Sunday, October 25, 2015

Franklin Park 5K Mayor's Cup

Stephen Trainor picked me up and we arrived at Franklin Park an hour before his open 8K race. I had nearly two hours before my race but wanted to set up camp for the CMS guys coming. I fumbled around trying to set up the canopy tent. I even had a young lady from New Balance Boston come over twice to point out what we were doing wrong. It took four people to figure it out. The morning rain that stopped by 9:30 had zero effect on the course. It was dry as could be so I went with my Inov-8 flats instead of spikes. I watched Eric Narcisi and Stephen run their first XC races for CMS in the 8K. I got on the start line after that race with exactly five CMS men (Gregory Putnam, Ben Nephew, Tim Van Orden, and Dan Verrington) for the last race of the day, Franklin Park 5K. The race was number four of the XC Grand Prix and also the masters race. 

The race bolted out and I hunted for a visual on Justin Renz (HFC) as we were seeking coveted individual Grand Prix master division series points. I went by him on the downhill 600m in and was about five runners away from Ben Nephew. I went through the mile in what I heard as 5:20. Chris Lawrence and James Callaghan (no relation to teammate, Todd) from the BAA pulled away going down into the Bear Cage Hill. I was able to catch Ben up the hill. On the exit, I got by Chris and we went back and forth through mile 2. I heard a 10:56 split while Chris pulled away a bit as we got into the Wilderness Loop. As we ran a short climb in there I got past him and pushed on the downhill exiting the woods. 

As I climbed out into the field loop, a race official holding flags pointed to me and said that the team race was coming down to me. I was not sure because I was the 3rd CMS guy. I think she was keeping tabs on the front of the race where Gregory and Tim were battling the top three guys from the BAA. I got passed by a runner as we fell into the field with just two more right hand turns remaining into the finish line other other side of the field. I told him to get going as this race was going to be over in less than 700m. I was trying to keep Chris behind me which I did. I finished with a time of 17:36 and in 18th place, 3rd CMS runner. Ben and Dan finished right behind me to help us finish 2nd to the BAA. The results are here. I felt pretty good about the effort and execution that was not planned, instead flourished with the race around me. I think the last time I ran a 5K at Franklin Park was in a USATF New England development race 17 years ago. The guy that finished behind me then was Ben Nephew. We have been teammates ever since.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

USATF National Masters 5K Championship Saratoga Springs, NY

Saratoga Springs, New York was hosting the USATF National Masters 5K Cross Country Championship. I was game for the 3 hour drive as long as CMS could score a team of five men. Fortunately, we got a tremendous amount of fast masters for this one in advance so the decision was easy to sign up last month. The 40 plus age group (40-49) team on the line for CMS is no particular order: Gregory Putnam, Joe Shairs, Alan Bernier, Joshua Perks, Ben Nephew, Tim Van Orden, and myself. We also expected to have Dave Dunham, Paul Bazanchuk, and John Griego in the 50 and 60 age group races.

Logistics was easy as Gregory drove Joe and I to Saratoga on Saturday afternoon. It was a pleasant drive with the autumn scenery along the Mass Pike. We pulled into Saratoga Spa - which is like a huge state park similar to Bradley Palmer State Park, however with a lot more buildings and plenty of parking to host sporting events and a golf course. We changed into our running gear and previewed the 5K cross country course. The smell of cross country racing was in the air while the high school races, families, and coaches littered all over the park and fields. My memories of racing (and my first win on showshoes) the course in 2004 came back. I was so excited for the race the next morning.
Team getting the award

Joe and I ran behind a high school boys race to make sure we navigated along the course correctly, although, white arrows on the ground were simple guides. It was a fair course with good footing on carriage roads, light pine needle trails, and some hills to take the wind out of any momentum. I recall we ran through a few minutes of frozen rain (hail) as temps were rather chilly. As we finished the course, we bumped into Alan and Dave Dunham so I ran the course again with them. We determined with the course being about 3 miles long, we could run the course as fast as we could for a fast road 5K (Hollis 5K excluded). My excitement had to wait until Sunday morning.

After checking in at the host hotel, we picked up our race packets and headed out into downtown Saratoga for dinner. I either disgusted our table or impressed by downing two slices of pizza after throwing down a healthy sized Burrito. I will say that the downtown was very nice for dining, shopping, and had a good vibe to it.

Fast forward to the next morning, after a decent breakfast, we had a short five minute drive to the race. We began to greet the teammates coming in. It was nice to see Joshua and Ben ready to rock as they both have roots in the state of New York. After a check in with race officials to confirm we all had the same singlet and race bibs front and back, we got on the line ready to roll in the National Championship. The race went off and I got in behind Joe, Joshua, and Ben for the first half mile. It was frantic but controlled. Greg, Tim, and Alan were up front mixing it up. We had a good team here and I was confident we were going to do well as it seemed our seven were in the top 20.

