Monday, March 6, 2017

2017 Amherst 10-Miler- USATF-NE GP#1

I was SO not doing this race, but after the USATF-NE awards banquet, I felt that little pull of the Grand Prix sucking me back in to be an Iron Runner. I did struggle with the decision a bit, not just with the double race weekend, but with all of the DRIVING! I also worried about such a long weekend for John. I thought about it, realized I could make it a good weekend for him and bit the bullet. I replied to Barbara McManus's group email to the CMS Women's Racing Team that I was in for Amherst. No turning back now; that was a lot of money the team would be out for my entry fee. Not to mention the prize money the team also would have missed out on had I not been there. It was a done deal. I was in.

By late Saturday night, I started to have regrets but made sure to remind myself that I wouldn't be 100% and set absolutely no goal. That didn't mean I wasn't going to try hard. I definitely was, but I knew that even trying wasn't going to give the result fresh legs would have. I honestly didn't care either. The World Snowshoe Championship had given me enough for the weekend. Amazing experience that I'll never forget. I really didn't need more at Amherst. I was just getting it in to count for the Grand Prix Series.

I was up at 4:30am. Changed clothes, brewed coffee, loaded up the last the few things, then got John up and out to the car. I was actually sad to leave the little apartment so early, but we had to hit the road to get down to Western Mass. Being so early, the roads were empty and, thankfully, no more snow had fallen and the roads were plowed exquisitely. And yes, it does deserve that word! I've never seen better plowing in my life. As the sun started to rise along the drive, I could see the fresh snow in the trees and mountains. It was SO beautiful! I was a little nervous driving through the thick forest, though. That snow was extremely heavy and wet, and I kept worrying a tree was going to come down on the road. (Little did I know that this exact thing had happened to Phil Erwin after he left the banquet and started driving to New Hampshire! A tree fell on his car as he was driving! He ended up sleeping at a rest area.) I was happy to hit the Interstate for the remainder of the drive. The entire drive was 4 hours, but 3 were on the Interstate so it was super easy driving the whole way. I stopped once to get gas and John breakfast. I got to Amherst right at 9:30am, just as planned.

I didn't read the information correctly and thought the check-in was at the high school so I parked in that lot only to find the check-in was about .3 miles away at the middle school. Oh well. Stayed put there at the high school which ended up working out since the start was right there. I walked to the middle school, picked up my bib and said hi to a few people I knew, like Amy Bernard, who wasn't feeling well and Pat Clark. I really wasn't in the mood to be social today, for various reasons, but it was still great to see all of the familiar faces that I said hi to as I ran back to the car. I changed shoes then went out for a warm up.

There was a pretty cold wind blowing around out there. A huge shock to the system after 60 degrees the day before. It felt way colder than it probably was. I only planned a slow 2-mile warm up. Around a mile, I saw Amy, Lauren Tilton and their teammate up ahead so I decided to do my thing where I come up behind people fast and stomping...just to freak them out. It's pretty funny. The horrified looks are worth it. Only it was uphill, and I swear they were going race pace. By the time I caught them I was dying. I planned to run with them, but only about 100 yards later, I spotted a sign for a trail through the woods. I yelled out, "That's me!" and then veered left. Of course, the only person I would run into on the trail would be someone I know since there weren't a lot of trail type runners there. Haha. Richie Blake was coming up from the opposite direction and enjoying the trail over the road like I was. We stopped and chatted briefly then I finished up my run back to the car. 2.1 miles, 8:08/mi pace. Perfect. Slow, but I was definitely feeling dead legs. Oh well. I didn't care. It was nice to go in with a no-pressure attitude.

It was time to head over to the start. John was happy in the car. I told him I wouldn't be hanging out after the race and that we'd bolt to the brewery, then home. I didn't want to hang out with anyone post race except John. I ran around trying to find a last minute spot to use the bathroom. That wasn't easy t find with people everywhere, but I managed it. Got back in the start line and found my teammates. Barb, Linda Spooner, Jenn Brooks and Regina were there. Barb introduced us to a few new people. The runners started to fill in the chute. It was tight. The Whirlaway ladies were next to us, and we were chatting about how odd it was that there wasn't a women's starting area. A guy overheard us and pointed to our left. There it was! I lined up with Amy, Jenn, Regina, Christin Doneski and Jen Mortimer. We were all chatting away when all of a sudden the race started! Kind of reminiscent of Lone Gull in 2015 when the same thing happened. We were all talking and then people around us just started running. It was funny.

