The Friends of The Middlesex Fells held their second annual Middlesex Fells 10K and 5K on Sunday, November 5th at Medford High School.
Melrose Running Club Sponsors Friends of The Middlesex Fells Races
The Melrose Running Club was a sponsor of the race this year. The MRC supports local races by providing volunteers and financial support. Many of our members run in The Middlesex Fells often, so it is important for the club to support the work that The Friends of The Middlesex Fells does.
Middlesex Fells 10K
I’m a road runner and rarely run a trail race. The Middlesex Fells 10K was my first trail race of 2017, and it was on November 5th.
Our club had a table and tent at the event, so I arrived early to get things set up. Gail Severt and Lois Parker-Carmona ran the 10K and Liz Hecht ran the 5K. I hope I didn’t miss anyone. Paul Locke, Duncan Locke, Liz Tassinari and Catherine Kane helped set up our tent and manned the booth.
The 5K started at 1 PM and the 10K started at 1:45 PM. Both races used many of the same trails so they couldn’t have both groups out there at the same time. Makes sense, but it still seems late in the day to have a race.
Before we headed to our last minute race prep and to line up, Paul Locke took this photo of Lois, Me and Gail.
The start was on the ramp down from the soccer fields. It was nice to start on a down hill for once. We were back from the start about 10 feet and there were still a few 5K runners coming in.
The 10K crowd looked small and I turned around to see if everyone was behind me. Probably more than half the runners were behind me, but we only had 78 10K runners. For a tight course like this was probably good.
The race director gave instructions, but the band never stopped playing, so a lot of people behind me couldn’t hear him. Fortunately, the trails were well marked and they had plenty of volunteers to guide us at key turns.
Running the Middlesex Fells 10K
Around 1:48 they gave us the go and we were off.
Right after we crossed the start mats we took a sharp left and ran across the parking lot behind Medford High. Just as we turned the corner heading to the parking lot by the Vocational school, we entered the woods.
I quickly noticed how clear the trails were. I saw a lot of volunteers heading into the woods when I arrived and it looked like they raked the leaves from the trail for us.
Having a clear trail was very helpful for a novice trail runner like me. I had a hard time finding my pace and rhythm. As soon as I would get into a pace the trail turned rocky or there was a hill. Or the trail narrowed and I could not use my momentum to pass anyone.
Even with clear trails I soon realized that I needed to stay off the heal of the runner in front of me.
For a trail race you need distance between yourself and the runner in front of you so you can see the trail. Roots and rocks appear quickly and you need a split second to react.
A mile or so in, the girl in front of me almost twisted her ankle on a rock. That was a wake up call for me. I have a marathon in a month. I cannot afford to get hurt.
After about two miles, the clear trail became littered with leaves. I couldn’t tell how my foot would land in the leaves. Rocks and roots sometimes were visible in the leaves. But not always.
When we got onto a fire road or wide trail I used my speed to move ahead. When we got to hills I used my climbing ability to scramble up and over.
Some hills were very steep rock outcroppings and didn’t afford much traction. I took it on faith my my shoes and momentum would get me up and over without falling on my face.
All of the hills were taking their toll on me. My legs began to burn on the hills and my form was getting sloppy. I decided to take it easy going up the hills and outcroppings and focus more on the trail and my running.
The group I had been running with moved further ahead of me. Then, I couldn’t see anyone in front of me and relied on the flags to keep me on course.
At mile 4 they had a water stop and I grabbed some sports drink. Like a road runner I didn’t slow down, spilled half the drink and got one gulp. I could hear the poor girl from whom I snatched the cup commenting on my method. On pavement, my method works much better.
I felt a bit of energy in my legs soon after my one gulp. The trail was fairly clear so I tried to catch up with the group in front of me.
Between mile 4 and 5 the trail twisted all over the place and crossed over itself several times. Fortunately there were plenty of guides.
Falling for the Middlesex Fells 10K
Soon after the water stop the trail became much more technical. I’m pretty confident on flat pavement but on a trail I have no idea what I’m doing. I tried to keep up with the gang, but as the hills kept coming I had to back off.
The surge of energy from the sports drink was short-lived. My legs were tired and I was probably getting sloppy.
Around mile 5 at just about 47 minutes into the race I fell. I caught my foot on something or slipped, I don’t know.
One instant I was moving through the woods, the next instant I was flying ass over tea kettle and the next instant I was slammed into the ground, head and body. Like a fly on a windshield.
If you’ve ever fallen you know how it happens in a split second but so many thoughts go through your mind.
Right after I made impact, I realized that I had managed to get both arms folded in front of my like I was resting my head. My vision was blurry and I wondered if I had blacked out for a moment.
I had the wind knocked out of me but nothing seemed to hurt or be bleeding. I’ve broken an arm before, so I know lack of pain doesn’t mean too much.
I struggled to my knees with little pain, but could not catch my breath. I wondered what broken ribs or a punctured lung felt like. What didn’t I feel yet?
