Last night I ran down in Newburyport, MA for my 5th straight mid-summer classic race at Yankee Homecoming (results). I run the 10 mile distance (the race having a 5k and 10 mile option). I first ran this in 2008, while competing in my first USATF-NE Grand Prix for MVS. Since then, I have made it a late July/early August standard. The race is usually fun, competitive, and HOT. Normally this race is a grind in obscene late day sun and the heat of mid summer. This year, the weather was as good as you can possibly want. It wasn't too hot or humid, and overcast for the whole race. I figured there was an outside shot of me being able to run sub 53 minutes here again but it wasn't to be.
It only took me slightly less than 2 hours to get into the race from Madison. I was there pretty early and got a great parking spot, within view of the start/finish and registration. I registered for the race and started to see a lot of faster guys showing up (unlike last year, when I actually got 2nd in this race behind Justin Freeman (RUN)). I knew that the word must have gotten out that there may be easy money here (they pay the top 4, with first place getting 500 beans). I warmed up w/ Daniel J. Vassallo (CMS) who was back in his usual 'angry young man' pre-race costume and knew he was fired up for a good run. I was hopeful that we'd put together a good team (which was playing out to be better than last year's winning team) and my feelings about that were strengthened when I ran into Patrick Rich (CMS) (last year's Cape Cod Marathon champion) just before the start. Dan and Rich and myself made 3 and Al Bernier (CMS) came trotting over, which was a big surprise, driving all the way up from Rhode Island. I looked around and didn't see anyone else but figured someone else had to be there.
The race actually started EARLY by a couple minutes (according to my watch) and took a lot of people by surprise on the line. I barely made it back to the line from a stride and the gun was fired. I attacked the first mile as I wanted to initially, running SLOW. That was the good news. Typically the race goes out WAY too fast and people end up dying off one by one over miles 2-5 because it is usually so hot. Last year I went out at 5:07 and wound up averaging 5:16s. This year, I wanted to run 5:16s again, but wanted to try to run even. Running along side Pat and Matt Ely (BAA) and Ian Nurse (BAA) over the first 2 miles, we managed a pretty even start. The bad news was that I clicked through 1 mile in 5:13 and felt HORRIBLE. It felt way too fast and that was a bad sign. I was hoping to hear low 5s as we passed by the split. I knew I wasn't going to run a 'fast' time (for me) after hearing that split. We were dropped by the lead group which looked to be made up of about 12 or so guys. Up in the group were a few Kenyan runners from out of state and a very strong RUN squad (which included seacoast runner Andy Huebner). Also Danny V and Dan Hocking (BAA) were battling in the mix and my group was forced back into a small no-mans-land chase pack.
At the mile, after getting some water from Matt Ely (class act who will be missed as he leaves for Oregon soon) and chatting about pace a little with Patrick and Ian, I moved ahead a little bit as the race turned onto the first side road. As I pushed a little on the slight downhill during this section, Matt gave me some encouragement and told me to go push up to get the guys up front who were already starting to drop back. I looked up to see a couple of RUN Kenyan runners and Ethan Brown (GLRR) dropping back. As I moved towards them over the next mile, I ran into what is usually the only thing that stinks about this race. I'm sorry to say. I never like publicly complaining about something at a race (to sound like someone else out there in the blogosphere who is always complaining about races) but I must say that (ok, Rant starting)... weaving in and out of back-of-the-packers in the obscenely crowded 5k is ridiculous. They are ALL OVER the road and most are running with headphones and waving to the crowd and playing with water and posing for pictures and weaving side to side, oblivious to competitive 10 mile runners coming up from behind and who are going 3x as fast. It gets seemingly worse every single year. If anyone from the race who has any say in the planning sees this, please consider changing this somehow. It is horrible for the lead runners in the 10 mile. I had a friend who also ran, call me after to tell me he had to nail one of the kids in front of him who just weaved right in front of him without any warning and they almost fell over. This is ridiculous. A couple of years ago, as if there wasn't already zero room to spare at all in this stretch, a damn ambulance was in the middle of the mob, loading someone into it. I had to tip toe through a near non-existent pathway on the side of the road to get around. Again, crazy. It may be fun for the fun-runner 5k crowd who are more concerned with waving and high-fiving as they get in people's way who are trying to RACE, but for the 10 milers, it kind of stinks. (OK rant over).
