JFK 50 Miler

April 25th, 2010 - Race - Groton, MA - 3.1

Day 115 - Not knowing what each day will bring is what makes life, and this 365 Day Race, interesting.

I woke up this morning, after getting some much needed sleeping-in, around 9:30AM and was just expecting it to be another lazy Sunday with an 8-9 miler thrown in. The weather was suppose to turn for the worse around 11AM, so it was looking more like a dreaded treadmill run.

I took the boys out and the weather was actually nicer than I had thought it would be, but then again, this is New England. There was only a steady, cool breeze to make an otherwise beautiful day a little less beautiful.

That's when my cell phone rang and a phone number that I didn't recognize showed up, so I just let it go to voicemail. I figure that if it's important, then they'd leave a message. I guess it was important because 30 seconds later, I had voicemail.

The only word that I could make out in the short message was my name, and something about being late. I would have just deleted the message and continued on with my day if the caller didn't use my name in conjunction with "late".

Of course, the first thing I did when I got back inside was Google the number. Nothing.

I decided to do a callback and on the other end was the same broken-english voice.

"Who's this?"

"Hi, Jason, it's Titus!"

It was Titus calling to find out if I was going to the Groton Road Race later that day. I didn't plan on running the race, and was only reminded of it the night before by Eric M.. Eric was already registered to run the 5K. My plan was to perhaps just go and watch the race. This would have been my 3rd race in 6 days, one of which was Boston.

I was ready to tell Titus to just run to the race as a warmup, just like Glenn eventually did (20.5 miles!). Instead, I told Titus that I could swing by in about 30 minutes to take him to the race. Unfortunately, Rachel overheard my conversation and was ready to jam the phone down my throat.

It took some pleading, and more pleading, before she allowed me to just drop Titus off. NO RACING!

Of course, me being me, I always have my race gear packed and ready to go at a moment's notice. No way was I going to drive one hour round-trip, to a race, and not race! Before leaving (and sneaking out with my race bag), I told Rachel that I'd be back in an hour or so...

I picked up Titus and we drove the 30 minutes to Groton. During that time, I told Titus that I was going to just run the 5K to stretch out my legs. That's when I discovered that he was planning to run both the 5K and the 10K! In my mind, I moved myself down one spot in the 5K standings. Also, Titus told me that Ben N. was also planning to run the 5K. Another spot down the standings I went. Oh, Joseph K. was also running...but he's running the 10K though. Phew.

The temps were in the mid 60's with a stiffer breeze when we got to the already bustling race site. The parking lots were filling up fast, so we had to park about 1/4th of  a mile away from the registration area and walk back. That's when we ran into Ben and Joe. This was actually the first time that I had ever met the friendly (they all are) Ben. I had met Joseph at Boston.

The Kenyan trio went to register, while I headed down to the finish area to look for John or Debbie from Bay State Race Services. I was hoping for a free entry into the race, but when I discovered that it was just Debbie, I decided not to push my luck.

Eric saw me poking around the finish area and greeted me with a few choice words, a smile, and a handshake. I had told him that I wasn't going to run, but my attire indicated otherwise. In Eric's mind, he just moved down one more spot :)

I went and registered, changed, and with 30 minutes to spare, Eric and I went to warm-up. Eric was nice enough to describe the course to me, and then took me on a quick tour of the start and finish of the course during our warm-up. This was definitely helpful, and made a huge difference later in the race.

We did 1.5 miles of the course preview before we lined up for the start of the race at 11:50AM.

I couldn't believe I was actually lined up in the front row with Mark M. (3rd place last year), Ben, Titus, and a number of other speedy looking fellas i.e. Tim Burke. Eric was behind me along with Mark C. and his young running crew:

I was actually surprised to see Tim, since the last time I saw him was last September when he was getting into a van at Reach the Beach, and before that was the 2009 Spring Good Times 5K series. I have always been in awe at Tim's performances, and I was beginning to gauge my own performance at the Good Times based on his times. Other than Titus, Festus, and EJ, I always felt that Tim would have been the next person I would need to catch in order to move up in the Good Times standings. Unfortunately, after winning the 2009 spring series, he disappeared from the scene...until today!

My spur-of-the-moment goal was to challenge, or even beat Tim, at this race! If I could do that, then I knew that I was moving up in the local running world. Also, beating Tim would most likely require a first sub-18 5K from me. Both goals were just fanciful thoughts while I stood waiting for the Minutemen to fire their muskets to signify the start of the race.

The one thing that really stood out for me, while I was waiting for the start, was how calm I was. No nervous energy, no pre-race jitters, no lead feet. I just felt calm. I guess my body was finally getting use to racing against strong competition, or it could just mean that I've given into defeat before the race even started. Either way, it was a great feeling to have!

The muskets went off and we were off, down the straightaway track, lined with spectators, that lead onto the main course. A very cool way to start a race.

There was the usual group of youngins' that took off like a bat out of hell. By the time I got to Mile 1 in 5:40, most of those kids had already dropped back and I had moved up into about 13th place. The lead pack wasn't too far ahead, but they were steadily moving further away.

In front of me were three high school runners working together to get through the race. I remember coming across their coach  at 1.5, and he was just screaming his head off at them to pick it up. Relax buddy. Running is supposed to be fun.

By Mile 2, one of the high schoolers had fallen away from his teammates, and things weren't looking too good for other two as well. I began to reel them in. Mile 2 came and went in 5:53 with a few steady hills thrown in there for good measure. Nothing crazy as others were making the hills out to be before the race. Also, it appears that the police might have directed the runners in the wrong direction at one point, but fortunately it just forced the runners to run a looped part of the course in reverse.

My stomach was churning at this point and the acids were doing a nasty number to my insides. I felt great otherwise and just told myself to ignore the stomach pains, since it didn't really impact my running. Tim made his move around 2.5 and passed me while I was talking to my stomach. At this point, I just wanted to keep him within five seconds of myself if I wanted any chance to catch him down the final stretch.

I knew exactly where I was on the course and what to expect over the final mile thanks to Eric's guidance earlier in the day. Another runner passed me as we approached the right hand turn for the final 300 meter track finish. The bad part was that he looked like he was in my age group (confirmed later that he was in my age group).

The one thing that I didn't want to do was start my kick too early and die right before the finish. Thanks to my track workouts, over the winter with GLRR, I also knew that I had enough in me to give a nice kick for at least 3/4th's of a lap, and having the finish on the track definitely helped in this aspect.

From the final turn to the start of the track portion (Mile 3) is about 15 yards. I started my kick and gained some ground on the the kid in front of me, but it wasn't until we got to the final turn on the track that I managed to pass him on the outside. I heard him grunt something mean and attempt his own kick to no avail. I stepped on the gas even harder just hoping to have a strong finish and prevent the kid from passing me back.

This was when I realized that I had a good shot at Tim on the final straightaway leading into the finish chute! I kicked it into another gear (didn't know I had) with the rush of knowing that I could at least meet one of my goals for today. I was basically falling forward, hoping not to trip and land on my face, short of the finish. Here, I'll let Jim Rhoades describe the finish:

My head was a blur, my chest was pounding, and my legs were completely on fire when I finally came a stop. I could barely muster the energy to thank Tim for a great race. He didn't respond as he himself was pretty burnt out.

Almost as an after thought, I looked down at my watch and saw that it read 17:59!

Missions Accomplished.

I gathered myself on the grass and spoke to Titus and Ben about their own run. Jill Trotter (she was racing the 10K) came over and congratulated me on a great finishing kick.

Tim was nice enough to come over and shake my hand for a great race.

That it was, that it was.

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