JFK 50 Miler

Sept 26th, 2010 - Race - Wilmington, MA - 13.1

Day 268 - GLRR was all over the Merrimack Valley today, taking home their share of race hardware.

Mike Shanahan was down in Billerica winning the Bill West Memorial 5K, and GLRR HoF'er Eric Beauchesne was On The Road and winning in Lowell at the Jack Kerouac 5K.

I found myself in Wilmington, MA with fellow GLRR's Andy Pupa, Andy Chandonnet, and Joe Ferris at the 6th annual half marathon.

I actually didn't find out about this race until about 9PM last night, after my 13.5 mile training run! My original plan for today was to run the Kerouac 5K, or put in a long run to get my mileage back up.

It's been almost a month since I last ran a road race (not including RTB), so I was itching to get that competitive juice flowing again. The last time I raced more than 10 miles was back in May at the Sugarloaf Marathon. The last time I ran a half-marathon was New Bedford in March, where I managed to PR with a 1:23:25, but missed qualifying for NYC 2011 by 25 seconds!

I had unfinished business to finish today.

The race was pretty late (10AM) considering the distance, but fortunately for me, the start and finish was less then 10 miles from my apt. Other than racing in Lowell, I can't recall the last time I took part in a race this close by. Very convenient.

Breakfast consisted of pasta and a banana, and off I went by 9AM. I told Rachel that I'd be back by 12:30 and we'd try to catch a movie. It definitely didn't feel like a race day.

I got down to the race site by 9:30AM and saw Andy C. already warming up on the roads of Wilmington. I parked, got changed (Newtons and GLRR white), took a few last sips of water, and stuffed a GU packet under my cap just in case I needed it later on.

I was praying that my trusty, but well-worn Newtons still had at least 13.1 miles left in them. Note to self, I need to get some new racers after this race.

My warm up was basically the .15 from my car to the registration. Handed over my check and got my number. Very quick and low-key. Awesome!

Hit the john and then got the call to the starting gate.

I walked to the starting area, about a quarter mile away, with Andy and Andy. Andy commented on the fact that we were starting much further ahead then where the start normally was in prior years.

We milled about for another 15 minutes as the race organizers tried to time the start of the race with the four train crossings on this course. Course record holder, local wunderkind, and RD, Dan Vassalo, gave the pre-race instructions and sent us off on the horn by 10:20AM.

My race plan was to stick to about a 6:30 pace through the first 3 miles, and then start bringing down the pace to the 6:19 that I would need to qualify for NYC. Of course, nothing ever goes as planned.

I went out at about a 6 min pace and found myself alone in front through the first half-mile. It was pretty cool to be right behind the police cruiser.

That quickly changed as Mike Girouard came charging up from behind me, and then Dave Corbett soon joined us to lead the pack through the first mile at a 6:05 pace. The official first mile was off by about .05, and the timer there read out 5:54 for elapsed time, which I knew was way off.

I managed to stick with Mike and Dave as we tested each other out. Mike made his moves on the turns throughout the first part of the course, while I made mine on the uphills. The three of us didn't separate from each other through the next three miles, averaging 6:13, 6:14, and 6:24, respectively.

I knew I wouldn't be able to hang on with them much longer and they proved that by mile 5, where I averaged a 6:28, while they were still cruising along at 6:15's. They continued to separate from me throughout the rest of the race, and I found myself in no man's land for the next 8 miles! I did, however, manage to keep them in my sight for at least the next four miles, so I optimistically even thought I had a chance of catching them by the end!

The day was getting warmer with the temps inching closer to 70 by the half way mark. I continued to drink at every water stop, which was basically every two miles, and dump as much water as I could on my cap. I made the deliberate decision at the race start to wear my white GLRR singlet in order to avoid the sweater vest syndrome that accompanies the green singlets when they become wet. Today was going to be a wet day.

My overall pace (according to my Garmin) was inching closer and closer to the magical 6:19 cutoff as each mile went by. I was definitely slowing down as the race went on.

Mile 6: 6:30
Mile 7: 6:33

A couple of things kept my morale up. One was the fact that the course was definitely going to be short. At this point, every mile after mile 1 was at least .10 short, and I projected that the entire course itself was going to be no more than 13 miles. I guess Andy was right about the starting line.

The other thing that kept me going was that I had a chaser on my tail. I wouldn't have noticed him if not for his bright orange shirt (No, it wasn't Fil). I typically don't look back during a race, but I had nothing else better to do, so I kept checking in on him every chance I could, usually around very wide turns.

The fear of being chased got my ass moving, getting through mile 8 in 6:23.

By mile 9 (6:27), I was starting to feel the effects of the 36 miles at RTB the prior weekend, and the 14 miles the previous night. My body felt OK, but my mind started to wander a bit. I knew that I would eventually need to take my GU in order to finish this one strong, but I didn't want to do it until at least mile 10.

I bit the bullet at the water stop at mile 10 (6:34) and took down a half packet of GU. The chaser was only getting closer at this point, and I felt that he was about to over take me. I really wasn't in the mood for a 5K duel, so I was ready to relinquish 3rd place to the chaser if he had picked it up just a tad. I could actually hear his footsteps at this point!

Then, something inside of me, perhaps the GU, told me to make him earn it. From that point on I was focused on increasing my pace and turning the screws on the chaser. Even with that effort and motivation, I could only manage a 6:37 for mile 11, my slowest mile on the day.

The chaser was still at bay, but my overall pace was creeping up into the low 6:20's. Doing the math quickly in my head, I knew I had at least 2-3 seconds per mile in my favor if the course continued to run short and finish under 13 miles.

I typically have fast miles at the end of a race, so I knew I could bring my pace down a little with a strong kick.

The last two miles on the course is curvy (and not very well directed by the volunteers), so that help keep my focus sharp. I pushed into another gear and managed a 6:21 mile 12, finally separating myself from my stalker for good.

Knowing that the course was going to be short really motivated me to start my final kick sooner than I normally would have. I just pictured myself at GLRR track doing the mile repeats. It was going to be over in about 6 minutes. I just needed to hang in there.

The finish was in the parking lot of the WCTV office, which was covered in poorly paved potholes. I was actually worried about twisting an ankle over the final stretch!

I crossed the finish line with a 1:22 on my Garmin (3rd overall - highest finish ever at "this distance"), with a total distance read out of 12.96. Whoops.

My official finish time was 1:22:28, good enough to NYCQ. It would have been really, really, really close if the course had actually measured 13.1. I think I would have still finished under 1:23, but probably by no more than 5 seconds!

The chaser (Chris) finished 25 seconds after me. I learned after the race that I'll be dueling with him again at Baystate, where he will try to run a sub 3:15 to BQ.

Andy C. and Andy P. soon followed with a time of 1:27:29 and 1:27:49, respectively. A PR for Andy P. Not bad considering that he also ran the Wicked Half the day before, and the Philly Half last weekend!

They both placed in their AG, with Andy C. taking top honors in his.

The comeback kid, Joe Ferris, just missed placing in his age group with a time of 1:48:57.

What an awesome day of running for the Green (& White) throughout the Merrimack Valley!

Time to catch that movie!

(Gotta Run!)

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