It had been a long time since I’d run the Jones 10 mile in Amherst. I was looking forward to going back and testing myself on the rolling terrain around Amherst and Shutesbury. Kevin Tilton came down the night before and we partook in a pizza-fest. On race morning we gathered up Dan V and headed to the River where we met up with the brothers Quintal (Dave & Mike) along with Double-J and the lovely Kristin. The ride out was much better than anticipated and even with a stop in Littleton to collect Dave La we made it out to registration by 9:30 am.
The weather in Amherst was nowhere near the predicted, but it was still early. It was great to see so many old friends and rivals gathering in the school. I bumped into the Fallon’s (Jimmy and Mimi) and long-time Mountain series runner Emer O. I also saw the goon squad and got a warm hug from the mountain goat. Soon enough it was time for a warm-up. I felt pretty trashed. The head-cold this week had left me hacking and feeling crappy. I ate well all week and got plenty of sleep so I’d either have it or not. During the warm-up I felt like I did not have it. Usually that is either a good sign or a bad sign but I’m never sure which. This time I thought it a bad sign as I was also not feeling any of the “rush” of race day. I hung on the back of the CMS group for the first mile of the course then said “bye” as 2-miles would be enough for me. Dan agreed and jogged back to the car with me.
I ate a couple of gels (Chocolate Outrage) and changed into my Loco Bandito’s. Conditions continued to look pretty much ideal for the race. JJ and I jogged over to the line together and I still was feeling “up”. Jim seemed pretty keyed up and it was great to see the huge crowd gathered at the start. I seeded myself in the fourth row and waited for the countdown.
Off we went, and almost immediately I found a rhythm. There were people zipping by and zig-zagging for the entire first mile, which seemed like a lot of wasted energy to me. I found myself right behind top 50+ runners Dave Oliver and Reno Stirrat. I was also just a few steps behind the lead group of women that included Kasie Enman and Heidi Westerling. It is sort of interesting to detach and watch others in the throes of a battle. Reno and Dave threw surges at each other and Heidi and Kasie seemed to battle early on. Not to say I wasn’t racing, but it is a little different back where I’m running. Anyway, I hit the mile in 5:52 and then the downhill second mile in 5:42 which were good. I could see Mike and Dave Q in the distance slowly pulling away. From 2-3 I felt crappy and was wondering if I’d make it when Kim Duclos powered by and offered some encouragement.
I got going again on the next uphill and hit three miles in 17:48 (614). My sub-60 goal was still in sight. I moved back up to Dave and Reno as we hit the icy dirt road section. Miles of 6:14 and 6:02 brought me through five miles in 30:04. It was somewhere on that icy road that the group I was in was joined by Sara Donahue (who ended up 3rd) and we blew by Ben N’dya who was not having a good day.
I started to feel pretty decent when we got onto the pavement but Reno and Dave and Sara all pulled away as I ran a 5:58 and then a 5:45. I felt like I was running well but not gaining any ground. A 5:56 8th mile brought me through in 47:43. I started thinking about the final hill and a projection that Kevin Beck had made for a 60 flat time. I remembered that it showed a 6:20 last mile. I knew it was going to be close. A 6 flat 9th mile got me a little closer to the group in front of me that included Reno and teammate Jeremy “Huck” Huckins.
I worked the last hill as hard as I could and turned the corner into the parking lot. The only part of the course that I remembered from years past was the finish which include a 400m loop around the parking lot. It is tough because you enter the parking lot and the finish line is right in front of you, but you’ve got a minute plus of running to go. As I passed the chute on the way out I saw the clock roll to 59 minutes. I went into an ugly kick and glanced at my watch at the turn and knew I was going to be very close. It was all elbows and grimacing as I hit the finish in just under 60 (59:56) for 77th place and 16th in the 40+.
All in all it was a satisfying result. Last year my best Grand Prix performance was 12th in the 40+, so I’m still hoping for a top 10 finish this year but realistically anything in the top 15 would be a good run. The team did really well with the open guys taking 2nd and Justin Fyffe running an excellent 5th place in 51:47. The 40+ team finished third with Joe and Dan taking 2nd and 3rd in the category and Dave Q having a great run taking 9th.
We did a nice easy 10 minute warm-down before getting something to eat and beating a hasty retreat before the snow started.