Time for the second race of the winter trail series. As with the Old Mountain 5k, I went into this race with no expectations. My knee had been feeling better in the lead up to it but this race would rely on more pure speed than Old Mountain and last November's Mews race left me feeling like I lost a step. I was looking forward to another fun local race, and the weather seemed spot-on, but I was still trying not to think about it too much. I didn't even look up last year's time for a goal (it was 19:28.)
I arrived with plenty of time to do a solo warm-up. It was in the low 20s but there was little wind. The beach was nicely frozen. I passed our nemesis, the Tuesday Night Turtles, who had donned anti-WTAC shirts for their warm-up. They were hilarious. A tip of the cap to Bob Jackman for having them printed up. The ultimate complement of this rivalry.
Heading on the trail portion, the path was partially covered in snow and held several individual ice hazards. These were dangerously slippery but I didn't want to break out the YakTrax for the first time this season in a race situation so I opted to just carefully avoid them. By the end of my "warm-up" by toes were frigid in the minimal MT00s and I decided to camp out in my car for five minutes to warm 'em up.
|The snow wasn't a problem but watch out for the frozen pools|
|Frozen feet no bueno|
The respite did the trick and as we milled about for the race to begin I felt much warmer. Galoob led us all down to the starting line in the sand and after a few remarks we were off! It was a quick start and I made sure to avoid the scattered rocks with my minimals. I quickly fell in behind Jeff and Dave Principe. I could see Matthew Walker up ahead close to the lead guys, my days of besting him (at least at shorter distances) now a thing of the past. I was closer to the lead pack than I thought I should be but the pace didn't seem too aggressive and as we made the turn I decided to cling to Jeff for as long as I could.
As we approached the start line I heard someone coming up behind me quickly. I should have realized who it was from the quick turnover - Jonny passed by, clearly playing it conservatively to start. I followed Jeff and Jonny as we left the beach and hit the trails. Now it was all about avoiding the sneaky ice patches. Jonny passed Jeff and continued after Principe. On the brief road section I tried to push it, not wanting to end up in No Man's Land. I was able to keep Jeff in my sights but I was breathing hard.
The trail turns back towards the beach and over the next 1/2 mile I was slowly able to gain on Jeff. The field was spread out now and after the one big descent I glanced back and saw no one. Good, a little breathing room then. I was working now but the pace on the watch read 6:04 which pumped me up. As we approached the house, the trail evens out and gave me a look at the field. Jonny had just passed Matthew Walker who looked to be slowing. Jeff was gaining on him and I was only a few seconds behind Jeff.
I didn't think I'd be catching either of the Walkers as they both run well on the beach and have strong kicks. The last 1/2 mile on the beach is not my favorite and I just wanted to finish strong. Thus far there had been no knee pain so I was already happy about the race. The twists and turns of the house forced a slower pace and the broken ice within required a careful step.
|The ocean view was easier to enjoy on the cooldown|
|Last year it was flooded. This year it was an icy trap.|
Coming out of the house, I was surprised to find Jeff and Matthew right in front of me. I gave Matthew encouragement before realizing he must have gone down as he stopped before jumping the stream. His Old Man stopped briefly to make sure he was alright and I, being less than a gentleman, took the opportunity to jump the stream first and put some distance on the Gazelles.
But my lead was short lived and Jeff flew by me moments later. Try as I might I could not catch him. I was still worried about Matthew, not knowing that he smashed his knee up pretty good on the icy trail. I ended up finishing a few seconds behind Jeff and managed to take 51 seconds off last year's time! I was thoroughly happy with this race as it indeed proved to be a fast affair and my legs responded in kind.
|Another baddass photo by Scott Mason|
|Mirror image of last year. Next time Gazelle! - Photo by Jana Walker|
Matthew finished a few moments later with impressively bloody knee. It didn't keep him down for long and I was happy to see him and his dad doing a cooldown a bit later. I thought WTAC was going to pick up the team win but it ended up being...Rhode Runners! The Providence speedsters were out in force for this fast race and WTAC had to settle for 2nd with TNT grabbing 3rd place. It's definitely a competition now but I like our chances as the trails get longer and more technical. Kudos to the WTAC women for getting the win over the Turtles.
Thanks to Mike Galoob and his family for another great race! He even brought fat bikes for people to demo. The atmosphere was festive and there were some great WTAC performances, led by Chris Garvin who finished one stride short of first place. This was a really positive race for me and I'm psyched that my knee appears to be finally on the mend. I'm looking to the Belleville Pond 10k next month (hopefully with less snow!)