On Saturday, Griff, George, and I were up before the crack of dawn so we could get our runs in before we flew north to the Constitution State (and the home of Pete). After a relatively easy travel, which hardly ever happens when flying, we landed in Hartford and drove to the Elm City. I spent the afternoon relaxing and took a walk around the Green and Yale University. The next day, we picked up the racecourse at the 7 mile mark and ran the second half of the course to familiarize ourselves with it. The rest of the day was spent lounging around and to loosen up my legs, I once again took a walk around the Green, which is a great for people watching, as it is a happening place. Overall the couple of days before this race, nothing out of the ordinary really happened. Which is a good thing, as us runners live and die on our routines.
Coming down the final stretch!
Photo by: Peter Hvizdak – New Haven Register
To be honest, I do not remember much of the first few miles of the race, except there were many small surges thrown in. I do not know why people were surging and then backing off so early in the race, but I just focused on relaxing and not getting pulled into their games. As per my race plan, I was just trying to conserve as much energy as possible until the last few miles, so I zoned out knowing that as long as the pace did not become extremely fast, I could comfortably run with the leaders. As we neared the seven mile mark, which is where the course loops back next to “The Green” I started bring my mind back into focus. This is the point of the course that Griff, George, and I had run the day before, so I was familiar with my surroundings. I was still feeling very good and especially since the pace had slowed ever so slightly.
As we neared the long hill in the ninth mile, Dathan Ritzenhein (Ritz) went to the front and began to really ratchet the pace up. We began our accent of the hill, and I began running up onto Ritz’s heels. I am a great hill runner, so going up the hill I wanted to go around and continue with the current rhythm, but I checked myself and concentrated on relaxing; getting to the top using as little energy as possible. Eventually the hill crested right at the ten mile mark where there was a steep downhill where Ritz and Jared Ward began to pull away from me. Not wanting them to get too far away, I had to gradually reel them back to me. I was not the only one with that idea, as both Luke Puskedra and Sam Chelanga, who had fallen farther back than me, joined our group. We turned onto Whitney Avenue, a straight shot to the finish, and I found myself in the lead for the first time of the day! I had held off on leading for nearly 11 miles of the race, which is atypical for me.
From there I was kind of at a loss what to do. Coming in, I had a plan of going at Denny, the Triceratops statue (Yes I named the dinosaur), which was just over a half mile out from the finish. Now I was in the lead a mile earlier than that! Eventually I settled on sticking with the original plan of making my bid for the win at Denny. I just need to get there relaxed as I could, with 5% left in the tank, as Pete would say. Regardless, the pace was increasing as the final couple of miles are slightly downhill. Eventually Denny came into view, and before I knew it, Ritz took off! Immediately I tried to respond, but I much as I wanted, I could not find another gear. Over the final 800m I watched as the other four in the lead group incrementally pulled away.
While I did not accomplish my goal of winning the race, I was very pleased with my performance. Often my first race of a season is disappointing. Looking back to my first year at ZAP in 2012, my first race in a ZAP uniform was at the Blue Ridge Open in Boone. I ran awful, getting beat by numerous college guys. Then a month later I went and ran over two minutes faster at the Richmond 8km and had a great Manchester Road Race. The next fall, it was pretty much the same story, as I ran a mediocre cross country race at the Mayor’s Cup in Boston, then three weeks later placed third at both the inaugural .US Championships and the Manchester Road Race. I feel like this year I came into the 20km closer to race shape than other years. I had less time between my last race of the previous season and first race of the new season. On Monday, I was only nine weeks removed from my last race, while in previous years it had been over three months. While my last four weeks of training tired my legs and sapped my kick, I was still in “racing mode.”
They really know how to get my good side! It was warm out there and we were splashing water every chance we got.
Photo by: Peter Hvizdak – New Haven Register
Another big positive I am able to take away from this race is the fact that I came in with a specific race plan and intently followed it. My main goal for these fall races is to compete and to race and place high. For me, these are about getting race experience heading into 2016. That means I need to thoroughly think through each race and form a race plan. While I do think I have good race instincts, my best races have come when there is a race plan in place. Even if it is as simple as stick with the leaders for as long as possible. But I do not like that plan as it inherently assumes someone is going to beat me. I want my plans to assume that I am going to be winning races. That means I look at what my strengths and weaknesses are as a runner, and play to those strengths. If the 20km shows anything, it is that my aerobic system is very strong, but that my finish is still lacking. That is encouraging as I know my kick will come with both more training and racing, which I have plenty of each in the next few weeks!
Lastly, running this race made me remember how much I love road racing, especially when I am running well. While I was proud and enjoyed my track season this summer, there is something different about racing on the roads. I do not know what exactly it is, but that it is different. Maybe it is the camaraderie of everyone on the roads that is not quite the same on the track. You always see familiar faces, but also meet new people, like my roommate Parker Stinson. Or it might be the festival atmosphere that large road races emanate. Maybe it is the cold hard cash that you can get for running well. Whatever the reasons, fall is my favorite season.
I would also be amiss if did not mention my teammates. Both George and Griff ran superb races, with George cracking the top 10 in 1:01:10 for his first race over 10km, and Griff placing 12th in the middle of marathon training, running 1:01:48. Overall it was a good day for ZAP.
From here I am spending a week and a half in Colorado visiting family and running the Blue Shoe Run for Prostate Cancer. If you are in the Denver area, come to City Park on Saturday morning and run a race that supports a great cause. It will be a great event and should have a party like atmosphere. After my short trip to Colorado, I head back to New England to Providence, Rhode Island for the CVS Downtown 5km. Two weeks later I head to Minneapolis and St. Paul for the Medtronic TC 10 Mile. Having talked with many people this weekend, both fields should be loaded with many of the guys I raced this weekend. Both Sam and Ritz will be at the 5km in two weeks, and the top six from New Haven will all be at the 10 mile. I am excited to race many of these guys again, with the optimism that the results will be different.
USATF Race Recap
New Haven Register Recap
Post Race Interview