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

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