It was nice to have Jen there because I knew that she would be going out smart and would end up smoking me. So if I tried to pass her in the beginning that would be a really bad move. We actually had our usual starting group there. Amy, Christin, Lauren and Jenn. I tried to keep it jovial and joked around a bit through the first mile. Pretty sure I called Amy a sandbagger like I usually do as she moved ahead of me. Even though the first half of it was fast and downhill, the second half was not so much, but the hill was a fairly gentle grade. I knew already that my legs were fatigued and the hills would give me trouble, but I did ok in the first mile. 6:27. Super happy with that. I didn't have a plan, but it looked good to me. The second mile was a long, fast downhill. I decided to hammer this out. I wasn't sure if it was a good idea, but, hey, what the hell. I felt surprisingly good despite the dead legs. I wasn't sore at all, so that was a plus. I got ahead of Christin, Amy and Paul Hammond on this hill. Kind of a blur on who all I was around at this point because there were so many people. I know I passed a few others, but I was expecting all of them to pass me back on the climb I knew was coming. 6:06 for mile 2. Made sense; it was a good drop.

Damn miles 3, 4 and 5. 6:54, 7:04 and 6:48. Mile 3 was steep climb. My legs had absolutely nothing. My pace slowed significantly. Three women, including Amy, passed me. This ended up being good, though. I was forced to take it easy through mile 5. I was at a talking pace the whole time. The legs were at a point where I couldn't make them go anymore... just like New Bedford last year, but this ended up conserving my energy so by the time we hit mile 5, I was able to start busting it out. The dirt road I'd heard horror stories about was in great shape; pretty solid except maybe the last half mile of it. I really enjoyed this section. In fact, despite my slow pace on the hills, I was really enjoying this race. So far, I really didn't think this race was that hard...or at least as hard as everyone made it out to be. I didn't feel bad or tired at all. Christin caught me at some point in mile 4 or 5 and caught up with Amy who was up ahead in a small group of women, including Kelsey Allen, a Battle Road runner and younger girl (who just joined CMS this week!). Having Christin ahead of me at this point was awesome because I used her to pull me along. I wasn't focusing on the group ahead of me, only Christin. She had passed the group, and that's where I wanted to be. This section was fast, easy running. 6:24, 6:01 and 6:15 pace for miles 6-8. I passed the group just after mile 7 and caught up with Christin shortly thereafter. We chatted briefly. I told her I was pushing where I could because my legs were too trashed for speed on the uphills. Sure enough, the course started to climb again and she pulled ahead. Mile 9 had a short, but steep hill where I lost quite a bit of time. Helen Dinan passed me here. She'd been right behind me the whole way so I expected this.

After the steep hill, the road became a gradual incline to a right turn, just at mile 9, 6:32. This sucked so bad. Not only was this mile 2 (that fast downhill) in reverse, it was also into a crazy strong headwind. I dropped a few f-bombs. I didn't stand a chance in this last mile. My legs couldn't do the steep climb, and the wind made me feel like I was standing still. But, crazy as this may sound, I still felt really good despite this mile being a suckfest. I still got passed back by the young girl on this. Oh well. Then, I saw Scott Mason up ahead ready with his camera. Time to smile!

