Friday, August 13, 2010

Cigna 5k

(Photos in this entry from the Union Leader and David Lane. Prints are available for sale on

Thursday night was race 1 of 3 in 4 days for me this 'weekend'.  It brought me back up to the Cigna 5k  (results) in Manchester, NH for New Hampshire's largest race (5328 finishers).  This is the fastest 5k in NH and last year, Alene Reta broke the NH state All-Comer's record for the 5k (by 1 second) when he ran 13:53 in the blazing August heat.  Previously, Joseph Mwai held the record of 13:54 from 2003.  Nate Jenkin's 13:46 from the Hollis Fast 5k doesn't officially count because that course is a point-to-point. It is a certified 5k, but not record-eligible.

This year, going into Cigna, my thought was that 'maybe' I'd have an outside shot at running a PR, but should at least break 15:20. This course is fast for a number of reasons.  It is a loop course and certified, but it is faster than most races because of the layout of the course, the positioning of the hills, and simply the depth of the field.  The race starts out slightly uphill for most of the first mile, but it is so gradual that you really don't realize it.  Because the field is so deep and fast, you get pulled out to a fast first mile and you've completed most of the uphill section without realizing it.  The second mile has a ton of downhill that's steep and then a flat section into mile 3, which is almost all flat except for the very end, which has a scorcher of an uphill, but it is positioned perfectly, right at the end of the race, where (if you are running a good time already) you can just hammer it to the finish.  I figured since I ran 15:27 at York this year (2 weeks ago), which was much faster than I ran there last year, I could at least match my time at Cigna from last year...but something in the back of my mind was telling me that maybe 15:12 (my time at Cigna last year) was probably at the very low end of my ability at this point in my career.  I was pretty nervous about that being a distinct possibility.

I headed into town and got stuck in horrendous traffic getting into the city off of 293.  It was a mess.  I would have been nice and early, but because of that ridiculous offramp, I ended up just making it.  I had to all but make up a parking spot a few long blocks away from the starting area, and literally run over to registration to get registered and try to get some sort of warmup in.  I was able to get registered and head out for my warmup (solo) a little later than usual (about 40 minutes before race time).  I ran over the course and spotted a bunch of the usuals, getting ready to race.  I saw Pete Mallet (CMS) and a few others as I continued on my way, searching for a place to use as a bathroom along the course (easier said than done). I eventually found a spot under the underpass of the highway and did my business...then it was back to the starting area to get ready.  I was pretty relaxed on the warmup, but that would all change quick.

As I headed over to the starting area, I saw a load of local talent like Mackenzie Kilpatrick, Kevin Alliette (NB-Boston), Justin Freeman (R.UN), Joseph Koech (R.UN), Ben Ndaya (R.UN), Tim Rider, and a slew of CMS guys like Scotty Clark (the first ever winner of this race!), Tim Cox, the brothers-Quintal, Greg Hammett, Jeff Goupil, etc.  I was also surprised to see 50 year old stud Mike O'Brien make an appearance... I knew it was going to be a good showdown of local talent..but I didn't see any of the NY-East African contingent.  They usually show up in numbers for this race because the money is decent (6 deep plus some bonus money).  Kevin Alliette passed by me while doing some strides and said 'who's here?'. That basically said it all.  I looked around and saw loads of usuals and loads of new faces (but those faces looked legit)...but no East African studs to speak of other than the couple of local Lowell R.UN guys.  After a couple of delays in start time, I decided to retie my shoes and ended up being the very last guy to get on the line before the start.  Ben Ndaya let me in right in front of him on the line and graciously wished me well as the gun went off.  I was super nervous at this point...I don't remember being this nervous for any race since coming back into running. I could hardly handle it. I was head to toe jitters.  As the race started, the nerves didn't go away.  They seemed to get worse.  Throughout the first mile, I had the chills and shakes. I felt like I was burning up because of my nerves...not only was I the most nervous I've been before a race, but I was nervous DURING the race...that is pretty strange to me...

