Okay, I’m not ready to start logging everyday but I guess I feel good enough about today’s 30k to let any looker-on’s know where I’ve been and where I’m at now.
Maybe, just maybe, I’ve recovered enough to start running more than 3-4 times a week again. I haven’t been doing any secret training or workouts. Only slow runs with the past three Sunday races as speed work. My weekly mileage since the final Smith College incident where I screwed up my IT Band and Patellar tendon below the knee has been dismal 15, 15, 42, 55, 39 and 45 to end the week today.
I did the final Snowstorm 10k in 37:47. It wasn't a painful run thru-the-pain type day but I did not feel comfortable at all. My stride was visibly labored and choppy…gimpy even. Not feeling confident enough to push hard off the left leg I gave up a lead handed to me in the final mile.
The following week was DH Jones 10 miler in 60:40; about what I expected. A full 2 minutes off last years’ best despite awesome weather. Fitness is still a ways away. I was slow on the up-hills and grateful to get downhill without any knee problems.
And today was Stu’s 30k. Despite ideal conditions I came thru 2’20” slower than last years’ best, This race has a reputation for being run in less than ideal weather that is early March in New England. Last year was no exception. But thanks to a sunny, crisp 50 degree day there was a very good turnout this year. The atmosphere was noticeably more upbeat as winter-harden runners actually looked forward to an early spring romp in the sun as opposed to a 2-plus-hour battle with the snow, wind and cold.
A good number of top notch masters are amoungst the faces and names I spot during pre-race registration. Present are Keiron Tumbleton, who ran a 1:14 on the brutally hilly Monson Half course last fall and Glen Guillemette who ran a 1:12 at last year’s New Bedford half. Google’n the other top masters I see that Pepi Peterson logged a 2:25 a St Georges last October. Gabriel Helmlinger was last years' Sugarloaf winner in 2:35. Mike Carroll, who I know as 5 time champ of Holyoke and a 2:47 Boston last year.
So including myself you got six masters that have run the marathon in 2:47 or better. Four under 2:38. These six masters would end up claiming the top 11 spots overall.
For those in the unknown about Stu’s 30k – it’s a solid course. All up and down. No unreasonably hard climbs – just long and steady for the most part. The prominent hills occur at 2 miles and 15k and near the end. After a long fast downhill at mile 16, there’s a steady rise and then drop before the final tough short steep hill to end mile 18. Nobody is a big fan of that last one. The course is all on roads that wrap around the Wachusett’s Reservoir in Clinton, MA. Weather usually plays a part. Snow, rain, cold and wind; they’ve run in it all at Stus’. Overall, it’s a tough but fair course and great prep work for Boston Marathon hopefuls.
Of the some 300-500 or so in attendance each year, expect maybe 20 or less runners to be putting in a full race effort. Most are training thru as part of spring marathon preparation. So if you plan to race, a fast group to work with is hard to find and is worth the extra effort to hold onto.
With that in mind I take out the first mile in about 6 flat while tucked behind the pesky wind by a half dozen runners. Keiron is out hard maybe in 5:30 and Glenn is just a few step ahead of me. Before the first hills approach at mile 2, it’s clear I won’t be holding close to Glenn. I settled in my own pace in about 10th place. The terrain varies so much and so often miles splits are of no great meaning. I choose to record my 10k and 15 splits to compare from year to year. By 5k, I’m off a full minute from last year’s leading time. It hit 10k in 39:15 holding on to the one minute deficit. The leader is way gone and even Glenn’s group is out of sight except for on the longest of straight-aways.
I’m struggling to find any rhythm falling out of race mode into a fast jog up the climb to 15k. Scott Leslie passes me quickly. I’ve seen Scott a couple of times here before and each year he runs a strong negative split. I try to keep close but gradually he pulls away. The hill tops out just after the 15k split (58:52) and makes a sharp left before some downhill and more rollers. I spot Mike Caroll at the turn and we give each other a thumbs up. I land in some sort of rhythm now and then for the 2nd 10k (38:20) but Leslie is getting more and more out of reach.
I make my way down the big downhill at mile 16 in full stride. I slow up some on the uphill that enters the downtown Clinton area. I take a quick peek back to look for any chasers, once, and then a second time before the left turn where that nasty short steep uphill reveals itself. I don’t spot anyone and proceed uphill with caution and relief that today’s effort is almost complete.
I summit the climb and slowly work back up into a higher cadence as I hit the 18 mile marker. Just then, my spidey sense kicks in. I feel like someone is close behind. I like to listen for spectator cheers that start up again for the next closest runner as I sign that I got someone hot on my tail, but hear no clues.
There are some obvious signs to tell between the friendly local spectator just out cheering for anyone and everyone, and the other – the ones in the know - an athlete in disguise maybe supporting his/her spouse today. Or perhaps a runner themselves injured helping out and cheering others on. With about half a mile to go a women, looking to be of the later, gives me the heads-up, and ever so discreetly. Someone is closing and coming up hard.
And with that, I get my ass in gear and start to accelerate as fast as a person with the username of slowtwitch can. I do so fueled by the fear that the last coveted Stu’s 30k hoodie awarded to top three age groupers is on the line. I hit the gas hard. I reach the chute in an almost all-out sprint with a huge sigh of relief that I didn’t blow it in the last 400m of a 30km race.
I’m ecstatic to sprint to a strong finish and not toss my cookies after. Oh wait. Yes I am. Maybe not. Wrong again. Blew chunks. Twice. That guy closing in hard on me turned out to be Josh Gordon – a pretty fast runner who turns in very respectable times in everything from 5k to the marathon. Out for a training run today, he could easily beat me in every distance – even without a stealth attack. But thanks to an insurmountable lead and that spectator extraordinaire at mile 18, a small moral victory was mine.
Sometimes it’s the little victories that start you down the path to better things.