I'd started the year racing every weekend for 15 weeks but since then had only raced twice over 4 weeks. It felt weird not racing. My buddy Robert from Hungary was in town and he joined me for the drive to Wachusett. We stopped briefly at Redemption rock as I'm trying to visit all of the Trustees of Reservations sites.
We met up with Paul Baz and headed out for a 2.5 mile warm-up. After that I changed into race flats and headed out for the 1/2 trot to the start line. The field was impressive. All of the typical Mountain characters were present. The 50+ field looked very strong! My focus was on teammates Ed Sheldon and Erik Vandendries, but I knew that Craig Fram (WRT), Jim Boule (at), Brian Ruhm (GCS), and Mark Reeder (GLRR) would be tough!
I got a good start and found my pace quickly. I locked in behind Fram with Ed well up in the early going. I was not in the top 20 when my watch beeped at 1/2 mile, but steadily gained on some fast starters as the slope increased. I passed Fram a little after the mile and pushed on the downhill into the park as this would be my best chance to put some space on Erik V. I had moved up to 15th place and then the really tough climbing starts (a little after 1.5 miles). I started to close a bit on teammate Steve Brightman and was within 20 seconds of Ed. I wasn't sure where Erik was but had a feeling he was closing on me on the steeper stuff (he is killer on the climb) Conditions were ideal (50s and just a little breeze under sunny skies). Steve walked a bit as we turned into the parking lot for the final push to the top and I passed him. He went flying back by me and got me by 2 seconds at the line. Ed had kept his 20 second gap. I was surprised that I'd made it into the top 10.
We circled around the fire tower on top and started the descent. I caught Steve within a half-mile and went by trying to really push on the steeper downs as I closed on Ed. Someone yelled "6&7" at us. I caught Ed at 4 miles and gapped him a little. There was a tough little road climb at 4.5 and Ed went back past me. I caught him again as we hit the dirt road and knew I'd need to get some distance on him as there was a tough little hill with about 1 mile to go. What I didn't know was Ed took a massive spill (he was bloodied when he finished) soon after. I kept focus on teammate Todd Callaghan not too far ahead and Dan Princic who was a little ahead of him.
I ended up not closing on them but they kept me working right to the line. My climb time was faster than last year and only 15 seconds slower than my best. My down time was okay, I'd only done it one other time. I can't complain about a 40 minute 10k that had 900' of climb/descent. I definitely won't complain about a tenth and sixth place.
On to Cranmore!
Up & down
Top 20 in the Up