The Off Rhode Racing 4th Season trail series continued on Saturday with the Belleville Pond 10k. Eric Narcisi and Leslie O’Dell, both CMS/Six03 double agents who happened to be sporting the Six03 duds, came away victorious. If you can handle reading a first person race report where the author occasionally refers to himself in the 3rd person, then read on. If you can’t handle it, then Eric apologizes.
If you’re unfamiliar with this race, everything about it is tough…even the weather. Well, except for this year. Of the three prior editions of this event, the last two were run in snow and this year’s nearly was too. It was originally scheduled for February 6th, but was postponed at the last minute due to too much snow (basically). What was really funny about that was a few days ahead of that call, the Horse Hill snowshoe race (originally scheduled for 2/7) ended up being postponed due to a lack of snow…but that’s New England weather for you.
A couple of weeks later, the trails were as clear as can be for late February and the sun was shining bright: conditions were ripe for faster times. The field was quite large too and the 190 racers were eager to continue the series. How many of them knew exactly what lay ahead is anybody’s guess. Race director (and badass runner) Mike Galoob had this to say about it: “While many of the runners look forward to racing under tough, often snowy conditions at this race, I was excited to see a fast contest on the twisty singletrack. With more and more teams getting involved, the level of competition continues to grow. It’s always fun to watch the rivalries unfold throughout the series, many of which have been fought out for five years now.”
After the gun it quickly got down to a pack of four: Geoff Nelson, Steve Brightman, and a couple of Erics (Lonergan and Narcisi). Geoff was in the lead and took them through the first mile in about 6:12. When the pack emerged from the early race single track and hit the rail trail nearly a half mile later, Brightman had fallen off by a few steps leaving the other three to share the lead. For the next .6mi or so the Geoff and the Erics cruised along, perhaps waiting to see who would make the first move. With a shift back to single track and tight quarters fast approaching (2 mi mark), Narcisi threw in a surge to take over, with Lonergan hot on his heels.
From there it was Eric on Eric violence the rest of the way, as the two of them beat up on each other while Galoob’s sadistic course beat up on both of them. “These trail races are tough and I find myself cursing Mike Galoob’s name while I wind my through the course,” said Lonergan. Most runners probably were.
A few times Narcisi thought he had Lonergan put away, nearly out of earshot, but then Lonergan’s could be heard again. By 4.5 miles or so it was clear that Lonergan was chasing Narcisi down. Once they hit the rail trail for the return trip, Lonergan was right on Narcisi and all of a sudden it was a whole new race.
It seemed as if Lonergan would overtake Narcisi and open up a lead, but Narcisi held off the challenge. The thinking was that Lonergan was making his big push on this last wide, flat section. If I could hold him off there then maybe that would be it. So I made my last move to counter his move, and that’s all I had left. I knew if he passed me there then it probably would’ve broken me.
The gamble paid off and I was able to open up a lead again. Good thing too, because once we got off the rail trail it would’ve been near impossible to pass until we got to the Field of Broken Dreams right at the end. Final: me in 37:40.3, Lonergan in 37:49.2.
Lonergan didn’t come into this race in a sharpened state, but the way he raced didn’t show it at all. “I haven’t really been training much the past few months, I’ve used Jan and February to recharge the batteries a bit.” It was a much deserved break for Eric after he ran a 2:30 at the Philly Marathon back in November. “I’ll probably do the Providence Half in May but I don’t expect to be all that quick.”
Brightman ended up hanging on to finish a strong 3rd in 39:15. Nelson ended up 11th in 42:34.
For the ladies, O’Dell dominated. But the mountain goat didn’t see anything she couldn’t handle there in terms of the terrain: “Compared to NH trail races, the Ryan Park trails were non-technical and had less long climbs, but it was deceptive because the course was actually full of constant ups and downs. With the short climbs and distance, I still wanted to maintain a quick pace, so it felt harder in a way than some of our hillier, more mountainous races. Definitely a different type of trail racing than I’ve gotten used to, but I loved it. The course was fun and beautiful.”
Fun, beautiful… and highly crushable. Leslie ran a 45:44 and easily won the women’s race while placing 23rd overall. The chase pack came across 4 minutes later: Rosie Sosnowski (49:53), Jillian Schneider (49:59) and Jennifer Ribeiro (50:04). You might remember Rosie Sosnowski as Rosie Woodford, the young lady who won the RI XC state title in 1995 and again in ’98 (believe she also won the New England title in XC as a freshman).
Other notable performances: Jonny Hammett finally beat his brother Greg. It helped that he was pushed by Justin Bentley, especially over that final field loop portion of the race. Jonny finished 4th in 39:42 while Justin was 5th in 39:44. Greg ended up 7th in 41:01. If only Wild Endurance had a third guy to help Jonny and Greg field a full team for the race…
Side note: During the cooldown, Jonny turned to me and jokingly said “You better not have taken any of my Strava segments here!” I had no idea that he took one from me. Apparently I set the CR for the Field of Broken dreams when I won, but by the time I uploaded it he had already stolen it. His final surge on that last stretch topped mine so I as soon as I uploaded my data I got an alert saying that I lost my CR. What CR?!
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