Sunday, February 24, 2013

Jones 10-miler

SOMEWHERE IN THE 413 -- The first stop on the 2013 USATF NE Grand Prix tour took us to Amherst, MA for the Sugarloaf Mountain Athletic Club's (a.k.a. SMAC) Jones 10 miler. Who would pick a hilly 10-miler in February in Western Massachusetts as their Grand Prix 10-miler? Apparently we, the voting members of USATF New England would, that's who.

After two weekends of hellish snow in a row, the weather prognosticators really felt like they had their groove on and were trying hard to hype this weekend's minor winter weather event into something it thankfully did not become. The storm of the century turned into a bit of a nuisance with some rain, some snow and mostly just some wet roads. However, due to the threat of biblical weather, the race was pushed back from its original start time of 11am to 1pm, which, it turned out, was probably unnecessary but better safe than sorry.

I got to drive the cool kids car to this race--I made a couple of stops picking up GLRR teammates EJ Hrynowski and Kevin Carnabucci in Stoneham, and then Liane Pancost, Marli Piccolo and Ally Maslowski at the GLRR meeting spot at Drum Hill rotary in Chelmsford. Once everyone was on board, we were off to the 413. We got there plenty early so had time to pick up THE LARGEST RACE BIBS EVER, sit around, go to the bathroom a bunch of times, do a warm up jog, fret over what to wear, take pictures (see below) and hobnob with anyone who's anyone in  New England running, etc.

As it got near race time we left the warmth and comfort of the middle school to the start of the race about a quarter mile away in the driveway of the high school.  After much fretting, I had gone with just a singlet, arm warmers, gloves and hat. I was cold walking and standing around at the start, but that was probably about right. Once we got rolling I was fine.

The start, like all Grand Prix race starts, was pretty chaotic. I buried myself a few rows deep to keep from going out way too fast but that meant getting caught in the wash for the first few hundred yards. After about a quarter mile, Jason Bui and James DeLuca, my GLRR teammates I figured were going to run closest to the same time as me, were about 30 yards ahead and I was boxed in behind a big group. I had to do a little NASCAR style racing for a bit, but got out of the traffic and around the group so I could catch up to Jason and James--I figured if I had let them go there, I would have never see them again. It was a good move as we got into a good group that was rolling along nicely. I never saw a 1 mile marker but at mile 2 I had about 11:51 on my watch, which was okay given that the first couple of miles were net downhill--I had looked at the course profile and I knew we'd give it all back on the big uphill from 2.5 to 3.5 anyway.

The Hill starts on the straight stretch of road in the 3rd mile and goes on for a while but then you make a hard right turn and realize that it keeps going up for a while more, and gets pretty steep near the top. I tried to just stay relaxed here--I let Jason and James go a bit, knowing I'm not the best on the uphills and not wanting to get into any real difficulty so early in the race. There is a nice downhill to catch your breath and then the road flattens out a bit before becoming a dirt road. (Somewhere in here a GBTC woman spit on me--she apologized. Eh, we were all wet and about to get really muddy anyway.)

The dirt road could have been a lot worse. It was wet, there were a lot of puddles and there were a few sections near the reservoir where the where the snow was sticking and turning into a brown, soupy, slushy mess--but it was fairly runnable. Throughout this entire flat section I was reeling in Jason (and James to a lesser extent.) Somewhere on the muddy section I pulled alongside Jason and when we hit the pavement again at around mile 6 (maybe?) I asked him if the rest of it was paved--he confirmed it was which was a big relief. 

Miles 7 and 8 and the first bit of 9 were really nice--rolling, gradual downhill. I was running 6 pace or just under and making back some of the time I had given up on the uphills and muddy section.  At this point I pulled away from Jason a bit but he later told me I never got more than about 15 yards away. James wasn't getting any closer--he was running really strong up ahead--but I was catching and passing people through this whole section so I was okay with how things were going. Still, I knew there was a bitch of a hill looming just before mile 9.

When that last hill came, I figured at least this means we're getting close. My legs were actually getting cold  and I was glad there wasn't much left since I knew it wouldn't be long before they started cramping. I just put my head down and tried to grind away at that hill for a mile or so. Once I got up and over, I started letting my legs run and trying to turn them over again as fast as I could--Jason yelled for me to let it go and just then the finish came into view. On the downhill, just before the turn into the school you can see the finish loop and people finishing right in front of you and there is lots of good energy there.
Ouch! (photo credit: Krissy Koslosky)
I saw Sully (James Sullivan) looking like he'd been done for a while on the corner cheering for us and tried to bear down as much as I could at that point. I made it around the two hairpin turns and to the finish in 1:01:09. I'm fairly happy with that given the course and the conditions. I wound up 93rd overall and 14th M40 and 1st M40 runner for Greater Lowell, so not a bad day's work for a Grand Prix race. James DeLuca was in with a nice new PR at 1:00:30. Jason was right behind me in 1:01:13. EJ scored down to be 2nd master for GLRR and 1st for our M50 team, which took 2nd. There were lots of other great performances as well--too many to name. In the overall team race, Western Mass Distance Project cleaned up on their home course.

The star of the day for GLRR, though, was Sully who ran a massive, eye-popping PR of 56:22 for 30th place.

After rehashing for a few minutes with my teammates I started to get cold fast and was pretty eager to get inside and get some dry cloths on. Everybody got some food and we even sang "Happy Birthday" to Liane, who won her age group on her birthday--pretty cool.

The ride home was mostly uneventful and we seem to have beat the wort of the weather--as I type this it is snowing like a bastard out my window and has been for a couple of hours now. The winter that wouldn't die.

I'm not sure what my race tells me about my fitness for New Bedford--I think I can run a faster pace there than I did today, I'm just not sure by how much. There are still three weeks of training to go, and that will have something to say about it. But all in all I feel pretty good about my race. Onward.


  1. Great race Mikey, and as always a great read. I think your timing is looking just about perfect for New Bedford, you'll be ready and just have to hope for favorable conditions. We've all got our fingers crossed on that account.

  2. I need more ass pics so I can relive the run!

  3. Nice recap and a great race!

  4. I always get a good story and pick up a little pearl, as well: "buried myself a few rows deep to keep from going out way too fast."

  5. Excellent race on a tough course, Mike. You're getting pretty damn fit all of a sudden. You could have a big "PR" year. See you in New Bedford