Me, Dan Princic and Justin Freeman around 4.5 miles. Photo from the Manchester Union Leader
This race report (among others) is long overdue, but I am on vacation and finally have the time and ambition to write them. Plus Double J has been the only one hounding me for them, so I thought I would make him wait.
After the interesting experience that was Pineland, I tried to rest my body up for the coming mountain races. I recovered surprisingly well, but still managed to record a DNF in the USATF-NE Track Championships 10,000m after 5k. I was starting to worry about Washington after recording two DNFs in a row. I knew I was in good climbing shape though, and had a plan to go out super conservative and see how many people I could pick off. In previous years I had planned on going out easy, but still managed to come through the mile in 6:20 and blowing up a mile later. After talking to Dave Dunham, I decided I would hang back with him through the mile as he was shooting for something in the 6:50-7:00 range. That sounds slow for someone trying to run in the 1:05-1:07 range, but I’ve actually run a 1:04:41 off a 7:00 in training WAY back in 2006. Dave brought me and Double J through in 6:55, right on target.
Going into the race, I wasn’t really sure what I was capable of, but thought 1:07 would be a reasonable goal and would put me in the running for the Crossan Cup, which is awarded to the top runner from NH each year. With the likes of Kris Freeman, last year’s Crossan Cup winner and multi-time Olympic cross country skier; Justin Freeman, Kris’ older brother who also skied in the Torino Olympics and who has been setting the roads on fire this year; and Double J, who has been steadily improving his Mt. Washington finishes every year, it would be a tough task, but a solid race.
After that first mile Double J and I started squeezing down on the throttle and caught quite a few guys who went out too fast. We caught up to the Freemans around 2.5 miles, who were running stride for stride. I tucked in behind Justin for a little bit and realized we were at the top of the heap for NH runners, while running close to the top 10. I took the lead from Justin right before halfway and just tried to run smooth. I knew Justin’s not the type of guy you’re going to run away from. He’s a strong runner physically, and mentally tough as shown by the fact that he made an Olympic team. I slowly just tried to turn the wick up as we climbed above tree line on the 4-5 mile grade. This is my least favorite part of the course and my splits were a little slow, but for once I didn’t care as I was more concerned about RACING. Justin passed me back just after the 5 mile mark on the flat section before Cragway. He opened up about a 10-meter gap pretty quickly. I did my best to just hang on until we started climbing again. On the way to the 6-mile mark I didn’t lose any ground, but I wasn’t closing the gap either. Something changed though when we approached the sharp hairpin before the cow pasture. I closed on Justin pretty quick as we climbed one of the most heinous pieces of road you’ll ever see. I pulled up alongside Justin, offered some encouragement and took off towards the cow pasture. I thought I might have the lead I would need to the finish, but I made a mistake passing Justin too fast, too soon. As soon as we hit the flat on the cow pasture, Justin powered back and dropped me like a bad habit. I tried to go with him, but once again the extended flat section was my downfall. As all of this unfolded, we caught Eric Blake, who was having a tough day with some hamstring troubles. I tucked in with Eric trying to regain my composure. Eric said “I think we’re 9th and 10th” and immediately I settled. Looking back I’m disappointed I didn’t really try to go after Justin in the last mile, but knowing that I was in the top 10 for the first time since 2007 I just wanted to make it to the finish. Eric and I still worked together and pushed to the finish. Eric managed to outkick me going up the wall, and I crossed the line in 1:06:59 in 10th place while holding off a hard charging Francis Burdett. The time was my fastest since 2008 (1:06:30), so despite a not-so-perfect prep, I managed to pull off a decent race. Certainly much better than a DNF. It was good to mingle with friends and competitors at the finish. I felt a huge relief after the race. It was like a year of bad feelings about the race had finally been cleared up. All the training I put in and the DNF that resulted really made me wonder if I wanted to train anymore. I was wondering if I really had any of the skill and drive that I had 5 or 6 years ago that got me onto two US teams and helped me run some fast times in the mountains and on the roads. A sub 1:07 is nothing for me to quit my job over and become a full time athlete, but it gave me a glimmer of hope that I still have some physical ability left, even when I half ass my training.
Me and Eric dueling to the finish. Photo by Roger Morse