Monday, August 9, 2010

Showdown in Sandown

This past Saturday was the Sandown Old Home Days 5 Miler which served as the 6th of 7 New Hampshire Grand Prix Races. And, with Gate City holding a very slim lead over host Greater Derry, it was important that our club get a good turnout for this “Showdown in Sandown”. Fortunately, we did have a good turnout. Unfortunately, we still got smoked. More on that later …

The weather for this one was surprisingly cool and comfortable. Mid to upper 60’s at the start with low humidity and a bit of cloud cover made for almost ideal summer racing conditions. I’d been doing some heavy mileage (for me) lately for my Clarence DeMar Marathon training, so I wasn’t sure how well I’d fare here. But, since the temps were reasonable and I’d run each of the other previous 5 NHGP races, I figured “why not”?

The warm-up went well and we were getting ready to start when I realized I left my timing chip back at the car. Whoops. Fortunately it was a quick trip and I was back before the gun. The first ¼ mile was downhill and then quickly started back up again. This was how it would go for most of the race. Just ups or downs. No flats. With “13 hills in 5 miles” Sandown is billed as one of the hilliest 5m courses around. And, early on I could see how it earned that reputation.

During the early miles I hoped to stay within myself and run a controlled race. But, after 5 of these things, it’s very easy to see who it is you need to beat. Therefore, it’s very easy to get caught up in trying to maximize team points - at the expense of running a “smart” race. And, so it went with this one. I sort of ended up keying off of two GDTC masters runners who had beaten me all year long – Steve Stanley & Tom Varick. For most of the race, Steve was well ahead and Tom & I we’re running neck & neck. I’d pull away on the downs and he’d catch me on the ups.

At about the 3 mile mark Steve started coming back to us a bit. And then once we turned onto the main road (that lead to the biggest of the 13 hills) I saw that we were definitely going to catch him. Tom & I pushed /pulled each other up the hill and we were within striking distance of Steve at the summit. Tom (as usual) had built a bit of a lead going up the hill and I slowly reeled him (and Steve) back in on the way down.

Just as we neared Steve (and hit a little valley before the next hill) I surged ahead of both guys hoping to catch them by surprise. And, it worked - but just for a bit. Shortly thereafter, Tom showed me he had another gear and he walked me down as we neared the top of the hill. Then the bugger just kept right on going. And, even though it was a downhill finish from that point on, I couldn’t close the gap and finished 6 seconds back. Crap. I gotta’ work on that kick!

Splits – Sandown 5m: 6:09, 5:57, 6:16, 6:45 (up), 5:46 (dn) = 30:54 (6:10).
The Final Results showed I was 5th in my age group and scored 6 hard-fought points for the team. I'm pretty pleased with the results considering I was right in the middle of an 78 mile week and have been averaging over 70 miles/week for the last 6 weeks of my marathon training. Plus, I got by one of the GDTC masters guys and nearly got the other. Maybe I'll have better luck on that front next time.

Despite a big GCS crowd (28 runners) we still got crushed by Greater Derry who brought 53 runners and most of their big guns. A final points tally showed GDTC with a whopping 190 points to our 115 - which vaults them into first place (by 24 points) with just one race to go! So, NH road race fans should circle October 16th on their calendars now. Because, one way or another, the 2010 NHGP Team Title will be decided at the Pawtuckaway 5k!

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