Santa’s toy trot – I hadn’t gotten a win yet in 2015 and my streak of at least one win a year since 1979 looked to be in serious jeopardy. Sometimes it is (relatively) easy to pick out a winnable race. I’d check out previous results and get a feel for how I would do. Of course you never know who will show up! I had a couple of close calls this year where I thought I might have a shot at a win but came up short. I kept putting off attempts at smaller races, choosing instead to test myself in deeper fields. Anyway, the calendar and my current fitness were conspiring to keep the elusive win at bay. I chose the Santa’s Toy Trot in Merrimac (MA) for a few reasons. It fit the calendar, it was a very short drive, it had a reasonable entry fee, and best of all it was a unique “3 races in 1”. The course is a 2 mile loop that is run once, twice, or three times. Best of all, you don’t have to declare which race you are in, you simply turn into the school parking lot after the appropriate number of laps. This gave me three chances to win!
I figured that based on past results the “easiest” race to win would be the four mile, but I was more interested in doing 2 miles. As such my plan was to go out hard and see what the competition was up to and then decide along the way. I got to the race nice and early and drove the course which I’d run once (I won the 6 mile in 2003) and was reminded that it wasn’t super-fast but there were no hills that would kill. I then ran the course for a warm-up and Garmin came up with 2.05, which isn’t bad for a non-certified course. I changed into racing flats and did another mile with some strides. I felt awful, I had a pretty good cough and I felt sluggish. Hopefully that would fall away once the gun went off. I chatted with Kara Haas right before the start; she had won the 2 mile outright last year and was back looking to repeat. We are pretty evenly matched so I knew this wasn’t going to be easy.
Over 200 runners took off and as we headed downhill (30’ in the first ¼ mile) two guys went right to the front. Breno Melo (an Ironman Triathlete) and Michael Fitzpatrick were obviously working together and it looked like with how easy they found the pace they were in it for the 6 mile. Next up was Jordan Varano (Vestal NY), Kara, then me. We’d already separated from the chasers and the game was on. The first little (25’) hill saw me falling off the group. I hit 2:43 for the first ½ mile which was ridge where I thought I could be (I thought 11-flat to 11:10 for 2 miles based on my relay leg last week). I was a few seconds back from the leaders and losing ground. They rolled along through the mile about 5 seconds ahead, with Kara 3 seconds up on me as I reached the mile in 5:31.
The course flattens out after that and there is basically a ¾ mile straight shot. I slowly reeled in Kara and went by her just before 1.5 (8:21). I tried to go by with some oomph so she wouldn’t be able to latch on. I did not want to try and match her over the last 200 meters. She fell back a bit and I focused on third place who was coming back a bit. He was about 3 seconds ahead with a ¼ mile to go. At that point I felt pretty beat, my breathing was ragged and I resigned myself that even if he turned in and won the 2 mile I’d turn in and call it a day. I peeked back when we turned with 200 meters to go and Kara was holding strong and still close enough that she might outkick me if I faltered. With 150 meters to go the leaders continued on course and I turned into the parking lot for the finish. My watch beeped as I hit 2 miles in 11:12. It wasn’t dramatic enough for me, so I after turning into the parking lot I took a wrong turn! Kara also took the turn and we both realized right away it was wrong, hopped the curb and finished the last 50 meters to the finish. I got my win with Kara less than 2 seconds behind me. I was a bit concerned about the fumble at the end but Kara seemed to think I lost ground doing that which was good enough for me.
I headed out on the nice McLaren trail for an easy four mile warm-down and made it back just in time to pick up my giant bottle of Maple Syrup for first place. A sweet victory! The three guys in front continued on and took the top 3 spots in the 6 mile, running a faster pace per mile than I did in the 2 mile.
1 1/13 2M5059 Dave Dunham Bradford MA 51 M 167 11:28.0 5:44
2 1/20 2F4049 Kara Haas Chelmsford MA 45 F 142 11:29.9 5:45
3 1/10 2M4049 Jim Chute Merrimac MA 47 M 1635 11:47.2 5:54
4 1/18 2M0119 Kyle Costello Groveland MA 15 M 131 12:22.5 6:12
5 2/10 2M4049 Matthew Cirinna Dover NH 47 M 1646 12:36.4 6:19