The great irony of today’s Finally Spring 5K! in Manchester, Connecticut is that it was far from spring-like. It was one of those classic New England weather days more like late-February or late-November. It was freezing. The temperature didn’t get out of the 30’s (Fahrenheit) and despite pockets of deep blue sky, intermittent snow squalls rolled through as angry clouds dotted the sky. It was ugly! But…it was a great day for running.
All along, the Saturday plan was for Debbie to run 25+ miles and for me to go along as far as I could. I was supposed to do a track workout, but good luck finding a track in these parts that doesn’t have six inches of ice and snow on it. Last night, we were on the Bolton Land Trust’s Bogsucker Slog and met up with Kevin Glenn and Laurie Brooks. They mentioned the Finally Spring 5K! which I had forgotten about.
Like the Bolton Road Race two weeks ago, this presented a unique opportunity. I could do my three-mile track workout on road/trails in the middle of a long run. Fantastic! Our kids were with Deb’s parents, so we ran the long way over to the Howard/Porter Reservoir for this hybrid event. Neither of us had run this race before, though it was the 5th edition. I go through those reservoir trails frequently, but Deb hadn’t even been in there, so while we were racing, she explored the trail system and kept piling up the miles.
We met up with fellow Shenipsit Striders David Merkt, Tony Bonanno, Kate Bonanno, Summer Rabida, and David Sutherland. After doing a loop of the course, I got to the start with 90 seconds to spare. I changed into my “papaya” jersey and we were off. My goal was to run a steady pace like the workout described, which from the looks of my Garmin results, was pretty good despite the hills, snow, ice, and variety of surfaces. It was a fun run, but I had no oomph…until the end. You see, these high schoolers are unreal. They make you earn your spot in the rankings.
I hit my lowest heart rate of the race at 171 with 90 seconds to go as I started to fade badly and then this 17 year-old kid makes his move to bridge up to me. I looked back once and told myself that I wanted to hold on to my spot, but I knew that it was going to hurt. Boy, did it hurt. 90 seconds later I crossed the line with a heart rate of 192, which is a number I rarely see anymore. We ran neck and neck for the final downhill 1/4 mile and I clocked it in 64 seconds. Ouch. I’m supposed to be training for an Ironman. I don’t need to run that fast, but I’m not letting some kid get the best of me in the last bit of a race, no matter how short it is.
I was already well behind Merkt. He had a great race in his Vibram Five Fingers, which were an interesting choice for the course conditions, but that is one reason why he makes me smile so much. Some guys wore track spikes. Spikes? They ought to come out to Traprock next month or Soapstone in May and bring their spikes! At least no one wore snowshoes.
Another guy who crushed me is 17 year-old (making embarasing frown as I type) Henry Domnarski from Palmer, Massachusetts who is getting stronger by the day. His Dad, Matt, is one of my best cycling buddies and a long time teammate on Team Horst Sports. Matt was a champ runner in his day with like a 2:50 Boston Marathon on his resume, but like me, he now seeks glory against other age groupers. Nowadays, all of his racing is on his bicycles. I could see Henry, who took the very competitive under-18 age group, up with Merkt but could never close the gap. I made up for any disappointment with my burst at the end to hold off another young buck.
First overall went to Jacob Gurzler in 16:10. The course was modified because of the snow, but that is still a fast time. He was followed by Kevin Brandon and Andrew Chalmers who both cracked 17. The first woman was Beth Kraseman in 19:37. She was hot on my heels! It was nice to see Beth. She used to do many of the New England Grand Tree Trail Running Series races and is a past Soapstone winner. She has a fast family. Her family ran the race too. She was followed in the women’s field by Jennifer Racine and Alyssa Hamel.
The Manchester Running Company attracted 315 people to this race, though only 255 crossed the line, which is amazing. It was great to see so many folks out there not minding the mud and snow. Merkt and I were both missing chips on our bib numbers and initially they missed us in the results. When we were talking to the guys from Last Mile Timing, they told us that MRC planned on 250 runners so they brought 50 extra chips. Even that wasn’t enough!
It was fitting that for my age group award, I scored a season pass to the Bolton Summer XC Series. If you haven’t been to one of our Wednesday night XC races at the Bolton Heritage Farm, then you have to join us for some fun. After the race, Debbie dragged me home and I got in another 10 miles up and over the top of Birch Mountain. She kept going for five more and we both ended up reaching our training goals for the day. The weather wasn’t pretty. I’m not so sure that spring is here. It may say so on the calendar, but I’m ready for the Finally Summer 5k, or rather 50K.