It was an early morning as I had to be up at about 4:30 so I could hit the road by 5:00am or so. After falling asleep continuously on the way down, I arrived nice and early and in plenty of time to register and take my time getting ready. The weather was cold and wet. Not an ideal start to the memorial day weekend. It was so chilly in fact, that I was contemplating wearing a long sleeve and/or hat and gloves.
I warmed up (in long pants, jacket, hat and gloves) with my old college teammate and high school rival Brad Klinedinst (New Balance Boston) on the first 'mile hill' road and then back down the old single track from the past few years of the race. It was great catching up with Brad though and he was looking fit. It was just another lad out there I had to worry about. The numbers of good runners I was catching a glimpse of on the warmup was increasing. I was thinking top 10 at least, would be a good goal to shoot for. I had already seen the Girlaway, I mean Whirlaway squad with MacKnight, Newbould, Steve Dowsett, and even 'THE' Craig Fram milling around near the start. Add those names to the list of CMS guys and some of the Hello Kitty AC team members, who for whatever reason decided to race under not only alias' but also incorrect age groups which completely screws up the results. Don't get me started on how dumb that is...
I decided to go with the new Team Inov-8 uniform and the Trailroc 245s, but also a cap to keep the rain out of my eyes and some gloves and arm warmers, as the weather still was a bit on the chilly side. I think having the weather that cold in a historically warmer month makes it seem even worse than it actually is. I lined up right in the mix of all the younger studs and the race was underway.
Immediately the race pace felt pedestrian as there was a gigantic group of runners all bunched together for the first half mile or so. It seemed like nobody wanted to take the lead. Brandon and Eric seemed to be itching to go but everyone was holding back. If this was 2 or 3 years ago I would have been gone. I didn't mess around back then in these races. But lately things have been horrible for me and the way my body feels, so I was in no rush to do anything dumb early. Kevin Tilton seemed to wake up and soon I found him out front bossing people around and pushing the pace. It looked like classic KT. He's the best climber in the field but I wasn't sure if he was particularly in 'race shape' enough to go for it and hold off this pack...especially with 3 miles of downhill after the climb. Had this been a 6 mile all-uphill race, he would have been my pick (even with some subpar training as of late). But somewhere around the mile mark or so, everyone was waking up. There was a good established top 5 of Newbould (Whirl), MacKnight (Whirl), Tilton (CMS/Dion/Inov-8/WMM/acidotic), one of the Hello Kitty runners whose name may or may not be 'Trudy' and Jacob Barnett (SRR). I was hanging back a little and had lost a little ground. I was having a quiet battle with Brendan Callahan (HKAC), Craig Fram, and a few others. We were in a chase pack and I felt horrible to say the least. I knew guys like Ross Krause, Tristan Williams, Todd Callaghan, Tivo, Tim Mahoney, DD, etc. were all lingering as well. My confidence was pretty much blown as my fitness was immediately giving me reason for concern.
As we started the descent, I pulled up along side Kevin immediately and asked him quickly whether we were going down the same way we came up (because it looked like we were going to do that). He quickly told me that we take another turn and head down the other side. Right after that, I opened up my stride and started to push downhill (which seemingly doesn't bother my foot nearly as much as the climbing). The first mile or so of the downhill is all on pavement and it is pretty steep down. I stayed on the gas and tried not to think of the downhill as a recovery but rather a place where I needed to continue to accelerate and maybe make up some time on people in front of me (and lose some guys behind me if possible). I was shocked to see that during the first mile of descent I quickly came up on the Hello Kitty runner who was out front on the road climb for a while. He looked to be running cautiously downhill but was flailing around like he was out of his element a little bit. I came up next to him and he kindly gave me some encouragement and kudos for the downhill running I was doing. He said 'I don't know how you are running so fast downhill'... I looked over at him and told him to get back on the gas and come with me. He gave a little up on me at first and dropped back but when the course leveled out a bit, he pulled up beside me again and I looked over at him and told him to get after it and go get those next couple guys. I told him to just stay on the accelerator and actually race the downhill, not just coast or survive it. He actually responded and took off on a little surge. It was pretty cool to see, but I started to think that maybe I should have not said anything :). Not too long after that though, once the course started to dip again, I found myself going back by him. Then the course turned onto the dirt road and that was it. I didn't see him again. I quickly gained distance and knew that if he was not running as hard on the paved section because of the slope of the course, that the dirt section was probably going to slow him down even more.
I cooled down again with Brad down the road and around some off road areas on the way out of the ski area. My legs were beginning to get sore and my calves were really tightening up due to all the downhill. As I write this entry, I am still tight 5 days later. On a positive note, no one older than me beat me. I guess I have that going for me....which is nice.
Top 10 Overall:
|1||35:50||Eric MacKnight||Ballston Lake, NY||WRT|
|2||36:09||Brandon Newbold||Nottingham, NH||WRT|
|4||36:58||Jim Johnson||Madison, NH||BAA|
|5||37:28||Trudy Delhagen||Brooklyn, NY||HKAC|
|6||37:40||Tristan Williams||Jackson, NH|
|8||38:06||Kevin Tilton||N Conway, NH||CMS|
|10||38:36||Ross Krause||East Thompson, MA||CMS|
297 Total Finishers
My history at Wachusett:
2010 - 4th (up and down on road and trails)
2011 - 1st (up and down on road and trails but more single track and more dangerous that 2010)
2012 - 3rd (up and down same as 2011)
2013 - 4th (up and down but longer and no single track...longer ascent on the road)
Maybe next year I'll get that 2nd I have been after... or 5th... This year's edition of the course is my favorite by far (so far). Interestingly enough I have never run the original course but this was kind of close for the first part of the race... I gathered my things after the awards (I was 2nd in my age group because Brandon Newbould is starting to get old, but not as old as I am) and I hit the bricks. 3 hours back up to God's country. Hopefully I can continue to train around my foot issue and try to get back into shape while trying to figure out what is wrong.