Photo by Scott Mason
There was a short downhill reprieve that didn't do much since it was still into the wind. I saw Scott Mindel off to the side and said hi. I realized at the finish that the Battle Road woman I passed was his wife, and he was walking back to her when I saw him here in mile 10. We finally crested the final climb and it was downhill from here into the parking lot. I never looked back to see how close anyone was. Just kept my eyes forward. I heard Jen Mortimer's familiar voice cheering for me as we passed by the finish line for the loop through the parking lot. Jen and Tammie Robie were the cheering section for the whole Manchester City Marathon, so I'll never forget her voice. It was great! I made my way around the lot just hoping I didn't get passed. Crossed the finish line with a CHIP time (hahaha) of 1:05:44 (7:00 for mile 10). The exact same time I ran Old Fashioned the week before. Pretty crazy. I would end up finishing 19th female and 3rd master (which I didn't realize until later; I assumed Tammie Robie was ahead of me the whole time, but it turned out she wasn't. Masters finishers just like Bobby Doyle. Regina, Christin and me). Full Results.

Normally, I'd be doubled over dying from the effort, but I was able to smile right away and found Charlie Bemis there. Just as I starting talking to Charlie, we spotted a familiar site. Amy basically being carried by Christin and (this time) Helen towards the non-existant med tent. Hahaha. I ran up to help, patted Amy on the back and said, "No more 10 mile races for you." Hahaha. I grabbed her an orange because she needed something of substance. She was sick before the race even started, so she was obviously drained. We all just kept walking back to the school, and she started feeling better quickly. The Millennium ladies caught up with us, so we all walked back together. We discovered that everyone but me got a really messed up hat for their finisher's award. They were all too small for them. Like seriously too small. Mine was awesome. Totally different material. Fit perfectly. It was so odd. Once back at the school, I said goodbye to them, then ran to the car. I wasn't staying for food or awards. I just wanted to get the hell out of there.

My cool down consisted of the .3 miles back to the car. I didn't even change clothes. Just started driving to the Amherst Brewery. John was starving. My stomach was actually a little uneasy, but I knew I needed to eat anyway and have BEER. Leaving the race early meant no wait for tables. The brewery had changed since we were there last May. They replaced half of the bar with an arcade. It was pretty cool. I was surprised John didn't want to play the games until I remembered he was busy playing his brand new 3DS game.

The food and beer here are great. That's why I came back here! The Toasted Coconut Porter was on draft this time, so I was psyched. A pressed Cuban panini, sliders for John, another beer... and we were full. I saw a lot of familiar faces come in the restaurant while we were there, but only talked to Paul Hammond when he came in with a group. I was definitely feeling anti-social and just ready to go home.

The drive home was long but really not that bad. John slept nearly the whole way. Once again, just one stop for gas, and we were home by 6:30pm! I was so happy to see the dogs! I also walked in to a package I had hoped to arrive sooner, but the shoes were on backorder, and I had to wear my Brooks Launch 4 for Amherst.

Hoka One One Hupana
Although black isn't my top choice, beggers can't be choosers. I've been able to get these Hupana's out quite a bit over the the last week on the treadmill and a long run. To me, they feel almost identical to the Brooks Launch 4. I think I'd stick to half marathon and under for them with something a little bit more supportive for longer, but, in general, I really like them. Not your typical Hoka style, though. I can't wait for the Tracers to arrive, since I'm hoping for those to be my longer distance racing shoes, but we'll see. Meanwhile, I've been seriously loving the Speed Instinct Trail Shoe. Not really enough dirt running (since it doesn't exist) yet to really comment on the grip, but the shoe itself I've been wearing a lot with snowshoes and microspikes. So comfortable.

So to wrap the week, I ended up with very low mileage total. 42.4 miles. But that was the plan! The recovery runs and short distance paid off to have two good races over the weekend. Granted, with fresh legs, I think I could have done a lot better at Amherst, but it didn't matter. Now, that I know the course and realize it's right up my alley, I'll definitely be back if/when it's another GP race (unless it conflicts with Spain next winter! haha. I'm dreaming). I still got 3rd master female and won $75. Sweet. I'll take it. So two 3rd master female finishes over the weekend. Have I mentioned how much I love being a master? Haha. One top 10 finish and a top 20 finish also work for me. As far as the team, I scored on both the Open and Masters team for the women. We were third in the open (less than 12 seconds off of 2nd!) and first in the masters (by almost 18 minutes!). All in all, a great weekend with John on his birthday and two good races to top it off. It was so what I needed after Wednesday's 911 call. Ending the week and a shitty month on a high note. I'm ready to move on from it.

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