Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Rolling in Amherst

Finishing up 10 miles in Amherst, MA. Photo by Kristin Wainright.

Ben Strain arrived 7:40am to car pool a crew from the North Shore. Junyong Pak (Beverly) and Brett Rickenbach (Danvers) arrived about five minutes later and we zipped down Rt. 2 to Rt. 202 into Amherst following a caravan of would be racers. Our objective was to survive a rolling course that was designed by my college coach (Salem State College) and current Greater Boston Track Club coach, Tom Derderian way back in the early 1970's.

I ran on the course for the 1st time back in 1999 when it was the USATF-New England 10 mile championship. I managed to run 56:24 that year. My second run on the course was in 2005 when Joe Shairs and I went out there for a tune up to get ready for the New Bedford Half Marathon. I ran a bit slower in 57:27 and seemed to be running alone for much of the race. I recall the hills seemed very long and tough.

As for this past Sunday, Amherst again was the host of the USATF-New England 10 mile championship. I really did not set a goal for the race. I ran 5:43 pace in the Great Stew Chase 15K several weeks ago in Lynn, MA on a fair course so figured no worse than that in Amherst, even with a tough hill in the closing miles.

I went out for a 5:38 mile and noted how strung out the race was before mile 2 where there was a healthy down hill. I just did my thing as I caught up to Ben Strain. Dave Quintal, one of our top masters, hung tight before I ran a few six minute miles on some hilly sections. Then I ran over a stretch of ice that seemed to last 1.5 miles along the reservoir. The footing was not too bad but I did some slipping where the trees have not allowed much sun over the previous week. The next few miles had plenty of downhill as I ran with Mike Cooney for 2 miles into mile 8 where I began to fade a bit dreading the last few climbs into the finish. I was spent so I just tried to keep pace with a few dudes who passed me with one mile to go. I finished with a 57:37 chip time.

Splits per my watch:
5:44 (28:53)
5:58 (57:39) 57:37 chip time

I'll take it. It was a good effort. The one takeaway from today's race was that the hills did not seem as long or as tough as they did in 2005. I imagine that being a Grand Prix race with plenty of competition and runners around at all times helped out.

The CMS men's open team ran a great race for 2nd place overall behind BAA and a few seconds in front of GBTC. Justin Fyffe came in 5th overall, Kevin Tilton ran solid, Matt Clark & Andy McCarron tore up their old training grounds, and Jim Johnson closed out the scoring for the top five. Meanwhile, the CMS masters team took charge with 3rd place behind Whirlaway and Greater Springfield. Joe Shairs and Dan Verrington placed 2nd and 3rd overall in the masters category, only seconds from the 1st master. Dave Quintal was 7th master and Dave Dunham cleared his goal to break 60 minutes. These guys are going to have a solid year ahead of them.

Next up for me is the New Bedford Half Marathon. I am going to bust my tail and see how long I can run 5:40-5:45 pace. It might get ugly out there.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sidehiller 4.3 mile snowshoe report

I met up with Dave Dunham at 6:30am at his house before arriving at Jim Johnson's castle where he and Kristen awaited in a warm, bright yellow Nissan Exterra. We sprinted up to Center Sandwich, NH in about 90 minutes but not before passing an Ice Fishing tournament at Lake Winnipesaukee. There were a ton of shacks, canopies, trucks, spectators, and anglers - er fisherman out there in a carnival-like atmosphere on the ice. It was pretty cool as Jim and I caught up on fresh water fishing experiences about 30 minutes before we saw this.

As I sign up for the race and hand over my check and race application, I am debating on signing up for USSSA - United States Snowshoe Association - so that I can qualify for the Championship race near Mt. Hood Oregon next month. The cost was $30 and I already looked into booking a direct flight which could be had under three hundred dollars. I took the membership application back with my checkbook and mulled it over. After speaking with a few teammates and their intentions, I decided not to sign up for the membership and qualifying here which was the purpose of the trip to Sidehiller. I was content with this decision as I lined up at the start. The weather was perfect, maybe mid 30's, no wind, and cloudy.

I settled in with a controlled start and put myself in about 9th or 10th about 400m into the race which was on a groomed section for at least 1000m. I could not seem to get into a groove with regard to stride. The cleat never seemed to get a good grip so each step was pissing me off and I altered stride to get comfortable which never happens on snowshoes unless I am climbing or descending. I strain my quads on the flat sections fighting to get traction and find a good stride. My quads are usually trashed and feel them the next day.

I passed a few folks including Al Bernier on the 1st single track climb while I took small steps. The climb was not steep nor too long. Tim Van Orden was in sight. I tried to go after him on the 1st open field. Over the next 15 minutes I kept pace with Tim's stride but never closed the gap. I hated each step even though the conditions were good. It reminded me of the lack of rhythm on tough conditions on snowshoes. This is when the snow is deep and you have to work your ass off to get anywhere. But today, the snow depth and conditions were favorable for a fast jaunt. I never got into this race mentally or physically. My effort basically reinforced my decision to not sign up for the USSSA membership in order to be considered for the qualification to the Championship race in Oregon.

Meanwhile, I thought about the guys battling at the front and wondered how things shook out for them. That is not a good sign when I am racing and my thoughts are about my teammates ahead of me. As it turned out Kevin took the win, passing Jim in the last mile. Dave Dunham finished about two minutes back from Jim and Al Bernier was about a half minute behind me.

4 Mile Snowshoe Race - USSSA Qualifier
Center Sandwich, NH, February 7, 2009

PLACE First Last Age M/F City ST Team USSSA MIN SEC
1 Kevin Tilton 27 M Conway NH CMS 31 40
2 Jim Johnson 31 M Salem NH CMS 31 54
3 Dave Dunham 44 M Ward Hill MA WMAC/CMS Y 33 53
4 Robert Jackman 26 M Warwick RI TNT 36 07
5 Tim VanOrden 40 M Barrington VT CMS 37 08
6 James Pawlicki 34 M Beverly MA CMS 37 35
7 Al Bernier 34 M Newton NH CMS 38 09

The post race grub was at the local sandwich shop about a 100 yards away from the start and finish. I got some hot and sour soup with a piece of bread. The soup was awesome. The CMS folk exchanged some stories and we headed for home where I had to rush and meet up with Kristen at home for a shower and quick snack. We were meeting up with Joe Shairs and his son to attend the Boston Indoor Games at 5pm.