Drummer Hill Trail Race – Keene, NH (2017)

This race came about for a couple of reasons – I was heading to Massachusetts for the Ragnar Trail New England and I had a friend in Maine who I wanted to visit, so I figured I’d go up a bit early and do a road trip for myself before heading off to work that race, and I haven’t done races in virtually any of the New England states, so a double-race weekend sounded like a great way to check off a few more states!
I spent a lot of time perusing Running in the USA trying to figure out just which races I wanted to do. I really liked the Drummer Hill Trail Race because it was a “choose your own adventure” race – a 10k trail loop that runners had the option of doing 1 to 5 times. By the time I registered, everything was the same price, so I went ahead and said 50k (spoiler alert: that didn’t happen) and figured I was only about a month and a half from the double marathon, so a 50k shouldn’t be too unreasonable. As it sometimes does, life got in the way of any actual training in May (lack of motivation has been hard to overcome!) so I went into the race under-prepared and was very happy to have the opportunity to change my mind on race day.I flew into Boston on Friday night and made the 2 hour drive to Keene, NH. Given my late arrival, not much was open in town, but I was able to hit up the local grocery store the next morning to get some essentials before heading to Fuller Elementary School for packet pick-up which was super easy and then I followed some other runners to the start line, just a few blocks away at the Drummer Hill Conservation Area.

It was a fairly small race, with 80 finishers across the five distances, but the course elevation meant we spread out fairly quickly, having to hurdle a log within a few hundred yards of the start line and almost immediately heading uphill, which lasted about 2 miles. The terrain was promised to be rocks, roots and wildlife and they weren’t lying! I haven’t done a lot of really technical trail running and this definitely pushed me.

Nature’s obstacle course
Just follow the path… up the rocks!
There’s a bit more sun in the middle half of the course, but there were also some volunteers out there cheering people on and taking pictures, which is always a fun surprise during a race.
 All smiles, even with the bad running form
The good news about this course is that you get most of the climbing out of the way at the beginning, so the end of the course has a lot of downhill…

and some extra water and mud just for fun!

As I was finishing up my second lap, I knew that would be the end for me. I was doing a lot of walking on the first half of that lap and wasn’t looking forward to another “hike” to start lap 3. I had done a little research about some other potential hikes I could do in New Hampshire and since I already knew what this course looked like, I was ready to check out something new. So, when I made it back to the aid station, I officially checked out after 20k. I ended up finishing 9th overall in the 20k, coming in as the 2nd female in 2:46:29. The top 3 finishers in each distance got drum sticks with their place listed on them – a very cool (and very appropriately themed) prize.

After the race, I stuck around for a bit and talked with some of the other runners who had finished, as well as some that were coming into the aid station before heading back out on their third and fourth laps. I got to meet some runners who were part of Going for Broke(N) for the Ragnar Trail New England the next weekend, as well as a a student who was running the race because his professor challenged him to it the night before. It was a fun atmosphere and I probably would have stuck around a bit more except I ran into the wildlife that was promised in the previews, in the form of swarms of mosquitos.

Since I finished at 20k, it doesn’t officially count as a half marathon for New Hampshire, but since I’m not following any specific system for checking off states, it still counts as #27 for me!

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