Monday, February 27, 2012

DH Jones 10 Miler

This past weekend I ran the DH Jones 10m in Amherst, MA. This race was the first of seven in the 2012 New England Grand Prix and was also the first GP race that I’ve run with my team since the Red’s Shoe Barn 5m in April of last year. Gate City had nearly 50 runners signed up to run and everyone seemed psyched to get the season started. So, to say that I was super-amped up for this race would be a very mild understatement.

My goal race for the spring is the New Bedford Half Marathon, which is coming up in 3 weeks, so I figured that this race would be a good indication of how my training was going. The previous time I ran Jones (back in 2009) I managed a 6:27 pace (1:04:25) and followed that up with a 6:21 pace at New Bedford giving me a new Half Marathon PR of 1:23:07. So, heading into this race I hoped to run at (or below) my 2009 time and set up another shot at a potential Half Marathon PR.

Downtown Amherst
We got down to the race about 75 minutes before the start giving me plenty of time to pick up my stuff, chat with some of the NEGP regulars and get in a good warm-up with GCS teammates  Todd Callaghan & Denis Tranchemontagne. Todd is coming off a tremendous 2011 mountain running season and has only been getting stronger since due to an extra large dose of winter trail running. Denis was complaining about a general lack of fitness which, I knew from previous experience, meant he’d probably beat me by a couple of minutes.

I made my way from the school to the start and met up with another GCS teammate Steve Wolfe. Steve has had a tough winter battling through a series of colds which have severely cut into is training time. But, he ran a 1:00:22 at this race two years ago. So, his recent training lag merely meant that he’d probably only beat me by 2 minutes rather than his usual 4. A few strides later we were at the line and, after the shortest pre-race announcements ever at a NEGP race, we were off.

The last spot I felt good
Immediately I realized that I’d started too far back and patiently worked my way though the slower runners to find a pack that I could (or hoped I could) hang with. That pack included Denis, Steve, Mike Wright & Justin Soucy. We hit the mile mark in 6:28, crested the hill and bombed down the other side. By the time we got to the 2 mile mark we were running 5:55 pace – into the wind. Uh - Oh!

Just past the 2.5 mile mark the road started to head back uphill again and that’s when Mike picked up the pace with Denis & Justin following closely behind. But now that I think about it, it was probably more a matter of me falling back than those guys speeding up as I hit the 3 mile mark in 7:02. A 7:12 mile 4 confirmed that fact as a few more runners slid by me. After mile 4 the road bent back down and I started to pick people off again.

Nearing the 5 mile mark, I was gaining a bit on Justin who had lost contact with Mike & Denis. But, before I could completely close the gap I botched my exchange at the water stop and promptly followed that up by inhaling the cup that I went back to retrieve. 2 coughing fits later and Justin had glided away again. I hit the 5 mile mark in 6:39 giving me a 33:18 split at halfway. Not exactly what I had in mind.

Running scared
The next few miles were mostly downhill and I worked them as hard as I could but only managed a 6:47, 6:30 & 6:32. With my back pedaling, I was fully expecting Steve to pull up alongside me. But, it never happened. Mile 9 led us back up towards the school and I went through in 6:36. A couple hundred yards later the road turned right and headed up another hill and into the wind. As I turned, I glanced back and saw Steve about 20 seconds behind me and in hot pursuit.

I put the “hammer” down and closed the last, mostly uphill, mile in a “scorching” 6:51. Which would have been a heck of a lot worse had Steve not been there to keep me honest. I finished in 1:06:36 which even-splitted me at 33:18, put me squarely in 169th place and about 2 minutes (13 seconds per mile) slower than I expected. Denis & Mike finished 2 ½ minutes ahead, Justin finished a minute in front and Steve finished 20 seconds back.

Obviously the results were not what I was hoping for but, after the debacle that was last year, I'm happy to be running and on the team again. Speaking of which, I'm incredibly proud of the effort put forth by my GCS teammates. Our Men went 4th, 2nd, 2nd in the 40+, 50+ & 60+ age groups. And, our women grabbed 3rd in the 40+ division. Also, Todd Callaghan finished 2nd Male Master, Karen Pattelena finished 3rd Female Master, Cathy Merra finished 4th Female Senior and Amber Ferreira finished 8th Female Overall! All in all a great day for the Team!

Moving forward I clearly need to improve my hill climbing skills and with my hamstring trouble seemingly behind me I should be able to work on that before New Bedford. That being said, I think I need to be honest with myself and accept that a Half Marathon PR will most likely not happen this time around. But, as long as I keep getting stronger with each race I run, I can certainly live with that!

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