Thursday, November 13, 2008

2009 USATF-NE Grand Prix

The races and some facts about them. I didn’t list them in date order, they are listed in total vote order (except for NB ½ which I didn’t record).

Ollie 5m – 09-12-09 (or maybe 09-05-09) South Boston, MA. $6,080 in total prize money. $25 entry fee. No other 5m/8k bid so it was accepted (despite the fact that the date could not be set). The last time Ollie was in the Grand Prix was 2008. The race has been in the GP five previous times. Course record is ? (I couldn’t find it).

Lone Gull 10k – 09-20-09 Gloucester, MA. $7,800 total prize money. $20 entry fee.
58 votes for Lone Gull. 6 votes for James Joyce. Lone Gull was bidding for the first time, and as such has never been in the GP before. Course record 32:06 Wilson Perez.

Bay State Marathon – 10-18-09 Lowell, MA. $13,400 total prize money. $55 entry fee.
44 votes for Bay State. Cape Cod = 24. Manchester NH = 3. The last time Bay State was in the Grand Prix was 2008, that was the only time it has been a GP. The ½ marathon was in the GP in 1997. Course record Matt Pelletier 2:21:41.

Bedford Rotary 12k – 05-16-09 Bedford, NH. $2,400 total prize money. $20 entry fee.
37 votes for Bedford. Bedford was last in the GP in 2007 and has been part of the Grand prix six times before this year. Course record Nate Jenkins 36:21.

Rhody 5k – 06-07-09 Lincoln, RI. $7,000 total prize money. $20 entry fee.
35 votes for Rhody. 33 votes for Westford. Rhody was part of the GP in 2008 and has been in the Grand Prix five other times. Course record Mark Carroll 14:27.

New Bedford Half-Marathon – 03-15-09 New Bedford, MA. $8,000 total prize money. $25 entry fee. I did not get the vote totals on this. NB was in the GP in 2008 and has been a Grand Prix race 11 times in the past. Course record Geoff Smith 1:02:05.

DH Jones 10m – 02-22-09 Amherst, MA. $10,850 total prize money. $25 entry fee.
40 votes for DH Jones. 31 for Newburyport 10m. 4 for James Joyce 10k. 4 for Westford 5k. 13 for Medical center 6k. Note: The race with the lowest total was dropped until it was down to one race. This gave the weird result where DH Jones beat Newburyport, which had beaten DH Jones in the first round (for the races at a distance greater than 10k and less than the marathon). DH Jones was in the GP one other time (1999). Course record Bob Hodge 48:57.

Over the 25 years of the Grand Prix the mileage run (if you did all 7 races) has trended downward. The series has consisted of 7 races since 1986 and has kept the format of 5k, 5m, 10k, marathon and three additional races over 10k and under the marathon. This was changed a couple of years ago to two races and a “wildcard” which could be a race of any distance including races that were not selected (so you could have a 5k championship and a wildcard at the distance of 5k). This year the mileage creeped up a little, thanks to a 12k instead of a 6k. I like the sound of that! “Back in the day” Stu’s 30k would typically be the first race in the series, so you had to be ready to race long early in the year. Having the 10m in Feb. will have the same affect, you better be fit during the winter. Of course that means you have to stay fit (and healthy) for a longer period.

My thoughts on each of the races:
Ollie – I’ve never done this race. The closest I came was entering it last year. I got hurt right before the race and ended up doing some video and taking pictures. They do a nice job, parking is easy, plenty of bathrooms. The course looks about as boring as a Brittany Spears CD. It also looks flat, but the times seem to suggest otherwise. I hope to run it this year but it may conflict with the Mountain Running World Championships. They haven’t got the date set yet as it depends on when the cruise ships arrive in Boston. Who the heck knew that cruise ships came to Boston??? Post race food was great (and plenty of it) and packet pick-up was quick and efficient.

Lone Gull 10k – This one got the most votes of any race. Partly because it was up against James Joyce. I really like the James Joyce race, but apparently a lot of people run that marathon out in Hopkinton and can’t race again in a couple of weeks. What a bunch of light-weights! :-) Anyway, I’ve heard good things about Lone Gull and I’m looking forward to racing in Gloucester. The course looks nice, not too hard but not pancake flat either.