I realized my vision was blurry because my glasses had fallen off, and my watch was missing. I quickly found my glasses and one side was bent pretty bad. After I got them on I found my watch, but half of the wrist band was missing.
I got to my feet and felt a little weird. I hadn’t had a full breath in a bit and my body had just gone from running hard with a heart rate around 180 beats per minute to being slammed into the ground. I had no idea what was going on with my heart, I just wanted a full breath. So weird didn’t seem weird.
I took a few steps and still could not catch my breathe. I looked around and I was all alone. I didn’t even hear other runners. I didn’t panic but I was a little worried to be out there like that by myself.
Before I could catch a full breath I started calling for help. Oddly, I didn’t even feel pathetic. With very little breath my voice was not very loud. If I couldn’t hear runners slamming through the woods, there was no way anyone was going to hear my pathetic pleas for assistance.
As I stood there doing damage assessment, another runner came down the trail. I called out for help in my weak voice and the guy was kind enough to stop for me.
I cannot tell you how greatful I was to have someone there. At this point I wasn’t sure if I was injured or how bad anything was.
I thought I had a leaf stuck to my face but my buddy told me I had a good sized egg right under my eye. It didn’t hurt, I could see fine and I had other things to worry about.
He asked if I was okay and I told him what happened. He walked with me for a bit and I began to get my breath back. My chest was sore but it appeared that nothing was broken. After a hundred yards or so I felt well enough to tell him to go ahead. He double checked with me and headed off.
Eventually I got to some clear trail and began jogging. My glasses were a mess and I could barely focus on the trail.
When the trail became cluttered with leaves again it really became difficult. I couldn’t tell which eye really saw the trail and which eye was distorted. I wear progressive bifocals and one lens was an inch further from my eye than normal and at a bit of an angle.
I saw several guides along the way and no one seemed to notice how messed up I was. I took that as a sign that I wasn’t that messed up.
I saw Duncan Locke a few times as I wound through the woods on the last mile. Then I saw him jogging down the trail towards me and said, “You’re almost to the parking lot Andy.”
It usually takes more than 6.2 miles to make me want a race to just be over. I’ve run 10Ks with an injury before, but this is the first race where I got injured during the race. I just wanted it to end.
Soon we came out of the woods where we entered and had a short run across the parking lot to the finish.
The announcer called out all the bibs finishing in front of me, but I didn’t hear him mention my bib. Once again I worried that I was a bigger mess than I thought or felt.
When I stopped my watch it said 1:02:47. My official time was 1:05:07 or 43rd place.
Apre Middlesex Fells 10K
As I walked back to our tent I grabbed a water and trudged along like all the other runners. No one looked at me so I must have been okay. Then I looked down at my knees and saw that my right knee had all kinds of dirt smooshed into it and was bleeding or had been bleeding. When I was running I didn’t even notice.
When I got back to our tent Paul Locke and Liz Tassinari didn’t immediately notice my condition. I showed them my knees and then I think they noticed the right bow of my glasses sticking out.
I told them what happened and about the leaf on the side of my face. Liz took one look at that and headed off to get some ice for me. One of the vendors had hummus on ice and Liz grabbed one of the freezer packs from them.
Paul took a couple of pictures for me for posterity. How often does this type of shit happen? Not very, I hope!
I didn’t think I needed it, but Liz is a nurse and told me it could swell up and close my eye. That got my attention. A few minutes later she said I could have landed on something and lost the eye. Now that kinda freaked me out!
My brother had eye surgery last week. Enough with the goddamned eyes!
We hung out during the 5K awards but the crowd was thinning and we were getting cold.
Gail placed first in her age group, but the rest of us were also-rans. We packed up and left before the 10K awards.
10K Crash Landing
This is what a crash landing looks like on Garmin:
At about 47 minutes I went from about an 9:47 minute pace to 0 MPH. Talk about sudden impact! I’m really shocked to see that in about two minutes I was moving again.
About 8 minutes after my fall I was running almost at my average pace for the race. While I was doing this jog I observed that my knees must be okay or I wouldn’t be able to do that.
This is an exploded view of the time of impact. Somehow, the sudden deceleration seems funny.
I went down like a ton of bricks and it all happened in a flash.
As I sat at the tent with the ice pack on my face I chuckled at how lucky I was. I managed to get my arms in front of me as I fell. I didn’t land on any sharp stones or sticks and nothing seemed to be broken.
There was actually some granite sticking through the leaves less than a foot in front of my face when I fell. How lucky is that?
It’s no fun taking a spill but I got super lucky. As I write this I can feel my back tightening up and I know my face will be a mess in the morning. But I’ve got my teeth, both eyes and no broken bones.
I even fixed my watch! Half the band didn’t fall off in the woods. Somehow it pulled out of the watch but the clasp held it on. I didn’t even notice until I got back to our tent. When I got home I just slipped everything back together again.
As far as falls go, I’ll take it!
Run well my friends and be careful out there!