I laced up the cross country flats today to take part in the James Early Cross Country Invitational race in Westfield, MA at high noon. The Salem State Alumni men had a team that included folks from my era like Brian Beaulieu, John Bowser, Dennis Floyd, Mike Gilmore, and coach Tom Derderian. We could not have asked for a better day for weather; about 60 degrees, dry, sunny, and dry throughout what I think is billed as an 8k course. Brian's Garmin dialed his distance race in 4.98 miles. I was not sure what to expect today for an expected time with the recent marathon training which has been void of interval and oxygen debt running. I warmed up with local CMS teamate Tim Mahoney and John Bowser about a half hour before the race. The first mile of this race consists of jockeying for position around Stanley Park - soccer fields surrounded by a tree-lined boundary. This means a steady diet of carefully envoked surges to pass runners while there is plenty of visibility to look ahead and see the front pack develop. I survived mile one in 5:19 and was OK knowing that I'd settle into 5:30's soon enough.
I passed miles two and three in good shape with a controlled 5:35 average pace and ready to throw in a few more battles ahead. I passed a few college guys heading into mile four and up a few rolling hills back onto the soccer fields for the final 800 meters. The hills hurt and found myself watching my steps through the roots to ensure I would not fall or trip. I held my own and a quick glance of the watch indicated that a sub-28 minute effort was a given with 200m remaining. I clocked in with a 27:39 good for 35th overall and 2nd alumni behind Mark Dawson who ran an awesome 26:47 barefoot! Brian, John, and Dennis finished up to complete the team scoring which placed us one spot ahead of Salem State University younsters which is coached by Dennis. Dennis is coaching a talented All-American Senior, Alex Gomes, who finished 2nd overall with a 25:52. Another athlete, Alex Derosa, set a personal best on the course with a 27:10.
Finally, I was surprised by Kristen after the race among friends and the Salem State folks with a huge birthday cake to celebrate my 36th. We manged to demolish more than 3/4 of the cake in five minutes. It was great catching up with alumni, student athletes, coaches, and friends. Special thanks to the team duo of Debra and Brian pulling the alumni team and clothing together. High fives to all the folks who ran the race and hugs and kisses to Kristen for her thoughtfulness and talented photos within.
Before and after photos of the cake.