We began to run into some hail and that added to the fast furry of the race. Everything went by so quick. The mile passed by in what I heard as a 5:21, running next to Ben and Joe. Joshua started to pull away smartly and quietly in mile 2. The hail stopped and we hit the valley again and could see the front of the race on the other side of the creek. The boys were taking care of business up front while Joe, Ben, and I were fighting for the 5th scoring spot on the team. I would occasionally hear that our place was around 15th place or so overall. I took a lead over Ben and Joe up a hill into mile 2 (hearing 10:56). Joe encouraged me to take off but my legs went flat soon after in the trails heading back to the long straight finish. Ben took charge in the last 600m with a strong finish to score as the 5th CMS runner. Joe and I followed breaking 17 minutes which was my goal. My official time was 16:53 and placed 14th out of 52 runners. The team, led by Gregory, took the following places for runners on teams that had five scoring member: 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10. Our combined score of 24 points bested 2nd place Atlanta Track Club who had 43 points. It was nice to take the team championship but even better to be racing with a great bunch of teammates. We hung out for the awards which was held in the on site Automobile Museum. I wish I had more time to go through it but we had to hit the road. 40+ results

mile splits per GPS

1.    24  Central Mass Striders M40                (  16:26  1:22:09   0:44)
  1      2    796 4 Greg Putnam         45 Stoneham   16:02
  2      3    863 6 Tim Van Orden       47 Bennington   16:18
  3      5    789 13 Joshua Perks        41 North Andover   16:30
  4      6    610 14 Alan Bernier        41 Braintree   16:33
  5      8    770 18 Ben Nephew          40 Mansfield   16:46
  6   (  9)   787 19 James Pawlicki      41 Lynn   16:53
  7   ( 10)   829 20 Joe Shairs          47 Peabody   16:56

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Wayland Cross Country Festival

My prior experience at the Wayland 5K cross country race was 17:27 and 15th place back in 2007. The race today was the third race of the New England XC Grand Prix. The course is a mix of running through athletic fields and trails around Wayland High School. There are a few hills to break momentum. I rolled out and clawed my way through a 5:31 mile. The big hill got in the way after 1.2 miles. I reached the top and picked off a few runners along the ridge and downhills back to the school fields. My momentum settled after mile 2 while just five seconds behind Mark Mayall, a master who was in between Joe Shairs and I. I passed maybe three more runners to the track where we had 300 meters before reaching the finish line. I ran 17:47 and 39th place. The race went by so quick. I felt good about the effort, maybe some fading after 2 miles but battled to the line, finishing just behind Brendan Lynch from HFC who is prepping for a marathon in November. I reminded him before the race of his awesome Chicago Marathon in 2003 where he ran mid 2:30's (I ran 2:38). It was awesome to see Antonietta and Larry O'Toole (xc and track teammates at Salem State) who were on hand cheering and coaching their kids in the earlier races. Meanwhile, CMS took one on the team chin today, placing 5th overall. Results
Salem State was a long time ago...
Antonietta O'Toole, Tom Derderian, myself, Larry O'Toole
Photo by KrissyK
CMS had solid performances with Tim Van Orden placing as the top 40+ male and Joe Shairs just behind him. These guys are going to have a great race next weekend at the USATF National Masters Cross Country Championships in Saratoga Springs, NY.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Stone Tower 15K Trail Race

Course Map

I ran over to the eighth annual Stone Tower 15K race and forked over the $25 spot. I have run this race the last few years, I never got a sniff of a win, always turning into a mess in the closing miles. If you run this course right, your legs should be junk on the 3rd climb up Stone Tower. A new face to my racing surroundings, Patrick Caron decked in a Janji racing kit, jumped into the lead right away. His plastic spike plates were clicking against the paved driveway into Lynn Woods. Meanwhile, I was well aware of John Dudley (multiple time winner of the Stone Cat Trail Marathon) on my heels. I stayed close to Patrick, some would say shadow, but respected his pacing so I gave him room to guide John and I through the first 25 minutes (3.78 miles).

It was then that he missed a right hand turn for which I yelled for him. My lead was short lived, as he sprinted by within 400 meters. I could see him struggle a bit with the footwear choice on the rocks and steps up Dungeon Rock. I kept a good cadence, never took my vision above the lid of my hat, thus never knew how far or close I was from the top. Didn’t care. I had to just stay close to Patrick and respect John a few seconds behind us. We bounced into some tight single track before the 2nd pass by Stone Tower and saw Patrick’s pace quicken down the hill.

I created an opportunity to change it up a bit and passed him at 5.5 miles climbing up a hill where I felt he was tiring. This set me up nicely to lead us down, into, and through the Undercliff Trail. This is my favorite part of Lynn Woods. It is, however, the most dangerous trail to race through. It is a single track rocky section with cut logs that can be slippery. As I navigated away from Patrick, I heard him spill, hard. So hard that I stopped, looked back, and yelled “are you OK man?” I heard a grumble and saw him getting up on his feet. Thus I continued on, quick cadence to get out of there and see if I could get some room between us. We had about three miles left in the race. He bounced back nicely, as in, back on my heels up some tricky stuff where I no doubt was dragging ass with 2.5 miles to go.

We got onto the goat path and took a right at the end of it. I kicked down the hill and took a left into some single track heading up to Steel Tower. I got some room. The sound of silence behind me was nice. I had to continue to press, hard, get some room because one last climb up Stone Tower awaited ahead. I hauled ass, doing my best up and over it afraid to look back with less than a mile to go. I finished hard, not wanting to open a door to let him back in. It worked, and I rolled down into the finish for my first win at the Stone Tower 15K, 59:15. Patrick rolled in, bloody, at 59:53. John followed in just over an hour. Looking back, it was good battle but had Patrick had better footwear, not wiped out, I am confident he would have been right there in contention all the way to the finish.

Patrick Caron and I
Photo by Brett Rickenbach
2015 Stone Tower 15K Trail Race results
1. James Pawlicki 59:16
2. Patrick Caron   59:53
3. John Dudley     1:01:01

My Splits
654 (Stone Tower climb)
743 (Dungeon Rock steps)
59:17 8.83 miles per GPS

History of my Stone Tower races:
Year Place Time
2015 1 59:16
2014 2 1:00:22
2013 3 1:00:40
2012 2 58:57 (Greg Fullman from Arlington ran 56:03, must be a CR!)