Sunday, October 5, 2014

Race Report: Western Mass Distance Project XC Festival

After loving the mountain racing (and training) I did this summer, I found myself in good shape but without anything exciting to train for.  I aimed at the Mt. Toby trail race in hopes of chasing the course record, so when it was cancelled I was all dressed up with no place to go, so to speak. I had begun the unpleasant task of regaining some legspeed in August (a CR at Toby would require sub 6-min pace on trails and hills-- I'd need some wheels) so I decided that a mini cross country season was a good way to apply these efforts.  Mostly out of fear, I haven't seriously revisited cross country since college (other than lame showings at Mayor's Cup and the New England Champs in 2008 and 2009, respectively), so I've been amped to don the knobby flats once again. Now a trail/mountain guy by declaration, running near 5 minute mile pace over flat ground would be a challenge.

So I signed up for the Western Mass Distance Project XC race and committed to weekly cross country workouts: 1k and 2k repeats on grass, some track reps, etc., all the while keeping the weekly uphill workouts I've been doing all year. Would it work? In late summer and early Fall I made a (failed) bid to get on the top-10 all-time list at the Northampton XC series.  I felt good but my old/trail runner legs couldn't match my fitness, and I always fell short of my 15:47 goal (16:00, 15:58, 16:03 for three tries). But I was never at my aerobic limit in these races so I figured a longer race would suit me.

I was psyched to face serious competition today at the WMDP XC Festival at the Ashley Reservoir in Holyoke.  These guys put on a classy event and it was a steal at $15.  (Tangent-- I hope they kept the proceeds and put it back into the sport as they see fit. Not every race needs to raise money for charity, for chrissakes... there is an aesthetic difference between racing and hobbyjogging and these guys are helping the racers.  Keep it up!)
The start. Courtesy Ray Cloutier.

The starting line looked stacked.  I knew I could run the first 3 miles at close to 5 minute pace but the last 2 miles were uncharted territory-- I haven't run this kind of intensity on flat ground in years.  My first mile (4:55) was the fastest mile I've covered in a very long time, but it felt appropriate and far so good.  The course is dead flat, on crushed gravel; really, about as fast as XC gets, other than the wind whipping across the open water.  And a huge cadre of fast road/XC guys had descended on the place--while this is part of the New England XC circuit, the field seemed far deeper than the first race in the series, in Boston a few weeks ago.  I exchanged places with some guys a few times as we lapped the reservoir (culminating in me getting outkicked by David Johnson-- no slouch so I'll take it) but my personal drama was mostly against the watch, and against the internal lactate governor that screams at you to slow down.  A flat 5-mile race is boring compared to a mountain race, so there's not much to say other than my splits and final result:

1 mile- 4:55
2 miles- 9:57 (5:02)
3 miles- 15:04 (5:07)
4 miles- 20:15 (5:10)
5 miles-- 25:26 (5:11), 8th place overall

I hung with some fast dudes and ran a PR for 5 miles (for any surface) so I'd say this was successful. I'm thrilled to find that I can still race this discipline at a serious level, especially considering this is a game for young legs (only one other 30+ in the top 24). Stoneman Legend (training partner and Acidotic teammate) ran a very solid 27:41 while Alejandro Heuck (UMass prof and occasional "Noonrun" training partner) was disappointed with his very respectable 29:19-- I expect he'll now join me for those silly uphill treadmill workouts.

With this under my belt I'll keep the wheels rolling in an attempt to slay my ultimate dragon-- the Franklin Park course at the New England Championships, where I ran my last great XC race 11 years ago.


Check out 109th place- I made like an electron in quantum mechanics and existed in two places at once. Pretty gnarly.

1 comment:

  1. Here is your double: