Sunday, October 25, 2009

Mayors Cup cross country race report

This is a tough time of the year for CMS to get a full team (five runners to score) at team competition races. Cross Country scoring is calculated by the placing of your top five runners against the top five runners of your competition. If there is a tie, displacement occurs by the sixth runner. Today, we were very fortunate to get five men to the starting line. CMS has been busy at the races over the past month. Three New England Road Race Championship races took place in September and October. The finale was last Sunday at the Bay State Marathon in Lowell, MA where CMS won with the duo of Justin Fyffe (2nd), Andy McCarron (3rd), and Scott Leslie (7th) scoring out with cumulative time of 7:30:25, almost two minutes ahead of the Whirlaway Racing Team. The 1st place finish for the team put us into a tie for 1st overall in the Grand Prix series with the Greater Boston Track Club. It was an exciting conclusion to finish the series for the team. Thus, some of the guys needed to rest their marathon legs this week or were going at it at other races this weekend.

I love cross country. It is my favorite running discipline. Fall foliage is in a particular cycle depending on your locale in New England. The temperature is usually decent at this time of the year. Today was a favorable day for racing in Franklin Park with clear skies and temps in the low 60's. The weather, something that mother nature has control over, dropped plenty of rain yesterday. I knew the course was going to be a challenge. However, that's what I like about cross country. I have run in snow, mud, rain, nor' easters, and witnessed hurricane type winds for this sport.

I did a warm up with the team and Peter Mallet (elite triathlete and UNH grad) to check out the course. It was a bit soggy in places. Al Bernier, Dan Navaroli, Tom Brown, Dave Harper, and I toed the line and represented CMS against eleven other teams today at noon. Five club teams were from New York State. Four club teams were from Massachusetts. Finally, two college teams, Dartmouth and Tufts had full squads on hand. My goal today was to have a time that began with 27. Those minutes had surges, mud, and elbows thrown around. I hit the lap button on my Garmin 250 (which measured my effort for 5.0 miles) for all splits except mile three. I passed mile one in 5:21 feeling pretty good and right on what I planned. I backed off a touch through the first tour of bear cage hill and went through mile two at 11:07. There was a fun stretch of mud leading into the wilderness loop. Kristen who was taking photos was up on the wall screaming words of encouragement. Exiting the loop, Greg Putnam and wife were yelling for the team.

I passed Doug Chick from GBTC heading around the field, passing mile three (neglecting the split) and through 5K around 17:20 or so. Another slippery battle with mud for the finale wilderness loop trying to stay in touch with the competition which had a few GBTC singlets, one of which being Brad Kozel. Mile four passed in 22:40 with a dive into the soggy grass leading to the left hand turn toward White Stadium and Bear Cage hill. I was focused on keeping pace on the folks a few strides ahead. I was looking forward to cresting Bear Cage to let loose on the last .4 miles. I let'er rip, bolted down the Bear Cage and carried the momentum to the backstop, 90 degree right-turn into the home stretch which was met for the third time of the day with soggy footing. I shortened the stride into the finish line fighting the clock to stay in the 27 range but let the chip timing provide relief in the results later to give me the 27:59. If that time was 28, I'd be burnt over that for the rest of the day and into tomorrow's training run.

Dave Harper (3rd 40+ today & took the individual master X/C GP lead) was not too far back from me to finish off the scoring for us. I am thankful that he did the 8K instead of the 5K today. Dan (2nd overall x/c Grand Prix Scoring), Al, and Tom (1st race for CMS) had solid efforts. We figured that the soggy footing slowed things down out there 30+ seconds. The results are posted here. The team placed 9th out of the 11 teams. I am looking forward to New Englands on November 8th. Despite the distance jumping to 10K, I will get through the 8K mark quicker than today if weather cooperates. We'll see.

Scott Mason took a ton of photos yesterday of each race so check them out.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

James Early Invitational and Bradley Palmer X/C Challenge

From most recent (10/10) to last Sunday(10/4), I put in a pair of cross country races on both ends of Massachusetts. Yesterday, I headed out to the James Early Invitational to run for the Salem State Alumni team. Kristen and I carpooled out to Westfield with Jason Euzikonis and John Bowser. I had the luxury of being teammates with Jay for four years while only three with Bowser as he was a year ahead of me. It was like old times traveling out to a race. We arrived at Stanley Park about 15 minutes before the women's race went off. There were 24 collegiate teams with SSC Alumni making it 25. Kristen was all over the place taking photos of the ladies in the race. Before I knew it, they were finishing their race and I did a warm up with Fabian Meija who now runs for New Balance Boston since his days at Salem State. With Dan Smith having a work commitment, Fabian was no doubt going to be the fastest Alumni.

Much like the women's race, there were 23 men's collegiate teams plus the SSC Alumni. Westfield State usually has an Alumni team but they were a few runners short of a scoring team. The gun went off and allowed the mass of 250 plus aiming for the flag at the other end of the field. I went out controlled in a manner to ensure I did not trip up nor get run over. The race runs around the field several times during the race to the delight of spectators. By two miles, I moved up quietly into the top 40 runners or so and settled in. While running around the soccer fields, I could see Fabian was up ahead in the top 15 having fun.

The spikes came in handy after 3 miles where there was some thick mud from the rain the day before. It soaked up so much energy to get through a few patches. I was still with the Gordon College guy I caught after two miles. I hit some rolling hills and started to fade around mile four. A few runners got by me but I got my second wind getting out to the soccer fields for a 3/4 lap into the finish. I got back on the heels of the Gordon College guy and finished right behind him. All in all, I was very happy to get under 28 minutes with a 27:44.46. I wound up 32nd overall. I think my best time in college was 27:20's and post collegiately, I recall running 27:17 in 2004 ago as an alum. Overall, the alumni team finished 12th out of 23 teams. The Salem State Alumni, SSC teams, friends, coaches, and family then got together for a pot-luck BBQ in the picnic area shortly after the race. It was great to catch up with folks that I have not seen in a while and also chat with the athletes competing for Salem State College. Kristen has a ton of photos here.

Last weekend kicked off my cross country season at the Bradly Palmer, GBTC, X/C Challenge. Again, with rain the day before the race, I expected a muddy corse and invested in some fresh Addidas XCS spikes at the New England Running Company as I have not owned a pair in several years. I signed up a team of ten CMS runners six days before the race. By the end of the week, two open guys had to bail. Thus, we had four masters and four open guys toe the line up against five other teams. Five of the six teams were fighting for prize money. I got out into the top 25 or so for the 1st mile with a 5:30. I slowed into the 2nd mile with a climb up to Moon Hill. I think everyone slowed down for that next lap around and into Moon Hill again. Dan Verrington caught me and gave some words of encouragement on the way to Moon Hill. I hung onto him for the return trip to the field where the race began. With some generous downhill, I passed Dan and chased down a New Balance Boston and GBTC runner into the last 600m. I never did catch them but I finished strong with a 28:35, good for 20th. The time was about 30 seconds slower than my 2008 and 2007 efforts. The team finished 3rd overall behind BAA (1st) and host, GBTC. Kudos to GBTC for putting on a great event at Bradley Palmer State Park, which is a perfect venue for a cross country race. Krissy has a ton of photos from the race here.

I'm looking forward to the Mayor's Cup X/C race and the New England 10K X/C Championships to be held at Franklin Park in the next several weeks. I hope that CMS can find enough runners to score a team at each race. It will be a huge challenge as several of our top guys will be racing the Bay State Marathon next weekend and they will need to rest those marathon legs.