When I lived in Rochester, NY I ran in the Freezeroo Race Series every year. Seeing as they were run in Western New York during the winter they were often, as the name implies freezing cold. Nothing however, prepared me for the weather on January 1, 2018 in Londonderry, NH for the Millennium Mile Road Race. It was 9 degrees and sunny, which is doable, but the sustained winds of 15 mph gusting up to 35 mph made it feel like the flesh was burning off your skin. It is the only time I’ve ever finished a warm up colder than when I started. The only positive about the weather was the wind was kinda sorta at our backs, when it wasn’t trying to push us off the left side of the road. I ran this race last year when it was a balmy 35 degrees. It’s a silly race. 1000+ people line up at the top of a hill and race down it for 1 mile. The total elevation drop is 84 feet.
Last year I had no idea what to expect or what to make of my 4:33 finish. I knew it was faster than I could run on the track, but I came away thinking I didn’t not run it nearly hard enough and I left a lot on the hill. The second half of the race is basically an exercise in keeping your legs spinning under you as fast as you can. If you can avoid the urge to lean back and break, it is sort of hard to be tired by the end. My goal for this year was to be tired at the end, be the first masters runner (last year I was second by 2 seconds Casey Carroll ) and to break 4:30.
I only managed 1 out of my three goals. I was the first masters runner, and 13th overall, but I didn’t break 4:30 and I wasn’t tired at the end of the race. I finished in a lung searing 4:30.4, but even that wasn’t enough to make me feel truly tired like a mile race should. I must need to work on my downhill running technique, I’m not pushing off enough or something going down the hills.
This Sunday I’ll have a chance to see how a 4:30.4 down hill road mile in Arctic temperatures coverts to 65 degrees on an indoor track when I race at the GBTC Invitational. Anyone want to take a guess?
Many people are eager for the fall to come. Children enjoy the start of a new school year, many love observing the changing foliage, while others savor fresh apples. Personally, I appreciate all of the aforementioned, however I find that cross country is my favorite fall activity, as I’m sure that most of you share a similar mindset. Roadkill Racing has had the honor of participating in the Upstate New York circuit that honors the late Pete Glavin. Consistently this series has generated great competition and phenomenal fellowship. This year was no exception.
September 10 – To kick off the season, the runners of Roadkill traveled to Clay Central Park in Syracuse to test themselves in the beloved 5000 meters. On the men’s side, Mark Streb and Kraig Connor led the way on a day that was perfect for running; not too hot, with a slight wind. They finished in 18:28 and 18:30 respectively. Ben Young came in shortly thereafter in 20:50. Dan Sackett, and Dave Ferrett rounded out the men’s team as they crossed the line in 22:12 and 23:21. The women also put together a strong first race, as Jennifer Spitzer-Jones traversed the course in 21:29. Erin Caffrey and Lindsay Rynders followed suit by finishing in 24:52 and 25:27. Next came an awesome Roadkill trio of Kim Graffeo, Martha Doody, and Nicole Briggs finishing in 28:52, 29:30 and 29:53. Jeanine Hitchcock completed the women’s team as she ran a 35:26.
September 24 – With one race under their belt, the Roadkill racers looked to show what “Beer and Glory” is all about on a hot day in Akron Falls Park. Much like the temperature, the runners laid down some scorching times in this 6000-meter race. Brett Smith made his season debut for the men, as he was the lone soul to break 22, running 21:29. He was closely followed by Matt Roberts, Mark Streb, Mark Saile and Marcus Gage, whose times were all within 2 minutes of Smith’s. Ben Young and Carl Palmer once again demonstrated Roadkill toughness as they ran strong and completed the challenging course in 25:16 and 25:42. Finally, Dan Sackett and Dave Ferrett closed out the men’s action as they ran 26:28 and 30:01 respectively. The Masters ladies of Roadkill showed that they too embodied the hardiness of a cross country runner as Kim Graffeo, Heather “HBO” Ostrander, and Jeanine Hitchcock crossed the line in 37:02, 39:07, and 45:54. Nicole Briggs was the lone open runner for the women; however she still finished in 39:29.
October 8 – Typically thought as a racing town, Roadkill racing traveled to Watkins Glen for a taste of some true racing. This hilly 6000-meter course crushed the thought of a PR and forced Roadkill to use a tactical race plan. Matt Roberts led the charge as he earned every bit of his 24:39 finish. Roberts was followed by Mark Saile, who finished in 25:17. Not be left out of the fun was Marcus Gage, who as a triathlete is no stranger to grueling races. Gage finished in 26:29. Dan Sackett concluded the men’s fun with his admirable 30:31 finish. For the women, Erin Caffrey picked up right where Sackett left off as she finished in 33:08 to lead the team. Not far behind was Lindsay Rynders who navigated the course in 36:36. Martha Doody, Kim Graffeo, and Jeanine Hitchcock rounded out Roadkill’s showing as they finished in 41:14, 45:01, and 53:47.