Bay State Marathon – This is a personal favorite. One of my best local runs was when I qualified for the Olympic trials at the 1998 race. The current version of the course is slightly more difficult with the hill at 24-25 miles going up to University Ave and twice up and over the Rourke bridge. I had hoped to run this year but was injured, so I biked the course (with the lovely and talented Kristin) offering support. They had much better traffic control than they did 10 years ago. I also like the new finish in the baseball stadium, the post-race food was also excellent. Parking was easy as was number pick-up. I hope the Expo grows a bit as it wasn’t much of anything this year.
My best time: 2:21:36 (1998). My worst: 2:58:28 (1990, as a workout, but I’d settle for that now!)

Pic of 50km American record holder Alext Tilson and me, with about 5 miles to go in the 1994 Bay State Marathon.

Bedford Rotary 12k – This is a great race! The new course looks like it covers almost all of the same ground as the old course. I like this distance, sort of hurts those 5k guys (like Francis) and gives me a chance to (maybe) break into the top 10 masters. Weather can be something else here. One year it was in the upper 70’s and another year there were snow squalls. Be ready for anything! They’ve always done a great job with post-race food and pre-race parking. I recall the lines were very long at registration the last couple of times it was a GP. Best to arrive early.
My best time: 36:59 (1994). My worst time: 41:55 (2007)
Pic of me struggling to the finish of the Bedford 12km. Set a CR that day that was later broken by Mark Donahue, then John Mortimer, and Nate Jenkins (good company).

Rhody 5k – I’ve only done this one just once, last year. I’ve watched it a couple of times when injured. It is a great spectator course as you don’t even have to move and you can see everyone about a dozen times. Unfortunately there is little shad and early June can be notoriously warm, especially if you have had much heat training. I hope to be in heat early and often in 2009. There are some definite issue with this race. The start could be wider, I understand the funnel they are trying to get but ¼ of the road is wasted due to the structure holding up the banners. I’m pretty sure some people actually started outside of the corral, which gave them a nice clear start. There were also problems at registration. I think they needed more volunteers, as they got backed up trying to match chips with numbers and many people who had pre-entered weren’t on the pre-entered list. On the plus side, they had plenty of bathrooms, lots of water before during and after the race. Having a separate men’s and women’s race is also a great idea (can’t get girled if they don’t race against you). It really is better as the women have a clearer start and don’t get impeded on the course. It also means we get to watch them race and they can support us.
My only time: 16:47 (2008)

New Bedford ½ marathon – This race is a classic. The course can be very fast, especially from 2m – 8 miles. You can then lose it all if it is really windy. I believe that Cape Cod is the only race to be in the Grand Prix more times than New Bedford. Parking is never a problem, registration tends to go smoothly, they have their act together after many years of doing this. My only complaint is getting to the start. In recent years it has been blocked off and you have to go toward the back of the pack (thousands of runners) and work your way up. I saw a bunch of elite women crawling under the scaffolding in the final minutes trying to get to the line. I’m not sure how this can be corrected, as you really have to get people on the line and ready to go. The problem is that you have to stand around on the starting line for 10+ minutes if you want to be anywhere near the start when the gun goes off. I can’t comment on the post race food, I hate fish! Plus I’ve usually been sick as a dog after finishing this race. Last year was a rare exception to that as I was coming off of a calf injury and jogged through the race. One year I got drug tested after New Bedford and it took me HOURS to produce a sample. In a weird coincidence, my 11 mile split in 2006 exactly matched my winning time in 1993.
My best time: 1:05:02 (1993). My worst time: 1:18:22 (2006).

From Left to right (in back) Dennis Simoniatis, Ed Sheehan, Rachid Tbhai and (in front) Mike Slinskey and me. Note the gas prices!

Top three From New Bedford: Dan Verrrington (1:05:28), Me (1:05:02), Dennis (1:05:03).

DH Jones 10m – This is also a New England classic, everyone should do this race at least once. I love the idea of 10 miles in Feb., you gotta be tough to do that. I’ve done the race three times and won twice, one of those wins was a grueling battle with Ed Sheehan which wasn’t settled until the final 200m. It seems like it is always a bit slick on the roads of Amherst, especially the dirt road section. When it was the Grand Prix race in 1999 they actually had to SAND the DIRT road! I also got a $150 speeding ticket that year. As I recall the course is rolling but not killer. The showers are cold and substantial shrinkage is a definite possibility. There was a great picture in New England runner (I think from 1999) that had a sign “Slow Runners” with the lead pack going by. I don’t recall much about this race, but they have been doing it for a long time and know what it takes to put on a great race.
My best time: 50:36 (1992). My worst time: 55:04 (2001)


David Quintal said...


Loved the insight on the upcoming Grand Prix schedule. Those pictures are classic! Who's that Ralph Macchio over there?


day-v done 'em said...

I still break out the "rising sun" headband now and again.