Well, not really, but that's sort of how it happened. I was pretty sure I was going to join GLRR for 2013 anyway, for a bunch of reasons both competitive and social, and after spending all weekend with EJ, Sully, Bash and Eric, the deal was sealed. I came home, signed up, and emailed Jason Bui, who was organizing the club's entries for Mill Cities, and told him I was available if he needed any masters runners.
The next thing I knew I was slotted for the 9.5-mile leg (the long leg) on GLRR's scoring men's masters team along with Titus Mitunda, Carlos Flores, Ken Cain and Keith O'Brien. No pressure.
Long before this I had committed to John Bogosian, who is a board member at the Special Olympics, that I would run the Jolly Jaunt, a big fund raiser for them, which falls the day before Mill Cities. I had initially planned to race it but changed plans to a tempo run once I committed to Mill Cities. On race morning I carpooled in with Chris Ritondo, we did a nice long warmup around the common, and then I ran a nice-n-easy 19:09--a solid 2 minutes slower than my best recent 5k. It was cold, snowy and mostly fun, and afterward our fund raising team, "Johnny's Angels," went to the Bean Town Pub for some post-race refreshments.
|Team Johnny's Angels|
I've never done a 5k tempo the day before a race but I had a feeling I wouldn't feel any worse for wear on Sunday morning. Luckily, I was right. I had to leave the house early to meet my teammate, Ken Cain, who was running the leg before me. We dropped my car at the 4th exchange (where I would finish) and he drove me to the start of my leg where I met some of my new GLRR teammates and did a short warmup jog before getting ready to roll.
This race epitomizes everything that is awesome about the New England running scene--it is 100% for runners by runners. Mill Cities is a 28-mile, 5-leg relay that starts in Nashua, NH and follows the Merrimack River through Hudson, Tyngsboro, Lowell and Methuen to the finish at the Claddagh Pub in Lawrence, MA. The race is organized by the 20 or so clubs that make up the Mill Cities alliance, and is open only to teams from those clubs. There are awards (bricks) for the top 3 teams in each division, and for the top 3 clubs in the overall championship.
Expecting a 9:15-ish hand-off, I got up front to the exchange zone at around 9 as runners--mostly sunshine starters from the older age groups at first, but then some men's open teams--started to come through. Before I knew it I heard people yelling "66, Greater Lowell" and I jumped down onto the path and got ready to run. I got the hand-off from Ken and took off and just like that I was racing.
Clearly Titus, Carlos and Ken had killed it on their legs because I was in some elite company when I got the stick. Just ahead of me was Joe Navas of Whirlaway's men's masters team, soon after starting I was passed by Pat Moulton running for Gate City's men's open team, and Ben Ndaya of our coed open team. I had to just chill out and relax and not worry about any of that--most teams naturally put their fastest runner on the long leg and we hadn't done that so I just needed to run my race. I figured we were in the top few teams but I wasn't sure where since it was hard to tell who was on a men's masters team that had gone through before I got the hand-off. I was pretty sure Somerville and Whirlaway were ahead of me, and probably Gate City.
The miles were very well marked along the (sometimes icy) bike path and on Route 110. My first mile was really slow (6:35) as I was basically frozen. I left too much time in between my brief warm-up and getting the hand off and I was practically shivering. After that first mile, though, I started to loosen up and everything was between 6 and 6:10, which was right around where I had planned to be for the first 7 miles or so. For the last 2.5, I definitely got down under 6 pace but had stopped looking at my watch and was just running to the barn at that point. I probably got passed by 5 or 6 runners throughout the leg (and passed a bunch too) but I *think* they were all open division folks. So I held serve and reached the exchange zone in about 57:55 (6:06 pace)...where I did not see Keith, whom I was supposed to hand off to. Uh, oh. I stood there waiting for someone to track him down. It seemed like forever but it was probably only 30-45 seconds and we didn't lose any places to MM teams, so no harm / no foul I guess.
I felt pretty good about my run given that I was about 6 weeks past my peak for the season and really should be in recovery mode at this point. It was the perfect exclamation point to a condensed come back season that was only designed to give me a starting point to build on for next spring. Mission accomplished and then some.
I did a short cool-down with Bash and then put on some warm clothes and drove to the Claddagh. The short drive to the Claddagh was actually one of the coolest parts of the day for me. Seeing that long string of different colored club singlets stretching off into the distance was a cool sight and made me really appreciate all that we have here in the New England running community. So cool.
At the end of the day, our men's masters team finished 4th--so no brick for us. We chipped in 10 points toward the club championship, though, and GLRR wound up 3rd overall.
The after party at Mill Cities is pretty epic as far as road race after parties go and it was especially cool since I was meeting a lot of my GLRR club mates for the first time. I am utterly convinced this is the best club for me and I am really psyched for 2013. I'm not gonna lie, I'm already looking forward to Mill Cities 2013.
|The after party!|