October 29 – The Genesee Valley Park course seemed to be more of a trick than a treat as rain and cold added yet another element of endurance to the USATF cross country championships. However, loving adverse conditions and an excuse to have a drink with friends, Roadkill Racing was there and in high spirits. Molly Romano started the open women off with a 6000-meter time of 27:28. Beating her time from Waktins Glen, Lindsay Rynders ran a 29:10, about seven minutes faster. Finally able to make her season debut was Ashlie Roberts, who ran a very respectable 32:45. As usual, the Masters women put together a strong showing, as Davida Graham ran a 31:34 to lead the way. Marie Davis and Martha Doody worked together to earn a 34:24 and 34:41 finish. Turning in a performance almost ten minutes fast than her Watkins Glenn time was Kim Graffeo, who crossed the line in 34:06. Powering their way to a strong finish were Ann Lynn and HBO who ran times of 37:30 and 39:32. The men were tasked with an arduous 8000-meter race on this ugly day. Despite challenging conditions, Brett Smith still ran a 28:54 for the open men. Matt Roberts and Mark Streb each following with great races, running 30:05 and 30:45. For his first Roadkill race of the season, Gavin Jenkins ran a 32:10, having as much fun as his teammates.
November 12 – Sadly all good things must come to end, and the Pete Glavin XC series is no exception. The gentlemen of Roadkill followed a “ladies first” mentality, letting them get the first taste of the FLCC course for the series championship race. Finishing 20th was Molly Romano with a time of 29:29 for 6000 meters. Not far behind was Erin Caffrey in a time of 31:51. Ashlie Roberts crossed the line as the third Roadkill finisher. Finishing within three minutes of one another were Marie Davis, Kim Graffeo, and Ann Lynn. Similarly, Tracy Buttars, Nicole Briggs, HBO, and Jeanine Hitchcock were all within two minutes of each other, completing a tenacious performance by the Roadkill ladies. Matching the women’s pack mentality, the top five Roadkill men each finished within two minutes of each other in the 8000-meter race. Matt Roberts and Brett Long each ran in the 29:40’s finishing 14th and 15th overall. Just missing breaking 30:00 by 0.2 seconds was Brett Smith who finished 17th in the race. Mark Streb was only 50 seconds behind Smith, and Mark Saile finished 27 seconds behind Streb. Not to be excluded from the fun were Kraig Connor, Ben Young, and Grant Barney, who ran 33:41, 35:52, and 37:19 to cap off a very dominant performance by the entire Roadkill team.
Some congratulations are in order to the Masters women who finished 3rd in the series, and to the Open men and women who finished 4th overall in the series. Thank you to everyone who helped make this season successful. Happy holidays and may your winter training go well!
Got on a plane and flew to Kentucky with Derrick Jones. While sitting at the gate in Chicago I started texting with Derrick trying to figure out if he was in the same terminal as me. He texts his gate number, I look up and there he is sitting 10 feet away from me. It was a pretty funny moment, kinda like something out of a cheesy sitcom. We crammed ourselves into the back of the regional jet and headed off for the little hop down to Louisville KY. From there it was an hour drive to our hotel in Lexington. The hostess was so brimming with Midwestern hospitality I wanted to tear my ears off. I felt like she was just taunting me with her niceness. I realize this is a character flaw in me, and only a little bit her fault.
We dumped our stuff and headed over to the course for a look and run around. I was imagining some nice manicured path lazily wrapping around a lush Kentucky Bluegrass infield. This is not what we found at. The park was a frozen wasteland of hills and turns and broken clods of turf. A North wind was whipping down from the hilltop prison on the horizon. It was only to get worse by race time.After a nice dinner and beers with some of the team, it was back to the friendliest place on earth to try and get some rest.
Saturday morning dawned grey and cold and windy. I loaded up and coffee and headed to the race. USATF had setup a large heated tent. The air in it was so think with BENGAY, IceyHot, and Vick’s Vapor Rub, I was sure the gas heaters was going to ignite the fumes and blow us all to hell.
The race started like all cross country races start, with everyone forgetting all about any ideas of rational pacing and sprinting across the field, slowing forming and arrowhead and shaft. I like to think I kept my calm and settled in quickly to a reasonable sustainable pace, but my opening 5:35 doesn’t exactly back that up, especially when it was immediately followed up by a 5:50. I manage to settle into a nice rhythm after mile 2 and started grinding out 5:40’s and slowly working my way up.
It’s impossible to tell from the photos how uneven the ground was. Several runners, including Derrick fell during the race as the landed badly on the frozen clumps of earth. I managed to stay on my feet, but was thankful for my flexible ankles which rolled more than a few times.
I finished further back than I would have liked. I was hoping for top 50 (I was 51st in 2014 in 34:32 but that course was 200 meters short so more like 35:12) but finished 66th in 35:22. At the 4k split I was in 77th place, it was a ton of work to pick up those 11 spots and with the benefit of hindsight I feel like I could have been much further up at that point. But it is just as likely I would have then faded and lost places, ending up in the same final spot or worse. 35:22 is about what I’ve been racing for 10K on the roads, so overall this was a solid time. My team, the Central Mass Striders, finished 4th. I thought we had outside shot at the podium, but we finished nearly 100 points behind the 3rd place team. So while our placement was close to top 3, we got whooped pretty good by West Valley Track Club, Boston Athletic Association, and Bowerman Track Club.
I had a great time racing this year. Being part of a group of dedicated old guys, who show up in heat and cold, who hop in their cars or on planes to race, has helped keep me motivated to be the best runner I can be. While my times may be gradually but inexorably slowing, I still find joy in racing and trying to squeeze every last second out of these legs.
Next up is some shorter races starting with a downhill road mile to mark the new year, and then some indoor track races. Also keep your eye out for a possible Star Wars The Last Jedi review in the next few days. You can also look back at these past Star Wars related posts.