(and rest of the week recap)
Saturday was the 27th Annual running of the Bradford Valentine Race in nearby Haverhill, MA. Road races are at a premium at this time of year, so Heather and I registered last week and enlisted my mom's help with the kids so we could run it together for the first time since 2008. There is a 5-Mile and a 6k and male/female team opportunities in a variety of categories, including husband/wife.
Here's a condensed history of our experience at the race through the years:
Heather (6k all four times):
2008 - 27:00 (pushing Ben in stroller)
2007 - 25:13
2006 - 26:47
2005 - 25:44
Me (5M six times):
2008 - 28:05
2007 - 26:21
2006 - 27:23
2005 - 27:43
2001 - 29:10
2000 - 29:33
We won the husband/wife team competition in '05 and '07.
I had pre-race goals of 28:00 ("C") / 27:30 ("B") / and 27:00 ("A").
I was reasonably confident in my ability to break 28, based on recent splits at longer distance races, and felt ok about my chances at 27:30. It's not a fast course, with some good hills and quite a few turns, but my biggest concern was that the roads wouldn't be clear and that would prevent the race from being fast at all. Cold and wind are always possible in early/mid-February, but we got a gem of a mid-winter day in that respect, with temps in the low 40's at the start and insignificant winds.
Heather and I warmed up on the last mile of the course and the roads looked pretty runnable. We had driven in on the first almost-two miles and those looked fine, so I knew if there was any unsure footing, it would be on the middle "neighborhood" miles. We met up briefly with Alex Vlahos, one of my former Ipswich runners, who was running the five-mile and his teammate Hannah, who was in the 6k. Also saw Pat Fullerton at the starting line, who said that there was one hill around 3.5 miles that might be a little snowy.
I tucked into the second row on the starting line and after a brief announcement or two, we were off!
It felt great to be racing, and I quickly found myself in third, as Pat Fullerton (CMS) sped off to an early lead with Jon Lindenauer in tow. I tried to keep Lindenauer within striking distance as we made our way up the long straight climb the first mile and a half. I knew there was a pack of guys all capable of running well under 6:00-pace including Sam Fazioli (Whirlaway), Dan Chruniak (Wicked), Tim Catoggio and Alex. Before the mile, the 6k runners turned to the right and I wondered if any of those guys had chosen the shorter option.
I checked my watch when I realized I must have missed the mile mark (or, as it turned out, there wasn't one) and the Garmin said "5:58" and "1.13 miles". That seemed pretty hot to me, considering we were climbing, but I felt pretty good and tried to roll with it. At the top of the hill, I had closed to just a few meters behind Lindenauer and I could hear footsteps (I thought more than one pair) behind me, coming on strong. As we rounded the first left turn onto the road by Bradford Ski Area, Sam went by me and pulled alongside Jon.
At this point I wondered if Sam would pull away, and secretly hoped he would, which I thought might help me get by Jon. Instead, the two of them ended up running side-by-side and pushing each other the rest of the way. I was only a second back at two miles (by watch, again no marker), but in miles three and four they put 15-20 seconds on me. I was pleased that the roads were well-salted and free of any ice and snow except in a couple small instances.
A little after three miles we rejoined the 6k runners, which made it a little harder to maintain contact with Sam and Jon, but I was really just doing my best to stay as close to 5:30's as I could and see which of my time goals I could hit. It would have been nice to work with them a little more closely, but I benefited from their speed either way.
The hill by the golf course at 3.5 that Pat F. had warned about came and went without incident. I know from my Garmin splits that I was basically running 5:40-pace for miles 3 and 4, which was slower than I would have liked, but I honestly thought beforehand that these miles could be close to 6:00 if the roads were bad, so I will take it.
By mile four, I was back on the road that Heather and I had warmed up on, so I knew how far we had to go and what the roads were like and I was able to pick up the pace a little. The last quarter-mile is a nice downhill and I was able to take advantage of that and close pretty hard. I still wound up 20 seconds in back of third, but I was happy with an official time of 27:13, my fastest 5-mile since I turned 40. Full results here.
Heather was there, cheering me in, and as I turned back to get her race report, I could tell she was excited with her 24:05. We cooled down together over the full 5-mile course, Heather wanted to get some more miles in and make the day into a long day of prep for the Hampton Half next month. We got back just in time for awards and wound up winning the husband/wife category (after a ten-year hiatus from the race - glad the Mahoneys and Vassallo's weren't there, or it wouldn't have happened). Heather was third woman overall and I was first Master.
Today I did almost eight easy in the cold February rain.
65 for the week for the fourth 60+ week in a row.