First off was the Westerly Run for the Pumpkins 5K (results here). I won this race two years ago (huge surprise to me) and was second last year. This year looked like at best another runner up finish since fellow teammate and training partner Chris Garvin was registered to run. I wasn't sure if last year's winner (David Holgate) would be back to defend his title as well. And what about Tommy FiveK?
Because of busy family plans, I wasn't sure I could even do this race until a couple of days beforehand. The morning of the race I was getting pumped up and had talked myself into the possibility of overtaking Garvin and the rest of the field on the steep hill during mile 2 and holding on for the win. Chris had raced on Friday afternoon. David had just beat me at the end of the Run4Kerri race this past August and 15 seconds at this race last year. Surely I would be faster this year.
I headed to the race with my family and met up with fellow WTAC'ers. A few of us headed out for a warm up on the course, and it was as twisty and hilly as I had remembered. The big climb is 98' and steep in spots and is totally out of character for a 5K road race (or pretty much any road race). We were running out of time to do the entire course and I briefly panicked that I would get us lost trying to navigate the labyrinth of neighborhood roads back to the start. We figured it out and had just a few minutes to spare.
I lined up with Chris, Jeff, and many other WTAC teammates (great club turnout for this dual directed race, unfortunately not as many from the schools as previous two years). My plan was to run the first mile fast (5:20), crank the hill, and then see what happens. The weather was sunny, seasonable, and a bit windy. I was ready to roll.
I followed closely behind Chris for the first 1/4 mile out of the park and into the neighborhood. He then pulled away and I couldn't match his speed. The wind was annoying the first mile and I was disappointed with my split (5:29). Chris's lead steadily grew and I knew that Jeff was probably lurking on the steep descent leading to the climb. My attitude was sort of bad at this point. I ran the hill pretty hard. Whatever ground I made up on Chris wasn't significant enough to make a difference and I still had a bad attitude. I tried to keep pushing especially since Jeff wasn't too far behind the last time I checked. Mile 2 was 6:00. Ugh! Was I even going to match my time from last year (18:00)? I pressed on the best I could. My watch was showing a faster pace during the third mile. This helped my mind. I could still see Chris far in front of me, but he wasn't increasing his lead anymore. Finally, the course leveled off and then dropped back to the park (mile 3 split 5:41). I glanced at my watch and knew I was going to be sub 18. I sprinted through the shoot (4:43 pace for final .1) in 17:45. 15 seconds faster than last year (and equaled David's winning time). Chris unbelievably snuck in under 17 minutes in 16:59. That's very fast for this slow course. Jeff also PR'd. The post race gathering was warm and fun as usual.
Next up was the Charlestown FOP race in Ninigret Park (results here). This was my fourth year in a row doing this race. It is a PR course and I was hoping for one this year, hopefully just under 17 minutes. I had handicapped my race by running very hard workouts during the week, but an easy Friday and Saturday of running had them feeling good on race day. The weather was again seasonable and sunny. There was wind (as usual this close to the ocean).
I arrived an hour early and met up with many WTAC teammates including Jeff, Mike B & C, Seth, and Tommy FiveK. We had a big group on a warm up run that included most of the course. Time was running short again so I hightailed back to my car for final prep. I then ran a few strides waiting for the race to begin. I was hoping for third place (cash prize) as Will Sanders was in attendance and I can't hang with FiveK in his signature distance. There is always the potential for other fast dudes showing up for the race. I was anxious for the start.
It was quite the show off the line. Will Sanders hammered immediately with a sweatshirt/pants guy trying to keep up. There were others sprinting off the line as well. After 100 meters the chaos quieted down and I found myself in third place, closely following FiveK. As we made a 180 turn the wind was now screaming in our faces. I tried to pick up the intensity, but was losing ground on FiveK (expected) and hearing close footsteps behind me. I kept checking my pace on my watch to make sure I was where I wanted to be, which I was until near the end of the first mile. I didn't recognize the breathing/foot strikes of my chaser so I assumed it was Jay Seekell and not Jeff. Turns out it was both of them plus Seth. I reached the first mile in an announced 5:30 (5:34 on my watch). Not fast enough, but mostly into the wind, so hopefully things would balance out later. The second mile has a few more turns back into the open park and I was now running alone. I couldn't hear anyone behind me and FiveK had a decent lead in front of me. I tried hard to not have a mile 2 let down. I didn't see my split (5:38 on my watch). The last mile is mostly on an open bike loop. The first 1/4 mile was into the wind. I really tried to bear down here. My pace was okay coming out of it and I now had the wind at my back for the duration. I was still very alone, and battling myself mentally. When to push harder? Can I push harder? I exited the bike loop and was getting close to the finish. I passed Chris Garvin (spectating) and he told me I could still go sub 17. I wasn't so sure glancing at my watch (mile 3 split 5:28). Once I got a visual of the finish line I hammered it home. I was running extremely hard, but it was too much too late, and I crossed the line in 17:04 (4:21 pace for the final .1). A two second PR, but a few seconds short of 16:59. Oh well. It was a good race considering my week of running and not having anyone pushing me the final two miles. My splits were very consistent which was encouraging.
It was more exciting to watch the rest of my teammates (and other familiar local faces) finish up their races. Jeff in 4th and a new PR, Seth in a huge PR and sub 18, Matthew sub 19, Shara for the win, Mike C PR?, and on and on. We had another big group on our cool down out to Grassy Point. Thanks Jeff for scaring us (hid in the bushes on our way back and jumped out at us). Screamed like a girl. Fun atmosphere post race.
Photo by Jana Walker