Saturday, November 28, 2009

Turkey Trot

Another year, another Thanksgiving race.  This time back at Maudslay for the Winners Circle Turkey Trot.
Cath and I picked up Dan and headed for Newburyport. Dan seemed ill-prepared to race and not particularly motivated. I believe he said something like “I have to run somewhere today, might as well do it at a race”. I knew going in that he wasn’t exactly “up” for racing. That combined with his poor choice of racing shoes (NB road flats!) and that at the shorter distances he was not having a typical year had me thinking about a rare “victory” over Dan. Actually for most of the week I’d been thinking about how I might be able to beat Dan. Although he is a teammate, there is nothing wrong with wanting to beat him. Heck, you should want to beat everyone. I’m realistic and know that wins are few and far between, but racing aggressively and doing well against other guys in my age group are good goals to have.

We were among the earliest to arrive, but with 1240 runners, being early is a good idea. This is the largest mass start cross-country race in the U.S. The competition is always good, maybe not quite as strong as the Trav’s trail race (which is run over a 3.0 mile version of the same course). We immediately bumped into Bob Winn who wouldn’t be racing if he wasn’t fit. Bob is a top 50+ runner and Dan and I have raced him for DECADES. We met up with a bunch of other regulars and headed out for a big group warm-up. I chatted a bit with Mike Quintal who is healthy and was coming off a very good 5km effort last week. I casually mentioned that “this is the spot Dan will pass me in the race” as we crested the climb at about ¾ of a mile into the course. I figured Dan would go out in his usual manner (slowly) and then go chugging by me. I also felt that trying to closely follow Michael would be a good plan. We finished our warm-up with less than 15 minutes to the start, and people were already heading over. I got in some strides and then said “hi” to Grandpa (Dad set him up in a prime location to watch the start and finish).

I think that this race is probably the only Winners Circle production that actually starts on time (or pretty close to it). There were still people walking over to the line when they gave the final instructions and sent us on our way. If they waited for all the late arrivals we probably would have been standing there another 10 minutes. Michael caught me with an elbow as we took off, hey its XC and you’ve gotta clear some running room. The first 200m was a flurry of people trying to get out and not get trampled. It wasn’t as bad as other years, or maybe I got out better, but by the time we started down the hill I was in the clear (up on the embankment along the dirt road). The first ½ mile is a very fast descent, but that will also be the final ½ mile of grimacing and agony. I was in about 15th place when we hit the ½ mile and crossed over the bridge. The next ½ mile climbs and I’m not very good at hills (mountains where you run slow are more my thing). A few guys went by on the climb including Dan who passed me at just about the exact spot I’d pointed out in the warm-up.

I tried to latch on to Dan and that helped me move back into the top 20. Michael came back towards us and I passed him after the mile. I noticed that (40+ course record holder) Kris Kealey was only a little ahead. Dan opened up a few seconds on me and Michael stayed just a step or two behind. On the downhill leading toward two-miles (not marked but I know where it is) I aired it out and closed on Kris and even Dan wasn’t that far up. I had some hope that I might be able to get him on the final downhill. I passed a guy just before the downhill and he told me “your guy is right up ahead”. I thought that was kind of funny. Kris came back to me on the downhill, but I knew with his leg speed I’d need to gap him. I haven’t got much leg speed and my hill running is not good (except the descents), that is not a good recipe for the final ½ mile at Maudslay. I did reel in another guy on the climb but with 400m to go Kris took off (and nearly caught Dan). I pushed as hard as I could but as Michael noted “you were losing ground on the climb”. Kealey put seven seconds on me in the last ¼ mile!

I could have sworn the clock just rolled to 17:20 as I passed but I had missed pressing my watch at the start so I couldn’t compare to the official time. The official time of 17:26 put me in 12th but only fourth in the 40+ (5th if you count Bob Winn @ 17:00 in the 50+). All in all it was a decent performance for me, especially considering I still haven’t cracked 17 on the roads this fall. The CMS gang had a good day. Al led the charge finishing fourth (Ryan Carrara mentioned how “it’s good to see Al out there racing”) and Michael stayed in the top 15, only four seconds behind me.

NEWBURYPORT, MA, November 26, 2009
===== =================== ===== = =============== == ======= =====
1 TOM WEBB 16:06 5:10
2 RYAN CARRARA 16:14 5:12
3 CONOR WELCH 16:36 5:20
4 ALAN BERNIER 16:38 5:20
5 TITUS MUTINDA 16:41 5:21
6 THOMAS LEGER 16:43 5:22
7 BOB WINN 17:00 5:27
8 CHRIS MCCANN 17:11 5:31
9 DOUG CHICK 17:16 5:32
10 DAN VERRINGTON 17:17 5:33
11 CHRIS KEALEY 17:19 5:33
12 DAVE DUNHAM 17:26 5:36
13 NATHAN BENNETT 17:28 5:36
14 MICHAEL QUINTAL 17:30 5:37
15 MIKE COHEN 17:35 5:38

I’ve now raced 12 times at Maudslay between Trav’s in May and Thanksgiving Day. That would make it the fourth most raced location (behind only Mt’s Washington, Wachusett, and Pack) for me. Thanksgiving also remains the third most raced Holiday for me, trailing only New Years Day and Independence Day.

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