I got a quick start and was shocked that for a brief period, I was out in front. Not too long after, Joseph Koech motored by me and put a strong surge out to get the lead.  I held 2nd place for nearly a quarter mile.  I was shocked. I looked around and there were loads of guys right behind me, but nobody was going for it.  A half mile in, I was still in 2nd, joined by Justin Freeman.  Justin continued to push by me and went up to catch the leader.  Another R.UN athlete went by me and then maybe 1 or 2 others.  As we hit the mile, I was in the top 5 or so, but was still shocked I was so far up front.  By this time last year, I was getting smoked.  Right around the first mile, Pete Mallet and Ben Ndaya went by me, as did the eventual winner, Josh Eddy.  As we took the first of only 3 turns in the race, I went by Ben, Joseph Koech (who started to really back off from taking an early lead), the other Kenyan R.UN athlete, and maybe one other guy, and started to focus on Pete Mallet.  As we took the 2nd turn onto the last main road, I caught Pete on the downhill section.  I tried to fire him up, but he was breathing really hard and I knew he was backing off a bit.  After I went by Pete, I set my sights amazingly on Justin Freeman, who has been sick and is obviously not in top form (I was actually surprised to see him give this race a go).  I caught him on the last part of the downhill section before 2 miles and kept pushing ahead.  He stayed in the game, not too far back, but didn't try to come with me.  At this point, I went through 2 miles in 4th place and wasn't too far removed from 3rd.  I was again, still in shock.  Where the hell was everybody?  I now started to think, 'ok, you can tell everyone after the race that you were actually in 4th at 2 miles'...thinking that by the end of the race, I'd be near 10th place or so... but by 2.5, I was still in 4th and now thinking that if I can just hang on for 3 more minutes, I'll actually cash!  Top 6 get money.  I NEVER ever in a million years even dreamed up a scenario where I'd cash at this race.  I also started thinking that since I was ahead of Pete Mallet and Justin Freeman, and because Mark Miller wasn't running and a few others were still behind me, that I may just steal the Top NH money as well (an additional $100 bucks).

I pushed through to the last turn onto the hill and glanced over my shoulder and didn't see anyone in striking distance.  This was the first time all race I was confident that nobody was going to pass me.  Looking up the hill, I could see all three guys in front of me, running up to the finish.  I was less than 20 seconds removed from first place but not close enough to catch the 3rd place runner.  I rolled up through 3 miles in 14:35 and pushed up and over to the finish in the same :33 that it took me last year.  I came through in 4th place overall, in a new 30+ road PR of 15:08 (4:53 pace).

I essentially ran a bit slower through the first mile this year (by 2 seconds), then ran the same for my 2nd mile as last year, then a bit faster for my last mile, which was the difference.  Cranking that last mile was necessary for me to have matched or bettered my time from last year, because through 2 miles, I was actually a couple seconds slower than last year... so even with the hill, I was able to maintain my pace and push up a 4:50.  It shows I have some strength in the later miles, which is good.  The :33 last .1 kind of bothers me.  I did the same thing last almost seems like it's a long .1.  Maybe the 3 mile mark is a tad short, but I doubt it.  I think I look at my 3 mile split and start celebrating too early :)...  I cashed in at a cool $300 bucks for 4th, but didn't get the top NH honors.  That went to 2nd place's Derek Dutille of Lebanon, NH.


Mile 1) 4:55
Mile 2) 4:50 (9:45)
Mile 3) 4:50 (14:35)
last. 1) :33 (15:08)

Top 25 Finishers Overall (Plus CMS in Blue):

PlaceGun TimePaceNameAgeCity/State
114:504:47Josh Eddy             23Pittsburgh PA    
214:574:49Derek Dutille         23Lebanon NH       
315:024:51Jonathan Gault        19Bedford MA       
415:084:53Jim Johnson           33Salem NH         
515:174:55Ahmed Ali             20Boston MA        
615:174:55Eric Malnati          19Walpole NH       
715:204:56Justin Freeman        33New Hampton NH   
815:234:57Andrew Chalmers       20Ashland NH       
915:264:58Peter Mallett         27Manchester NH    
1015:335:01 Francis Hernandez    18Windham NH      
1115:365:02 MacKenzie Kilpatrick 28Concord NH      
1215:395:02 Jeff Lacoste         18Amherst NH      
1315:425:04 Benjamin Ndaya       34Chelmsford MA   
1415:455:05 Joseph Koech         41Chelmsford MA   
1515:465:04 Cory Sinotte         19Manchester NH   
1615:475:05 Michael Quintal      32North Andover MA
1715:515:05 Samuel Gagnon        17Hooksett NH     
1815:555:08 Greg Hammett         33Chesterfield NH 
1915:595:09 Tim Cox              37Northwood NH    
2016:005:09 Adam Gilman          20Hampstead NH    
2116:065:11 Gubby Noronha        17Madbury NH      
2216:085:09 Simon Evans          33Shrewsbury MA   
2316:145:13 Jeff Goupil          22Keene NH        
2416:155:14 Kevin Alliette       29Raymond NH      
2516:195:15 Louie Saviano        19Sandown NH
4116:465:24 Scott Clark          44Gilmanton NH    
8417:555:46 David Quintal        47Salem NH       

5328 Total Finishers.

Next up is Bridge of Flowers on Saturday and then onto Savoy Mountain for the weekend wrapup...

1 comment:

  1. JJ,

    Nice race! I didn't realize it was your PR in addition to cashing! You are having a great year!