I caught Ethan and Titus Mutinda (RUN) and another RUN runner after 3 miles (having clicked through some relatively consistent splits) and then pushed up to try to catch Joseph Koech (RUN), Joseph Ekuom (RUN), and masters runner Kefah Keraro from NY. As I caught Kefah (who was running with Koech), he surged with me and very obviously picked up his pace and tried to stay with me. He was breathing very hard and was working considerably harder as we turned onto the hill leading up to the start of the section that heads into Maudslay. I dropped him a little on the hill on the way up. This was just after clicking through 5 miles in about 20 seconds or so slower than last year. I knew at that point, I was NOT going to be running what I thought I might be able to run and now it was about maintaining place and trying to push up to catch someone else.
For the next mile or so, I was alone, not really looking back, but instead looking up to see the police car still, and the lead back way ahead. Someone had dropped back a little off the pace, but I couldn't tell who it was. He was too far up to make out but with the white uniform it may have been Dan. I thought at that point I'd catch up, but then after clicking through 6 miles, my race officially went to crap. I slowed considerably and just felt tired and heavy. My miles and recent racing spurt had caught up with me and I started a marathon type paced run from then on. Just before 7 miles, I looked back to see how far back the runners I had passed already were, and saw Ian Nurse had also come along for the ride and was now mowing me down. He caught me just after 7 miles as we climbed up out of the park and headed towards the main road. He told me to hop on for the ride back into town and I did adjust a little and stayed about 15 feet behind him for the next couple miles. He pulled me along up over the overpass and through miles 8 and 9. Over the last mile stretch, I felt like I was getting caught by the field and Ian was just slightly pulling away. I had zero motivation and zero desire to get into a sprint with Ian over what I thought was a 10th or so place finish, so I just settled in and finished up in 53:40.
I was about a minute or so back of where I wanted to be realistically. I wasn't about to complain though, because being my 3rd race in 4 days and having started a mileage buildup, I was half expecting to maybe tank at this race if I felt tired. I kind of did that over the last half of the race. I'll take a 7th place and a sub 54 though. Until I ran 52:30s last year, I would have thought a 53-something was a really good run for me, so I can't be that upset (although I did split faster at New Bedford a couple years ago!).
5:14 - 8 seconds slower than last years split
5:14 (10:29) - 3 seconds slower than last years split
5:23 (15:53) - 1 second faster than last years split
5:10 (21:03) - 5 seconds slower than last years split
5:18 (26:21) - 2 seconds faster than last years split
5:29 (31:51) - 3 seconds slower than last years split
5:25 (37:16) - 5 seconds slower than last years split
5:28 (42:44) - 12 seconds slower than last years split
5:27 (48:12) - 9 seconds slower than last years split
5:27 (53:40) - 19 seconds slower than last years split!!!!
As you can see, ugly last half. 27:19 last 5 miles vs 26:21 first half. Just really died slowly but the good news is that I only got passed in the race by one person and mowed down a slew of others (which seems to be the way things work here lately for me). I like racing that way, just don't like slowing down that much while doing it.
Very disappointed that we didn't field a full team for this race. We had thought for sure that a couple more guys would be going but obviously stuff happens... I made the trip down there kind of on the basis of having a solid team to compete with. It took me 2 hours to drive and Al Bernier drove up from Rhode Island to try to help the team. Couple that with me being tired and over raced (and still showing up), and it was just a little disheartening that we didn't get a better showing. We ended up basically having 4 guys when we needed 5 for the easy win. Thankfully Patrick Rich showed up (he usually does) and that really helped us. Danny V 2.0 mixing it up up front was also huge. In the end, we had a regular CMS senior club runner (who thankfully showed up and put CMS as his team to help us get at least the 2nd place) as our 5th man. Thank goodness he was there or I would have really been peeved. We normally have a good turnout for this race. In the end, we only lost $100 bucks and it's really not about the cash as it is the bragging rights, but I at least wanted to make my entry fee and gas money back. It was kind of a crappy feeling standing there with a great top 4, and just seeing gads and gads of Whirlaway and RUN runners come flying in with no 5th man in sight.
One bright spot is that I won my age group :). Can't complain about that. A bunch of 'young bucks' out there tonight!