars. I received a nice hunk of mounted traprock on a plaque and the most useful of all race booty: a pint glass.

Good job to all the folks at Traprock, especially directors Kevin, Steve, and Marty. The race course was really well marked, the aid stations were stocked, and there was a nice community feel to it all. I look forward to watching this race grow and prosper over time.