Monday, May 20, 2013

Road Mode

For better (and worse) most of the training (and racing) that I’ve been doing over the past month or so has been slow and on the trails. At this point, I had hoped to be doing more speed work on the track and tempo runs on the road, but my on-again, off-again calf problem has slowed me down for the last four weeks. Anything faster than about 6 to 6 ½ minutes per mile and the calf/achilles immediately starts to tighten up and ache.

I got the calf worked on last week, however, and things improved enough for me to feel comfortable about giving track another go. “Slow and Rusty” would be the best way to describe my first full track workout of the season. But, thankfully, “Pain-Free” was also a key ingredient to the workout! So, if I’m lucky, I just may be past whatever it was that was holding me back.

Of course, any fears I might have had about messing up my lower-leg certainly didn’t keep me from attempting to run this month’s New Hampshire Grand Prix Race selection – The Bedford Rotary 12k. I’d have to look at the numbers, But, I’m pretty sure I’ve done this race more times than any other annual NH event. My first time was in 2000 and my last time was in 2012. I’ve run as fast at 45 minutes and as slow as 50. This time, I expected to be somewhere right in the middle. But, hopefully faster than the 49 I ran last year!

When I got to the High School I could see it was going to be a good day for our club. We had almost 50 Striders signed up and everyone seemed pumped up about seizing back the points lead from Greater Derry in this year’s NHGP Series. I did a nice, comfortable 20 minute warm-up with Justin Soucy, Dan Dugan, Brian Kane, Steve Rouleau, Ken Snow and Dave Beauley. Then a quick change into my singlet and racing flats, some strides on the track and it was “all systems go”!

In previous years, this race had been part of the much larger New England Grand Prix. This year, it took a break from all that and it was actually a nice change of pace - so to speak. Shorter wait times for registration, t-shirt pick-up and porta-potties were just a few of the benefits of having a smaller crowd. Not to mention front-row seats to the starting line! A few, brief, pre-race introductions then, all at once, the bagpipe groaned and we were off!

I took it out nice and easy. I’d blown up too many times on this course to count and the temperature was starting to rise. I still hit Mile 1 in a much-too-fast 6:11. But, it was a mostly down-hill first mile (and I felt pretty comfortable) so I just went with it. The field stretched out, but not nearly as much as in previous years. I could still see the leaders through Mile 2, which I hit in 6:21. Mile 3 had some rollers, but I still kept it “tight” in 6:27.

On the hill, in the middle of Mile 4, friend/foes Charlie Bemis & Amy Bernard (both of Greater Derry) came up along side. I managed to hold them off for a little while as we passed the mile mark in 6:37, but a side stitch slowed me down as I neared the top of the climb. I opened it up again on the back side of the hill and flew right past them and two other people (including teammate Brandyn Naro) on the way down.

Mile 5 was a much more respectable 6:18. But the side stitch would not relent. Charlie & Amy went by me for the last time during Mile 6 which came and went in 6:27. Mile 7 was a slow and painful affair - run in 6:42. The GDTC pair was dead ahead, but I had no “extra gear” to go after them and it was all I could do just to protect my race position from a hard-charging Brandyn. The last .452 miles of up, down and around the track went mercifully without incident in 2:52 and I crossed the line in just under 48 minutes. 47:57, to be precise.

I was pleasantly surprised with this one. Despite the recent lack of speed work, it was my 3rd fastest 12k of all time (out of 7 attempts) and my fastest in 4 years! More importantly, my Gate City Strider teammates earned 178 points on the day and vaulted back into first place in the NHGP Standings. Oh, and my calf didn’t hurt! Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner! Now, after my brief asphaltic encounter, it’s time to get off the roads and back to the trails.
Pineland Farms 25k, here I come!

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