On February 26th Heather and I headed out west to Amherst, MA for the DH Jones 10 miler. This is the first race of seven in the USATFNE Road Grand Prix Series. I have run this race a couple of time before and the course is very challenging with many hills and a dirt road section just to make things a little interesting. After last weekends indoor track 5k (15:58) and my short nine weeks of solid training, I was thinking a time around 57 minutes would be a decent time and anything faster would be a good run for me. After three miles of warm up and some strides it was time to get to it and get racing!
I tried to keep things relaxed for the first couple miles. But I always seem to get sucked out just a bit too quick at this race. I hit the first mile in 5:26 and felt alright, but I wish I had gone out a little bit slower. The next mile is pretty much all down hill, and the 2 mile split showed it as the 2 mile mark went by in 5:07 (10:33). The course levels out for a bit and then starts making itsway up. It was during this section that I started to feel like I had made a mistake going out this quick. My legs felt heavy and I felt like I was having trouble finding a comfortable stride. The big hill I was now making my way up didn't help. I passed three miles in 6:02 (16:35) and my thoughts turned to just surviving this climb and then trying to get my stride going again. Lucky for me three team mates (Al Bernier, Jim Johnson, and Kevin Gorman) caught me at this point and I was able to fall in with them and get my legs going a bit again. After a bit our little pack started to fall apart as Al pulled away and Jim feel off the pace. I was able to hang in there with Kevin for the next couple miles. Mile 4 went by in 6:01 (22:36). At this point I was starting to feel a bit better and recovered from the up hills over the last couple miles. Just before the 5 mile mark I started to move up and pass a few people. At this point I put a small gap on Kevin and I was on my own making my way through the field the best I could. I went by 5 miles in 5:37 (28:13), I was half way and on pace to be around 56:30....but I still had the Strong street hills to go up at the end of the race. The next mile or so I don't remember really running with anyone, I could see a pack ahead of me and put my mind and body to working up to them. I believe I caught them at right around the 6 mile mark, which went by in 5:30 (33:43). There was one guy (sorry I don't know who it was) who started to pull away from the rest of the pack and I latched on and went for a ride for as long as I could. We caught up to Dan Princic and he latched on to us. Not to long after we went by the seven mile mark 5:16 (38:59) and I could no longer hang on to our lead runner. I relaxed back a bit and soon Dan fell off my pace too. I found myself running alone and starting to think about the brutal finish ahead. I kept my eyes on those ahead of me and kept driving. The eight mile went by in 5:32 (44:31) and I could see the hills down the road ahead. I tried to relax on the first of the three hills, but the hill was still getting the best of me. At this point I was thinking just keep moving and hold onto your position. I crested the first hill and made the turn onto Strong Street, passed the nine mile mark in 5:30 (50:01) and made my way up the second hill and into a wicked head wind that nearly stopped me cold. I made it over the second hill and made my way to the third and last hill. At this point I was just totally spent, I really had nothing left, I could here foot steps behind me and I knew I was in trouble. Soon A pack of guys including Dan Princic, Kevin Gorman and Steve O'Brien caught me and started going by me. I tried my best to react but I had nothing....I was done. I crested the last hill and could see the finish. I did my best to keep my legs moving as I made my way downhill toward the finish. I saw the finish clock as I went by in the looped finish and thought I had a chance to break 56 minutes. I did my best to muster a kick around the parking lot finish.....but I am just not there yet. The kick was pretty poor and I crossed the line in 56:03 (6:02 last mile) good for 41st place overall.
Overall this was a very good result. I finished in a much faster time then I expected and I negative split the course (28:13 1st half/27:50 2nd half). This was a good step and showed that the work I am putting in is starting to pay off. I was a bit disappointed in the way I finished the race, but I am sure some more racing and solid workouts will lead to a stronger finish in the future. Considering the amount of training I have done and my lack of racing over the last 6 months I am very happy with how things went. Most of all the foot felt great, I didn't even think about the plantar once during the race. After a three mile cool down it was off to some old Amherst favorites for food and beer!
Heather also had a very solid race finishing in 68:09. Now its time for some recovery!