Monday, October 12, 2009

Great Island 5k

Sunday I headed up to New Castle, NH for another go at the Great Island 5k (results), which once again serves as the 2nd to last race in the Seacoast Road Race Series.  This race always attracts slightly better competition than the other 5ks in the series due to the prize money and lobsters they give to the winners.  I had registered for this race back a ways because they had a 1200 entrant limit again this year, as the Seacoast Series has expanded to the premiere racing series in the state of NH and southwestern ME.

Up until this past week, I was looking forward to running this and just trying to do better than last year.  Then, after Topsfield XC last Sunday, I started my bout with a horrible left hamstring that left me with a lowly 52 miles with 2 days off (first days off since July 19th).  I didn't run Monday (after Topsfield) because my hamstring was so bad.  I couldn't even stretch it without intense pain.  Couple that with plantar issues in both feet, and things were looking bleak.  Tuesday-Thursday went 'OK'.  I kept it slow and on the trails....all with the intention of trying to salvage Baystate Marathon on October 18th.  On Friday, I met Tim VanOrden, Dave Dunham, Dan Verrington, and Dave Quintal at Winni for some trails (had already done 12 in the morning with DQ and was adding another slow 6 in the afternoon).  While we were waiting for Tivo and Dan, DQ, DD, and I were throwing the Nerf football around the parking lot and I twinged my hamstring again, moving to the side real quick for the ball.  I could barely do the 6 (fake 6) slow with the guys after that.  On Saturday, I didn't run.  I could hardly walk.  Sunday was a 'no-go' I was telling myself.  Right at the connector between my hamstring and the inside part of me knee was incredibly painful.  I couldn't even straighten my leg out all the way without manually doing it with my hands to help it along.  Nothing I was doing as far as massage and stretching seemed to help. Then, Steve Sullivan posted a response to my wall on Facebook, telling me about a yoga pose that may help.  I tried it out on Friday night and could feel the effects of the stretch up high in the hamstring, but not at the connector, where it was usually so painful.  This stretch allowed me to stretch out the hamstring up high and subsequently loosen it up enough without strain on the lower part.  I immediately felt the difference in walking around and actually jogged around the house a little bit and to my amazement, the pain subsided enough that I had a glimmer of hope that I could run this week.  After a rest day on Saturday (which was perfect because Kristin and I had Joe Dunn's wedding to go to), I woke up Sunday with the intention of taking my friend Chico up to the Great Island 5k (he's going for his Seacoast Jacket this year and needed this race) and maybe just taking pictures.  If I felt ok after a warmup and a couple strides, I figured I'd see who was there and maybe give it a go.

We were the first ones in the parking lot, suprisingly, and headed over to get our packets.  We caught up with Coach Deek (81 years young) and started the usual pre-race routine of scouting the area for ringers...I saw former race winner Mark Miller (pictured left w/ yours truly) and a few other Kenyan-looking dudes running around warming up, including last year's winner and course record holder Joseph Ekuom, who normally shows up to NH and western MA events that have some easy cash.  After a very easy and short warmup, I did some stretching of said-yoga-pose above, and did some strides with the confidence of being able to finish the 5k and maybe win my age group. I pinned the number to the singlet and made the decision to give it a go.

As I lined up, I noticed that Joseph Ekuom had a buddy with him but wasn't sure who it was (turned out to be eventual race winner Abraham Nuietich of Mt Vernon, NY) as well as local Kenyan road warrior Ben Ndaya of Chelmsford (who showed up late last year and jogged the race in mid-pack, as he missed the start).  So immediately, I was looking at the following equation: Kenyans x 3 + Mark Miller = not finishing any higher than 5th + missing an age-group award (as Ben Ndaya is my age).

The gun went off and 2 things felt apparent.  First, I was going to run this thing alone (top 4 were off like the place was on fire) and second, it wasn't going to be a pleasant, easy run for me.   By the time we got out of the common area (.25 miles in) I was way behind and had a decent gap on the next guy.  For the first mile, I was just fighting to see the top 2 (Abraham and Mark) and for a short time, had pipe-dreams about catching Joseph and Ben, who had fallen back a little ways).  By the one mile mark, that was pretty much done.  I went through in 4:54 and I couldn't even see the top 2 guys.  There are so many twist and turns on this course, that there isn't really a place to see for any long stretches, before the course takes a sharp turn around another corner.  After the race, I learned that Miller and Nuietich went through the first mile in 4:36.

My next mile was slow and I went through 2 miles in 10:09.  The second mile has got some ups and downs, and a boatload of turns. I had nobody really behind me within striking distance, and could just see Ben make the next turn ahead of me each time.  After the second mile mark, the course turns down a narrow dirt/gravel road for a 600 meters or so before making the turn onto the last road, up the final hill, and back into the common, for a loop around the park and in to the finish area.  Ben had far too much on me by that point, after his fast start, for me to catch him. Having nobody within view behind me wasn't really driving me to push it anymore than I had to at that point.  I knew I could salvage sub 16 after the second mile if I just kept up the same pace, so I was settling for the place I was earning up to that part of the race.

In the end, I hit the third mile in 15:16 and headed into the finish in 15:48 for 5th place (again).  I was 5th here last year, but won my age group.  This year, I was second in my age group (behind Ben, who finished 4th), but was 7 seconds faster than last year's 15:55 effort, so I'll take it.  The good news is that I didn't have any issues with pain or tightness during the race.  Once I was warmed up, it felt like business as usual, except my breathing felt a bit rusty.  Even though I had just 2 days off, I felt it.  It made me feel very flat and slow, although I was hitting the normal times (basically) for this type of course.  After the race, it was a different story.  The pain and tightness returned, but I've been trying to manage it with stretching, ice, and massage.

Splits: 5k - 15:48 - 5th of 1094

Mile 1) 4:54
Mile 2) 5:15 (10:09)
Mile 3) 5:07 (15:16)
last. 1)    :31 (15:48)

Top 10 Overall out of 1094:

Abraham Nuietich*
Mt Vernon NY  
Mark Miller     
Keene NH      
Joseph Ekuom*    
High Falls NY 
Benjamin Ndaya*  
Chelmsford MA 
Jim Johnson     
Salem NH      
Brendan Dagan   
Hamden ME     
Donny Connolly  
Plaistow NH   
Jamie Baker     
Portsmouth NH 
Peter McNeil    
Barrington NH 
William Emase   
Quincy MA     

* - denotes Kenyan

Now, onto the Baystate Marathon this coming weekend.  I hope to run better than last year and hope to make it though without issues (hammies or feet or whatever else could possibly go wrong).

Thanks to Chico's parents for taking my camera and grabbing a few shots of the finish.  I've uploaded some of these to SmugMug.


  1. JJ, if you ever take a Saturday off from racing that Newcastle Island loop is a 7.5 mile loop that we do as a tempo run at 8 AM starting from Runner's Alley. It is a really nice run, especially in the early fall. Plus there are lots of places to eat afterwards! Good luck at Bay State next weekend.

  2. My bud Martin (you beat him at Nahant 30K) posted up a 2:32 at Mohawk-Hudson last weekend. I hope that's good foreshadowing for you at Bay State.

  3. KG, I saw that. That is sick... but he deserves it...great guy and a hard worker. I think he is much better suited to run faster in the marathon than I at this point. But we'll see. His splits were impressive. 1:16:06 and 1:16:52. You can't get much more efficient than that :)... I just watched his 4 world record run on Youtube yesterday... One of the most impressive things I've ever seen. I cannot imagine.