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.

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