Sunday, July 12, 2009

We took the lake


Photos courtesy of Jim Rhodes

I love this race.

The Take the Lake 5k in Wakefield is in it's 10th year and has grown up quite a bit from the first time I ran it back in 2001 or so. It's still about the fastest USATF certified 5k course you can find in these parts and more importantly has a start and finish less than 2 miles from my front door. So it made sense at the start of the year when I put down a sub 17-minute 5k as my number one goal for 2009 to circle July 12th on the calendar as a possible date to take it down. As the date got closer I knew that it was probably not going to happen just yet, but I also knew I was close enough to sub-17 fitness that I had to give it a good go. I was pretty sure no matter what I was ready to run my fastest 5k in almost exactly 5 years--since I ran 17:06 at this race on July 11th 2004.

Mark Hudson and I did a warmup loop of the course (because we don't run around this lake often enough as it is) and then got ready to go. There was the normal pre-race chit chat around the start. As we lined up Bobby Bligh was next to me on the line and gave me a, "Good luck, brother!" Then race director Tom Mignosa made the last minute announcements and we were off.

It had rained a lot overnight and all that water was sitting on the roads and evaporating quickly as the sun tried its best to burn off the cloud layer--making it feel a little like running in a greenhouse. I did my best to settle into a comfortable rhythm but it was really hard to relax. I felt like my heart rate and breathing were elevated right from the go and just kept trying to settle in. I was 5:34 at the mile and pretty much knew at that point it was a very long shot for 17...I figured I needed to be 5:27 or maybe 5:28 max to have a real shot, and that 5:34 first mile sure felt like 5:27. Not a good sign. I just tried to focus on staying near the red line, not backing off.

At about a mile and a half, the course turns right at the gazebo onto Church Street before you leave the road and take the gravel path by the old cemetery and behind the softball field. At this point the headwind was gone but that just meant I instantly started to overheat. Still, I like the little bit on the gravel path under the trees.

Once on North Ave I saw the 2 mile marker and just tried to focus on maintaining turnover up the little rise there. I hit 2 miles in 11:14, knowing then that 17 was out the window but I really tried not to let that rattle me--I still wanted to put down a good time, whatever it was. There was a kid who was running nearly shoulder to shoulder with me now and we would trade the lead about a half dozen times the rest of the way. I just tried to keep my foot on the gas, stay right at the red line.

Through the last turns things got pretty hazy as they do at the end of a 5k, but I remember hearing 16:50 at the 3 mile mark. It was all blood and guts to the finish line, where I became the subject of absolutely the most brutal running photo I've ever seen of myself:

Yeah just...wow.

Anyway, the guy I had been racing for the last mile and a half wound up out kicking me to the line by 1 second, but I never gave in and fought for every yard. It turns out he was 21-year-old Tim Wood of West Roxbury. I wound up 10th overall in 17:22. It was in fact my fastest 5k in 5 years.

I jogged another lap of the lake for a cool down with Hudson (7th) and Dave Dechellis (4th) and then took off as quickly as possible for family commitments. I can't be the least bit upset about this result. I know I'll get sub 17, I'm getting closer. And, damn, I just love to race.

Results.

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